What Would Auggie Do?

There’s a parlor game played by everyone in our extended family. It’s called “What would Auggie do?”

Last November we went with my daughter, her husband and their two son’s (2 1/2 and 4 1/2) to Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg. It was a wondrous place for two small boys. There were two large water parks – with kid size water slides up to the four story adult slide – and pools. It wasn’t bad for the parents either, with restaurants, bars and a indoor/outdoor hot tub. We drove in and never left the building for the next two and a half days. But, it was crazy crowded; a child could get easily lost, or manage to climb the 4 stories to the adult water slide.

Looking around, I kept saying. “Auggie would love this, and I’ll never bring him here!”

My daughters boys’ have flaws, but they are basically cautious kids. They don’t want to lose sight of the adults in their life any more than the adults want to lose sight of them. At the park, we checked on them every 10 seconds and could always find them. Blessedly, we came home with no stories.

Auggie, on the other hand is both fearless and very quick.

“Boy would he love that four story water slide.” my hussband commented.

“Yeah, not a chance.” I replied.

I was babysitting him recently. His parents have a colonial with a center entrance hall, and a open staircase with two landings and a railing running up to the second floor. Auggie was standing in the middle of the hallway.

“Go in the other room.” he said. “Don’t watch me.”

“Ah…that’s not how it works buddy. Watching you is what I do.”

But then I guessed at what he wanted, after all I was a climber as a kid.

“Ok, you can climb the outside of the stair rail.” I said. “It’s not that high and you’re a good climber. You can’t do it if someone else says you can’t, and you can’t do it when the other kids are around.”

Auggie was happy. He climbed up and down several times. Then he declared. “Now I’ll do it with my eyes closed.”

Auggie knows where the things he wants are. When he comes over, he heads straight for the pantry or refrigerator to see what he can eat.

This was all running thru my mind when I accompanied my daughter to her mother-in-law’s house on the Cape. I automatically looked around with Auggie eyes.

There were hidden potato chips in the pantry…I wondered if the door would lock. There were several bathrooms…I wondered what medicines were stored there. But it was the two story living room, and railed loft that took my imaginary Auggie breath away. The loft was at least 15 feet to 20 feet above the living room. You could easily climb over the railing and walk along the outside. On the far side of the loft, he could make his way down to the top of the bookcase that holds the big-screen TV, and probably climb both up and down it using the book shelves. He would never use the staircase when there were such other exciting options.

“We couldn’t leave him alone here…” I murmured, shaking my heads.

Actually, when I babysit I try to never leave him alone.

At 4, he thinks he should have privacy in the bathroom.

“But Auggie,” I explain. “When I let you shut the door in Aunt Tracy’s bathroom, you turned her washer and dryer on.”

“I won’t do that again.” he replies, looking deeply offended.

“When I left you alone in your parents’ bathroom, you took the tank top off the toilet.”

“I won’t do that.”

“Auggie, you’ve had poison control called on you three times, and the other day you ate a mealworm that was for Uncle Ryan’s’ gecko.”

“I won’t do those things again.”

“No, you’ll do something new and naughty.” I reply firmly. “You’re not getting privacy until you’re 25.”

Auggie did not see the humor in that.

When I was a parent, there was a mantra that got repeated endlessly, both by me and by everybody else.

“Every child is different.”

But I didn’t actually believe it. My kids all walked, and talked on about the same schedule. They twisted dials endlessly, and Auggies father once put a penny into his father’s disc drive. But they didn’t climb to the top of the refrigerator to get candy, and when we were out in public, they tried to keep track of us. In the morning, they went directly from their beds into ours. My basic cross was the constant fighting between my older son and his younger sister. I spent my life trying to separate them. (They’re best friends now.) That’s my daughter’s cross as well. Her oldest has a temper, and both boys make a game of getting the others’ goat.

Now, with grandchildren, I realize it’s actually true. “Every child is different.”

Auggie and Abel, my son’s boys, are co-operative, and get along. Particularly if it involves liberating the Halloween candy from the top of the refrigerator and consuming it before their parents catch on. Auggie, in fact, is a very sweet child. He’s the one who’ll usually give up the toy to stop the argument. He’s the one who makes friends easily and rapidly. People are captivated by his smile and constant sunny nature. And, of course, quickness, agility, and fearlessness are not bad traits. Not in the long run. Not as long as there is a long run.

Which is why the question we ask isn’t really a parlor game. It’s a survival tool. Like the spy who always sits in the corner of the room, and checks out the entrances and the exits, our extended family always needs to survey the environment and ask the question.

“What would Auggie do?”

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