What does a plastic ball, the lid of a box and a cup of tea have to do with the world of parenting? Well, I like to call it The Art of Distraction, and although it works almost all the time, sometimes it takes thinking like a toddler to actually distract your toddler.
As often as possible, since our son’s birth especially, I’ve practiced the art of distraction whenever he’s focused on something I think might be dangerous or when I have to interrupt his steady flow of exploration for some reason. I hate to see him cry, especially since I started seeing it as his indicator that he feels disconnected from his source. He burbles probably 75% of the time, with the incredible focus and radiating with connection to everything he is and then… his mom says no! Oh the tears, the flaring of limbs, its awful. Therefore, I only do it when there’s no other option, most of the time a simple distraction seems to do the trick. However as he gets older, his focus is sharper and really he keeps intent to his purpose, until we come up with something that suits him perfectly.
Today, he was eying my husband’s lighter, he saw what it could do, he wanted to test it out. Its very understandable. Making fire isn’t really high on the baby toy list and really is there anything more fascinating than a lighter, especially from a 16 month’s eyes.
When he was younger it was always just a question of pointing in the opposite direction, singing a little song, asking him to go to his swing, anything. But like I said, he’s older now and his intention is so strong. I love seeing it, really. He’s so clear on who he is and what he wants. Its just that lighters… well they fall into the category of whether or not he wants one, he just can’t!
But nothing would switch his mind over, we tried calling over the dog, we tried getting him a snack even singing a song… nope lighter, lighter, lighter!
As I sipped on my tea outside in our greenhouse a small white ball caught my husband’s attention and he showed it to our disinterested boy. Still lighter, lighter.
I then found the lid to the box, and proceeded to roll the ball around it, or throw the ball into it…. Lighter, lighter….
Well, desperate causes lead to desperate measures.
Soon drop by drop I poured a little cooled tea from my cup onto the ball in the lid. Our son’s eyes lit up. Could we have invented a very cool game?
A few drops more, he was in. He asked for the cup, and proceeded to pour, roll and observe. Lighter was put away with out a second thought, or a tantrum may I add.
For ages after, those three things provided great satisfaction. But pouring tea on a ball in a box? Whoever heard of such a thing!
Well it doesn’t matter if it will ever make it to the marketing department as the best toy of the year. All it did was meet our son’s requirements at the moment to satisfy his zest for exploring and testing things out. He’s going through a great stage of mixing things up, trying to put things in the computer printer or fit cables into fittings. He wants to know how things work and I can’t blame him. Its beyond his comprehension why lighters are kept away from him when they look so fascinating. To get mad at him or say No firmly would have just been telling him “some things you just aren’t allowed. Don’t question, do as I tell you.” How frustrating would that be? Frustration, leads to more disconnection, a continuing of painful experiences. Sure, maybe not as painful as a lighter could be, but he doesn’t know that.
No, I’d rather keep him happy. If I can’t give him what he says will make him happy I’ll show him a few things to give him options. And if a ball, a cup of tea and a box will keep him connected until the next frustration, well then so be it.