Family Games

Ben won his bike-race this weekend. The other bicyclers are now asking him how long till he turns semipro. He keeps claiming that he doesn’t want to ruin the fun by taking it too seriously – but it’s astounding how fast and hard he can ride.

Sophie and I had a better time at this race, partly because now we know a few other biking families (since it was the second race we attended), so we had some good conversations in that dusty parking lot. One mother of a 7-month-old told me she doesn’t mind the time her husband takes to train for bike-racing, because it ends up keeping him from drinking, so it makes him a better father all around. Somehow, Sophie seems to encourage relative strangers to have profound conversations with me. It’s yet another way she makes my life interesting.

Mostly, we had a better time because we got to stay at B&C’s cabin for the weekend. Sophie loves B&C, she loves the carpeted stairs in their cabin (our house has no stairs, and the playground stairs aren’t softly carpeted at all), she loves their patient medium-sized dog (Huxley actually let her sleep on him!), but mostly she loves them. They taught her how to play with puppets. They’re incredible at communicating their delight to Sophie. And staying in a cabin made the whole weekend better. We didn’t have to drive up and back in one day — a good thing, because it turns out that those twisty mountain roads make Sophie carsick. It was a two-day race, with multiple stages, but we didn’t have to stay in a tent in a rain like many other bicycling families at this race — instead, we got to admire the rain from B&C’s nice dry cabin. We didn’t have to stay dust-covered during the bike-races, either. After Sophie fell on pine-sap at the bike-race, we got to give her two nice long baths to try to get her clean.

And when Sophie invented the game of picking up pebbles from the backyard, moving them in a pail into the living room, then moving them one by one into a pebble-colored slot in the stereo-speaker, B&C philosophically thought that was cute. Other hosts might reasonably object to a guest filling their stereo with rocks. B just said she was attempting to make rock music.

Sophie has been inventing lots of games recently. Yesterday when I was folding laundry, she responded to being relatively ignored by quietly walking out into the hallway, slipping around the corner, silently waiting until I noticed her absence, then giggling uproariously when I found her — and then repeating this activity three or four more times. I had no idea that a 13-month-old can play hide and seek like that. Of course, she was using pretty much the same hiding place every time.

She also plays dress-up, lately, mostly with hats and scarves, but also with my shoes, which are about as big as her legs, and impossible for her to walk in, although she tries. She plays with legos: she has just discovered how to get the big baby legos to stick together, though sometimes she tries to stick them together upside down, which can lead her to get frustrated and then make up other games, like throwing all the legos one by one into the backyard. I think she liked the color of the legos on the grass. She plays with tupperware: she likes to take our plastic storage containers out of their drawer in the kitchen and redecorate the house with them. She plays with a toy recorder, and maracas and drums and Tibetan-singing-bowl. Sometimes she dances. She plays with books, often insisting that she read it herself, mumbling and turning the pages at her own pace, not at all interested in being read to. We can actually use this to our advantage during long car-rides, just feeding her a new book every ten minutes or so. She plays chase-the-cats. She plays standing at my back, waiting for me to give her a piggy-back-ride. She plays climb-up-the-slide-backwards, then insists on sliding down herself, without any help. Ben & I jokingly ask, which one of us could she have gotten such fierce independence from? Of course it’s both of us.

Sophie plays throw-the-bathtoys-in-the-tub. She plays pull-the-blanket out of the crib, then lay down on it and lie still for 45 seconds, before bouncing up and insisting that really, she’s not tired, she doesn’t want to nap, really really she doesn’t. We understand that she actually does want to nap, and we’re getting better at getting her to sleep, sometimes.

Yesterday when our neighbor Katie came over with her mother Donna, Sophie played toss-the-ball to Katie, then toss the ball to Donna, then turn around and find me and toss the ball to me, too. I had no idea that a baby this young would want to play a cooperative game, taking turns, including everyone. I’m so proud of her.

Of course, she also managed to injure another baby yesterday at baby-sing-and-sign class. The other mostly-younger babies were all sitting still, watching their moms sing-and-sign “Old MacDonald,” while Sophie was busily circumnavigating the room, picking up all the most interesting toys she could find. She was maneuvering herself between two seated mom-and-baby pairs when she lost her balance and banged her head on a 7-month-old. We had to learn the sign for “sorry.” I think she has her dad’s energy, but it’s probably also my energy too. Hopefully she’ll grow up to find some good outlet for all this energy, like bike-racing, or something.

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