Momma's Dramas

Real Stories with Humorous Perspective

Manipulative Play

Posted on Sep 11, 2011 07:09:45 PM


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Manipulative Play

“What are you doing?” I asked Charlie and Tucker when I caught up with them in the toy store. Henry and Elsie had previously been getting very squirmy as we waited to pay the check at the pizza place, so I had asked Charlie, Tucker and Lanie to please at least take Henry to the toy store up the street. That way, Tom and I would only have to entertain Elsie while we waited to pay the bill and finished our drinks. When we caught up with them, Charlie and Tucker were completely engrossed in some store video game, and Henry was nowhere to be found.

“Where’s Henry?” I asked.

“Oh I don’t know, he’s around here somewhere,” Charlie said nonchalantly as the game whistled, signaling victory. He and Tucker put their controllers down and casually made their way to the section of the store that had the remote control planes and helicopters.

Tom was behind me so I turned back to him with a small look of concern. “Do you see Henry anywhere?”

“No, I’m sure he’s fine,” said Tom looking past me and in the direction of Charlie and Tucker. “I’ll look for him over there,” he said, pointing to where Charlie and Tucker were now standing.

“Doesn’t anyone want to know where Henry is besides me?’ I said to Elsie as I tickled her. She crouched and pushed my hands away from her belly. I wasn’t too worried because I didn’t see Lanie either, and I figured that she was probably the responsible one who had actually followed Henry and was supervising him in the store.

I finally found Henry with Lanie. He was in the Lego section. He was carrying a shopping basket, and it was already full of Beyblades, Matchbox cars, and a few puzzles. He even had a Curious George monkey peeking out over the side of the basket with his mischievous grin that was daring me to ruin Henry’s apparent shopping spree.

“Henry what are you doing?” I asked trying to muster the same amount of feigned curiosity that seemed to have possessed that little stuffed monkey’s face.

“Oh, hi, Mom,” Henry said looking up briefly from the toy shelves and noticing that I was there. “I’m helping Lanie shop for my birthday, but I have some stuff in here that you can give me too.”

“Oh,” I replied, and his response had surprised me. I didn’t know quite what to say so I just looked at Lanie with a puzzled expression.

“Don’t look at me, Mom,” Lanie said, raising her eyebrows and shrugging her shoulders. “I can’t control him, I’m just watching him.” I smiled and raised my own eyebrows as I turned my attention back to Henry.

“Mom, come see what I want for my birthday,” he said enthusiastically.

“I can see, Henry. You have a lot of things in there.”

“Oh, no, this is just the small stuff. There are things that I need that don’t fit in the basket,” and I smiled as he took my hand and pulled me to Lego section so that I could get a better look at what he “needed.”

“I want this because it has the jet blasters on the sides that shoot out, but it comes in different colors so make sure that you get me the green one because the guy is a little different, and I like the green guy the best, but this store only has this blue guy, so I guess you’ll have to go to another place, but if you can’t find the green guy I like this one too so you could come here and get this one. Do you have a pen ‘cause you could write this down you know,” Henry said, finally taking a breath. I wondered if he wanted me to write it down because he knew I wasn’t really listening. My afternoon beer and pizza carbs had finally caught up with me, and now I was feeling sleepy. I really needed a little caffeine boost. I guess next time I’ll have to go with the Bailey’s Irish Cream dessert coffee instead of the beer.

“Mom…MOM!” Henry yelled, snatching my attention away from my alcoholic coffee daydream. “Mom,” he said again but much more quietly. I think he was nervous that his yelling might have put his toy requests in jeopardy, but he still followed with, “So, do you have a pen and paper in there,” and he pointed gingerly at my big bag.

“Henry, I don’t think I need to write this all down, I’m sure that you’ll remind me many times before its your actual birthday,” I tried to be gentle because he looked a little nervous.

“Okay, I’ll remind you,” he said taking my statement as an invitation to harass me with reminders for the next 21 days until his birthday, and then that sly little Henry said, “You know what though, Mom? You should really write all this down, and I’ll give the list to Grammy Vicki. She loves lists,” and he then gave me the crayon that he had put in his pocket from the restaurant, and his copy of the kids menu. “Here, just use this,” he said smiling innocently, but I swear, he has a mind just like a politician with the ability to twist his words into a coercive mumbo jumbo that gets me so wound up I comply because by the time he is done I think that I actually agree with him. Henry has a great future ahead of him I thought as I diligently took the crayon and menu and started taking notes.

I followed Henry around, carefully making the list for Grammy Vicki. I was sure she would appreciate the extra effort that I had to exert to write out these requests in crayon on a kids’ menu. She would probably be amused. “Okay, I guess that’s it,” Henry said, after showing me about 15 different Playmobil sets and 10 Star Wars Lego kits, “but tell Grammy Vicki that she should get me some surprises too.”

