Monday, November 1, 2010

Cousin Capers

            Celia and her cousin Webber need constant monitoring when they’re together. One never knows when to expect the hitting, pulling, pushing, taking, and biting which inevitably blossoms from their little friendship.
            Don’t get me wrong, the kids absolutely love each other. When Celia sees Webber, who’s a year younger but roughly the same weight, she always goes up to him and gives him a big hug. Every single person in the room looks on and thinks, “Aww, how sweet.”
            This initial hug quickly develops into a quasi-wrestling match where both end up rolling on the ground, with the stronger Celia on top. Webber is so chilled out, he usually doesn’t even complain, but you can see in his eyes that he’s not exactly happy either.
            And then the “playing” begins. If there are toys involved, they simply have to have whatever it is the other child is holding. The toy they currently hold becomes irrelevant when they see their cousin holding something immeasurably more interesting. Oddly enough, when the toy switch occurs, they instantly look at the toy in the other’s hands, which they’d previously been holding, and want it back.
            We’ve been trying to teach Celia about sharing, with a certain degree of success. We’ll explain to her, “Celia, never take things out of someone else’s hands,” or, “Celia, you can take turns with the toys, and share them with each other. That way everyone gets to play with them.”
            At one level, I know Celia understands, but then she pulls off some interesting stunts as well. One time she approached Webber and said, “I’m going to share with Webber,” and took his toy. We all laughed when we saw this. I don’t think sharing was intended to be initiated that way! But then again, it sure makes sense when you think of it from her perspective.
            Another time she took Webber’s toy, as usual, and as she was walking away she said, “I’m not going to take Webber’s toy!” I’m not sure what was going on in her head, but we all shook our heads and marveled at her two-year-old logic (and how similar it is to certain greedy corporations!).
            One time, Webber had had enough, and bit Celia in the arm. He doesn’t have very much language yet, and his frustration was so huge, he lashed out in the only way he knew. Celia was, of course, upset, and I consoled her but I also shrugged my shoulders and thought, “I hope this teaches her a lesson.”
            All of this raises the question as to how much we should get involved as parents. At one level, I want to make sure they play well and don’t pick up any long-term bad habits or hurt each other too much, but at the same time I don’t want to be a “helicopter parent” who hovers around the kids controlling their every movement. I’ve seen the way that dampens a child’s spirit, and I know it’s not for me.
            I suppose we’ll play it by ear, and let them roughhouse but not get overly violent. As it is, it’s already a handful just existing every time we’re together. Take last night. We were trying to enjoy a nice dinner out, and of course every child (three at this point) was in need of parental holding just as the meal reached its climax.
            At one point I said, while standing and holding Webber in one arm, “Somebody help me cut a bite off that filet, please.” One-armed eating can be tricky at times, as we all knew well.
            I reached out with my fork and stabbed the meat. Michelle reached out with her one free arm and started to cut it, but because the plate was wobbling, Elise, my sister-in-law, reached out with her one free arm and held the plate. Success! With three free hands acting in unison, I was able to enjoy that luscious bite of filet.
            Yes, managing three kids from four months to two years old is a juggling act, and requires a bit of extra creativity, but I think we’re laying a groundwork for some pretty cool things to come. I bet in four years it’ll be Webber who’s sitting on Celia, not the other way around. And by then they’ll have a healthy respect for each other. A dad can dream, can’t he?

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