This morning, Scott went out to put the lid on the sandbox and came back in with three signs from the tree house.
These stem from a combination of Caroline’s current Calvin and Hobbes addiction and a recent playdate at our house. Caroline’s been reading the series where Calvin makes a boys only club to keep out Susie. But that’s not Caroline’s handwriting on the signs. So we know she had help with the implementation here. Our friend Heather has two daughters and a son, and they came over the other evening. This brought a sufficient number of boys and girls together to launch an all out gender war. The daughters, Eva and Astrid, are 8 and 6 respectively, comfortably surrounding Caroline in age. The son, Hayden, is 4 going on 5, just about a year older than Sam. We met because Hayden and Sam go to preschool together, another long story all its own.
Aside from being the perfect ages to play with Caroline and Sam, these three kids have a lot in common with our two. For one thing, the siblings alternately adore and revile each other. Both Sam and Hayden idolize their older sisters and want to grow up to be exactly like them. Except when they want to cause them bodily harm. Similarly, Astrid and Eva look out for Hayden, just as Caroline looks out for Sam. Except when they’re holding the bedroom door shut keeping the boys out.
On this visit, as soon as she got out of the car, Eva said “I didn’t know you had a tree house out back. Last time I was here, Caroline and I played on her computer the whole time!!!”
And, indeed, she and Caroline had played computer games for that entire visit, while Sam, Hayden, and Astrid played in the tree house, watched movies, and enjoyed Sam’s trains. Eva was so excited that everybody but Sam immediately went out back to investigate. Eva came in soon after, as did Hayden. We put food in the living room for those three (Sam, Hayden, and Eva) so they could watch Toy Story 3 over dinner. We took food out to the tree house for Caroline and Astrid. Hayden never found his food, but he eventually noticed everybody else had some and came around asking.
While he was eating, Astrid came inside looking for two pieces of paper, and Caroline tracked out several handfuls of crayons, laboriously carting them up the tree house ladder instead of hoisting them up in some more simple manner. Presently, the first sign went up. It was the beige one, drawn on the back of some Easter Bunny art, with all of the “O”’s filled in. We couldn’t read it from inside, but we had an idea of what it said because we had heard the words “girls’ club” mentioned.
It must have been the rough draft, because it was soon replaced by the second sign, the one where “boys stink” is printed on a field of happy green grass under a sunny blue sky. Astrid almost has to be the artist here, because the handwriting on both signs is the same, and the first sign has an apostrophe in “girl’s”. Caroline wouldn’t know an apostrophe if you hit her with it.
Presently, Hayden finished his dinner and went out back to play with Caroline and Astrid. Soon after, he started sobbing. We all rushed to see what had happened. Heather asked “Hayden, what’s wrong?”
“They won’t let me come up!” he told us from the top of the ladder.
“NO BOYS ALLOWED,” Shouted Caroline and Astrid together.
I hollered until Caroline let go of the gate, then Heather fussed some more until Astrid also released it, admitting Hayden into the girls’ inner sanctum. Later, there was another small kerfluffle, when Sam was getting excluded from the game of dress up.
But in between those two things, Hayden’s exclusion and Sam’s, there was apparently all out war. At one point, all of the kids were out back, and we looked out the window to see Hayden at the tree house balcony dumping a shovel full of sand inches from Astrid’s head, while she sulked around the bottom kicking gravel. The significance of this event didn’t become clear until the next morning, when Scott went out to put the lid on the sandbox, found crayons scattered all over the ground, and retrieved the signs.
It turned out that the third sign, the “boys only” sign, was facing out by this time. It’s the one we find somewhat mysterious. It’s printed on the back of the green grass and sunny sky one. Since Hayden and Sam can’t write yet, one of the girls must have penned it for them. Although Eva could have taken up for her brother and made him his own sign, it looks like Astrid’s handwriting again. Was she trying to make up for having left her brother out earlier? Was the war itself a game at that point and were the kids taking turns at having the tree-house club? We grown-ups will never know.
Indeed, at this point, only one thing is certain: Scott and I are very wary of the strips where Calvin goes flying in a cardboard box.