Jonah’s got your usual assortment of ride-on toys: bikes, scooters, wagons. My mom even bought him this newfangled thing called a PlasmaCar. You put your feet up on the toy and it’s propelled along, somehow, by steering and body movements alone. As described on its website: “It’s like magic, but you don’t need to be a magician to get it to work. The PlasmaCar is a mechanical marvel that makes use of that most inexhaustible of energy sources, kid-power, by harnessing the natural forces of inertia, centrifugal force, gravity, and friction. It’s so easy to operate; all it needs is a driver and a smooth, flat surface.” The PlasmaCar may be magic, but Jonah doesn’t know that and no amount of demonstration has helped him. He just puts his feet down on the ground and scoots along on the thing.
We keep all these ride-on toys in our enclosed back porch, where Jonah’s play usually involves carefully arranging the placement of each toy. Sometimes the construction of a village (in and of itself) is his play: wagon over here, bike right beside it — angled just so — and the PlasmaCar tucked behind them both. Even when he drags one out to actually ride on, the ride is always systematic and ritualized:
He’ll arrange the ride-on toys, select one, propel down off the step from the porch to the ground, and travel along our long, straight driveway next to the brick side of the house. Make a sharp left turn at the walkway and stop at the steps to our front door. Stand up and turn the toy around. Get back on. Make sharp left turn and continue down to the edge of the driveway. Pause. Turn and travel along the side of the house to the porch area again. Walk the toy up the step and back onto porch. Close porch door. Open porch door. Steer toy toward the step. Propel down off the step from the porch to the ground, and travel along our long, straight driveway next to the brick side of the house, etc. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Some of Jonah’s ride-on toys are outgrown Big Wheel type things that we keep around because Andy babysits a toddler once a week. We’ve even got a baby stroller in there, and yesterday, for some reason, this was my 8 1/2 year old’s ride-on toy of choice. He’d never ride in the damn thing when he was stroller age, which gave me a little flare-up of annoyance at such belated interest, but I was generally game. I figured he’d let me push him up and down the driveway; I could push him fast, make quick turns, and we’d have fun with it. But Jonah insisted on going solo, propelling the stroller with his long big-kid legs.
Here he is at the end of our driveway, preparing for the Flintstones-style foot walk-ride back down the driveway. I’ve ceased to be embarrassed by his many public eccentricities, so this didn’t really phase me; I figure we might even be entertainment for our normal neighbors. But when he parked the stroller back on the porch, tucked both feet up on its footrest, stuck his thumb in his mouth, and gazed squarely over at me, I had to laugh at the unspoken challenge:
Yeah, I like the stroller. Whaddaya gonna do about it?
He’s such a punk.