!SPECIAL GUEST POST! - Compromising Over Organic Jams and Jellies -
I'm so excited to announce our first Guest Contributor, Kayla Golden! I hope you enjoy her post as much as I do and as always, feel free to head to the Contributor page to submit your own posts to be featured.
It started over a quick game of Lincoln Logs. My four-year-old nephew wanted to build a fire station - just like every time he's played with his Lincoln Logs. He always builds a "fire station". I use the quotes because there's no defining quality of the fire station; it's just a square that he calls a fire station. If I’m playing with him, I must make the fire station. He makes this abundantly clear:
You have to build a fire station.
Me: But what if I don't want to build a fire station?
Him: No. You have to.
This is the first time I think: jees, my nephew is BOSSY. And as his Aunt, without a parent in the room, I'm curious how to proceed. After all, it's a Saturday morning. I'm visiting from out of town, and this is supposed to be a vacation. He can learn to share and play another time. However, my lead-by-example muscle twitches. Aren't these the very moments when he learns how to compromise? My thoughts sway back and forth for a few seconds. He doesn't realize, he's too busy dividing up the pieces (he gets all the big ones, of course). I decide to test the waters. I'm not sure, after all, how deep his determination is for his ideas. Perhaps, nobody has ever suggested that he build anything other than a fire station.
Me: You know, CJ, I'd really like to build an organic jams and jellies shop this time. (Where the heck did this idea come from?!) Can we do that? And then once we tear it down (It'll obviously go out of business because of a poor farming season, I laugh to myself) we can build a fire station in its place?
His response is automatic. I can almost see his little brain whizzing and turning and figuring out how to articulate that this isn't what he wants.
Him: I, don't, it's just, um, these logs are a fire station.
At least it isn't a defiant "No". There is just concern over the change. He has a routine and a plan for these logs, and I am messing with it. I pause, trying to make the decision on whether to wage on or let it go. To challenge or not to challenge, he is - after all, not my child. So, do I just play along? Even knowing that every moment, his growing mind is absorbing, like a sponge, each experience he encounters. If I bow to his demands, no matter how trivial or silly they seem in the moment, am I setting a precedent that when he plays - he's in charge? There are no tears, so I push a little further.
Me: You know, sometimes when we play with other people, we have to play what they want, and then we can play what we want. It's what makes playing fun for both people.
This was too much for him, and out came the tears. So violently that mom appears in the doorway. I think that I pushed too far, and I was ready to give in and build a fire station and heck a police station and a gas station if only he would stop crying. But mom stands firm. I say to her, "It's really OK. I'm sorry. I obviously don't care what imaginary square we make out of this stack of Lincoln Logs, I was just trying to help him understand." She smiles, and presses on.
Mom: CJ, you can build the organic jams and jellies shop (while surely holding in a laugh), or you can go upstairs and play by yourself. If you don't want to share ideas, other people won't want to play with you.
The tantrum escalates exponentially. A tear trail leading all the way to his room upstairs where he wails and bargains for the fire station. My sister sits down with me, never giving up resolve. This was obviously a lesson that she intended on teaching regardless of my backpedaling or his explosion. I'm incredibly impressed by her resilience. I crumbled at the first tear, but she made the decision to see it through. I guess that's what they mean by "mom strength".
Ten minutes pass. He comes to the stairs and asks if it's time to build the fire station yet. Nope. Back up he goes, more irate than before. He comes down a second time, defeated. He's made to apologize to me (when I feel like I should be apologizing for subjecting my sweet, baby nephew to an hour of intense emotions), and he plops down and smiles, asking what exactly an organic jams and jellies shop is. I smile back and explain that it's a store that can sell delicious jams and jellies, and also nut butters like his favorite peanut butter toast snack. He's getting excited now. He wants to build the shop. We build the shop. We tear it down. We build a fire station. We move on and go about our day, and I begin to wonder if any bit of that ordeal made a difference. What was the point? He was, in my eyes, traumatized, and I didn't even get to taste organic jams and jellies at the shop because it was imaginary. Who wins?
I get my answer the next morning when, almost as in a time warp, we are sitting in the exact same spot. He asks if I want to play with the Lincoln Logs. I nod. And out of his mouth came the following sentence:
Let's build an organic jams and jellies shop. Then we can build a fire station.
Do you think that there are certain times to teach little ones? Or do you think any moment can be made into a teaching moment? Is there lesson you wish you let go? Or one that you wish you pushed more?
Kayla’s mission is to leave everything better than she found it. She’s the Creative Director of a tech startup, The Kids Movement, launching this summer, and owner of an inappropriate greeting card company, Paper Beats Rock Design Co., on Etsy. Kayla is currently living in Portland, Oregon, where rain is a joke and saving the world is not. She enjoys hot yoga, guacamole, petting your dog, and puns. She also makes one grate cheese tray. See what she did there?