It was bound to happen. He’s the youngest by four years and four months. He seems to be older than he is. So, I assumed too much. It was one of those moments: I was just talking for the sake of talking. I made a mistake. OK, so shoot me.
Mr Butterfly (22 months old) and I went to the supermarket on Sunday afternoon because somehow all of the consumables I had bought on Friday had been eaten.
On the way home I said something like, “Tomorrow you’re going to Grannie’s house. You’ll see the dogs and dig in the garden. She’ll push you on the swing and read you some stories.”
“Ees,” said Mr Butterfly. “Ees, ees, ees.”
Then I pulled into our driveway and he began to scream. “Annie’s ‘ouse! Annie’s ‘ouse! Annie’s ‘ouse!”
This continued along with an arched back as I carried him out of the car and kicking legs and swinging arms and the whole she-bang. In the end, we went through the whole: Daddy go to work, Mr Hare go on the bus, Mr Owl go to kindergarten, you go to Grannie’s house – around half a dozen times until he calmed. He could see that the others were home, so hopefully he understood.
He *was* mighty pleased when Monday rolled around and he got to go to Grannie’s house.
Toddlers have a different sense of time to that of adults. It’s perfectly logical when you realise that a much older child still has little concept of how long they have to wait for their birthday or the holidays – no wonder so many of us help our children to count ‘big-sleeps’ in anticipation. For toddlers what is happening now is all there is. There is no promise of tomorrow, in an hour’s time or soon. What is happening at this moment is happening forever – for better or worse.
Now that Mr Butterfly is racing toward the grand old age of two (to his mother’s delight and sorrow) we are beginning to tell him his day-story each night. “You got up and you were so hungry you had weetbix, fruit and an egg for breakfast. We all went to the bus-stop and you ran along and jumped off all the low fences, that was fun you and Mr Owl did lots of laughing. Then we did some chores and took Mr Owl to kindergarten…” He is beginning to get some idea of before, now and later.
We also recap in small bits during the day. If he’s pointing to something we did earlier we’ll talk about it. “Mummy made the vacuum go and you cried because the loud noise gave you a fright.”
Being able to make sense of our lives is hugely beneficial to our mental health as adults.
By understanding that their lives can be retold as a story, and by trying to understand all the emotional states of the main characters, children learn that people do things for reasons and that the mistakes their parents make aren’t (in the case of most parents) malicious or with bad intent. Rather they are a reflection of where their parents’ lives are/were at – at that moment in time.
The people who grow up in tough families (or every-day ones) and go on to do well in life are those who have a strong sense of autobiography. Tell your kids their day-story from time to time. It’ll help them immensely in the long run.
(This is officially how I help put food on the table. If you’ve found this article useful, please feel free to use the Koha button just above my blogroll. Even the smallest amount is appreciated. 🙂 )