Saturday, September 05, 2009


The almost-three year old I babysit for used to be a cautious, gentle child. Lately he's taken to games that always involve a bad guy (usually a leaf) getting stomped on by Batman and Catwoman (two dolls that feature the duo at around 8). The other morning, when he was the most boisterous I'd ever seen him, I said, surprised,
"What's gotten into you?"
"ENERGY to play and hit!" he shouted.

I have to admit that there is a part of me that loves this kind of energy (am I a Bad Influence?), though I don't allow hitting. I bet most children's book authors tap into it -- who knows, maybe that's why we write for the age groups we do.

Jake's new favorite book is DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS! -- for those who haven't read this, at the beginning of the book the bus-driver asks the young reader to do him a favor: "Don't let the pigeon drive the bus." When he's gone, the pigeon asks (at first)

wheedles, pleads, bargains--and, eventually, has a total temper tantrum, represented by screaming capital letters, flying feathers, and popping eyes. Reviews say that children love to shout NO! YOU CAN'T DRIVE THE BUS! to each request. Jake's eyes light up at the question. At first, when the pigeon asks, Jake is tempted, but doubtful:
When the pigeon really starts pleading, he says,
And finally -- more and more confidently as the book goes on:
"Yes, you can drive the bus."

We've read most of the sequels now, too, and Jake enjoys quoting all of them, even when he doesn't quite understand the words:
"I've got dreams, you know."
"For Pete's sake!" (he loves that expression)
"I'M NOT SLEEPY!" (this is from DON'T LET THE PIGEON STAY UP LATE -- and Jake at nap time always insists that he's not tired until a few seconds before he falls asleep, just like the pigeon.)

Jake's mother says he's going through a "testosterone surge." She'd read about them; her friends had warned her they would come. But she never believed that her own gentle child who didn't like anything rough and sang the song in FREE TO BE YOU AND ME -- especially the line "It's okay to cry" so often that his father finally said,
"Yes, but it's not required!" and cried when other people were hurt would turn into this high-energy, strong-willed, rock-throwing (not at people, only into the water at the beach -- over and over -- heaving huge boulders) BOY.

I bet girls go through this too -- I'm pretty sure that at almost-three I also would have loved the pigeon and wanted him to drive the bus. But now, although I know that the pigeon absolutely should not be driving the bus, and when I am in charge I don't let Jake do what he shouldn't, there is a part of me that loves the energy that wants to try, so brilliantly captured by this book.


nelsong said...

Yup, it's real.

Libby Koponen said...

Do your boys have it too?

Anna Alter said...

Wow I didn't know kids that little had testosterone to deal with! I like that he indulges the pigeon.

Grace Lin said...

great post, Libby!

Meghan McCarthy said...

Well, girls can be wild too. I believe I was kind of high energy. There are some videos of me running around like crazy with a bow and arrow. Though I must say when I witness kids out in public it's always the boys who seem to be hitting each other and so on. Is it bad of me to think that I'd want a girl if I had a kid?