Like most small children, Ian goes through phases with books. He discovers a certain one, decides he loves it, and over the next several weeks we practically wear the thing away to dust with all the “Read dat again, Mama!” and “What dat page ’bout, Mama?” He moves on eventually. Sometimes he comes back around to visit, the words and illustrations as familiar as an old friend.
Just recently, he went through a phase with If You Give a Moose a Muffin and If You Give a Pig a Pancake. (Only The Little Blue Truck have been able to usurp them.) It’s why, on recent grocery shopping trip, Ian kept shouting, “Where da muffin mix? We need muffin mix! We need maple syrup too, Mama?”
You know these books, right? If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want some milk to go with it, and then a straw, and then a napkin, and on and on until you’ve practically given the mouse the keys to your house.
A few weeks ago, Ian and I were talking about a tree in our yard, and he said, “And we have tree house?”
Not understanding, I said, “Yes, we have trees outside our house.”
“No mama, we have tree house?! I want treehouse,” he responded, and we went back and forth about this a few times before I finally caught on.
In If You Give a Pig a Pancake, the pig notices a large tree in the girl’s backyard as they walk outside, and in the next scene (somewhere in-between the tap shoes and the wallpaper glue), he decides to build a treehouse. Bingo.
So far, toddlerhood is not my favorite stage of parenting. I’m eager for the days when we’ll talk about navigating friendships or how his soccer game went. I look forward to science projects and spelling words, cooking together and…well, anything that’s not answering “Why?” and “What for?” ten million times a day.
Toddlers make a lot of impossible demands, like “Fix broken cheese stick!” and “Green light right now!” Ian knows the phrases “Not yet,” and “Not right now” very well; I use them to redirect and postpone temper tantrums, while he uses them for thinly-veiled defiance. Sometimes I wonder if Ian’s days are just a constant stream of disappointments: the doors on this toy car don’t open, he can’t have another cookie, the green sippy cup is dirty, it’s raining again. Such is life as a two year old.
Meanwhile, I think of all the dreams my sisters and I had growing up. Many of them–Ivy League schools, professional theater careers, hot pink bedroom walls–didn’t pan out. My parents said no in some cases, while others were simply never meant to be. At the same time, many of my childhood dreams and desires did come to fruition: an N*Sync concert, drama classes, a trip to Europe, seeing a musical on Broadway, an amazing wedding. My parents gave their time, energy, and money to make those things happen. (In the case of the N*Sync Celebrity tour, they even endured hours of several thousand screaming preteens. I imagine that’s even more torturous than hours of driving Hot Wheels around.)
I guess that’s part of the joy of parenting: doing what you can to make this little person’s dreams come true.
I can’t build a treehouse for Ian. We don’t have a good tree, and even if we did, that’s not really the kind of investment you make in a rental home. Even so, I love this part of parenting: the hints of the boy and man he’ll one day be, the burgeoning interests and obsessions, the desires and dreams just beginning to take root.
He hasn’t mentioned the treehouse again, having already moved on to a new book, a new story, a new dream. But for now, I have tucked this treehouse idea into my pocket. I’ll consider the backyard trees of every future home, wondering if now’s the time to make that dream a reality.
Maybe one day, I’ll get to say, “Let’s build a treehouse, buddy.” And I won’t even mind if he asks for a tire swing to go with it.