This morning, my two-year-old son and I headed to Plum Island for a couple of hours of batting away greenheads and wrestling the strong undertow.
Knowing my son's affinity for other kids' toys, I packed an ample supply. Buckets, shovels, sand molds, a sand-sifter, dump truck and a wagon in which to pull all aforementioned toys around. Apparently that was not enough. Because after the first hour, he spotted the very intriguing and brightly-colored beach toys of the family parked a few yards from us and made a bee-line, wagon in tow, right for them.
When he got to the blanket, one of the little girls, about six years old, was sitting in the sand, fresh from a dip in the icy-cold water, her toys sprawled out around her. My son headed for a red bucket. I told him "No, no buddy, those aren't your toys," a frequent flyer in the phrase repertoire and one that I think I say sometimes in my sleep. (In my experience, MOST parents don't mind if another child happens on their kids' toys and has a brief go-around with them. But I have run across some that are downright nasty about the whole situation.) I tried, balancing my comments delicately between showing respect for other people's things and allowing my son to mingle and therefore confiscate toys that don't belong to him, to direct his attention toward the myriad of toys scattered in a circle around our own blanket.
This particular little girl, perhaps sensing my son's innate tendency towards any type of vehicle, thrusts forth a little sand-mold in the shape of a tractor. "He can have this," she says, looking at her mother then up at the two of us, we beggars of other people's toys.
My son excitedly accepts this great gift, and a smile wider than almost any other I've seen spreads across his face, and he starts to make off with his new plaything. I catch him and haul him over back towards the little girl, who has already commenced her own castle-building, and instruct him to say, "Thank you." And still not certain I have stumbled upon agreeable or nasty parents, I suggest that we could perhaps borrow the toy, and then return it before we pack up for home.
"He can have it," the little girl insists.
"That's really nice," I tell her, not because I am being patronizing, but because I do, in fact, think this is an incredibly nice and mature gesture for a six-year-old, who on any other day might gather up every toy in her arms and scowl at us.
Several times I instruct my son to say Thank You, another sometimes embarrassing, albeit necessary, routine. He finally does, runs right up to her and says a little too closely into her face, in his developing toddler voice, "Thank you for tractor."
He proudly tosses it in his wagon, and we are off with a wave.
A wonderful morning at the beach, especially considering that the greenheads hadn't yet arrived.