It was cold outside, so I put on my new earmuffs.
Noah stopped dead in his tracks.
"What are those?" he asked, staring at me with rapidly darkening eyes.
"Earmuffs," I explained. "They're kind of like a hat. They keep my ears warm."
I watched his body tense up, his rigid little internal alarm sounding the different! new! unfamiliar! alert as he tried to make sense of the funny-looking circles on my head. Was it a costume? Was I playing dress-up? Did it bother him? How much did it bother him?
"May you take them off please?" he asked, in his usual pained attempt to politely frame a demand as a request.
"I think I'm going to leave them on, buddy. It's cold outside." As I said this, it was my turn to rapidly attempt to gauge the danger level of the situation, to try to figure out our odds of making it to the car without a meltdown, whether this was a don't budge power through teaching moment or one of those times to just give in for the sake of everybody involved.
"It's okay, really. Just think of them like a funny-looking hat, but just for my ears."
It was interesting, in a way, to watch this, and him. Usually his reactions are zero-to-sixty, his impulse control so poor that he's generally already too far gone into a tantrum by the time he realizes there's nothing to tantrum about, really, so to see him hover on the verge like this and actually process the existence of a weird thing on Mommy's head...well, it was different. And like him, I wasn't exactly sure if it was good different or bad different.
He chewed on his lip for about a minute more. He raised his hands up to chest level. That's usually followed by some nervous flapping, then some anxious foot-stomping, and then...
He broke out into a wide, amused smile.
"You look like Princess Leia," he said.
I laughed. "I guess I do, don't I?"
"Can I wear them?" he asked.
It was my turn to stop dead in my tracks. I silently took the earmuffs off and placed them on his head. Over his EARS. Next to his FACE.
"You are just full of surprises sometimes, you know that, Noah?"
"Not Noah," he corrected me. "I'm Princess Leia. See?"