“Oh, hello Jane” Petra sighed wearily. “I'm sorry, Rafael's not here now” she pursed her lips for a moment, “He went to pick up the twins from karate”
“How come I can't take karate anymore, Mommy?” Mateo looked up at Jane
“We'll discuss that later” she closed the topic, and then looked at Petra, “We'll just-- um-- wait here for awhile. That's ok, right?” she headed through the front door.
Petra fumed, but said nothing. Finally, she smiled, “Yes, sure, it'll give us time to talk” she turned to Mateo, “Why don't you go into Ellie and Anna's room and play”
“Oh boy!” Mateo rushed off down the hallway
“Don't break anything! Those toys don't belong to you” Jane called after him.
Mateo looked around the room excitedly, but then soon grew disappointed. “Everything here is pink!” he frowned. He looked at a music box, opened it, but shut it when the tinny song began playing. He inspected the girls' karate trophies and sighed, “I wish I still took karate, but Mommy said no. Daddy was ok with it”
He grinned when he spied a dollhouse in the corner. The back was open and he could see the rooms set up with small plastic furniture. A family of plain action figures stood on the second floor of the house.
Jane heard a lot of noise coming from down the hallway and decided to see what the commotion was about. “Just a moment” she interrupted Petra's story about Krishna from the hotel.
“What's going on, Mr. Sweetface?” Jane quietly made her way toward the twins' room.
“No, I don't want to go to bed!” Mateo held up one of the dolls
“You have to” he went on, holding up the mother doll, “Good little boys go to bed”
“But I need my story first” he waved the smaller, child doll, in his hand.
Jane smiled. This certainly was different than the games he played at home. Usually, those games involved a lot of running, and screaming, and sometimes resulted in a broken toy or two.
Just then, Anna and Elsa, Mateo's half siblings ran into the room
“Hey!” Anna shouted, “That's our dollhouse”
“And it's for girls. Why do you want to play with it?” Elsa chimed in
Mateo's smiled dropped, as did the plastic figures from his hand. They clattered on the hardwood floor.
“I'm sorry” his voice was uncharacteristically quiet.
“Hey” Rafael walked in and smiled at the children. He knelt next to Mateo, “You know, there's a lot of ways to play, and it's ok if you want to play with their dollhouse” he looked at his daughters, “I guess you're upset because Mateo didn't ask first”
“Well” Elsa began, “He didn't ask us, and that's not fair”
“But Daddy” Anna sighed, “how come he wants to play with that if he's a boy”
“Ok” Rafael began, “Is it ok if you two take karate and you're girls”
“Sure” Anna smiled, “girls can do anything boys can do”
“I see” Rafael nodded, seemingly understanding the logic, “And so that means that if girls can do anything boys can do, I guess boys can do anything that girls can do”
“That's not fair!” Elsa frowned
“Well, two plus one is three, right?” Rafael went on
“Everybody knows that!” Anna laughed
“So that means one plus two is three, also” Rafael finished
The girls just stared at their father, stunned with the logic.
“Mateo, when I was little, I never had a chance to make up stories with dolls or play with things like this. I don't want you to feel like you can't do something that you want to, just because you're a boy” Rafael hugged his son, “and I don't you two to feel like there's something you can't do just because you're girls” he hugged his daughters, “Your Mommy runs the hotel” he nodded at the girls, “and your Mommy writes really thick books” he nodded at Mateo, “and sometimes I watch all of you, like how a babysitter does”
“But you're not a girl, Daddy” Elsa pointed out
“No, I'm not” Rafael smiled, “but you like it when I tuck you in and read stories”
“I like that, too!” Mateo cheered
“Ok, so how about you kids play together nicely, and then” he looked at Jane, standing in the doorway, “I can take you out for ice cream?”
“Yay!” all the kids jumped up and down with joy.
“A small ice cream” Jane stared at him
“It'll ruin their dinner” Petra came up behind Jane
“For once, I agree with you” Jane looked both pleased, surprised, and a little scared at the realization.
“Look, just play quietly and don't hurt each other” Rafael instructed the three children.
“We will” they replied in unison.
“You got a full month of stars on your chart” Jane smiled at her son. It had been several weeks since Mateo had played at Petra's. “I think this warrants a small trip to the toy store”
“Alright!” Mateo cheered.
