Archive for January, 2013

Dear Evan: Just a Toy

January 30th, 2013

Dear Evan:

Sometime in the last six months, you learned to be afraid.

I think it coincided with the blossoming of your imagination. You’ve definitely gone from playing alongside me to actual imaginative play. Just the other day, your tiny plastic brachiosaur Fluffy was a firefighter, climing up and down the ladder of a red plastic fire truck.

The downside is that you now back away from the opening scene of “Finding Nemo” (with the menacing barracuda) and won’t watch “Monsters Inc.” at all any more. Worse is that toys and statues have become threatening. I noticed it at the library first, when you would no longer approach the life-size tiger pillow. And then over Thanksgiving, you wouldn’t go into your cousin’s room with its box of large stuffed dinosaurs. You learned the word “scary,” but I noticed you would call some of your toys (a plastic snake named Snakey, some spiders left over from Halloween) scary but not be actually scared.

When we returned over Christmas, I provided reassurance that would become a mantra: “It’s just a toy. Not scary. Just a toy.”

I said that over and over while touching each stuffed animal in turn, and encouraging you to touch each while saying it.

It’s not a foolproof system. During our zoo trip this past Saturday, you stopped in your tracks at the statue of a kangaroo alongside the trail.

“It’s okay,” I said, rapping it on the nose. “It’s just a statue. Not real. Not scary.”

“Jus’ a STA-choo,” you repeated, but would come no closer.

The system failed us that time, so we moved on, but I’ve heard you saying the mantra to yourself in other situations: “Not SKEERY. Jus’ a TOY.”

A lot in life isn’t really scary. It’s just toys. Not real. We’ll get you to that realization soon enough.

I love you,


Dear Evan: Snow and Sand

January 28th, 2013

Dear Evan:

“Elephants is playing! In HHHnow!”

We were at the Fort Worth Zoo this past weekend for Daddy-Evan Day (what I call it when the two of us spend a weekend day together, a regular event) and you were so active, so inquisitive, so excited. You’re in love with animals right now, fitting given that your room is decorated in elephants, tigers, giraffes, etc. The zoo has almost every animal you love with the exception of dinosaurs. (Those, by the way, are a more nebulous concept to you with the exception of T. rex, which you can pick out on sight, and Fluffy, your name for a tiny plastic Brachiosaur.)

More cute, you can’t quite pronounce the s if it’s followed by a consonant at the start of a word. Instead, you make a sound like a guttural H. For example, your toy snake is named “HHHnakey,” snow is “HHHnow,” etc.

“That’s not snow, honey,” I said. “That’s *sand.*”

One of the elephants walked out of the large viewing area, back toward a smaller section of the zoo.

“Elephant is going?” you asked.

I had to think for a moment of a concept that would translate. “He’s going to his home.” While you watched the elephant, I watched you. Your bright blue eyes got that focused look that doubled as a sort of “recording” indicator. After a few minutes, we walked over to the giraffes. On the way back out, we stopped again at the elephant enclosure.

A beat, and then: “Elephants playing in SAND!”

We both grinned.

I love you,


Evan at the Fort Worth Zoo (Jan. 2013)

Evan at the Fort Worth Zoo (Jan. 2013)