Please. Don’t. Play with the…

Oh my. You know what? Raising a child sometimes requires a bit of re-programming of your brain. Inquisitive pre-schoolers cause you to re-evaluate so many of your rules and routines. Things that you’ve known or done for years, that are programmed into muscle memory or … whatever the mental equivalent of muscle memory is … are suddenly questioned at every turn. Things that were sure are dismantled and torn apart. Things that were good and true are suddenly uncertain and relative.

This is happening a lot at the moment, and I’m not sure if it’s me or the young explorer we’ve raised.

Raising a child could be really simple. I could just say “Don’t do that” and be done with it.

But I’m trying to be sensitive and allow my child to explore the world and find out some things for himself, while also not imposing upon him the baggage that I’ve acquired through many years of adult-hood.

And all while making sure that there are some boundaries, that he’s safe, and that adults are respected.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I want to enter into that child-like inquisitiveness with him, abandon my own rules and see things with open eyes.

It’s exhausting!

And so it is that a simple activity, like trying to plug a hose into a water butt, turns into a mind-bending philosophical monologue where you often end up questioning everything you’ve ever learned and wondering if you child will one day get horrifically injured in some stupid accident involving a wooden spoon, a bowl of dry rice and a tea towel or something.

Before I write this down, it’s worth noting that:

  • this is but one minor example of stuff that happens all day long at the moment;
  • it’s probably related to something called “high sensitivity” which I’m in the process of writing a blog post about; and
  • yes, Isaac has seen me plugging a hose into a water butt in the past, so he is only copying something that I do sometimes when watering the garden.

So it goes something like this:

Me: “Please don’t play with the hose”

My Brain: “Why can’t he play with the hose”

Me (to my brain): “Err, well, I don’t want him to because it doesn’t really work as a watering-the-garden method, and the water butt isn’t very full and I don’t want to waste the water, and he’ll get wet which will mean I need to change his clothes before tea and he can’t just play with anything because some things aren’t toys and he needs to learn that some things are for doing jobs and some things are for playing with and…look there isn’t really any one good stand-out reason that I can explain succinctly in a small enough number of words that he won’t get bored and distracted half way through the sentence, I’d just rather he didn’t do it.”

My Brain: “But he’s just exploring and experimenting, he’s not doing anyone or himself and harm, and what’s a little bit of water between friends?”

Isaac (pipes up): “Why?”

Me (gently, to Isaac, not my brain): “What do you want to play with the hose for?”

My brain: “Because it’s interesting and he’s seen you doing it and he wants to be like you, which is kinda cute, right?”

Isaac: “I want to fill it up”

Me: “Why do you want to fill it up?”

Isaac: “So I can squirt it”

My brain: “You have to admit, he’s got some ambition and his problem-solving logic is good?”

Me (to both): “Look…I…”

Me (to myself): “OK…OK…what’s the worst that can happen? He’ll get a little wet? He’ll learn that plugging the hose into the water butt doesn’t really do anything and certainly won’t ‘squirt’. But more importantly, he’ll think he can do anything he likes with things in the garden which is really dangerous. Neither my brain nor Isaac is gonna respond well to a straight don’t-do-it so I need to get creative. Man…I’m so tired right now and I’ve had 74 internal monologues like this today, I don’t think I can take any more. OK…here’s the plan. Distraction. Err. OK.  Go…”

Me (to Isaac): “Why don’t you play in the sand pit?”

Isaac: “But I want to squirt the hose!”

Me: “You can have fun in the sand pit. You love the sand pit. Look, here’s your digger.”

(Isaac puts the hose down and takes his shorts and pants off)

Me (to myself): “Oh crikey, he’ll get sand up his bum and in his willy”

Me: “Isaac, please put your pants back on”

Isaac: “But…”

My brain: “…”

Me: “Don’t…just DON’T!!”

My brain: “Make it 75”