Late last night I was hunched over the kitchen table constructing a boat out of Lego bricks. Gideon was sitting next to me. He was trying very hard to seem like he was helping even though he was clearly much more interested in playing with the Lego ninja characters that had come inside the set. The red ninja flashed a sword in the air and jumped as high as Gideon’s little arms could make him and then came down with a dramatic BOOM next to the ninja in black who suddenly flashed across the table and sent the little red Lego man flying into my pile of loose bricks. They went skittering, some nearly falling off the table if I hadn’t reached out and caught them with my hand.

My son froze.

Without looking up from the instruction manual I was studying, I lifted the little red man out of the rubble and placed him back into my son’s tiny hands and was greeted with a quiet, “Thank you, Daddy.”

I grunted and stuck my finger into the debris in search of an odd-shaped yellow piece that looked like a hinge of some kind.

Out the corner of my eye, I saw the little boy sheepishly take the little red ninja and make him walk back to the one in the black robes. They extended their hands to each other and my son’s tiny voice whispered a conversation.

“I’m sorry I knocked you so far away, red ninja,” said the masked ninja in black.

“That’s okay,” replied the ninja in red. “It was fun being kicked so far, and I’m learning a lot fighting with you, black ninja.”

“Oh, Thank you,” said the black ninja. “That’s very nice of you to say.”

“Yes, thank you,” said the red ninja.

And then I think the two of them shook small yellow hands before charging off to continue their adventures together as friends instead of as the enemies they were clearly designed to be.

I sighed and snapped the hinge piece into place. I was tired, but I allowed myself a quick break so I could pat my son on the shoulder. “You are so sweet, Lydia.” I said, not thinking clearly, and then I caught myself. “I mean… sorry. Gideon. I’m tired. It’s been a long day, and…” I waved my hand over the half-constructed boat.

The boy looked up and smiled reassuringly. “That’s okay Dad. It’s okay that you said that because Lydia IS sweet. She is a sweet sweet sister.”

“Yes, okay,” I pulled him to my side and scuffed up his already scuffed up hair. “But, YOU are ALSO super sweet. You are just the sweetest of all sweet little boys, and I hope you always stay that way.”

He smiled up at me, and I smiled back.

Then I smiled at the clock and groaned. “And hopefully, by tomorrow, you will be a sweet little boy with a cool Lego ninja boat, if you could maybe help me find some of these little black pieces that are here in this book.”

He set aside his new ninja friends and helped me dig through the pile of bricks.