What do cats and children have in common?
They would rather play with an empty cardboard box, then what ever expensive thing came in it.
Car Beds and Cardboard Boxes
When it came time to transition my son out of the crib and into a toddler bed we bought him a bed in the shape of a car. You know the one; bright blue with fire stickers coming out of its black plastic wheels. A small indent encircled the entire frame of the bed. It was a road for his quickly growing collection of mini race cars.
He loved that bed!
He sat down with his dad and waited impatiently as it was being set up. Gregory even chose where some of the stickers went up. Then, when it was all set up, and he finally got to play with it, he grabbed some of his favorite toy cars, and raced them around and around his bed.
He had such a good time…. for the first ten minutes.
Then he walked out of his room, bored of the big expensive thing in his room, and noticed that there was a huge box in the living room.
“It was drab, dirty and had a few holes in its walls from delivery.”
The box was so big he could crawl in and sit up in it, so we cut out holes for windows and door. His dad would crawl in there with him and race cars, have tickle fights or even just cuddle so they could read books together. My husband even drew a ‘no girls allowed’ sign by the front door we had cut out. I was amused and offered a bribe of a plate of Oreo’s, hoping to be accepted into this prestigious private club. My bribe was accepted and they changed the sign to ‘No girls allowed… unless you are mama and you have cookies.’
The box stayed in our living room for over a month. He played in it everyday until the day he and his cousin jumped on top of the big box, smashing it to pieces. We were all sad to see Gregory’s fort end up in the recycling bin.
I thought the connection he had to cheap inanimate objects was just a coincidence because, hey, what kid doesn’t like building forts. But then his birthday came around and as children tend to do, he taught me a very important lesson in what is REALLY important in life
Gregory recently turned four years old. His birthday landed on a holiday this year so we threw a barbecue and invited our friends and family over. We ended up having a large gathering, and everyone came bearing gifts for the birthday boy. When it was time to open presents, we gave him the one from us first. He excitedly tore into the paper to reveal a box of cars.
OH MAN, HE LOVED CARS!
He ran inside to play with them only to find A BOX OF ANIMALS AND A CARPET THAT HAD A PICTURE OF ROADS AND A CITY IMPRINTED ON IT. He was so animated! All he wanted to do was play with his new set up, but he still had more presents to open.
“I told him no, he can’t play right now, and he burst into tears.”
He really wanted to play with his new city and new animals and new cars. But we sat him down again to open his next present. IT WAS A BIG CRANE THAT SWUNG AROUND AND KNOCKED BUILDINGS DOWN. He got so excited that, again, he picked it up and headed inside to play with it.
No, there were still more to open.
It got to the point where he would open a present, glance at it excitedly for a second or two, then toss it over his shoulder to open the next one. After five or six presents he was no longer grateful for what he was receiving, he was just looking forward to opening the next one.
I apologized to everyone there and explained to them that we are so grateful for all of the presents but we were going to leave some wrapped until he was ready to open and play with them later on. That way when he opened a present, he got to play with it and truly appreciate it before being given the next one. We were able to space out the present giving and everyone was happy.
Until the presents ran out, and my son was bored and he asked if he could watch cartoons instead.
That’s when my father-in-law came to the rescue. He pulled out a piece of paper and showed my son how to make and throw paper airplanes. He. Was. Hooked.
It has been 2 months since his birthday. His expensive and numerous toys sit in a box in the living room, rarely played with, but he still asks me to make paper airplanes with him everyday.
Father-in-law, if your reading this, I have paper cuts you need to apologize to.
When he asks me to make him a paper plane, he watches excitedly as I fold the paper and even offers constructive criticism.
“I want a small plane.”
“Is this a small plane?”
“Make it smaller!”
Then, when the paper airplane is finished, he watches with intense enthusiasm, as I pull my arm out, and thrust the little plane into the air. He jumps up and down, clapping his hands as we watch the plane soar through the air, and crash into the wall on the other side of the room.
“Wow!” He exclaims, running to grab his new toy. Thinking I have him distracted atleast for a little while longer, I turn back to writing my next blog post. I expected atleast a few minutes of peace but it was more like a few seconds before he reappeared.
“Mama, uh-oh!” He produces the airplane, now crumbled and wrinkled from its rough crash landing.
“Yup.” I sighed feigning sadness. “That’s a broken plane. Oh well.” I shrug and turn my eyes back to my laptop, only to have my son slide a fresh new piece of paper into my view. In exasperation, I look down at my sweet sons smiling face.
“Airplane, please.” He requested as he scooted his chair closer to mine, resting his head on my shoulder to watch as I assemble another paper airplane.
So here’s what I’ve found. My son likes getting new things but he enjoys them even more if he can share them with the people he loves. It’s about hanging out with his dad in their new fort or sitting with me while I make paper airplanes. It’s never been about the price tag on the toy or how many he receives. He judges the worth of an object by how he can enjoy it with others.
In contrast, we as parents tend to believe that the more expensive a toy is the more our children will enjoy them, when this isn’t remotely true. It’s amazing what our children can teach us if we only start paying more attention to what they are asking for. Next time, I will definitely take my time to fold the airplane slower to enjoy my sons company more.
What does your child enjoy doing with you?
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