A small, but wonderful, thing happened today. Four played with toys. I know. It sounds unremarkable. My house is strewn with toys. The playroom floor is covered in legos and Beyblades. The little boy bedroom has a floor made almost entirely of trading cards and stuffed animals. The distinction is that these are primarily Five's toys.
Five has always been an outstanding imaginative adventurer. He never really needs anyone to entertain him, for which I am eternally grateful. He lines up cars for races, he arranges army guys for battle, and we often have entire zoos designed in the bedroom, with appropriate separation between carnivores and prey. One of my most favorite sights is Five on the playroom couch, playing alone with a stuffed Grover that belonged to One. It is a well loved friend, whose blue arm has been re-attached at least half a dozen times, usually by my mother. In fact, one of the classic "How I Failed Five" moments is him berating me in the kitchen for failing to sew Grover in a timely fashion.
"Every day, I see you NOT sewing Grover!" he wailed. I thought it rather unfair to be assessed on things I wasn't doing. As you can see from the sidebar, Five has agreed to limit his complaints to tangible acts of failure.
Five and Grover act out all sorts of scenarios. I think they are "Star Wars" related, as Grover is often flying through the air, and there are a lot of those explosion noises that only boys know how to make. I don't get close enough to hear, because Five is shy about his solitary play. He is immersed, and I don't want to break the fourth wall.
In contrast, Four likes moving images. I remember being impressed, and a little frightened, by the fact that he could watch an episode of "Spongebob Squarepants" once, and then repeat the entire thing verbatim. It was one of our first indications that something was awry. The upside is that he taught himself to read by following the closed captioning that accompanied the image. And when he does read, it is with great focus. If he is gifted four books, he will read all four in one sitting. And then he will re-read them later. But, he still prefers video games above all else. If he and Five are playing together, they are often just re-enacting a show or video game. And Four is always the director, which often creates conflicts with his actors.
Four attends a private school that employs a "token economy" behavior modification system. It is a grand version of gold stars. He earns points for good behavior and academics, and every Thursday he can trade them in at the school store. Today he came home with two small (and I quote from the package),"Nano Minis: Collectible, Poseable Wowwee Robot Figurines!" One was a robot dog with wheels for back legs, and the other was a panda. He asked me to open them up, and said, "What should I name them?" Then he saw they had names on the package. But I asked what he would have chosen for them, intrigued that he had even considered something of his own creation.
"I would call the dog 'Wheels', and the panda 'Cutie'," he answered. We both agreed his names were far superior. Then he went to watch some television. But with the robots.
When Five got home, Four introduced his new friends. Then we all got ready for Tae Kwon Do, and set off with Wheels, Cutie, and a flashy red car that Five had chosen for the trip. On the ride over, I listened to the two of them playing. It was a completely unique narrative, not just a Pokemon or Star Wars re-tread. Four gave his robots certain powers, Five's car had awesome evasive maneuvers, and I wish I had recorded the whole conversation. The highlight was when Five said Four couldn't call his battle area a "Battle Zone" because that was from a show, and Four said okay, but only if he got to choose the name next time. Compromise!
The boys willingly surrendered their toys at the beginning of class, and resumed play the moment they got back in the van. I don't know if Four will care about his Nano Minis tomorrow, but it was lovely to see him engaged and using his imagination. I left the radio off, so I could eavesdrop. It truly was music to my ears.