Jane didn't normally bribe her son, but he had been doing exceptionally well, even without an aide, and she had to give him some sort of incentive. Sweets would only exacerbate his hyperactivity, and she didn't want to dangle something lavish, like a trip, in front of him. A quick trip to the toy store couldn't hurt that much.
“You shouldn't bribe him” Alba chimed in, in Spanish, from behind her, “It'll only spoil him. He should be good for the sake of being a good boy”
“Oh please” Xiomara looked at her own mother incredulously, “If it wasn't for lemon drops and butterscotch candies, I wouldn't have done anything for you when I was his age”
“That was different” Alba remained nonplussed.
“Nonesense” Xo faced her daughter, “A little bribe never hurt anyone”
“Oh, like how you used to dangle chocolates and new outfit for Barbie to get me to be good for – however how long” she sounded exasperated
“Hey” Xo countered, “just now you were ready to take him to the toy store”
“Mommy, can we go now?” Mateo was ready at the door, his shoes strapped on, looking uncharacteristically neat and tidy.
“Oh alright” Jane sighed, both at her mother and grandmother, and at her son, “Come on, Mr. Sweetface. But something small”
“Alright!” he clapped.
“Something small?” Alba spoke in Spanish and looked through Mateo's bedroom door as the little boy played happily.
“I couldn't really say no” Jane reasoned with her grandmother
“It looks very costly”
“Luckily, it was the display model” Jane explained, “so it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be-- but I couldn't really tell him no, not after what happened with the twins last month”
“And what happened?” Alba wanted to know
“I took him over to see Rafael, and he was playing with the girls' dollhouse, and well- oh, it was so nice seeing him make up stories and not run around the house yelling at the top of his lungs.
“Well” Alba conceded, “It is nice having the house quiet now”
“Yeah” Jane looked on while Mateo played.
The dollhouse stood behind his bed, the rocking chair pushed over to the side of the room. Mateo sat on the floor and moved the plastic figures around. A dark haired man, a woman with similar coloring, and a boy who matched them.
“Go to sleep Mateo” he held up the mother doll
“But I'm not sleepy yet” he whined, holding the boy figure
“It's time to sleep” he held the mother figure closer
“Oh, alright” he laid the boy doll down on something. Jane looked closer and nearly gasped aloud. Mateo was using a sanitary napkin. Thankfully it was new.
“Where did he find that?” she wondered quietly. Alba had left the hallway or Jane was sure she'd get a quick lecture.
Mateo moved the action figures around some more. The boy doll was still “sleeping” on the sanitary napkin, but Mateo had shifted the mother and father dolls down to the living room. He bend the figures' legs and placed the toys on a hard plastic couch.
“There, you watch grown up TV while I sleep” he laughed
Jane smiled at the playtime scenario
“Oh, almost forgot” he got up and rummaged through his toy box, and finally came up with an Aquaman figure. That had been an impromptu gift from Adam. The figure was old, with blonde painted hair and the body molded in orange and green plastic. Mateo placed Aquaman on the dollhouse's second floor, next to the “sleeping” boy doll.
“There, you keep him safe from bad guys, Michael” Mateo nodded at the action figure.
Jane didn't know what to think. She sniffed back some emotion.
Mateo turned when he heard her sniffle, “Oh, hi Mommy. Do you want to play with me?”
Jane smiled sadly, “Sure, of course, Mr. Sweetface”
“See, you and Daddy are watching TV”
“Uh huh, I see”
“And I'm sleeping because I'm a good boy” he grinned
“Yes, yes you are” she nodded and sniffed back another wave of emotion.
“If I'm good and get stars on my chart, can we go to the toy store again?”
“Maybe” Jane replied after a moment, “I think we can think of something else if you get a month of stars”
“Well, you and I and Daddy could have a picnic”
Mateo thought for a moment, “Ok, I guess so” he smiled
“Come here, Mr. Sweetface” she hugged him. “Do you know how glad I am that you're around”
“I'm not round, Mommy!” he laughed
“Around” she smiled, “It's another way to say, I'm glad you're here, with me”
“Me too” he smiled
“Yeah, me too” she hugged him closer.