A few months back, I posted about the challenges of approaching the “three-year-old zone” with Ev. The nap battles, the emotional swings, and the obliteration of all things rational. While there are still trying moments, my perspective is evolving and I am really focusing on cherishing the amazing things about this stage. Everett’s imagination has really taken off in the last couple weeks. This imaginative play coupled with his ever-increasing verbosity has given us a window into his thoughts, his personality, and his interests–and let me tell you, this is magical stuff for a parent.
Today we had the longest sustained imaginative play scenario to date. Here’s a photograph of the scene:
It doesn’t look like much is happening, but if you ignore the dirty kitchen floor and pile of food-covered dishes in the sink, you will see that some serious focused play is happening. The two wires you see belong to the stick blender and hand mixer respectively, threaded through the kitchen drawers to create a cage. Everett is a zebra in this scene. He is eating a salad for dinner and keeping the other zebras safe. While he was building the cage, he was a zookeeper–but in a moment of magical role transfer, he was crawling on all fours with the other zebras. For nearly an hour, he crawled in and out of the cage, enacting different zebra actions. The zebra’s bathtub was in our bedroom. We had to get the imaginary hose and shampoo out and pretend to scrub him down. The zebra got on a boat at one point to go to the grocery store to buy tomatoes…tomatoes for the salad. You can’t make this stuff up. It really is creative magic, like out of a wacky dream or a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel.
Everett has never been in to toys. In the beginning, this frustrated me. As a first-time mom, I worried that my son was not “normal” because he did not gravitate towards balls or trucks or trains…or even television. (We tried that in some desperate moments when Louie was a newborn, and he never bit.) I would find myself getting frustrated when he was pulling the DVD player off the shelf and unhooking the cables in order to wrap the cord around the holes in a plastic laundry basket with an astounding level of focused tinkering. I would be embarrassed at playgroups when he would sneak off to the corner to open and close a cabinet latch twenty times or fashion a door stopper from a wooden block instead of playing “chop-choos” with the other boys. Eventually, I gave in to his whims and let the train table become a place to stack all the unused toys. Eventually, I started to realize that I actually loved the fact that Everett was “non-traditional” in his play. And now that he is able to verbalize these fantastical stories to accompany his constructed scenes of small kitchen appliances and Tupperware, I am deeply entertained.
I still can’t get him to take a nap at 1:00 in the afternoon when his eyes are fluttering and his temperament starts to waver, but I am starting to be okay with that. I am enjoying this afternoon intersession when Louie is fast asleep, when Everett can have uninterrupted play that often times does not require my full participation.
All of the milestones are splendid, the first steps, the first word, the first time they sleep through the night…but this one might be my favorite–the first time I can really see my little guy developing into a thinking, creative individual.