Two weeks ago, we were at an endurance bike-race, Twelve Hours of Temecula. Twelve hours of mountain-biking. Ben was on a relay team, so the ones who weren’t biking that particular lap were sitting under our friend’s pop-up tent, staring vacantly into space, trying to rest enough to get ready for their next lap. One of the bikers stirred: “Umm, Elaine? Do you realize there are two little Sophies in our tent right now?”
The others looked around. “Hey, yeah, there are two toddlers. Where did the other little blonde three-year-old come from?” Ben said, “We can’t take her home, you know.”
“Her name is Mia,” I told them. We found her three tents down. She and Sophie were pretending to chase invisible monsters with a tennis ball. It hadn’t even occurred to me to explain. It’s what we do at every bike race: we wander around until we pick up a friend for Sophie to play with, and then Sophie and her new friend play happily for hours.
Here’s Sophie and Celeste, creating artistic stick-castles for ants, at last weekend’s Big Bear Kenda Cup race. Celeste’s dad had been planning to take her to the Big Bear zoo while Celeste’s mother did the two-or-three-hour bike race, but Sophie and Celeste just started playing with sticks, and neither of us parents felt like taking them away from the woods where they were happy and creative on their own.
Because playing with adults just isn’t as much fun, for Sophie, as playing with other kids. Because it wouldn’t have occurred to me to make ant-castles. Because Sophie gets a crush on older girls, and at bike races it’s fairly easy to find a decent kid whose parents is as calm about dirt as I am.
But it occurs to me that this is weird. Most people don’t pied-piper stranger’s children, just for their own kid’s entertainment. Most three-year-olds aren’t as sociable as Sophie. Still, I’m pretty happy that we have a good race-routine now. We arrive, find a friend, and then it’s easy — even if it does mean scrubbing pine-sap off of Sophie’s hands later.