Over the past few months Mikey has gotten much more engaged in independent play, which has my husband and I feeling two ways: guilty because he doesn’t have a sibling and sometimes we feel bad seeing him play by himself; and grateful because we can see he has a wild imagination and is able to really get into whatever world he is imagining while playing with his superheroes, his play kitchen, Legos or any of his other 54,682 toys.
It also means I can get a little more done around the house while he’s home with me.
Recently I was on a long-overdue cleaning spree in which I tore the cushions off the couch to vacuum under them, and Mikey wasted no time in utilizing them to build something.
Great, I thought. This will keep him entertained while I wipe down some of the cabinets in the kitchen.
I heard a thud and a quiet, “Ouch,” while wiping the crumbs out of the microwave.
“You OK, buddy?” I called.
Cool, I thought, and then shook some Ajax into the sink. A few minutes later I heard his little feet pitter-patter into the kitchen, and when I turned around I saw him holding a green balloon left over from St. Patrick’s Day, and a marker.
“How do you spell ‘You Better Look Out?’” he asked.
Wiping my hands on a hand towel I said, “Well, it’s a few words. Are you ready?”
“OK, the first word is ‘You.’”
“Oh, like-“ and then he swiped his pointer finger through the air, making a half-circle.
“Well, that’s the letter ‘U,’ but the word ‘You’ is different,” I said.
He stared at me.
“OK, so the first word is Y-O-U,” I said, and watched as he wrote the word on the balloon, then looked up at me. I finished spelling out the rest of the sentence and he scurried off.
A few minutes later he came back with a piece of paper, and the marker. “Momma, how do you spell ‘splosion?’”
I paused from wiping down the counters. Huh? “Bud, do you mean ‘explosion?’”
Hmm, that’s interesting – but harmless, I figured. And also I just needed a few more minutes to finish cleaning hosing down the countertops. So I spelled out “explosion” for him and he ran off again.
I was just getting the broom out when he came running back in. “Momma, how do you spell ‘bomb?’”
“OK, wait a second, here, dear. What are you building in there?” I started to worry about what exactly he had been up to in the living room, but he shook his head and put his hands up.
“It’s OK, Momma. I’m just building a minefield and if you step on the bombs you ’splode.”
Oh, well, in that case… carry on, I reasoned. I spelled out “B-O-M-B,” and he ran back out of the kitchen.
I told myself I was just going to sweep the floor real quick and then I would go assess the situation. However, before I could finish, Mikey came scurrying back in. This time he had one of his superhero eye masks for me to put on, and a foam sword that I was instructed to stick in the back of my pants “Like a Ninja Turtle,” and then follow him out into the living room.
Abandoning the broom, I conceded to the mission. What I found when I entered the living room was that the kid made an entire American Ninja Warrior course complete with tunnels, traps and obstacles.
First, he had four throw pillows lining the short hallway, each laying at an angle against the wall and I had to jump crisscross from one to the other without touching the carpet. Then, once that level was complete, I had to get on all fours and crawl under a bridge Mikey had built by standing two couch cushions upright and laying one on top.
This was challenging, since the hole to crawl through was about one foot square and, well, my body is not. I warned Mikey that I might make the bridge fall down, and he assured me that was OK.
I’ll let you wonder how that turned out…
Next, I had to pick up the balloon and lay down on a blanket that was stretched out on the floor and roll myself up in it, with the balloon, then roll over to the couch without touching the carpet – aka the lava.
Having completed this phase, I then moved onto the “Boss Level,” in which he wanted me to stand on the cushion-less couch and do a flip-jump over the paper bombs and then roll over to the ottoman where I would then pull out my sword and use it to swipe Baby Bear onto the floor, claiming my title as “Boss Ninja.”
I was able to negotiate on this one, after I explained to Mikey that the couch was from Bob’s Discount Furniture and likely wouldn’t withstand Momma jumping off of it, and also that when you turn 40 your body doesn’t really flip, jump, tuck or roll the way it used to.
So he let me simply step off the couch and skip over to the ottoman, where I pulled the foam sword from the back of my pants and swiped Baby Bear into oblivion.
But apparently I did it wrong because he made me start all over from the beginning, and this time when I got to Baby Bear, I had to sweep him off the ottoman in the other direction.
I’ll be sending my audition tape into NBC this week.
Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and mother of a 5-year-old. She can be reached at email@example.com.