What to Do When an Adoring Adult Swoops You Away From Your Toys and Suspends You Six Feet Above the Floor While Squishing and Kissing You

Johnny’s current stage is to practice “putting” things.

Earlier it was “unputting” them. I would build a castle of blocks; his delight was to knock them down. I would put a pen away in the drawer, he would labor away at the drawer to open it and pull all the pens out.

My hope was that this pulling out and knocking down would translate into the knowledge of building up and putting away. Luckily, it has.

Now he actually wants to practice setting one block on top of the other. The old pan I gave him to play with (no, we aren’t that poor, Johnny simply prefers “real” objects to toys) turns into a basketball hoop and a storage place for little yellow duckies and triangular red blocks.

Part of his typical morning routine will probably include removing the couch cushions and setting a broken necklace, three or four blocks, a yellow duckie, and a couple of pens in its place. Then he climbs up and sits proudly next to them for about half a second. Then he throws the necklace, blocks, duckie, and pens on the ground. Climbs down after them. And starts the whole process over.

I think he must be imitating my picking-up and putting-away practice. (No, I don’t stash pens and jewelry under the couch cushion.)

What’s truly funny is when his little “putting” excercises generate evidence that he has been rooting around in places he’s not allowed.

Last night when I opened the hutch doors to get some noodles, I found the rice bag neatly nestled inside one of Johnny’s toy stacking bowls. Scottie and I laughed over that one, but not as much as over the little yellow duckie I found planted, like a little flag of defiance, deep in the bowels of the chemical cabinet, the one I always keep tied shut and usually discipline Johnny or at least scold him for trying to get into.

Why do I find these things so funny? They aren’t ridiculous. They are amusing to the eyes of love. Johnny trudges around the appartment with such a businesslike expression on his face. Everything he does is so serious.

Except when his Daddy comes home or when we have been tossing his boll into that old pot and one of us scores. Then he jumps up and down, something a kid his age and weight shouldn’t even be able to do. And screams with delight.

Johnny has long used “putting” for a very important mechanism – getting to where he wants to go. When he was about two weeks old he began to express unutterable longings to patrol the entire appartment nine or ten times a day. He wanted to look at all the pictures and see a close-up view of every object. How did I know this? Well, I can only describe his behavior as “steering.” Once in my arms, he would look around for what he wanted to see, and then his whole body would turn into an intensely vibrating rudder to “steer” me in the direction he wanted to go. Once he got there he would stare with a most intelligent expression at the picture or the globe or the magnet. Then off we’d go to the next.

Crawling and walking followed much later, but though his speech skills are highly undeveloped, he still has his ways of communicating where he wants to go if he’s not being allowed. The most amusing example is when someone picks him up and he has a toy in his hands.

Hey – that’s rude. I was manipulating this immensely important Object down there, and suddenly I find myself suspended in space miles from the floor. I can’t help it I’m inexpressibly cute. From an adult point of view, I can understand the desire to squish Johnny in your arms and kiss him at least twenty times. From his point of view the experience must be something like alien abduction.

Johnny handles this situation diplomatically – he ostentatiously throws the toy to the ground before him. Then slowly, gently he begins to slide or lean down after the toy. The message is so clear that most people burst out laughing and let him down. Johnny only uses kicking, screaming, and etc. as a last resort. He learned that from his father.

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