16 September 2008

operation good parenting

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I've never really spent very much time one-on-one with Evan. James and I had three and a half years to bond before his baby brother came along, but Evan has always had James around. For the brief periods when James wasn't around -- nursery school and half-day kindergarten -- Evan was usually napping. And truth be told, what with the terrible twos lasting the better part of two years, I spent a lot of Evan's toddlerhood trying to get away from him when I had the chance.

So it has been a process, re-learning how to spend entire days in the company of a three-year-old in general, and Evan in particular. He requires a lot more attention than I'm used to giving him, for one thing -- previously much of his need for attention and companionship was fulfilled by James. And I certainly knew that he was stubborn and single-minded, but I didn't expect that he'd reject most of my game or craft or reading ideas, instead demanding I do what he wants "or else I'll cry really loud!"

I often feel like a failure of a stay-at-home mom because I don't like to play with my children. I know that sounds awful, but it's slightly better with an explanation: I like playing board games, reading, doing puzzles, drawing -- quiet, mental things. I don't really like my children's two main play activities: bouncing off the walls, and inventing convoluted Lego/Star Wars/Indiana Jones/Pokemon/Ninja Turtles/Scooby Doo/Biker Mice From Mars* stories to act out with Lego people. My kids spend hours together playing these games, and Evan had a hard time realizing, once school started, that I just wasn't going to fill James' shoes in this regard. So we had to come up with something else.

Today I started Phase I of Operation Good Parenting: Munchkin Madness. Munchkin Madness is an arts and crafts program for preschoolers offered by the town recreational department, and it's so cheap it's almost free. Not only has Evan not spent much time with me, but he's also never really been around kids his own age, so I thought it would be a good experience for him.**

I'm not really used to other three-year-olds either, so it was kind of a surprise to me to find that Evan was the most outgoing and rambunctious of the 10 or 12 kids in attendance. He was the only munchkin who appeared remotely mad. But I was really pleased with the way he barreled into the room and immediately started playing, with no hint of shyness. He provided the soundtrack for the morning, too -- singing the Star Wars and Indiana Jones theme songs, of course, which drew a lot of laughter from the other mothers there.

He had a lot of fun drawing and painting ("Not just painting, but... finger painting!!") and playing with the other kids, and as young as he seems to me, my littlest baby, he has really turned into a little boy. A preschooler. And I'm starting to see an older, more mature personality develop -- a fearless, take-charge attitude.*** I have the same feeling now that I had when James started preschool: a sense of wonder and curiosity about the way in which my child is becoming a real individual person. I've never really taken the time to think about Evan's development without considering James' influence on him, so I'm interested to see how he changes this year without the constant presence of his brother.

Tomorrow, Phase II of Operation Good Parenting: Library Story Hour, in which we see whether my toddler preschooler can sit still for more than three minutes at a time.
*I don't even know what this one is.

**We've been putting off preschool for now, what with the uncertainty of when Greg will be finishing his program and getting a job.

***Last night at dinner we were talking about war, for some reason I can't recall right now, and I said that I thought I'd rather go to jail than fight in a war. Greg and James agreed with me but Evan set his face into a defiant little scowl and announced, "Not me! I want to fight in a war!" Let's hope the opportunity never comes up, because that's not something I can bear to think about at the moment.


melissa said...

I've always found it interesting to think about how child order impacts a child's personalities. Inevitably your experiences as the oldest as far different from being the second child or the baby. That shapes who you become, but how?

kim said...

To be honest, I find mothers who play with their kids a little odd. I mean, yes, I'll play Candy Land or Pat-a-Cake with mine, but tea parties or trains? No thanks. Maybe it's a sign that I'm an indifferent parent, or maybe this is one way that I express how I am not my children's friend, I am their mother. Friends are for playing with. Moms are for driving you to the playground, making lunch, tickling, or reading stories - it's a different role than what kids can fill. You provide the basic necessities of life and the enrichment opportunities so that they can play, learn, and be kids. Am I making any sense?

Samay said...

Dude, the whole point of being a mom is you get to be the one who, in the end, makes the final decision. You're the one "in charge" which means that you can do what you want. Finally.

Maybe this is why I shouldn't have kids just yet.