Despite my best efforts, I ran out of time this week to work on a new essay. So I’m reaching back into my archives and pulling out something I wrote a few years ago, when Manchild was just learning to talk. I wrote it for the now-defunct Oliofolio blog, and I use Manchild’s real name(!) It’s funny how looking back at this brings me back to a specific time and place – in this case, the 2nd floor of our church building, sitting on the window sill. And it is also odd to remember that there was a time in his life when the boy did not speak in clearly enunciated sentences. Micah and I used to get a kick out of his pronunciation of “More blue car!” It sounded very French to us. “Mo’blu ka! Mo’ blu ka!”
“Blu ka! Blu ka! Mo’ blu ka!” Simon wants the blue car, but Matthew has it. There are other cars, of course, a red one, two green ones, a yellow. But Simon wants the blue one. And Matthew has it. There is nothing special about the blue car, but Simon saw that Matthew had it, and he wanted it. And when Matthew saw that Simon wanted it, he wanted it more.
“Mo’ blu ka!” Simon wails. Matthew holds on tighter, his little hands hugging it tightly to his chest. I try to distract Simon. “Look! A red car! Two green cars! Look! You can put one in each hand!” My enthusiasm does not distract him. “Blu ka! Mo’ blu ka!” I am holding him by the shoulders so he can’t grab Matthew’s toy. His mouth turns down at the corners. His chin wrinkles. His green-gray eyes are filling quickly and tears will soon stream down his reddening cheeks.
I speak quietly. “Simon, we need to learn to share. Can we let Matthew play with the blue car for a while and you can play with . . . something else? The red car? The fire truck? The refrigerator?” It as if he has not heard me. He is fighting valiantly for composure while still staring at the coveted car. He will not be dissuaded.
Matthew’s mom is trying equally hard to avert catastrophe. “Matthew, can you let Simon play with the blue car a little bit and you can play with the green cars? Two green cars for a blue car?” Matthew stares straight at Simon, his dark eyes are piercing as he clutches the coveted car to his chest. He will not yield.
Class is on hold. The teachers wait, interested in how this will end. The other mothers and children are frozen, watching as the tension rises, waiting for the climax, the meltdown, the tantrum. “Mo’ blu ka! Bluka! Mo’ blu ka!” His cries are more intense. He thinks I don’t understand what he’s asking for. He thinks I don’t understand how important it is for him to hold the blue car in his hand, but I do.
I know the excitement, the body wriggling, finger-pointing excitement he feels every time he sees a blue car on the road. I know the joy he feels at being able to see and name and understand what it all means. And I almost want to take the car from Matthew myself just so it isn’t my kid who erupts. But there is nothing to be done but wait. Wait until Matthew forgets. Wait until Simon forgets. Wait until the tension dies down. Wait until another toy is snatched up by another boy. Wait until wanting what somebody else already has is not worth it. Wait until the world is bigger than blue cars.