Well, I knew my perfect little angel kid was bound to start doing some lying or cheating one day. It’s officially “one day”. Or at least it was about a week ago.
First off, I know that it’s entirely age appropriate (she’ll be 3 1/2 in March) and it will work itself out over time. I also know that I am not supposed to condone such behavior, but seeing your child figure out how to make an end run around to winning Animal Bingo…well, quite honestly I find it completely hilarious!! I actually have to look away for a second as I see her try to pull one over on us before composing myself to tell her “that’s not how we play the game”. Bwahahahaha….
Her cheating skills are very rudimentary and done in plain view, which makes it all the cuter (and clear that she shouldn’t be hitting up the poker tables any time soon). But what stumped me is that her first few bouts of cheating involved a touch of empathy because she was cheating on behalf of “Emma”, her doll that also plays bingo with us (that’s probably a completely separate blog entry right there: some kind of passive aggressive thing going on from her apparently acute–and often voiced–desire for a younger sibling which translates into “Emma” taking an active role in almost every activity we do around here right now). Anyway, M was deliberately hiding animal tokens that “Emma” needed for her bingo card. I was surprised that M wasn’t trying to fix the game in her own favor.
But, as expected, eventually M got a little bolder (or tired of losing to Emma!) and tried her hand at cheating for her own benefit. We put M in charge of pulling the animal tokens out of the bag to see whose card it matched. Initially the game was going smoothly with nothing amiss. But then her dad and I started racking up more animal tokens on our card than M had. Mind you it’s a game of chance, but that notion is lost on a preschooler. That’s when we noticed it: she was looking in the bag and jostling it a bit each time before reaching in…and wouldn’t you know, the tokens started throwing the odds in M’s favor….all of the time. No big surprise that she won.
I don’t think M’s dad or I are particularly competitive–at least not at home at least not in front of M at least not all the time except during our cooking bake-offs, Bananagrams and word jumble puzzles –THAT I USUALLY WIN!!!!!. Second thought: maybe the title of this entry should have been “The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree”.
Nevertheless, my hunch is that we, as humans, are all pretty much genetically programmed to try to “get the most” in one sense or another, not to mention it forms the basis of our competitive capitalist society (whether that’s good or bad is debatable). It’s how we made it this far as a species. So rooting around for the walrus token makes complete sense in the eyes of a young child who’s about to lose in Animal Bingo. It’s just that in an evolved society that includes rules, morals and various codes of ethics, such conduct will inevitably be classified as “cheating”, while in the wild it’s just pure survival. I find this type of early life lesson slightly trickier to navigate and teach than things like why it’s important to take your tutu off all the way before using the potty. One has obvious and immediate (and cold and wet) consequences, while the other does not. There is no easy way to explain why getting all the animal tokens on your card–no matter how it’s done–is not always a good thing. Leading by example and having her experience what it feels like to both win and lose gracefully…these lessons just take time I suppose.
But preparing for the worst–that is, that I am not able to impart why it is not cool to cheat, unless it’s to win me tickets to see Bill Maher live in person, in which case that’s totally OK in my book–I sit a floor below my sleeping little rat fink this chilly winter night, and ponder future organizations where she might find a job and find herself among friends. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
Wall street accounting firms
Wall street banks
Dewey, Cheatem and Howe, Attorneys at Law
The companies who make food packages smaller without you even realizing it
Major League Baseball
The women’s magazine industry — Photoshop Department
Now, time to go hide the lollipop cards so that I can win Candy Land next time…
Copyright (c) 2011-2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz. All rights reserved.
Many of you may already be familiar with Mo Willems‘ book, “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus”, but I am here today to rave about his “Knuffle Bunny” series (full disclosure: I am still not sure why so many people love DLTPDTB, but maybe I am a little weak in that part of my funny bone). The series starts with “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale“, which tells the tale of a young girl and what happens when she loses her beloved bunny, Knuffle Bunny, after an afternoon at the laundromat.
I was drawn to this book when I bought it about three or four months ago because it touched upon a theme that M could relate to, although M is not as quite attached to any one particular stuffed animal as Trixie, the young protagonist. What I really love about the book is Mo’s use of sketch drawing and black and white photographic images of Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY. It really was something that I had not seen in a children’s book before and it made the illustrations very interesting. Without much dialogue, you can feel the urgency and despair that both Trixie and her Daddy feel when they realize Knuffle Bunny was left behind, something that almost any kid (and parent!) is sure to be able to relate to. I also like that the story really involves the father in this escapade because there seem to be so few books for very young kids that show human dads with their daughters. Through his illustrations, the author has a knack for making the parent reader laugh out loud because the expressions lend a hand to a sense of “I’ve been there too, man”, especially when the dad is carrying a tantrum-y Trixie home.
