All’s Fair in Toy Wars

Me, two toddlers, and two dogs. Day one. Tiny Tot and Bitty Boy are, for the most part, well on their way toward becoming best cousins. Every morning, Tiny Tot wakes up with a bright smile, exclaiming, “Mommy! Let’s go play with the baby!”

The two excitedly run around the house, screaming like crazy banshees, and giggling in delight.

Mine is in the bossy one, announcing what game will be played, and which toys are allowed to come along. Bitty Boy follows, loving all the new games. Me, I’m used to the hullabaloo. My house is loud, crazy, and all fun, safe, games are completely encouraged. The noisier, the better.

My poor sister, and brother-in-law.

However, in the midst of excited, glorious, top-of-the-lungs screaming, moments come. Just as loud, but with screams of outrage.

Separating these brewing situations is decidedly new for me. At home, I am the biggest person, and my word is law. When my son visits his female cousin, who is five and-a-half–that part is very important to mention–usually she takes over, and tells my son exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. If there is any intervention, four adults are always present.

The only place where my child is with me, and we are around other children–basically left to our own devices–is when we visit the park. So, when a punk kid pushes my toddler over, I am the mom wagging her finger, fussing at the strange boy for harming my son, with me standing a foot away.

I’ll talk about the audacity of punk park kids another time, though.

Today I began noticing the subtleties between the two boy cousins’ interactions. Like, their jealousy.

With toys.

This may seem strange for me to mention. Kids fight over toys. That’s normal. Even expected. Especially when I am mentioning “only” children, who don’t have peer interactions outside of school situations.

My tiny human is different, though. He usually wants to share. Maybe it is because he sees his half-brother and older cousin a few times every month, and likes pleasing them. Maybe it’s because he likes the way that other children like him when he shares his toys. Whatever the reason, my son is pretty much undemanding, unless it is his absolute, favorite toy of the day. Even then, his fascination with that toy is scant at best.

On any given day–well, maybe not a grumpy day–Tiny Tot will walk up, toy in hand, and inquire if the other child wants to play with his toy. Strange for a three year-old, right? Now that I’m thinking about it, my tiny person most likely uses the toy as a lure, in order for the other child to play with him. Because, well, I refuse to believe my tiny human is just THAT predisposed toward sharing.

So, when Bitty Boy and Tiny begin to play and Bitty picks up a toy that my tiny human is already playing with something new is occurring. My son turns those pretty green eyes toward me, with a look of blank shock. It’s like he’s saying, “Mommy, what are you planning on doing about this?”

I am at a complete loss. Me? Intervening with toys? Umm.

Sorry, kiddo, I don’t know. This is new ground for me to cover. Let me think about it while the two of you shriek and duke it out.

Seriously, though, they don’t fight. Bitty hauls tail, clutching onto his claimed prize, and moves into another room. Mine sits there, looking at me like I sprouted three heads for not demanding the small human give the toy back.

This, obviously, demands a whole new set of rules.

So, what happens when my tiny human lets go of his toy airplane, and Bitty Boy snatches it up, then runs away?

My first thought is to wait. So, I stare at my son wondering what will happen next. Will my tiny human scream, cry, or find a new toy to occupy himself? If he chooses to scream, should I default to which toddler screams loudest if I try to give the toy back to my son?

Or should I try to establish rules of what is fair, and right, in a toddler’s mind?

The option I choose is to go with the obvious, glaring, age difference. Tiny is three; he understands the world around him, and how certain rules work. Bitty is nineteen months; he is still learning. When his teeny little eyes light on a shiny new toy, he wants to play with it!

I understand; I feel the same way about my Pinterest boards.

Not being a mom of more than one, this is leaving me with an incredibly inept feeling. Certainly, a set of terms should be in place to balance out ideas of fairness when it comes to toy struggles. However, my first inclination is to automatically side with the smallest child. Being teeny tiny–and still exploring the world in terms of social and emotional interactions–Bitty should get the largest amount of leeway. Not to mention, it takes guts to snatch a toy away from a three year old!

I also figure that he’s bound to lose interest fast, seeing as he is still under the age of two.

Right?

Nope. Not Bitty Boy! My sister’s son plays with his toys. Like, he plays. Bitty Boy sits down, fiddles with buttons, touches all the tiny parts, and explores its mechanics. He actually wants to learn about the toy!

Which is another new concept for this momma. My tiny human never involves himself with one object for longer two minutes. He might push a button, but only for its added sound effect. He loves the wow factor of the toy. But, playing with it for any length of time?

Yeah, no. Five minutes is his limit with any toy. Even his favorites.

It’s a complete role reversal between the two of them.

Defaulting to the tinier human, the nineteen month old, by believing him to have the same minute-minded concept of play shows an obvious err in my judgement. Because here is my son, looking up at me with his beautiful green eyes, wondering why Mommy isn’t sticking up for her baby boy.

So I decide to explain my decision. I sit my tiny one on my knee, and tell him he is the bigger child, Bitty Boy is the smaller child. I tell him that he can play with any toy in the room, and I, as his mommy, will make sure he can play with the toy Bitty took away from him. After we talk, he agrees, and we hug it out. But, he is still hurt.

I can tell.

So, in true precocious toddler fashion, my son learns his lesson. And picks up Bitty Boy’s Swift Swoop. From the moment our talk finishes, Tiny begins watching Bitty like a hawk. The minute Bitty Boy drops a toy, and my tiny human dives in, snatches it up, and quickly moves about two feet away. Know what happens next?

Toddler injustice. On both sides.

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No comments posted on November 13, 2012 in Discipline, Parenting

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