The Magic Word
On Monday, while Austen and I were at the Wal-Mart over on route 38 getting an impromptu oil change and buying diapers and wipes, I spotted two more Sesame Street bibs like the Cookie Monster one we got him about a month ago (and which we are washing constantly because it's become our favorite). One had a pink background and Big Bird on it, and the other a yellow background with Elmo. Austen seemed to like them both, so I threw them in the cart. It's not like a little pink is going to turn my son into a girlie-man, and those rubber-backed bibs cover way more real estate than the tiny terrycloth ones we use most of the time.
While we were waiting in line a few minutes later, Austen started pointing at various tabloid covers. I assumed he wanted to play the game we play when I hold him in front of the pantry and I name the things he points to—sugar! salt! olives! sugar! beans! sauce! olives! salt!—so I rattled off the names of the people he was pointing at: Jennifer! Angelina! OJ! Angelina! OJ! Austen then turned around in the cart, pointed at the bibs, and said, "Elmo." It didn't sink in for a second; as soon as he turned his attention away from the tabloids, I'd looked up to see what was taking the woman in front of us so long at the self-checkout, so I wasn't giving Austen my full attention. "Did you just say, 'Elmo'?" I asked him. He pointed at the bibs again. "Elmo," he said.
When we got home from Wal-Mart I called Al and told him we'd meet him at his office after stopping to buy some bread, but half an hour later I had to call and revise the plan: Al should start walking toward Rittenhouse Square instead because we still hadn't made it there ourselves, and the bread store was on the other side of it. The reason for our slow progress was that Austen wanted to get out of the stroller and walk himself. This is a little dangerous with only one parent to mind both the kid and the stroller, but I let him get out anyway, and it worked well. It's not like we were in a giant hurry, and it was fun to see him point out every bus, pull every door handle (and say what sounded like "locked" when one door wouldn't budge), attempt a tantrum when I wouldn't let him go into Capogiro (I laughed and scooped him up when he plopped on his butt in front of the door and started to whine), and point at a pigeon and say, "bird".
Oh! And miraculously, Austen reached for my hand every time we got within 20 yards of a crosswalk. This was a major breakthrough of the "please" sort; it took weeks of dragging him across streets practically kicking and definitely screaming—not to mention a MAJOR meltdown at the corner of 11th and Market when I wouldn't let him step out into traffic—before YOU HAVE TO HOLD MOMMY OR DADDY'S HAND WHEN YOU CROSS THE STREET! connected with him. I'm not sure which was cooler: Having the street-crossing protocol acknowledged and accepted, or having Austen want to hold my hand.
In any case, we finally did intersect with Al shortly after making it to the Metropolitan Bakery, and we walked over to Rittenhouse Square so that Austen and Al could sit on a bench and eat their carrot cake and almond croissant. I filled Al in on all the neat stuff that had happened in the past couple hours, and when I got to the story about the bib, I realized I'd stashed the Elmo bib in the bottom of the stroller in case we decided to eat out (never leave home without a diaper, a bib, and a sippy cup, if you can help it). I whipped it out and said to Austen, who never performs on cue, "who's this?" My super-smart son instantly replied, "Elmo." I held out my hand toward Austen in a gesture that plainly said to Al, "QED".