Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Monday, April 18, 2005

A Boy and his Baby

I bought Benny a doll last Friday – a little bald baby in a duck costume. His cousin Sophie, 2, has a cartload of baby dolls, and Benny just adores them. I thought Benny would benefit from nurturing a dolly when he wasn’t pushing toy trucks around in a manly manner, so off we went to Toys ‘R’ Us.

Scary place, that store. We go at least once a month. Last time I bought a small picnic table to place in the dining room, dreaming of a happy boy sitting at his table, stacking wooden blocks, munching little snacks, lining up small plastic farm animals.

Instead, if we aren’t constantly vigilant, he climbs on top of the table and dumps books off a nearby cabinet. Ron spent an hour last week yelling, “Sit!" Sit on your butt!” It was a battle of wills, a Clash of the Titans, but it worked well enough that when my sister Cindy said “Sit!” while we were visiting her house, Benny promptly dropped onto his bottom with a thump.

So Benny and I are rolling through the toy store, with Benny sucking on a stuffed Clifford he’d pulled off aisle four. (“DOG!”) I scan the lavish display of dolls – most were swathed in pink, looking like the bald villain from “The Princess Bride” (“INCONCEIVABLE!”).

I finally find a baby in a duck outfit, called a PlayPet. The baby had some colleagues dressed as puppies and kittens or mountain goats or something, but Benny didn’t care. He lunged for the doll, cart straps straining, yelling “Oooh! Oooh!” Then he grabbed it, box and all, his eyes rapturously asking, “Where have you been all my life?” Clifford fell to the floor as I tussled with Benny, trying to see the doll’s price tag. Then I gave up. Like it mattered now.

So now Benny has a doll, complete with a rattle and bottle. I only had to show Benny how to feed his baby once; then he spent the entire ride home pushing the bottle into the doll’s eyes, nose and mouth, humming a tuneless lullaby. At home, he loves to grab and hug it, then drool on its face. Sometimes he gives it kisses; other times he sits on its head. But he loves it. I’ll ask, “Where’s the baby? Where’s your baby?” and he’ll run get it, then climb into my lap – sort of a Mommy holding Baby holding Baby tableau.

Maybe this sounds like I’m making too much of this, but he seems more affectionate since he got the doll. He cuddles more and now tries to kiss Ron and me. He’s learned how to hug; he’ll climb into my lap and fling his arms around my neck in a chokehold. “I love you, Benny,” I wheeze, gasping for air.


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