SCOTT BURKE watched his young daughter lever herself up onto her bare feet and balance awkwardly on the blanket he’d set out over the lawn. It was a bit lumpy, but she toddled to the edge with confidence and considered the grass. Scott folded another sausage and cheese slice into his mouth. They’d been at the park for nearly an hour already. Between the sun and dozens of other playing families, Scott hoped to wear Lexi out for her afternoon nap. She showed no signs of flagging, though, as she pitched her hands onto the grass and sat heavily on the edge of the blanket. Lexi held up a pudgy handful of green strands and thrust them toward Scott with a demanding, “Ahh!”

Scott held his hand out for the grass. Lexi opened her fingers, then shook her hand and huffed impatiently when a few blades stuck to her palm. Winning a smile off Scot, Lexi fisted and relaxed her hand until the pieces fell away. Scott caught most of them so Lexi pushed his fingers closed until Scott took the grass and added it to the substantial pile of blades she’d already given him. After a satisfied nod, Lexi wiped her hand on her blue dress. Well, it was more of an uncoordinated slap, but it did the job: clearing it of dirt and lingering strands. “Eeen?” She faced her palm at Scott.

“Clean, that’s right,” he said. Then he tapped her other hand, clenched tightly around a small carrot. “Eat your carrot.”

She looked at her fist like she’d forgotten it was there, then shoved it at Scott. “Et arro.”

“I should eat the carrot?” Scott pinched the top and gave it a gentle tug.

Lexi yanked her hand to her chest. “No!”

Scott chuckled. No had been Lexi’s first word, and she used it liberally. He pointed at her, “You should eat the carrot.”

“Arrot.” She spat the t sound and held her snack up high.

“Carrot,” Scott agreed.

She blew a raspberry and stood again. A string of drool flicked from her lips to the front of her dress. Scott grabbed the small towel beside him and wiped it up while she found her balance. She blew another raspberry and licked her lips in response.