If you happened to wander through our house yesterday, here's what you would have noticed... Upstairs, at the top of the landing, two Christmas cookie trays, with orange peels scattered on and around them... Downstairs, on the living room floor, all the library books for the week in two piles and a bag with legos... On the dining room table, a fat Sesame Street coloring book (with the cover torn off) and a big plastic baggie filled with crayons... And in the kitchen, dish towels and dishcloths scattered all around the floor.
What did all these mysterious items signify?
Well. The orange peel (from breakfast) was a game she invented, where Dory and I took turns tossing pieces onto the Christmas cookie trays. The books were from a little reading we had done that morning. We built with the blocks, but mainly we experimented with putting all the blocks into the bag then dumping them all over the floor again. For twenty minutes or so she sat in her high chair and I sat on the other side, and we colored. The dishtowels, that was from her mid-morning snack, when I asked her to get a towel out of the cabinet which I spread out on the floor like a small picnic blanket. Dory then pulled five more dish towels and cloth napkins out and spread them all around the floor herself.
That was one morning's worth of play for us. What was neat, I thought, about it, surveying, the tremendous mess we could make in about two and a half hours, was the common denominator: teamwork. Whether we used an item designated, by being large, colorful and costing thirty times what it took to make, a "toy" or a mundane item from around the house that Dory deemed a toy, we had a great time because we were using it together.
Right now feels very intense, in how much she's going, doing and exploring, all while wanting someone (myself, her dad, a grandparent) very involved in the play. In The Discipline Book Dr. Sears explains in "the time between the ages of fourteen and eighteen months... the high energy toddler wants to do everything, but he still needs mother involved 'big time.'" We are definitely at that stage. And I've realized, while I can sneak five minutes here on the laptop or ten minutes at the stove while she plays on the floor next to me, this is another time to just Go With It (words I'm thinking about tattooing across my forehead) and PLAY. There is something incredibly fulfilling about letting go (not minding this blog will take me several hours to post, based on how often I can sneak back for two minutes), getting over it (there is mess wherever we go- there just IS) and giving myself up to this time in her life. In the same way she needed commitment as a newborn to be nursed and held almost constantly, she needs commitment that someone is willing to explore this great, big, wild world with her. And as enter into her seventeenth month, I'm finally getting it- I might be a slow learner, but I do get there. So after one morning's worth of serious play, the house is mildly wrecked, I'm still in my pajamas, and haven't brushed my hair or teeth and Dory is absolutely delighted and looking for another room to trash- I mean explore. And it was a seriously good time.
I take comfort from the Sears when they write: "Hang in there through eighteen months" because your child will start to play and imagine all on his own for longer stretches of time. And when they explain "by the time your child is six... [he} will check in for breakfast, be out the door, check in for lunch, and be gone again" I try not to dissolve into tears. This parenting thing- it's a mess, isn't it?