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Zachary (3 years), as I have written elsewhere, likes accessories. He likes clothes, he likes colors, he likes socks. No, no, let me rephrase that: he raises sock-choosing and sock-wearing to an art form that rivals the work of Kandinsky. We have, on occasion, struggled with outer-wear accessories, but now that I have purchased him mittens in “candyfloss pink” he gladly dons his mittens whenever the temperature dips below 73º.
Benjamin (17 months), on the other hand, seems rather offended that we own several types of garments, the entire purpose of which is to cover his extremities. Nothing gives him greater glee than removing his socks, for example. Over the summer, I left him with his grandparents. “Don’t put him down for a nap with his socks on,” I warned.
My mother-in-law was perplexed. “Why not?”
“Because,” I explained, “he gets so excited about removing them that he forgets all about being tired.”
Nowadays, in our cold and drafty house, we do need to put socks on at night, if only as a formality. Last night, when J snuck in to check on the boys, Benjamin had again removed his socks. “Did you put them back on him?” I asked.
“Why bother?” he replied.
“Oh, he’s asleep now. They’ll stay on for the night. It’s not so much that he minds socks as he likes taking them off. It is the act of springing his toes from the joint that fills him with such pleasure.” I went in and fished out the socks and a foot. In his sleep, the child obligingly raised his foot and held it up until I had it covered.
Unfortunately, Ben is less sanguine about mittens. We have tried gloves, we have tried mitts, we have tried the green dinosaur mittens that he has seen his brother wearing and therefore consecrating as the height of coolness. All to no avail. Every time we cover up his hands, he wails piteously. If he cannot and we will not remove them, the wail escalates to a tempestuous lament, tears streaming down his face, mouth wide open to reveal all seven of his teeth. People stop and stare.
We have cried “uncle.” We let him go without. Since we are having rather a cold snap here, this means that lately we are mostly staying within. However, every now and then, we do like to see the light of day. Benjamin is particularly forceful about his desire to hit the mean streets of Southwest London, loading his panda bear into the doll stroller, then banging it against the front door repeatedly while looking at me and saying “walk.”
He’s not having a whole lot of communication problems.
So, I put on three coats, three hats (with some objection from one of the heads), three sets of shoes, and two pairs of mittens. We waddle out the door. Twenty seconds into the walk, Ben stops. He looks at his hands. He looks up at me. He holds up his hands.
“Cole,” he says in wonder.
I offer to put on his mittens. Emphatic head shaking, “no, no, no, no, no.” We continue to walk. Thirty seconds later, Ben stops. He looks at his hands. He looks up at me. He holds up his hands.
“Cole,” he says insistently. I suggest mittens. He tells me where I can shove my stinkin’ mittens. We continue to walk. Twelve seconds later, Ben stops. He looks at his hands. He looks up at me. He holds up his hands.
“Cole,” he says piteously. Yes, sweetie. That’s why the rest of us are wearing mittens.