Then, another family entered the play area - two grandparents with their grandson. They had purchased two large cups of coffee in addition to their burgers and after they had unleashed their grandson on the play structure sat there and began talking about how worn out they were from a day of play. That explained the coffee. Anyway, their little angel began running and jumping all over the play structure until he suddenly ran right into Matthew. We heard some chattering and laughing and suddenly the two of them emerged from the slide, holding hands (to Paul's horror), and proclaiming to everyone who could hear: "We are friends!" My little mother heart was so happy to see Matthew playing nicely with another little child - normally he tends to be a bit of a loner, still preferring parallel play.
The two boys disappeared back into the play structure. Paul and I focused our attention on making sure Emma was happy and making her way successfully down the slide. Suddenly, we began to hear some loud wailing: "STOP IT! STOP IT! THAT'S NOT MY NAME!! AHHHHH!"
The screaming continued and suddenly the little boy, Matthew's newly proclaimed "friend" emerged with a huge scowl on his face. He went up to his grandparents and pointed at Matthew perched way up top of the play structure and whined: "That mean kid won't stop calling me names! He keeps calling me pookie!! I am NOT a POOKIE!"
Matthew waved from his spot way up high and called back down to the kid: "HEY! Come back here, pookie!"
"AHHHHHH! There he goes again! My name is not POOKIE! It's BRAYDEN!" The kid yelled.
Now, I can explain the "pookie" bit. Earlier that afternoon, I had taken Emma and Matthew to the library where I read them about 50 books. One of the books was a Sandra Boyton classic called Let's Dance, Little Pookie about a baby pig with the nickname "pookie" who learns to dance with his mother. It is a great book to read and was one of Matthew's favorites of the day. That was where he picked up the name "pookie" from - he thought it was a cute and funny little name. I agree with him - it was actually my nickname when I was a baby. But, obviously this Brayden kid did not share our sentiments.
Paul yells up to Matthew: "HEY! Don't call him pookie! He doesn't like it. It's not funny unless both of you are laughing. His name is Brayden. Call him Brayden!"
Matthew giggled: "Come up and play with me, Brayden. Come back!"
Brayden wiped up his snotty nose and proceeded to race back to the top of the tower to join Matthew. All seemed well for the moment.
About 10 minutes later, Matthew suddenly started crying and came out of the slide slowly, holding a hand over his eye. Brayden followed out ahead of him looking defiant and marched right up to Paul:"He called me pookie again, so I punched him."
Paul didn't say anything. He just scooped Matthew up and told him "We're leaving" and then carried him out to the car without so much as another look at Brayden the self-appointed vigilante of the McDonald's Playland. It's a good thing Paul can keep his cool in these situations. I was about ready to give that little twerp a piece of my maternal mind.
Matthew continued to bawl in the car as we drove home. This of course caused Emma to bawl as well and what had been a happy little family outing quickly turned into a pathetic catharsis.
Which brings me to my ultimate worry. How can Matthew make and lose a "friend" so quickly? How will I deal with him getting hurt by other children in the future? I know that to a certain extent it is part of life - who has not experienced a tumultuous relationship with a classmate or two while growing up. However, I cannot stand to see my child in pain and I worry that I will not be able to handle it without turning ultra-defensive. I also worry that Matthew will not socialize very well at school. He tends to play better with girls or babies. Ultimately, he prefers to be undisturbed in his own little world of trains, dinosaurs, and ninja turtles. I just worry, worry, worry about him. I am not ready to give up control of him - to unleash him on the world. I have had him at home with me, 24 hours a day, ever since the day he was born. And now, tomorrow, he begins preschool and will never, ever again be all mine. It's the end of a very special time in both our lives. I worry that I won't be there to protect him and guide him every hour of the day but also know that I need to allow him to spread his wings, for only then will he truly be able to fly!
And after reading this, Paul laughed at me and said: "He's going to preschool, honey."
Preschool or not, you'll still probably find me drowning my sorrows in a carton of frozen yogurt and hugging the baby that has not left me yet.