It was late afternoon when I said to 4-year-old Big Brother, “Can you please pick up your toys and put them away?”
“I don’t want to pick up my toys,” he said.
“I know, but you need to do it anyway.”
He frowned and folded his little arms. “I don’t want to do things your way. I want to do things my way. I’m going to go and live somewhere else, and you’ll have to come and visit me at my house if you want to see me.”
“Okay,” I said, and went to start preparing dinner.
Big Brother stood in the middle of the play-room for a minute with his arms folded, muttering to himself under his breath. Then he went to the front door, opened it up, and stepped outside. “I’m going now,” he called.
“Bye,” I said.
He walked down the front path to the driveway and stopped. He’s not allowed to cross the road without holding someone’s hand. He looked up and down the street. To the right, further up the hill, there was a group of older kids sitting with their skateboards and bikes. “Hello,” he called. They didn’t answer.
To the left, the road curved around a bend and disappeared. Nothing interesting that way.
Big Brother retreated up the driveway and sat down in front of the garage door, muttering to himself the whole way. A few minutes later, he stood up and made his way back to the house. (And I raced from where I was spying through the window back to the kitchen.)
The front door opened. Big Brother came sullenly inside. “I forgot to take some toys,” he said.
He gathered an armful of toys and went back out the front door. He’d made it about half a dozen steps before he dropped a toy. He stopped and picked it up, but dropped another in the process. He tried to pick this one up, but all his toys fell on to the ground. His head drooped. Slowly, one by one, he picked up each toy and transported it back to the front door. Then he knocked.
“Yes?” I said as I opened the door.
“I can’t carry all my toys at once, and it’s getting cold out here, and do you have anything to eat?”
I smiled and gave him a hug. “Welcome home. I do have something for you to eat. Are you going to keep living here, then?”
“Yes,” he said sullenly.
“Then come in. But if you’re going to keep living here, you’ll need to pick up all your toys and put them away. How about you do that while I get you a snack?”
“Okay,” he said.
And by the time I’d finished getting him some milk and cookies, the play-room was tidy.
It’s a good job he didn’t think to take his backpack with him.