After a month of beach trips, the inside of our car had started to look like a sandbox. On Sunday afternoon we called off the fun and sent the boys out to the driveway with a vacuum and an extension cord. They fought over who got to vacuum first, but Jay prevailed. He spent 15 minutes on the trunk alone, and left it spotless.
Wally went next. We assigned him the middle row of seats, but within a few minutes, he went back to his dump truck. Jay took over, and spent another half-hour vacuuming the seats, the floors, the cup holders, the little sandy compartments on the insides of the doors. When he was done, I had an actual visceral flashback to the giddy way I’d felt when we first drove that pristine car off the lot back in October.
Caroline and I had a quick conversation about whether to reward Jay with something sweet, or just to praise him excessively for his work. We settled on the praise, because it’s cheap, doesn’t cause cavities, and in theory will make Jay more likely to do the right things for the right reasons in the future.
After the car was clean, Jay moved on to bike riding, and Wally circled back to the vacuum. He did not attempt to clean with it, though. First he suctioned his fingers, then his hair, then his ear, then his stomach, howling with delight the whole time. Two years ago I wrote about the dangers of getting attached to simplistic narratives about who your kids are. Still, their contrasting approaches were too indicative: Jay is meticulous, loves doing a job well, and doesn’t like chaotic physical intrusions like a 120 volt Dirt Devil going at his navel; Wally thrives on delight and enjoyment, isn’t keen on tasks, is always finding secondary uses for familiar objects, and likes a good thrill. They both, however, will be getting the same thing for Christmas this year.