Memorial Day Weekend. No trips planned, no big gatherings. For us, it would be three whole days with Kiddo just around our usual world of errands and home. For me, it would be 4 days.
Well, more like four and a half. On Thursday afternoon, when Ang dropped Kiddo off at 2:15, I was ready at the door but not quite ready in spirit. The goodbyes were easy, but once Kiddo was in the door, his coats were flung to the floor as well as his bag. "I need you to put your tote and coats up on their hooks now, please." Typical adult response. His less-typical kid response was to make that "uhhhnnnnhhh" sound we all love so well and then take a half-hearted not-really-even-reaching swipe at me. Then, he took another soft one and whacked my leg. Nope, not doing that.
"You may not hit me. I see that you aren't being safe with my body and that you need a break in your room. I'll check in on you in a bit."
I set the timer for five minutes and dove into the computer for a little mental escape. When it dinged, I noticed he was playing happily and figured that instead of going in, I'd give him some chill-out time. Ten minutes later he trotted out.
"Mama? Did the timer go ding?"
"Yep, it already did. (holding him) Why did you need to take a break?"
"Because I hit you."
Ah, good, we were halfway there. "Right, and you are not to hit people. I don't hit you, I don't hit people because hitting hurts others. (Pause) What can you do the next time you are mad?"
He thinks for a moment: "I can hit the playdough."
"That's a good idea."
And we're back to getting things done. The computer is put away and I dive into a sinkful of dishes. Kiddo's getting his things hung up and then I see him trying to climb up on the woodbox, which is a very unsafe place for kids. On one side is a huge plate glass window, on another is a hard woodstove and metal fire tools and a gate around the whole thing. He looks at me to see if I'm watching. "Get down from there now." He gets down. and I tell him that I think he needs to take a break again, because he's doing things that aren't safe. This time he seems more upset about being sent to his room, and I decide that if we have four more days together, I don't want to start all of this time with his attention-getting behaviors escalating. This time, he comes back a little sadder.
"Hard time this afternoon, huh?" I give him a hug. I'm done being busy doing my stuff; now I need to give him some of my time, my busy-ness. "How about some watercolor painting?"
"I don't want to" he balks, starting to dig his heels in.
"Oh, well, I want to do it. I like watercolors." I begin to just model what I want us to move into; something relaxing and centering. I get the glass jars of paint out of the fridge and he tells me he wants to paint too. "Great. Will you be my helper?" He nods and I send him off to get himself a smock and a couple of plastic trays for us to work on. He carefully carries the little baby food jars of paint to the table and then we sit with our huge brushes, brushing water onto the paper, then one color and then another, watching them whirl slowly together. We do this for quite a long time; I bring out watercolor pencils to use on top of the wet paint. I draw flowers: two zinnias and a dandelion. He uses a 'caput mortem' purple-brown to draw loopy circles and roughs up the paper in one spot. Then I offer him a small saucer of kosher salt and he paints with the three colors he now has: reddish brick brown, a cadet-bluish brown and a golden graham cracker brown. He sprinkles salt on his colors. He is a pretzel maker, he tells me, making the pretzels. He "makes the pretzels" for probably 15 minutes before stopping. I've already finished my work and am back at the dishes, but there is a difference; he is happier.
We have a later snack and again, I'm back at the dishes, which are seeming to never get done. But Kiddo wants to play and asks me to stop what I'm doing. I do stop for a moment and get down low to him.
"I do need to get these dishes done so I'll have room to make dinner. And then, I would love to play with you. "
"But I don't know what to do." He looks so frustrated. "Well, let's just go take a look in your room and see if we can find a fun something-to-do while I'm finishing up. " We head in; his box of tubes peeks out from under the bed. "What if you used your tubes to build some pipes for some block houses?" I suggest.
"OKAY!" he yells happily. I put The Verlaines on the player and get to my work. An hour later, he has pipes running under a four-story house, made of unit blocks, wooden planes (flat pieces), two cardboard planes and a huge incorporation of our colored blocks as well. We have used every single piece of the unit blocks, all 84 of them. The wooden animals all stand sentry on the house which reminds me of an open-air prairie style of building. My job is just to set up the initial columns and pillars and to gently direct Kiddo so that they stay one on top of the other. Our work is so solid and true that the next day my three awesome nephews come to visit for the morning and their toys play on even the top stories of the house, but the thing never falls down. A HotWheels car drives around the second story and Lego Stormtrooper posts himself to watch out for too much fun, perhaps, and dolls and animals galore are placed everywhere possible. Marbles roll across it. It becomes a game to Kiddo to see how much he can stack on the thing.
Friday afternoon, after much clearing off of toys, it's time to disassemble. Kiddo's a little hesitant to knock it over, but after I show him which piece of cardboard to hold onto to push it down, his little boy inclinations kick in just fine and the whole masterpiece flies to the floor with a satisfying CRASH!
Saturday, too, found us creating to keep busy. In the morning, Kiddo wanted "a box for a house" and so down to the basement I went to oblige. The most reasonable box I could find might not work for what he was wanting, a house for himself. After he experimented for a while, he decided that the box would make a great house, just not for him. He wanted "windows on the top" (which was the bottom) and so some measuring was done. Before lunchtime, the box had large windows on top, one huge on at one end and a door and two windows on the other side. That afternoon we spent an hour or so gluing 'decorations' to the box of his choosing: precut construction paper 'mosaic' squares, dried leaves, triangles and sequins. A toilet-paper tube chimney juts out from the top. Truly an 'art house'.
Our day also found us at Mount Tabor park, taking a long walk from the middle reservoir up to the top loop. At first, Kiddo stopped to pick every dandelion puff and collected a bouquet of 'dinosaur necks' (the long spent stems of the dandelions). We made a 'fairy house' of flowers at the base of one tree, and then left an offering of dino necks at another. We spied someone else's altar made of bright flowers plucked from around the park. Our long walk didn't tire Kiddo out in the least, but the adults were a little bedraggled by the end of it. It still amazes me. Who else do I know who would hop down all those stairs from the very top to the road below, one jump at a time? Who else seems to think that even spent dandelions have some sort of value? Who else wants to grab chunks of dirt and touch everything?
The weekend was busy and good. Today, as we waited for his preschool doors to open, I got into a conversation with another parent and looked over to discover Kiddo on the ground, scooping out the dirt from the crack in the driveway with his fingers. His hands were filthy. Sigh. "The dirt needs to go back in the hole" I tell him, smiling, thinking 'this kid will find a way to get dirty no matter what'. "He's making a wormhole!" his sweet classmate tells me. Of course he is....