When Nic was a toddler, I would frequently take him to our favorite local toy store, Kidding Around, where he would play with the elaborate train set, Tina, the owner, had in the back of the store. Very popular with the four and under crowd, particularly in the afternoons, we would go in the morning and often, Nic would have the train set all to himself. Each day of our visit when Nic was just beginning to talk, he would point to something as we were leaving, “That!” he would say, which meant he wanted to take it home with him.
When Emma was about the same age, I took her to Kidding Around, but nothing caught her attention. I tried to entice her, “Look Emma! What a pretty doll! Do you like it?”
She ignored me and wandered off.
Undeterred I went over to the two wooden tree stands filled with large plush hand puppets. They were lovely and soft, in bright colors and came in a variety of different species, toucans, leopards, dogs cats, horses, as well as mythical creatures and monsters – a favorite of Nic’s.
I thrust my hand in one, a beautiful white unicorn with flowing mane and purple horn, “Emma! Look! I’m a unicorn,” I said, in what I imagined a unicorn’s voice would sound like if they existed and could talk.
Emma showed no interest.
The one toy Emma was attracted to was the miniature doll’s stroller, which came in pink and blue. I placed a baby doll in one of them when I saw her looking at it. “Look Emmy it’s for the baby doll,” I said.
Emma pulled the baby doll out of the stroller and proceeded to try and sit in it herself. Terrified that she would break it, I said, “No Emmy! That’s not for you! It’s for the baby doll. You’re too big for this stroller.” Again I placed the doll into the stroller.
Emma threw the doll onto the floor, took hold of the doll’s stroller and careened around the store, heading toward the door. I chased after her and herded her back inside, admonishing her that she couldn’t go out into the street. Each time we returned to Kidding Around, out the door she would tear, steering the doll’s stroller around, and a few times into people who were in her path. It got so that I would block the front door while Nic played in the back, every now and again his little voice calling out, “Mommy! Emmy’s taken the stroller again!” I would position myself in front of the only exit, while she would try to maneuver around me, fixated on getting that stroller and herself outside.
“She just doesn’t like toys,” I reported to Richard that evening. “My sister never played with dolls,” I said when he didn’t say anything. “Emma’s athletic, just like my sister,” I finished, unsure of why I suddenly felt so defensive.