“Come on, Mom. I want to show you something too,” Lanie said. Apparently it was her turn now, and she took me to the dollhouse section. There was a farm displayed on the floor in this area for children to play with so I set Elsie on the floor. She immediately grabbed for one of the pigs and stuck his snout in her mouth. It seemed fairly durable so I let her chew while I looked at the dollhouse miniatures selection with Lanie. We spent about 5 minutes looking around at all the miniatures, and then she wanted to check out the crafts and art supplies.

“Tom,” I called to the back of the store where Tom and the boys were, “could you watch Elsie for a minute, Lanie wants to show me some more things.”

“Yeah.” Tom called back as he and the boys made their way to the front of the store.

“She’s right here,” I said pointing towards Elsie who was now happily sitting and checking out the cows, sheep and other farm animals. “Oh, and keep an eye on Henry too. He’s still over there in the Lego section, and could you please try not to let him put any more stuff in that basket. It’s getting heavy, and I think it’s going to take until tomorrow to put all of that stuff back.”

I went to the craft aisle with Lanie. She loves little projects and things, and she was so good at saving money that it seemed like she always had some money to spend. We spent about 10 minutes looking at all the little craft kits. She was trying to decide between the beaded jewelry kit, and a “paint your own” drawstring bag kit.

“So which one do you think would be more fun, Mom?”

I was thinking that the beads would be fun, but I was also thinking that the beads would probably spill and end up all over the floor. I’m not crazy about bead projects for this reason, and I was trying to weigh the guilt I would feel if I enthusiastically suggested the bag painting kit. “How about the…” and my reply was interrupted with Charlie’s hideous, voice-cracking eruption of laughter that was right on cue, as usual. The squeals of delight were echoed by both Tom, and Tucker.

“Bring those over here while you decide, Lanie,” I said walking towards the boys to investigate. They were all cracking up, and by the time I walked back over to where I had left Elsie, Charlie was clutching his stomach, doubled over in pain from laughing so hard. He looked at me, but couldn’t speak. He just pointed at the floor. Tucker was laughing, but he could still talk.

“Look, Mom,” Tucker said, in between laughs, and he also pointed to the floor where Elsie was sitting. Tom had turned his back, but I could see his shoulders shaking so I knew that he was laughing too.

“What?” I asked looking down. Elsie was smiling from all the attention and laughter that was happening around her, but all I could see was a little girl playing with farm animals. “What?” I said again. “What in the world is so funny about Elsie playing with the farm animals?”

They all just erupted into more hideous laughter, and I could feel the eyes of the other patrons in the store as they looked in our direction. I was feeling my face turn red with embarrassment, and now the joke was on me because I had no idea what everyone was laughing at.

“Uh, Mom,” Lanie said as she giggled and came to my rescue. “Did you see what the animals are doing?”

I looked down again, and realized that the pigs were not just in an innocent little pig pile as I had thought. These pigs were obviously “friends with benefits.” I looked around and it seemed that the cows, goats and sheep also had similar arrangements. I was horrified.

“Charlie, I can’t believe you. This is a children’s toy store. What are you thinking? I certainly hope no one else saw this?” I said as I quickly started separating the animals.

“Mom, it wasn’t me,” Charlie said, barely getting the words out as he erupted with more laughter.

“TOM!” I yelled, but he just laughed, neither admitting nor denying his involvement. I’d never know who had paired the animals so creatively, but as I continued to disassemble the farm fornication session, more people from the store gazed in our direction and tried to approach casually to see what we were laughing at. I felt like I needed to reprimand someone, but before I could accuse anyone else, Tucker said, “Don’t look at me, Mom.”

I knocked over and pushed the animals around so much that the farm now looked more like a set from the Wizard of Oz after the tornado moves through Auntie Em and Uncle Henry’s farm, but it was safer this way. The boys were still giggling, and I could still feel everyone’s eyes in the direction of my family.

“So which kit should I get, Mom?” Lanie now asked again, still holding both craft projects.

“How about the…” and once again, we were interrupted by Charlie’s voice-cracking cackle.

“What now?” and as I looked down, I saw Elsie standing the animals back up, and the pigs and the sheep were now sniffing each other’s butts. Everyone around me was cracking up laughing, and I joined in with a confusing mixture of laughter that made me cry. Lanie, I noticed, was not laughing. She felt that she was being ignored again, and she glared at me.

“Get the bag, Lanie,” I quickly suggested through my tears and giggles. “I’m so embarrassed right now I might just wear it on my head.”

“You’re not helpful, Mom,” she huffed as she returned to the craft aisle to ponder her purchase alone and in peace.

“What’s the matter, Mom?” Henry asked as he approached me and noticed my tear-stained face. “You can get something too?” he encouraged.

I felt like I was going to die of embarrassment as the store clerk was now peering over the counter to see that everything was okay.

“I might as well buy the farm,” I joked, hoping to laugh away my discomfort.

Henry looked at me with nervous confusion. “Okay, Mom, you can buy the farm for yourself, but you know that’s not what I want, right?”

I nodded, and continued laughing and crying.

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