You’d think that, at 2.5, I’d know how to play with my children. And to a large extent, of course, I do. But the truth is that I spend a large portion of the day coordinating, shuttling, refereeing, and then getting out of the way when they’re actually playing nicely with one another. We go to activities together, we come home together. They play while I make lunch. They go down for nap together. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
But recently, due to some potty-training boot camp weekends, I have had the opportunity to spend nearly the entire weekend with each kid, alone. And it’s amazing how different that experience is.
My daughter was the first to go on the boot-camp front, so my husband disappeared for most of the day with our son. Rebecca has an impressive attention span, and could stay focused on one activity for quite a while. Read a bunch of books, roll out some play-doh, create multiple large-scale finger-paint masterpieces.
She pretty much chose an activity that she wanted to do, had me set it up for her, and played independently for 20 minutes or more at a stretch. Oh, sure, she wanted me to look at what she’d done, and we had fun comparing the sizes of our finger-paint handprints. And she can be goofy as all get-out, and loves to race circles around the first floor on a big green racing turtle. But she’s an introvert, just like her daddy. She could spend a lot of time engrossed in her own little world, singing songs to herself.
Two weeks later, and the kids switched places. It was Daniel’s turn for a weekend of mommy and potty. I scarcely realized how much I should have rested up for the whirlwind that is my son. In terms of straight physical activity, he’s not the perpetual-motion machine that a lot of toddler boys are. But he never, ever, EVER stops talking.
The talking was not a surprise to me. He’s been like that for ages. What I did find fascinating is his new love of pretend-play. He would come up with elaborate story lines and want me to act them out with him. Most were a mish-mash of favorite TV shows and memories of things we’d done together. But he wasn’t just telling the story, we were playing it. I had to sit next to him on the bench of the Dinosaur Train, and stamp his ticket with my claw. I sat in the back seat of Daddy’s car (actually, the floor of our mudroom) while he drove us to the airport and the museum. I could only convince him to take a potty break from these elaborate tales by suggesting that we visit the potty on the Dinosaur Train/airplane/museum bathroom.
The extrovert, which he obviously gets from me, bounces from one thing to the next and wants me to be involved in every part. That is, at least, until he tells me to get off of the couch and go into the kitchen. When I ask why, he says it’s so he can slide down the arm of the couch (which he knows he’s not really supposed to do – bad liar).
It was really something to shift out of my normal gear, which is to just kind of manage the chaos and the outings and make sure everyone is reasonably happy, somewhat well-behaved, and not killing one another. To actually take a day or two, stay in the house, and play with each kid on their own terms.
What about you? Have you gotten the chance to sit and play with one kid at a time? Do you find them remarkably similar or completely different?