We went to our local<a href=”http://www.carters.com/”>Carter’s store Friday to buy M. some cold weather pajamas. It seems the days of her sleeping in just her diaper and a t-shirt are over, at least until next spring. There’s a little play area for kids to occupy themselves while parents shop, so M. and I hit that while S. checked out the latest in sleep-wear trends for toddlers (Bunnies and Duckies are the new black). There was a little boy, probably three or so, who came over and started playing too. The area had puzzles, Legos, and those weird wooden toys where you slide things all over the wires that turn and twist. This kid was awesome. He had a standard line, “Hey! What’s this?” He didn’t seem to mind that I was a strange man squatting in a kids play area. I was his new best friend.

“Hey! What’s this?” he asked as he turned a large wheel that made the smiling sun on the ceiling rotate. He spoke with one of those husky, toddler boy voices. If he was 19, I would have though he had been out late at the bars the previous night.
“Hey! What’s this?” as he pointed to a wooden puzzle with sea creatures on it.
“We have skeletons at our house.”
“Are they scary?”
“Yes,” he said with a look that wondered how on earth a skeleton wouldn’t be scary. “Hey! What’s this?” I couldn’t even tell what he was referring to this time, so I made something up. Not my kid, I don’t care if I mess him up for life.
Eventually his mom came over and attempted to get him to try clothes on. She was carrying a much smaller child, maybe eight months or so, and had the look of a mom that had been woken up too early in the morning and had been struggling to get control of the day ever sense. Tired eyes. Makeup slightly askew. A visage of impending panic. We shared a parental nod as her son refused to help her out in the slightest. “Hey! What’s this, mom?” I cocked my head towards M., who was playing quietly, and said, “I can’t wait for her to get to that age,” and laughed. Hey Boy’s mom offered a tired laugh and said, “I bet.”
What happened next was even funnier. His mom went back to picking out clothes and he played for a few more seconds. Then, he suddenly stopped and said, “Hey! We have to clean this mess up,” and he began gathering up all the puzzle pieces, race cars, and stuffed animals that had been scattered over the course of the day. He had made none of the mess, yet felt an obligation to clean. This kid’s been trained well. “Hey!” as he took the puzzle M. was playing with away from her, “We have to clean this mess up. Hey! What’s this?” I began looking for his mom, wanting to find out how old he was when she began brain-washing him to clean up any mess he encounters. This could be useful information.
I decided I had spent a little too much time with him, so I scooped up M. and began searching through the store for S.. As we left the play area, I heard a familiar voice say, “Hey! We have to clean this mess up…”