He accosts me in the kitchen, “hey mom, I wanna play shops. Get me the stuff.” At last! Horray, he wants to play something normal, something that other children want to play and it's only taken five and a half years. I think of all the packets, boxes and jars I saved from the recycling a couple of years back, so that we could play shops, together with the till and pretend money so that we could model ‘how one behaves’ and ‘what one does’ in a shop. Needless to say it was one of my more spectacular failures. I don’t think I broke down the entire sequence into small enough bits and I failed to take account of all possible phobias and unexpecteds, as I didn’t know their full extent.
“What do you need dear? Shall I go and get the till?”
“Till! Till? I don need till. What I need till for?”
“The till has all the money in, the pretend money.”
“Money! Money? I don need money. What I need money for?”
“Well what do you want then?”
“I want bricks.” [translation = blocks] O.k., not quite the answer I was expecting. I haul out the box of bricks.
“Shall we play together?” I offer, even though I should be cooking supper, but it's too good an opportunity to miss.
“No I don want to play with you, I want to play with him.” He stabs his index finger towards his brother. I am rejected as potential playmate. His brother is inaugurated into potential playmate status. Better and better. Do I have the opportunity to observe some parallel play perchance?
“Here you wan dis one or dis one?” he asks his little brother in rather an abrupt tone, but within socially acceptable levels of appropriate.
“I wan the red one, no, no, no, de yellow one.” They trade bricks.
“You don want dat one! Dat one is no good!” the little one warns.
“Look!” he shoves the brick under his brother's nose, “it has a bad bit.”
“Where I don see it?”
“There! Right there! Look with your eyes, on the corner!” his finger nail identifies a tiny flaw. His anger rises at his brother's inability to see what is so obvious to him.
“That's o.k.” he says magnanimously, “it don't bother me, I'm o.k. with that.”
“Sure, what's the problem anyways?” His little brother's face is a study of disbelief. Where minute discrepancies are blatant and unacceptable to him, to his brother, they are hardly discernible and of even less bother.
I predict that the bigger brother will be like his father, happy with a bargain, a good trade. I predict that his little brother will also be like his father in other ways, unable to make a decision, overwhelmed by choices, fearful of missing the best offer, “shopping” for hours but returning empty handed. Spouse appears by my side, I check to see if his ears are burning red, but he asks “what are they doing?”
“Playing micro economics in a very closed ‘perfect’ society, still based on the barter system, without the use of a token system of exchange, yet.”