“A-B-C-D…” well, you know the rest. The song played from my one year old daughter’s new magnetic alphabet bus toy as I picked up the letters off the floor again for the millionth time to put them back on the fridge. She was pressing the musical note button over and over, while spinning to the Alphabet and Wheels on the Bus. I had already showed her how to place a letter in the open spot on the bus and it would sing a little jingle about that letter. She was more interested in the noise those letters made as they hit the tile floor one by one and of course the songs.
Hi, my name is Jenny and I have a control problem. But seriously. Who doesn’t? I like to think this stems from being a first-born and an independent, get things done type of child. Sometimes it’s a good thing and other times it’s something I’m “working on.” We all have that (at least) one thing about us that can be viewed as a flaw. Just like living with your first roommate or getting married, becoming a mom has a way of magnifying your strengths and weaknesses.
It all started when my daughter decided she would be the one to turn the pages of book I was reading to her at around 9 months. Just the month before at Christmas, she had received a princess book with hard plastic pages that made music when you turned them. She loved it and would play with it in her high chair after mealtimes. I was so proud that she could turn them herself! But she was turning the pages faster than I could read, looking at the pictures a bit but mostly just practicing her new found skill, and then would lose interest. I loved reading to her but wanted, NEEDED, to finish the story. We’re talking Goodnight Moon here, not Moby Dick! Although it pains me, we don’t always finish the book.
Other times I’ve noticed she just does things differently than I do. She puts the colored fish into the fishbowl the opposite of how I showed her, chooses to put the nativity scene angel inside the stable rather than on top and stacks the blocks two by two instead of as a pyramid. She’s having fun regardless.
At over halfway to two years old, she definitely does her own thing…and how she wants to do it. Playtime is hardly ever structured at this point. And that’s okay. I know it’s partially due to age but a little is surely personality. Amid the strewn alphabet on the kitchen floor, she’s learning and experiencing things for herself. And in the meantime, I’m learning it’s not about me. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t learn to say all her colors today or stand still long enough to hear a song about what word the letter T stands for. I’m here to guide her, not push her. (And I know I’ll probably be telling myself that the rest of her life.)
So if you’re a play by the rules/read all the instructions/build up your Duplo’s symmetrically by color kind of girl like me, just sit on the floor and play. Relax. Let go of any expectation you may have of how you and your toddler play or what the lesson learned may be. Kids will one day be able to count to 100 and pick out their own crayons by color. But today is for playing. Unstructured, messy and sometimes chaotic playing. Let’s be all in and enjoy it alongside our kids.