The World as She Knows It

Continuing the series on child x-ray vision and getting to know your toddler from the inside.

When your toddler seems to be breaking things left and right remember this: Toddlers are rookies in life. They don’t know any better.

Do you remember moving into your first home? Everything seemed perfect when you found it, inspected it and renovated it. And then you lived in it. Totally different story.

I remember hyperventilating when I received our first electric bill. I remember learning how to flush the the toilet long enough so the water wouldn’t run. I remember the washing machine hose displacing from the drain resulting in a flood of soap and bubbles. Then there was the time we forgot to switch to emergency power and came home to a refrigerator filled with rotten food, the time a rogue rat trespassed and found its way to our closet, and the time that the hard wood floors in our bedroom were destroyed due to a leak in the air conditioner. The things we had to learn the hard way!

Now can you imagine what the world is like for your toddler? My daughter learns a lot by observation: watching me change lightbulbs, watching me jump out of bed, watching me fix the torn pages of her books. But I think that just gives her the courage to explore things on her own, the veritable “looks easy enough” mind set. The truth is she has to experience this world (or in her terms play and explore) in order to know it just like we did as rookie homeowners.

I remember when we were visiting an aunt’s house and she was wildly attracted to a pinlight showcasing an art collection. We warned her it was hot but she of course had to touch it herself. That’s the day “hot = ouch” was indelibly imprinted in her mind.

I remember when she loved to roll around our king size bed until she finally rolled OFF. Two weeks and one fracture later, she learned that playing under the covers is a much safer alternative. Whenever she skirts the edge of anything (a bed, a step, a crib), we tell her “Remember when you fell and it hurt?” she concedes to the safe middle area.

Last week my daughter experienced her first loss. She broke (read: decapitated) her favorite dolly aka the ally. She disallowed me to do anything else but make her right again. If I had the right glue, she’d end the day thinking I was a hero. But I didn’t. I’ll remember that incident as the time she finally learned how to be gentle. I see her taking much better care of the toys that mean something to her, most especially her other dolly.

These little misadventures definitely made my daugther better acquainted with the physical world. Bad things (which are more often than not messy, chaotic and downright dirty) may need to happen in order for her to know better. Sometimes she mercifully skips the bad and goes straight to listening to mommy. I just try to remember how CLUELESS I was as a new homeowner, a new mother, new wife, a new girlfriend even a new employee and student, and the initial anger just turns to a shrug and hug with a side of stern warning. I also remember how often I really listened to my mother…After the deed, right?

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