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GAIL WHITE Riding out child's speed phase is an uphill job



Published: Fri, January 11, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Every morning when I drive my son to school, we look forward to driving by a cozy cape cod house.

The house sits up on a small hill. The driveway runs along beside it. On the other side of the drive, the hill descends into a small field.

I don't know who lives in this house. I have never seen its inhabitants.

I do know, however, that a 3- or 4-year-old boy lives in there.

I know this because every morning when we drive by, as many as eight riding toys are scattered across the field at the bottom of the hill.

The lineup: The riding tractor seems to go the farthest down the hill. The tricycle stops first.

The toy car must be hard to steer. It is often astray in the field.

The wagon loses control going down. It is usually tipped over.

When Robert and I first started noticing the riding toy brigade, we laughed. We thought it was cute.

We could just see a little boy, eyes all aglow, riding down the hill with glee in his heart.

As the days passed, we laughed harder. The reality of the situation became hysterical to us.

Clearly, whoever this child is, he is too little to push the riding toys up the hill. In his carefree world, riding down the hill is his only concern.

We began to envision the parents of this small boy -- the "pushers" of the riding toys.

Parents: Dad pulls into the driveway after a long day at work. He looks across the field. He gives a heavy sigh. Once again, every riding toy is at the bottom of the hill.

"Why does he have to ride every one?" he asks his wife, as he walks in the house.

She shrugs. She is frustrated with the habit, too. But she also knows how long it takes the boy to ride them all to the bottom. She doesn't particularly want to interfere with her quiet time. (She also knows if he weren't leaving every toy out of its place outside, he would be doing it in the house!)

These are the unwritten trials of parenthood. Nobody tells you this kind of slow boiling insanity will invade your mind by these "cute, adorable" little creatures.

Nobody warns unsuspecting parents of the loss of rational thinking due to an overload of irrational behavior.

Hidden toys? I used to think I would lose my mind from repeated illogical actions. I either did lose it or I simply stopped noticing the actions. A sort of stupor set in and I began to run on a "is-the-behavior-life-threatening" mode.

Robert and I suspect there have been periods of parental control over the riding toys.

For several days one week, there were no toys at the bottom of the hill.

Maybe the child was sick. Maybe he was too busy to ride.

We envision a dad, prowling around the garage, looking for hiding places for every riding toy. The tricycle hidden under the work bench. The wagon stuffed full of tools. Feverishly, he looks for a place for the toy car.

After the absence of the riding toys came a period of only two or three toys at the bottom of the hill.

A 4-year-old pining for his toys. Parents finally concede -- to a point.

It starts anew: Dad unveils each toy while lecturing his little rider. "Don't ride them all down the hill."

"OK, Daddy," an earnest, little voice says. Then, 1...2...3... Down they go.

Lately, mom and dad have come up with a new ploy.

For a week, the eight riding toys have sat at the bottom of the hill in the same place.

The tractor rests up against the tipped wagon -- a bottom of the hill crash. The car is way off to the side of the field -- that steering issue again.

The tricycle, we believe, is what stopped the day's fun. It is up against a tree.

Mom and dad have had it. The "pushers" have retired.

We suspect the riding toys will sit at the bottom of the hill until the boy is old enough to push them up himself.

Of course, by then, he will be peddling and he won't want to ride the toys at the bottom of the hill anymore.

gwhite@vindy.com




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