Just a Little... Different: Part Two
That night as I sat on the sofa, watching my kids tear around the house, and wincing as I heard large objects crashing to the ground from upstairs, I couldn't help but wonder what I was going to do with Tyto. There had to be some way to curb this absurd behaviour.
My eyes wandered languidly around the room as I thought, until they landed on the bookcase beside the sofa. That gave me an idea. If a story Tyto heard could cause this shift in behaviour, maybe a story was all it took to shift it back.
I smiled to myself. It was worth a shot, and if it didn't work, well, it never hurt to have more books around the house.
It was getting on six o'clock, so I had to be quick about it if I was going to get my kids to bed on time, but I was determined to go out and find the cure for my son's temporary insanity tonight.
I hollered up the stairs, “Kids, come down here, we're going to the book store!”
Immediately I heard four little sets of pattering footsteps on the stair as they came down one by one. I was very relieved when I saw Tyto with his brothers and sister; I had been afraid that I'd have to wrestle him into submission again. Apparently even big strong vicious Grarrls were allowed to like stories.
We arrived outside the shop, and just before we went inside, I turned to my kids and, in one breath, gave them the speech they heard every time we entered a store; “Okay, now, we're here to look for books, we are not here to run around screaming, we are not here to play catch with all the expensive breakable objects we find, no, we cannot get candy, no, we cannot buy toys, the light fixtures are not for swinging on and the bookshelves are not for hiding behind, there will be no whining when I say it's time to leave, we do not ask strangers why they're dressed funny, and we do not tie their shoelaces together when they are not looking. Are there any questions?”
My kids shook their heads automatically; they had heard this enough times to know the drill by now. And so, taking Tyto firmly by the hand in case his new persona decided he was allowed to ignore the established rules, I opened the door and followed my kids inside.
We approached the blue Nimmo at the front desk, and he peered at us from behind his book, his half-moon glasses perched at an odd angle on his face.
He smiled. “Can I help you with something, sir?”
I cleared my throat, then paused.... What was I looking for? “Well,” I began awkwardly, “I-we, we're looking for something about being... well... being...” I glanced down at Tyto, whose hand was still gripped firmly in mine as he growled menacingly at his reflection in the silver reflective panelling on the front desk, “...Different,” I breathed slowly.
The Nimmo jumped up from his desk, startling me. He smiled again as he led the way to the back of the shop. “I know just what you need,” he said jubilantly. “Just follow me.”
He led the way to a dark and dusty back corner that looked like it had been neglected for years. Apparently reading the look of surprise on my face at the shoddiness of the shelves, the Nimmo said softly with an almost reverent tone as he glanced about, “Nobody wants to admit they're different anymore.” With that, he patted my shoulder once and left me to browse.
I shooed Danby, Lucy, and Shasta off to play while I searched, but made sure to keep Tyto close by me, much to his disgruntlement.
“But why can't I go play with them?” he demanded, tugging on my trouser leg in frustration.
“Because you've proved that you can't be trusted to be on your own right now,” I replied flatly, not looking up from the book I was examining, “Once you start acting like yourself again, I'll be more than happy to let you go out and play by yourself.”
Tyto huffed, irritated, and stomped off to a corner as far from me as he could get before slumping down onto the floor and leaning against the shelf.
I sighed and rolled my eyes, hoping beyond hope that my plan would work, and that the power of literature could bring my little boy back to me.
Eventually I stumbled across a very intriguing title; The Littlest Elephante. It piqued my interest and I skimmed it. It was the perfect length for my audience, who had the attention span of a Rock, and the colour pictures were nice and bright too, engaging enough to be of interest. It was exactly what I was looking for.
Rounding up my kids again, I headed back towards the front of the store and handed the Nimmo my book. He looked pleased as he rang me up, sort of the way the pink Uni at the pound did when she was sending one of her abandoned pets off to a good home. He made me smile.
We arrived home that evening just in time to start getting ready for bed.
“Okay, guys,” I said as I hung my jacket up in the closet, “bath time, up you go.”
Shasta, Danby, and Lucy all scuttled off up the stairs, but Tyto just stood where he was, looking like he was going to put up a fuss again. I beat him to the punch.
“Tyto, you heard me. Go upstairs and take your bath or you won't get to hear the new story I bought today.”
A flicker of indecisiveness played across his face for an instant, but he eventually decided that the possibility of a new story was too great an excitement to pass up, so he reluctantly crawled upstairs, his tail dragging along the carpet as he deliberately took his time.
For an instant I felt bad for him; it must be very hard having someone dictate your entire life all the time. But I quickly shook that thought from my head. He was a baby; he needed dictating. In fact, deep down, I knew, he actually wanted it; it showed him that I was still up to the task of looking after him, doing what he needed and knowing what was in his best interest.
Leaving my book on the sofa, I followed my kids up to the bathroom and proceeded to draw their bath, making sure to do Danby and Tyto last so that Tyto couldn't get into trouble once he'd left to get his pyjamas on.
Once everyone was clean, dry, and dressed, I announced, “I've got a new story for you guys tonight; you want to hear it?”
It was a rhetorical question really; of course, they did. They bounced up and down eagerly and tried to drag me downstairs.
“New story, new story!” Shasta sang as he bounded down the hall. I smiled and let myself be led away.
Eventually everyone was settled on the blue sofa downstairs; Shasta, Danby, and Lucy were all nuzzled up close to me, but Tyto, just as he had done the night before, sat erect and distant, declaring to the world that he was big and strong, he didn't need cuddles from anyone, especially not his mean old daddy who made him take baths and wouldn't let him dance on the kitchen table.
I ignored the oppositional defiance, in spite of how much it hurt not to be able to hug my little boy the way I always used to, and started to read.
“Once upon a time, there was a red Elephante named Morp. Morp wasn't like the other Elephantes in Neopia; he was very small--so small, in fact, that he could ride his Puppyblew, George, down to Main Street as if George were a Uni. Morp hated being so small. He hated it when other pets called him 'shorty' and 'pipsqueak'. He couldn't help being different, it was just the way he was....”
It was near the end of the story – just after Morp, being the only pet in Neopia who was small enough to fit into the tiny gap that the avalanche on Terror Mountain had caused, had rescued the little Mazzew that had gotten trapped under the snow – that Tyto slid off the sofa.
“Just a minute, Papa,” he said as he climbed up the stairs as fast as he could. “I'll be right back, I hafta get somethin' first.”
So I paused and waited, watched as he went into his room and returned a few moments later. What I saw then made my heart swell with joy; my little boy was finally back. Tyto came back down the stairs... with his blue blankie bundled in his arms. He clambered back onto the sofa and snuggled up beside Lucy, who put an arm around his shoulder.
“Okay, Papa,” he mumbled as he sucked his thumb, “you can keep goin'.”
That night as I carried my kids two by two up the stairs to bed, Tyto rested his head on my shoulder and mumbled through his thumb, “Thanks, Papa.”
“For what, baby?” I asked, though I thought I had a good idea.
“For makin' me see that... that differ'nt ain't always bad. An' y'know somethin' else?” he whispered.
“What?” I replied as I lay him down.
“I was gettin' a little tired of bein' a big strong vicious Grarrl anyhow.”