Uh oh. We’ve hit that stage rather quickly. Where does the time go?
Our 17 month old is at the height of exploration. He’s got amazing focus, and when he zeros in on something he wants, he wants it with every core of his being. When its something alright for him to have, its amazing to watch him fly. He savours everything he explores, he relishes in the pride of it, he appreciates with every ounce of his being.
Well today, him and I had our first disagreement. He decided to make mud pies in the house and not with mud. Rather, he discovered the cat litter tray. I thought he was playing quietly in the corner, when I realized he’d found a empty play doh tin of our daughters, and was using it as a scoop to take cat litter and dump a small powdery pile on the floor, than one on the bookshelf, another in another corner. I had piles of cat litter everywhere. I tried to tell him no, to explain that it was dirty and he had to leave it alone. But even when the message was clear that he wasn’t suppose to play in the Cat litter (of all things!) he burst into tears, and through sobs went to play again.
I was having a pretty disconnected day today myself. I was feeling a little overwhelmed and not having the usual control on my thoughts that I usually like to have. When suddenly presented with cat litter piles all over the place, it was hard not to lose it entirely. But now, after a little practice, I know to remind myself to get connected even a little bit before saying a word.
He looked up to me with his little scoop, he looked so lovely, so proud, so in the moment. I suddenly remembered that he didn’t know why this pile of dust wasn’t clean while sand etc is given to him to play with. I got the broom and gave him the dust pan and we cleaned it up together. When he proceeded to go back to dig it out again I picked him up, small play doh tin in hand, and headed out the door.
He sat on my lap, sobbing, upset that I had taken his game away. I took the play doh tin and started using it the way he had, except this time in his usual pile of soil, that has provided hours of entertainment for mud pies. I told him it was a good idea to use the tin, but in this pile, not the cats. I asked him if he wanted to try and with his usual look of understanding he grunted his beautiful “yeah.”
He loved his game, I just had to find a more suitable venue. After a bit, when he came back in, he never even gave the cat litter another glance. The game had run its course, he didn’t need to fight for it. I just made it work for the two of us. For a few minutes there I thought it was going to be a battle, a huge war over who had the stronger will power. But in the end, he was happy to meet me half way, and I was more than happy to meet him there too.
Its so easy in those moments to see a child as a problem, as in the way, or impossible to control. But like all of us, they have things they want, and they can’t understand people for telling them no. However, that little shift, telling him it was a good idea, that he’s a smart boy, and then distracting him for a few minutes did the trick.