It’s always enjoyable to watch a young child learn something new. This is especially true when the new thing they learn has the effect of making my life easier. And, it turns out, it’s true even when they’re essentially becoming more manipulative. Let me explain.
I’ve written before about the (ubiquitous, expected) “no, me!” phenomenon between Nathan and Ryan. There is an entire house full of toys — but the one Ryan wants just happens to be the exact one that Nathan currently has. There is an entire yard to play in, but the one spot Nathan wants to be is exactly where Ryan is. And so on. It’s so universal a phenomenon that there seems no point talking about it, unless you’re a parent currently living through it, in which case discussing it is an excellent way to bond with other parents of young children.
We have successfully applied a number of tools to the “no, me!” problem, including taking turns and sharing, with the result that conflict generally occurs only several dozen times a day instead of constantly. Yay! Nevertheless, we are always excited to see another possible reduction in conflict. Hence my excitement at the following exchange, which took place recently at the end of dinner:
Nathan: I’m going to play with the green tractor.
Ryan: Me play with green tractor!
Nathan (clearly trying to be generous): Well, you can have the green tractor. I’ll play with the front loader.
Ryan: Me play with front loader!
Nathan (turning to look toward the other end of the house): Ok. I’ll play with the yellow truck.
Ryan: Me play with yellow truck!
At this point I had finished wiping Ryan’s hands and lifted him down from his high chair. He ran off toward the yellow truck. I fully expected Nathan to follow, perhaps yelling his current war cry of “I want!” as he went. Instead, he climbed down from his chair, quietly collected the green tractor and front loader, and went in the opposite direction from Ryan. Soon they were both playing happily in separate rooms.
I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be happy about this. On the one hand, Nathan essentially played off Ryan’s weaknesses in order to gain his own ends. On the other hand, they were both happy afterwards, and without even going through a shouting match. So far convenience has won out, and I’m rooting Nathan on.