For the last few weeks, I’ve spent all day every day with a three-year-old boy as my constant companion. Three-year-old boys are very good fun to hang out with – they make for great company. But it does strike me that we’ve very little in common. For example, things I enjoy include Pilates, clothes shopping, coffee drinking, meeting friends for wine drinking, running, reading, blogging, more coffee, more wine, and cake. Things my three-year-old enjoys include drawing, gluing, digging, washing random things in the sink, chasing pigeons, pulling clothes out of the wardrobes, dumpster diving in laundry baskets, cooking, baking, playing, and cake.
There’s not a lot of common ground there – a venn diagram would show only one shared pastime (though as common ground goes, cake is a pretty good one.)
So we do a good bit of what he likes – going to playgrounds, drawing, baking and helping cook dinner. And we do a little bit of what I like – not the wine, more so the odd trip to a shop if I can get away with it.
And we do a lot of side by side activities – he’s down on the floor playing with trains while I’m at the counter sending emails. Or he’s gluing paper to jars and I’m chopping onions for dinner. And we muddle along quite nicely for at least eight to ten minutes at time, before he wants me to do something else.
But I wonder, does nature really intend for people in their thirties and forties and people aged three to hang out together? What did the cave people do?
I’m not questioning that we should spend time together – I very much like spending time with this guy. But I do wonder about the efforts so many of us go to, to do the stuff the small people enjoy. Did the cave-mammies make Play Doh figures? Did they build Lego towers? Did they do finger-painting? (actually, maybe they did finger-painting)
This isn’t an argument to say we shouldn’t – it’s just something that strikes me sometimes, because grown-ups and three-year-olds can have very different interests.
Take our conversations for example. We’re not always on the same wavelength.
Me: “OK, finish your lunch, we need to go collect the girls.”
Him: “What are we doing now?”
Me: “We’re going to collect the girls from school – so eat your lunch.”
He goes off to play with trains.
Me: “OK, let’s go now – into the car.”
Him: “Can me paint now?” taking out the art-box.
Me: “No! Remember, we’re going to the school – you can’t paint – you need to get into the car.”
Him: “Why you putting on my jacket?”
Me: “Remember what I just said – where are we going?
Him: “Picnic? Yippee! I love picnics.”
It’s not a conversation you have with most adults (although, now that I think about it, some work meetings can go a little like that…)
Sometimes the chat is exasperating, sometimes it’s funny – often it depends on how much of a rush we’re in.
If I over-think it from time to time, it does seem funny to hang out with someone who is so very different to me in every way. I mean, if he wasn’t mine, I wouldn’t really. But of course, he is mine. And he’s very funny. Even when he’s not trying to be. Mostly when he’s not trying to be.
And while I don’t enjoy chasing pigeons, I very much enjoy watching him do it – surprised every time when they fly away. Every single time.
While I don’t relish the idea of sticking my head in a laundry basket, it makes me laugh when he decides for no apparent reason to do so.
I’m not a crafty mom, but I’m secretly impressed when he gets engrossed in his glueing. I might be cross about his latest misdemeanour, but I’m hiding a smile when he earnestly asks, “Well, did you see me do it?”
We see the world differently. But what’s lovely is that I also get to see it through his eyes. And that can be bizarre or hilarious or completely inexplicable, but it’s never boring. Maybe that’s what nature intended – it’s for our sake as much as theirs – to help us see the lighter side of life (though perhaps not from the bottom of a laundry basket)
In September, the little guy starts pre-school. And that’s it, he’s in the system for the next fifteen to twenty years. Every time I think about having so little time left, I feel my throat get tight. I want time to stand still. I want to keep watching him chase the pigeons.