It is the Easter holidays, and therefore LittleBear is at home, in the company of either BigBear or me, for two weeks. And because I have a tactical advantage over BigBear, he spends all day occupying LittleBear while I Arrange Things To Do. Because I've spent a LOT of time at home with LittleBear over the past five years, and I have an arsenal of Things To Do that prevent me turning into a deranged tyrant after the 73rd iteration of pretending to be a rhinoceros who doesn't know how to build lego models. My tactical advantage is not that I know that having Things To Do is a good thing, BigBear knows this, he's not an idiot. My tactical advantage is that I know other people who also possess small children and who also need Things To Do, so I can plan to Do Things together, and
Friday was one such day. I invited a SchoolFriend for a play date (accompanied by his mother, who I have a habit of going to the pub with, I'm not a masochist you know). Naturally, LittleBear, being the contrary soul that he is, about half an hour before SchoolFriend arrived, declared he'd rather not play with SchoolFriend, he'd rather carry on playing with me. But since the rhinoceros was on strike, and I'm trying to instill some social skills in my son, I explained that SchoolFriend was still coming and they'd definitely have a lovely time. And they did. More lovely than I had planned for.
For what may well be the very first time, LittleBear disappeared off to play with a friend without requiring any input from me whatsoever. He and SchoolFriend remained engrossed in playing with lego, while OtherMother and I sat in the sun and drank tea. And then LittleBear and SchoolFriend disappeared upstairs, carrying boxes and boxes of lego with them. Then they reappeared downstairs, once again carting the lego around. And then... then... this is the point where I made a terrible mistake. I'll let you see if you can spot it...
LittleBear asked, "can we see if the lego boat floats?"
You see, it's easy to spot the error isn't it? You can see how things could all go terribly wrong or terribly right at this point, depending upon my answer.
The correct answer would have been, "no dear, don't do that".
The incorrect answer was, "well, I suppose so, but please don't experiment with the rest of the lego, because it's not designed to float*."
To give myself some credit, I did go and check on them once, and there was a shallow pool of cold water in the bath, with the lego boat happily floating. All was well. So I retreated to my cup of tea and natter. And then, just when I least expected it, a small naked LittleBear came charging into the room giggling, then turned and fled, pursued by two alarmed mothers, one of whom was calling out, "has SchoolFriend taken his clothes off too?"
SchoolFriend had indeed removed his clothes. He was wearing nothing more than a beaming smile as he sat in splendour in the bath, surrounded by all the lego you can imagine. And LittleBear immediately scrambled back in with him, and without batting an eyelid, they started attempting to demonstrate which vehicles floated (none by this point, as they'd filled the boat with water) and which sank (all of them). There wasn't the faintest trace of any thought that they maybe shouldn't be in the bath with the lego. In truth, it was both adorable and extremely funny.
We picked our way gingerly across the puddles on the floor, the cast off bits of lego, the plastic boxes, the discarded, soggy clothes and the vague scattering of sharks, and attempted to start removing boys and toys from the bath. And discovered just how cold the bath water was. It was slightly surprising that hypothermia wasn't setting in. LittleBear assured me that it was alright, as they'd put bubble bath in to make the bath warm by insulating it with a layer of bubbles**. The presence of a bottle of foaming soap, a bottle of liquid soap and a bottle of bubble bath on the side of the bath, and the strangely, well, slippery, feel to both children should have alerted me to just how valiantly they had attempted to make bubbles... Suffice to say, all the lego had to have another bath later to wash the bubble bath off, and we had to start a new bottle at (real) bathtime as the bottle I'd bought on Thursday was already mysteriously empty.
Which, as my mother says, just goes to show something or other.
I think it shows that while it is a great relief to have LittleBear finally content to trundle off and play with a friend unaccompanied, this is not the same thing as being safe to trundle off and play with a friend unsupervised. It may also show that my tactical advantage over BigBear is perhaps neither tactical, nor an advantage.
But I'm pretty certain we'll be having SchoolFriend back to play, as they had a lovely time, and it was only water (and a few bubbles). If his mother will let him come again that is.
* The lego boat has a single piece hull and is in fact advertised as "really floats!"
** I'm delighted by this thinking, but feel I might need to work on his grasp of thermodynamics.