Buddy Roll

I got Nate a Spiderman truck when he was almost three. It does cool stuff: it talks, rolls when you give it a command, shoots out plastic toothpick missiles, and has a built-in command center – and all for about twelve bucks at Target.

When Nate comes over to our condo one morning, I pull the Spiderman truck off the high shelf in the closet where I hide stuff from him. He grabs for it. I say, “Hold on little guy. Let me show you how it works.” I open the truck panel, pull out the launchers. “This is how you put the missile in the launch tube. Then you push this button. Don’t lean over it when you push the button.”

“This butt-thing? Push this butt-thing, dada?”

“Yes, but don’t lean over it. You’ll shoot yourself in the eye.”

“Okay,” he says. He pushes the button. “Ow.”

I look over to see a plastic missile bounce off the floor underneath his face.

“Did you just shoot yourself?”

“Yes, in the eye. I pushed the butt-thing.”

“Did it hurt? Is your eye okay? Here, let me see,” I say.

“Yes, it hurt. Only a little, not a lot. I’m okay. Can you show me how to do it again?” he asks, blinking and rubbing his eye. Great. How am I going to explain this one to his mom? At least it didn’t stick in his eye. That would be harder to explain.

“Um, no. Let’s put away the missiles.” I grab the plastic toothpicks. “Let’s play with the other stuff. Look, you can load your cars into the back. Hey, let’s press some of the buttons.”

I push a random button. The truck screams out “Buddy Roooollllll,” amazingly loudly for such a small, cheap truck.

“All right! Buddy Roll!” I say.

“It’s not saying Buddy Roll,” he says and pushes the button. The truck screeches out “Buddy Roll” again. “See,” he says, “it’s not Buddy Roll. He’s saying Alapapana.”

“Huh?” Does the kid have a hearing problem? “No buddy, it is really saying Buddy Roll.”

He pushes the button. The amazing, agonizing computer chip screams out “Buddy Roll.”

“Not Buddy Roll. Alapapana.” He pushes the button again. Buddy Roll again. “See. Alapapana.” Is the kid retarded or is he screwing with me? He looks at me, sensing victory, eyes bright, a half-smirk making him look like the neighborhood smartass kid.

“Okay Nat. It can be Alapa whatever.”

Then he pushed the butt-thing fourteen thousand more times, each time saying, “See dada, not Buddy Roll. Alapapana.”


We walk in the park, on a dirt trail that followed a tree-lined pond.  We take a break under a tree to feed the ducks, well, actually coots, but no one says “we fed the coots in the park.”  Nate looks up.

“That’s a oka leaf,” Nate says.  “Can you lift me up so I can get the oka leaf?”

“What is an oka leaf?” I ask.  “Oh, you mean oak leaf.  Well it’s not an oak leaf, buddy.  It’s a maple leaf.”

“No, it’s an oka leaf.”

“Umm, no, it’s a sugar maple.  See how it’s big and shaped like a star?  Oak leaves are small.”

“It’s oka.”


“Oka.  I really like oka leaves.”

“Fine, whatever,” I say and pick him up.  “Grab a leaf.”

He plucks a leaf off the tree.  “This is a great oka leaf.  Do you want your own oka leaf daddy?”



They Do Have Noodles Here

We’re driving back from Blockbuster early one autumn evening, movie for the kid, movie for dad after the kid goes to bed. “What would you like for dinner?” I ask, already knowing the answer will be.

“I don’t know. Let’s go to McDonalds?”

“How about chicken? With some rice and tortillas?” I ask.

“Oh sure, yes. And a quesadilla.”

“Sure,” I say, “let’s get some chicken and rice and tortillas and a quesadilla.”

We pull into the drive-through line at El Pollo Loco, the local Mexican chicken place.

“I want noodles,” Nathaniel says.

“Noodles? They don’t have noodles here.”

“But I want noodles. Only noodles.”

I look around. There is a car behind us. Deep breath. “Buddy, you wanted chicken. We’re at a chicken place. They have chicken here.”

“They have noodles here too. I want noodles.”

This is where negotiating with a two-year-old should stop. But I can’t help myself. “Okay, Nathaniel. Listen to me. You wanted chicken. We’re at the chicken restaurant. There are no noodles here. No noodles.”

“They do have noodles here.”

Damn. They do not have noodles here. I play with the radio knob, stare out the windshield. If only I could make a Mexican place make me noodles. Hmmm, I start to wonder, a bit crazily, maybe they do have some noodles here.

I pull up to the speaker. “Yeah, can I get a three piece chicken combo with rice and tortillas. And a quesadilla. And, um, do you have any noodles?”

Long pause. Some background haggling in Spanish. “Noodle?” the voice says.

“Yes, noodles. I’m guessing you don’t have any noodles, right?”

“No noodles. Please pull forward,” the speaker says.

“See, daddy,” he yells from the back, “I told you they have noodles here.  Dada, I want these noodles.”

I swear the kid just makes up stuff to make me lose my mind.