My son definitely has his own way of doing things. For example, while most parents spend the first couple of years of their baby’s life frantically trying to keep everything out of their baby’s mouth, Hawkeye was just not that interested. In fact, we had trouble getting stuff into his mouth when it came to trying new foods. Even teething toys took a while to acquire his interest and even then he had a very particular selection.
Many babies and toddlers absolutely love getting stuck into… well, everything really. The messier the better, right? Hawkeye, on the other hand, complains about making a mess if he drops a crumb. In creche, I’m told if he spills a drop of milk he immediately asks one of the staff members for a wipe. Once I had to take an emergency detour to a friend’s house on the way home so that we could wash our hands because Hawkeye got upset because the very last bit of his ice cream sandwich melted over his fingers. One of my favourite photos from his time in Tiny Tots (about 16 to 24 months) is from a messy play period where his group got down and dirty with shaving foam. Although I cropped the photo to avoid showing the faces of other kids, you can still see their hands (covered in foam) and the table surface on either side is full of the evidence of little hands mucking about in the glorious white substance. Hawkeye, on the other hand, clearly got as far as just tentatively testing out the surface with his fingertips before deciding that this was definitely not his cup of tea.
Now, you might wonder if there are sensory issues at play here and whether we in fact have a “problem” but I am not concerned. First of all, he’s gotten a lot better at exploring with his hands. The other day I watched him scooping up giant handfuls of wilted cherry blossom petals from the dirt on the edges of our parking lot and tossing them around. Every few handfuls he would look down at his hands. exclaim in slight disgust and try to brush them off, before returning to his activity. We just have a very neat and tidy kid, ok? And while some kids are happy to just dive right into whatever they see head-first (or hand-first, or butt-first, or, god forbid, face-first) ours likes to hang back and consider his position carefully before deciding whether or not he wants to engage. And trust me, when he does commit, it’s usually with full enthusiasm.
Which brings me to today’s featured photo. We went shopping last weekend and got, amongst other things, a balance bike, a helmet, some farm animals, beach toys, and a collapsible pop-up tunnel. Hawkeye loved it from the moment my husband pulled open the velcro tabs, releasing the tunnel from its collapsed state. He crawled back and forth for a little while, tried to cajole mommy and daddy to crawl through (we demured) and ran around examining it from all angles. Then my husband stood the tunnel up vertically with the toddler in the middle and, well…. that was the end of the tunnel as it was intended to be used. Now whenever the tunnel comes out, after a desultory one or two passes through it, he insists that we “put it on the head” and waits for you to poke the sides of the tunnel in random places while he pokes back. And each time you do this he laughs and laughs like a loon.
So no, he does not like to do things the way others do them. In Rugby Tots, as one of the younger members of his group, he gets to a point toward the end of class when following directions just becomes too hard from all the exercise and over-stimulation. His “team mates” might be lined up waiting to kick their foam rugby balls but instead leaving the plastic cone to do its job of holding up Hawkeye’s ball, he has it on his head even if no one else is doing it. Class is done and everyone is by the wall putting on his coats? Hawkeye is lying in the middle of the gym floor, doing a credible impression of a college student who’s given up on trying to stay upright after a night of drinking but still has lots of things he needs to say to the universe at large.
Yes, we’re working on listening, and following directions. But give me a break, the kid is two and a half. He’s supposed to be bad at doing what you tell him. However, even when it’s not about following directions, even if it’s just about playing, he follows his own way. And I love it. Of course, I grumble sometimes when I’m stressed or harried and I talk out loud to myself as I’m trying to herd him, asking why he can’t just do whatever it is he’s supposed to do like all the other kids. But when I stop to think about it, when I look at a photo like this, I’m actually delighted. Like the red leaf in my post from two days ago, he is different. He’s not afraid to stick out. He hasn’t yet learned the pressures of following what everyone else is doing, of conforming. And although I know that is all ahead of us, I hope that, as much as possible, he continues to listen to his own unique inner drummer boy and follow that beat wherever it takes him, even if it takes him away fro the crowd.