This morning, Oliver excitedly reported to us that there was a Buzz Lightyear toy stuck in the muck outside, behind a bush. It was the same Buzz he'd thrown in there months before, when the bush was overgrown and trying to take over the backyard. Now that our gardeners had trimmed it, he could see Buzz again, and we needed to mount a recon mission. Now. Always a dad who encourages serving your own needs, I took my coffee outside.
Buzz was about five feet in. Oliver would have to step through dirt, over plants, and brush away some branches to get to him. Nothing he couldn't do. There was also a small soccer ball, a matchbox car, a whiffle ball, and a white truck in the bush. Wonder how those got there. I pointed them all out to Oliver, and showed him a path he could take to get them. I pulled the soccer ball out, as it was in arm's reach. Then I stepped back and nodded, "You'll have to go in and get Buzz, because I'm too big." It was true. I would have had to put my coffee down and crawl a few feet over plants and dirt wet with dew. "No papa," he retorted, "I'm too big."
The "I'm too big" defense has become a common strategy lately. We'll be sitting on the sofa and Oli will want to read a book. "Alright, go get it," I'll say. "No papa - you get it. I'm too big." We'll be in the bathtub before bed and I'll tell him it's almost time to brush his teeth, but he can't because he's too big. We like to encourage his bigness, as every parent does - it's a nice motivator to get him to do something you want him to do. It's useful for transitions - big boy bed, big boy using the potty - and it's funny how he's co-opting it as an excuse for not having to do something.
At my urging, Oli ventured a few steps into the wilderness, holding my hand for balance. He got a poke from a low branch and stepped back out. He wasn't hurt, but he walked up the steps of our deck to oversee his mission from afar. I encouraged him to come back down, told him I'd help hold the branches back. He stood there for a moment, before literally gasping and shouting, "Oh my goodness, papa!" No, he had not just seen an awesome airplane in the sky or been surprised by two squirrels chasing each other up and down a tree. His "Oh my goodness" came out of disbelief that I could still be talking and not getting Buzz, already. It was more convincing than "I'm too big."
Laughing in spite of myself, I struck a compromise, "Maybe there's a tool in the shed we can use." Of course! The shed would have the solution to our problem. We love the shed. The lawnmower's in there. Tools too. A couple baseball bats. Lots of paint cans. Organized boxes. It speaks to our male minds. We set up beach chairs in there so that we can socialize. We ate lunch in there together a few times.
Oliver suggested we use the lawnmower. I thought that maybe the rake would work better. He agreed, impressed with the rake's "hooks" on its end. He started hauling it outside, then insisted that I also carry and end of it. There's the teamwork! We're coming for you, Buzz!
I thought we were going to reach the rake into the bush and drag Buzz out, in the same fashion we use a broom to retrieve cars from under a sofa, but the hooks on the rake must have reminded Oli of cranes. Either that or he wanted to recreate the climax of Toy Story 3, when the claw rescues Buzz and friends from sure peril. He carried it up the steps and had me help him drop the end with the hooks over the railing. We hooked Buzz's foot and slowly pulled the rake back up. Oli reached through the slats and pulled Buzz to freedom!
We'd done it. Not the way I'd thought it would happen, but Buzz got some long-awaited play time. And my coffee was still warm.