Five-year-old Maddie and I play a game. Distract Nana. I try to read in my shady spot under the tree out in front of my condo, and she tries to stop me. I am not privy to all of the rules, but I suspect she gets points for every time she makes me speak, bonus points when I have to I reread a sentence, and there’s an instant win component if she gets me to close the book and move from my reading spot.
This morning I figured I would outmaneuver her. Before we went outside I spent time reading to her with the agreement she would let me read my book later. She likes poetry for kids. We read Robert Louis Stevenson and Shel Silverstein and Joyce Kilmer… “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.”
When the sun hit the lawn, we packed her a picnic of cheese crackers and string cheese and a juice box along with her tea set. I made sure she had bread to feed the birds, as I have learned “Can I have some food for the birds to bring back to their poor starving baby birds” is usually her opening gambit in our Distract Nana game, followed soon after by, “Look at the birds eating, Nana.”
But I can play offense too. I surprised her by playing the Amazon card. I had ordered a box full of new outdoor toys to keep her occupied. A miniature golf game. One of those balls with the handle that takes some practice time to master. A plastic horseshoe set. And two bubble guns that look like something from Lost In Space, one for her and one for her sister Jenna who was in school. The battery operated space guns light up a produce an endless string of little bubbles.
It worked too. Maddie’s attention was successfully diverted and she let me read. I got lost in a Sue Grafton mystery, but I could hear her playing in the background – she likes to sing to the birds when she feeds them – and every now and then when I turned a page I’d look up and make sure she was ok.
I must have gotten lost in the book for a chapter or two. Kinsey had just had the cops dig up a dead dog after convincing them a kidnapped child might be buried in the woods. The chapter ended. I looked up. And there’s Madison in a pink ballet outfit including tutu and a pair of purple fairy wings, white flowers from the shrubbery in her hair and a bubble gun in each hand. She was running through the greenery in a cloud of soap bubbles singing: “Bubbles are made by fools like me, but only seeds can make a tree.”
Maddie wins again. I put the book down.