Grumpy old men at the age of 3

By Sarah Smiley,
Posted April 25, 2010, at 9:41 p.m.

Lindell and his friend Preston have not known each other long. They met only during the first few weeks after our family had moved to Maine.

We came from Florida, where our older boys, Ford and Owen, had close friendships with other boys in the neighborhood and their schools. (Saying goodbye to friends is an occupational hazard for military families and one of the worst aspects of the lifestyle.)

But Lindell was only 18 months old when we left Florida, so he was still too young to have any good friends that he could remember and miss.

You wouldn’t gather any of this from watching Preston and Lindell now. By all outward appearances, they seem to have known each other since the beginning of time.

Indeed, Lindell calls Preston “my old friend Preston” (said with a slight sour tone, the way someone might speak of a longtime neighbor they’ve competed with for the best lawn or the biggest catch).

A friend compares the duo to the old-men Muppets on “Sesame Street.” Other people say they are like two grumpy grandpas fishing together in a small boat in the middle of a lake. And more than one observer has called Preston and Lindell “co-dependent.”

The effect is strengthened by the fact that Preston and Lindell are the same age, with only four months’ difference between them. They are the same height and nearly the same build, with equally disproportionate, large heads.

Then there is the issue of their individual temperaments. Where Lindell can be cranky and unwilling to share, Preston happily accommodates to keep his friend happy, but not without payback later for the inconvenience. (This would be like two old men squabbling over who has the greener lawn, with one neighbor conceding, then “accidentally” dropping bird seeds on his friend’s yard.)

When Preston is adventurous and mischievous, he drags Lindell along (“Let’s go in Ford and Owen’s room and take ‘Star Wars’ toys.”), and Lindell’s protests (“I don’t think this is a good idea, Preston.”) only serve to keep them both out of increasing trouble.

If they egg a house when they are older (and I hope they won’t), Lindell will buy the eggs, but he will grumble and complain all the way.

Interestingly, however, this side of Lindell’s personality seldom surfaces when Preston isn’t around. In other words, Lindell acts like an old-man Muppet only with his best friend.

Here’s how a typical conversation between Preston and Lindell usually unfolds.

Lindell (playing with his toys in the living room): Where is you, Preston?

(Silence)

Lindell (getting up now to investigate, his shoulders slouched with exasperation): Preston? Preston where is you?

Preston (playing with something else in adjoining room): I’m right he-ah, Lindell.

Lindell (stomping back to his spot in the living room): Oh, all right then.

(Several minutes later. Still in their respective rooms playing.)

Preston: Lindell? Lindell, come he-ah.

Lindell (grumpily): All right, Preston. Just a minute. Preston? Preston, where is you?

Preston: Lindell, I’m in he-ah. Come he-ah, Lindell.

No, they don’t always say much to each other, but they seem to have a shared rhythm, and they are keenly aware of — even if slightly annoyed by — the other’s happenings.

I like to think that Preston and Lindell have learned this easy friendship by watching their mothers interact with each other. But the truth is, I’ve rarely seen such honest kinship between two individuals, much less two 3-year-olds.

Next year, the pair will be separated as Preston begins prekindergarten and Lindell misses the cutoff date by just a few months.

Oddly, the separation could prove to be more awkward and upsetting than when Ford and Owen left their friends behind in a different part of the country. Much of this may be because Ford and Owen, who are separated by only 24 months and two days, have always had each other.

No friendship has ever matched what they have as brothers. Without a sibling that close in age, it appears that Lindell has formed this same security with Preston. Next year will be a growing experience as each learns to adapt without the other.

Yet I have no doubt that their friendship will endure. Preston’s dad proved this last Christmas when we got several families together for a weekend away.

We were staying in a large, rented house, so the kids were at one end, near the bedrooms and playroom, and we were at the other, in the kitchen. The adults were talking and having a good time, when suddenly Lindell appeared and said quite urgently, “Preston needs help wiping his butt.” Then he ran off again, toward the bathroom where Preston was waiting on the toilet.

As we watched Lindell run away, Preston’s dad lowered his drink and said, “Now that is a good friend there.”

Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at sarah@sarahsmiley.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/04/25/news/grumpy-old-men-at-the-age-of-3/ printed on December 22, 2014