Today after the Y, I caved. Instead of going home and eating a healthy meal, I brought my little guy to Burger King. It wasn’t about the food. I had several great leftovers at home that would have made a wonderful lunch. I just felt like getting out with him, letting him run around on the play equipment for a while, hanging out. Soon, the weekend will be here. The other four will descend upon us and change the dynamics for two days. The activity level in our home will be amped up fourfold. Selfishly, I wanted a little time with Nick alone. Just as selfishly, perhaps, I knew that once we’d munched a bit on our meals, he’d be off on the play equipment, and I might be able to finish a chapter in my book.
And so it was that I found myself at BK today, indulging my child’s hankering for some mac and cheese and fries, and reading my book, always with an eye on him and his “temporary” Playland buddies.
It’s so interesting watching him. He’s the fifth, so it makes a difference in how he adjusts to others. Basically, there is little adjustment. When he was born, the world was already in motion, and it continues to be so. Early on in the parenting game, my firstborn was run into by some “big boys” at a Playland. It took him another year to try it again. And whenever there were some “older than average” kids there, he stayed back, letting them rule the roost while he watched from afar. Not so for little Nick. There is no furtiveness, no pulling at my pant legs for this guy. In fact, quite a few of the playmates today were slightly older kids. Normally, I don’t think they would have paid any attention to a “little kid” like my son, but Nick’s different. He’s used to running with the big guys, and he soon weasled his way into their hearts. It’s true. By the end of our session at BK, the biggest of the big guys was hugging him.
Only his name wasn’t Nick today. I heard the whole thing going down:
“So what’s your name, little boy?” the biggest boy asked.
“Mario,” said Nick.
“Oh, cool. Come on, Mario. Let’s go play.”
Mario? Did I hear that right? Did Nick just tell those kids his name is Mario?
Obviously he’s been playing too much Nintendo DS. He was dead serious. He wasn’t Nick, he was Mario — swimming through treacherous water, jumping from cliff to cliff, scaling the rockiest of slopes, always on the lookout for danger.
But at one point, “Mario” was injured. That’s when the hug came. “Oh, I’m sorry, Mario,” the boy said, embracing him. “Are you okay?”
I was so tempted to say, “His name isn’t Mario. It’s Nick.” But something stopped me. My little guy had found his way into the circle of strangers and was having a ball pretending to be an adventurer. He was using his imagination to make his way through this sometimes mystifying, somewhat scary world. I wasn’t about to squelch his fun, to remove his sense of power.
“Alright, Mario,” I said, bending down to zip his coat and give him a hug of my own. “It’s time to go.”
And off we went, just me and my Mario.