Recently I ordered Nathan a small backhoe loader from Amazon.
This may not sound momentous, but it kind of is. He’s been wanting a backhoe loader in good repair (i.e., with a back scoop, which his other one lost) for a long time. I don’t know how many times he said it. “I want a backhoe loader with a back scoop,” he’d remind me, several times a day, in case I’d somehow forgotten. It was the first time that he’d asked for a toy so specifically, and we took the request seriously.
Our first response was to start scouring thrift stores for such a toy. After all, this is where his original backhoe loader came from, and is generally our first stop for anything we need. When Nathan, at one year old, dropped the lid of my spice grinder down an open vent hole, did I run out and buy a new spice grinder? No, I did not! I figured out how to cover the top with a plastic lid and press the button with the tip of a knife, and meantime looked for a “new” grinder every time I went to a thrift store.
However, it’s also true that after more than two years without success, I eventually shelled out the cash for a new spice grinder. And after a few months looking for a backhoe loader, it was time to do the same for Nathan. (Buy a backhoe loader, that is. Not a spice grinder.) From his perspective, the months he waited were probably equivalent to the years that I did.
So I did some research, Amazon-style, looking for a backhoe loader that would stand up to actual play and was within a reasonable price range. And when I ordered it, I also threw in a little pack of mini construction equipment. Having a single new toy arrive in the mail, I thought, would just be asking for trouble between my two little diggers. I felt rather clever for having anticipated and (I thought) solved that problem.
It felt kind of special to fulfill this request for Nathan. After only a few days of Nathan asking “Is my backhoe loader here yet?” we arrived home one day to find a package waiting. What excitement! The new backhoe loader not only had a back scoop, but hydraulic arms facilitating its movement! It was detailed, sturdy… slightly smaller than I’d anticipated, but a good match for the mini machines at that.
For about two hours the boys explored their new acquisitions on the back dirt pile. And then, somehow, Ryan figured out that the backhoe loader toy was the most special in Nathan’s eyes. Instantly it was exalted to a place of honor.
By about noon the next day, I was about ready to chuck the thing into the garbage.
It isn’t, of course, the fault of the backhoe loader. (Although these new toys seemed to set off a bigger reaction than usual.) This is just the phase we’re in right now — the “no me” phase. For example: Nathan asks me for a drink. I tell him there’s a cup on the kitchen table. (Just like the last four hundred times he asked. But that’s a different grievance.) Before I’ve even finished speaking, Ryan yells “No me!” and does his best toddler sprint for the table. There’s a brief duet of “No me no me no me!” and then someone is in tears because the other one got the cup first.
Asking them not to fight over the cup is useless. Pointing out that there is plenty of good clean water in the house is useless. Even keeping two cups on the table (which doubles Ryan’s potential damage if he gets into a water-pouring mood) is useless — the wailing loser still, every time, requires me to point out the presence of the second cup before he’s mollified. And he still sniffles a little.
That’s just for a drink of water. Imagine the fun to be had with a brand new, snazzy backhoe loader.
Or, for that matter, any of the other new toys. Having six new little toys instead of one helped keep the peace for those first two hours. For the next week we played the game of Guess The Good Toy. Each day it seemed that a different little machine had entered the golden circle of favoritism. The backhoe loader, so precious that first day, was soon supplanted by the front loader. The front loader gave way to the bulldozer. And so on.
I am, of course, not reporting anything new and exciting for parents everywhere — at least, parents with small children who are close in age. Parents who had children farther apart keep telling me, “Yeah, we never really had to deal with that.” Unfortunately it’s a little late for me to solve the problem by spacing out the birthdays more.
But eventually it does die down. The squabbles — at least over these particular toys — have now become occasional and brief. Nathan and Ryan are able to play happily on the dirt pile together for as much as twenty minutes at a time again.
Nathan, entranced by this concept of simply ordering toys that he wants, has informed me that he wants an excavator with a cab that turns around, as well as a trailer truck where the trailer can hitch on and off. I have no issues with him having those toys. If we find something at a thrift store, we’ll get it.
But ordering it new, just to grind through another week of desperate tears? Not so interested, thanks.