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Chivalry Only Goes So Far

Maddie and I are in the habit of hitting the park every morning as part of our routine. She’s made a couple friends (so have I!) and is starting to look forward to seeing familiar faces on the playground.

Since it’s been so hot here – six days of around 100 degrees – Maddie only makes a cursory nod at the swings before heading off to the sprinkler rainbow. One of her friends, Naomi, is always amply stocked with water balloons, and the things fascinate my daughter. She loves to squish them in her hands, drop them and watch them roll, chew on them; you name it, she’s done it. And when she drops it or squeezes it too hard and it breaks, she stares at the ground in honest bewilderment, uncertain where the thing mysteriously disappeared.  

So Naomi’s mommy has graciously taken to making Maddie a couple water balloons of her own every day, and Maddie’s in hog heaven. She’ll carry one around while she runs through the sprinkler over and over again, cackling gleefully and holding her precious cargo triumphantly aloft.

I’ve said that she likes to drop the water balloons. She actually enjoys rolling them ahead of her, toddling after it, and picking it up again. I think it’s partly the pure fun of the chase, but I also think there’s an element of, “How far away from Mommy can I go before she reins me back in?”

So the other day she had dropped the water balloon, setting it off on a roll, and was preparing to chase after it when her friend Emmitt came up. Emmitt’s a good six months older than Maddie and cheerfully stands still while she goes off on her long, one-sided conversations. He loves the park, but is still being persuaded into the sprinkler whereas Maddie’s a true water baby. Emmitt saw the water balloon roll away, and he ran after it, picked it up, and brought it back to Maddie.

She accepted the gift uncertainly; kids that age don’t share well and I’m sure she was thinking there was some catch, since it’s much more likely that a kid would chase after Maddie’s water balloon, pick it up, and keep it. But he walked off a bit and she realized he simply did a nice thing.

Interested in testing out this new dynamic, Maddie walked a bit towards him, dropped and rolled again. Once more, Emmitt picked up the balloon and returned it to her, Maddie now looking at him a bit as if she was thinking, “Oh, I get it now! You’re like those adults that do things for me.”

Never one to know when to stop, Maddie looked at Emmitt, walked a couple steps, and rolled the balloon a third time.

Unfortunately for her, the balloon rolled into the middle of the rainbow sprinkler. The dead center, where all the sprays concentrated, and where the older kids send each other during a game as “punishment”.

Now Maddie’s no stranger to The Center; when she was a younger and more naïve baby – oh, so many weeks ago – she’d boldy stride to the middle and hang out a bit. Older and wiser now, she knows there’s easier thrills to be had on the edge and doesn’t often venture to The Center any more.

So the water balloon rolled in, and settled dead middle. Madeleine looked at Emmitt and gestured with her right arm, as if to say, “Well? There it is! Go get it!”

Emmitt looked at the balloon, looked at Maddie, and turned on his heels.

Chivalry is alive and well in New York, and apparently has its limits.


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