Jacob woke up feeling well-rested. He stretched out and stared at the ocean-themed mobile above him. It wasn't on, but he found some comfort in identifying the different species of sea animals. Even the smallest activities helped to remind him that he was an educated adult and not some brainless toddler.
"Did you have a good nap," Simon asked when he entered the nursery.
"I guess," the toddler answered.
"That's good," he said, laying the little boy on the changing table and handing him a sippy cup filled with water.
"Thanks," Jacob said, feeling parched and looking forward to the coming relief.
"Do you still want to watch TV?" Simon asked, tossing his diaper into the trash.
Jacob shrugged. Listening in on their conversation was the only reason he would voluntarily sign up to watch baby cartoons.
"Okay, well I have something else in mind for us to do before dinner," he said, lifting Jacob and standing him in front of the toy shelf. "How about you pick a toy," Simon suggested, sitting cross-legged on the floor next to him.
Jacob gazed at the expansive toy shelf, unsure of what he'd pick. He was a little nervous about it what with Simon only a foot away, analyzing him. Finally, he settled on a plush toy and settled down on the floor directly across from Simon.
The therapist reached over to grab another plush toy from the same shelf. "I think I'll pick him," he said, setting the toy in front of him.
"What do we do next?" Jacob asked, eager to avoid the awkward silence.
"Anything really, but why don't we start off telling each other about our toys," he proposed.
"I don't know what to say. It's a Batman toy," Jacob said, awkwardly looking away.
"Does he have a job?" Simon asked, pretending to be oblivious to help Jacob get comfortable role playing.
"Yeah, he's a superhero," Jacob answered, shocked that the older man never heard of Batman.
"Are you sure? What's his power?" he asked, sounding unconvinced.
"He doesn't have a power. He uses his intelligence and special tools to fight crime," Jacob explained.
"How does he beat up a bunch of bad guys if he doesn't have a power?" Simon asked, pulling at his beard.
"He's a master of martial arts. That's how," Jacob said.
"Okay so, let's pretend these are a bunch of bad guys," he said, standing a few random toys in between them. "Could you show me how Batman would beat them up?" Simon requested.
"Well, he'd throw his batarang which is like a special boomerang and that would knock some of the guy's out," Jacob explained, knocking some of the toys over. Then he would fight the rest of them in hand to hand combat. They probably wouldn't even hit him once because he's so good at dodging. Then, he would leave them all tied up for the police to catch them," he said in the distinct tone of an animated child, knocking over all of the toys one by one and piling them up.
"Wow, he's a very important superhero, isn't he?" Simon conceded.
"Yup," Jacob answered, popping the p. "He keeps a lot of people safe and fights crime," he continued, stretching his legs and beginning to appear more relaxed.
After a moment of silence, Simon grabbed his toy and asked, "Would you like me to tell you about my toy?"
"Yeah, it's your turn now," the toddler remarked.
Simon took a deep breath, remembering when he bought the plush toy a few years ago. He and his wife were on vacation visiting the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, and when they saw it in the gift shop, they couldn't resist bringing it home.
"My name is Smokey," he said in a gruff, deep voice. "I'm a park ranger, and it's my job to teach young people how to prevent forest fires."
"How do you do prevent them?" Jacob questioned, taking his turn to ask the questions.
"Well, when people are camping, they have to remember to clean up after themselves and to make sure that they don't carelessly leave fires burning. They also have to properly crush out cigarettes. Remember only you can prevent forest fires," he said, reciting the television icon's famous line and moving the toy's arm so that it pointed directly at the toddler.
"I bet Batman and Smokey could work together," Jacob proposed.
"How could they do that?" Simon asked.
"Well, Smokey could be on the lookout for all the bad people who are causing forest fires, and whenever he finds somebody, he could signal Batman. Batman would go beat them up and leave them for the park rangers to round up," Jacob enthusiastically explained.
"Wow, that would be a good partnership," Simon agreed.
Their play time was interrupted when Angelique entered the nursery.
"What are you guys up to?" she asked, realizing they were in the middle of something.
"Jacob was just telling me about Batman, and I was telling him about Smokey the bear," Simon said from his spot on the floor.
"Aw, well I just came up here to tell you two that dinner is ready, but if you both need another five minutes to finish up, that's fine," she offered, walking over and straightening the rocking chair.
"No, we were already finishing up," he explained, standing up and putting the toys back on the shelf.
Jacob stood up, but he didn't immediately put his toy back in its spot. He had quickly grown attached to Batman and didn't want to give him up right away.
"Do you want to bring Batman downstairs?" Simon asked, noticing Jacob's apprehension.
"Yeah," Jacob replied, holding the toy tightly.
They made their way downstairs with Jacob following behind. He slowly inched down the steps, holding the railing with one hand and his plush toy with the other.
"Batman is going to have to take a seat at the dining table. I'm afraid he won't fit with you in the highchair," Simon told Jacob as they neared the kitchen.
"Okay," the little boy agreed, padding over and dropping his toy onto a chair at the table.
"Up you go," Simon said, lifting Jacob into the highchair.
"What's for dinner?" he asked impatiently.
"We're having soup," Angelique answered. "You even get some crackers and cheese for when you're finished," she added.
After his food was served, Jacob speedily chomped down the vegetable and meat chunks in it. He didn't waste time using his spoon for the broth and instead opted to chug it down from the bowl itself.
"Jacob, not so fast," Simon chastised from his seat at the table.
The toddler continued eating at his pace, not even bothering to acknowledge Simon's rebuke. He wanted to be obedient, but he was starving. His hunger compelled him to stuff his face as fast as he possible could. So, he did just that.
Simon sighed, realizing that eventually he'd need to do something to combat Jacob's tendency to wolf food down. He knew it couldn't be good for his gastrointestinal health, but he wasn't trying to start another battle with the child. As a therapist, he knew just how important it was to pick and choose fights with children.
The couple ate at a much more moderate pace, pausing between bites to take a sip of some iced tea. When they were done, Angelique released Jacob from the highchair, being sure to clean up the mess of crumbs on his face before she let him roam free.
While the couple cleaned up, the little boy found spots in the kitchen to play with his toy. He used a random cord and pretended it was one of Batman's tools. Running around the kitchen, he pretended the superhero was flying through the air. With the therapists turned toward the sink, he felt less embarrassed about playing and had himself a good time.
After the cleanup was finished, Simon excused himself, "I'm going to the office to work on that report they wanted us to send in."
"Let me know if you need any help," Angelique said.
"Behave yourself," Simon said, ruffling Jacob's hair as he walked past him.
"I will," he promised, following Angelique into the living. She helped him onto the couch and sat down next to him with a new book in hand.
"Would you like to watch something?" she asked, grabbing the remote.
"Can I watch some batman cartoons," he requested in a soft, shy voice, looking down at his plush toy.
"Let's see if they have some uploaded," she replied, using the remote to browse the available TV shows.
She easily found a slew of episodes that were available. The little boy's focus was possessed by the TV shows. He watched an entire episode in silence, but when the credits were rolling before the next episode began, Jacob turned to Angelique.
"Whatcha reading?" he inquired, crawling across the couch until he was seated next to his caregiver.
"It's a collection of short fictional stories," she began, closing the book to show Jacob the cover. "It's satire and filled with humorous extraordinary circumstances that could occur at any time," she explained.
"Oh, okay," Jacob said, his attention shifting back to his show as the next episode began.
For the rest of the evening, he continued watching episode after episode, and by the time his bedtime had rolled around, Jacob was fast asleep, lying in Angelique's lap, sucking his thumb and cuddling his Batman toy with his free arm.