Much to my surprise and delight, there are two more books in the Knuffle Bunny series (which M received from her Mem & Pep–thank you!!). The second one is “Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity“. With the same wit, humor and use of creative images blending hand drawn illustration with photography, we learn about what happens when Trixie and her friend, Sonja, both bring their “lovies” to pre-K one day and they inadvertently get them mixed up. M seems to like this one the best, I suspect because she can relate to what it’s like to pretty much expect your parent to fix anything at the early hour of 2:30AM. Lots of preschooler paced drama and anxiety in this one!
In “Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion” we find out what happens when a slightly older (maybe 4 or 5ish) Trixie gets separated from her treasured Knuffle Bunny during an international flight to visit Oma and Opa in Holland. It’s a bittersweet story about how Trixie (and those who love her) realizes she is growing up and becoming a “big girl”. It has a really sweet–although maybe unattainable for most kids at this age–display of empathy. Given how it ends, I suspect that this may be the last in the series, but I’m hoping that Mo Willems will find away to entertain us with his writing and illustrations just one more time.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, PLUS one extra star because I think that as a result of reading these books, M has started finding some bravery–much like Trixie–within herself to get out of her bed when she needs us at night rather than call from her bed and forcing her very tired mom to come get her because it’s dark. This is a kid who has NEVER done this in her 3+ years of waking up at night, every night (making for a nicely worn path from my side of the bed to hers). On the downside…she scared the LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of me the first few times she did this because I can’t see 4 inches beyond my nose without my glasses on, especially at night, so for all I knew it was a pint-sized burglar breathing on the back of my neck!
Copyright (c) 2011-2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz. All rights reserved.
It is always interesting (and often amusing) to watch M learn how to navigate a new type of emotion as she gets older. Recently, M has been tasting the bittersweet flavor of regret.
From a three year old’s vantage point, there are some serious hard feelings when she’s discovered that the opportunity to take part in a craft at preschool is fleeting, and if she does not seize the moment, it will be lost in the glitter glue of time. Seeing the finished craft in her friends’ bins at the end of the day when I pick her up, she quickly realizes there is nothing in her bin to show me because she decided just four hours ago to get lost in the sand table instead. A flood of tears ensues. She has learned that there are unfortunate consequences to not getting dressed to play outside if she chooses instead to dawdle at the coloring table and play kitchen, despite several reminders from loving adults that the children will be playing outside for only 30 minutes and if she does not get dressed in time, she will miss the chance to make a snowman with them. While I am sure she enjoyed playing kitchen with the “indoor” friends, there was much distress when she decided at the very moment the “outside” friends were stumbling inside that, no, in fact she did want to make a snowman after all.
With regret, it usually comes down to a path taken or not taken. When you’re three, you want to travel them all because they all seem exciting and full of possibility. Yet it’s a hard lesson to learn that it’s virtually impossible to stop time and space to accomplish everything at once. So you start to learn about regret if you ultimately find you didn’t end up as happy with the path chosen. Or at least it seems that way when stopping for a moment to realize the consequences of the choices made.
The first emotions experienced by all of us are large and general. Happiness. Sadness. They are also usually controlled by the things that others do (tickling, cuddling, feeding) or don’t do (forgetting to change a diaper, leaving the room momentarily) for us.
Then comes frustration, disappointment and sometimes, anger. At a very young age, these are usually brought about by things that one cannot control, and they are not always dependent on someone else being involved (physical or developmental limits, having to take turns, being told no by an adult).
But regret seems like an extraordinarily adult emotion to me. And yet I see that M is already starting to experience these types of nuanced grown-up emotions. Emotions that make us human and separate us from other living beings because they are often rooted in conscious (and maybe unconscious) deliberate personal choice. The bittersweet feeling that she is experiencing through regret, I imagine, is largely because she is slowly realizing that it was her alone that controlled the outcome of the situation at hand (her and the limits of physics). No one else to blame for dawdling. No one else to blame for hunkering down with a pile of crayons and a fresh sheet of paper instead of cold wet snow. She is becoming aware that she is increasingly growing independent from her parents–whether she wants to or not–and more in control of her world than she probably wants to be.
As adults, we too experience regret, but we usually have a way of forging ahead even in the face of obvious wrong choices. “No regrets!” is a mantra for many, probably because it is understood that, at minimum, there will at least be a lesson learned or some serendipitous outcome that otherwise would not have been unearthed if the other “right” path was chosen. Perhaps too it is easier to cope with regret as adults because we realize–often well past the moment in time that a particular choice was made–that there are very few choices that are either truly heinous or cannot be unraveled in some slight way. And that it is futile to play Monday morning quarterback for those decisions that are ultimately irreversible.
We can also rationalize our decisions, especially over long periods of time as the lens of focus aimed at the net result becomes clearer, more defined. We are able to reason with ourselves that the choices we made were the right ones at that given moment in time, even if we later play the useless game of “what if”. I bet that the reasoning and rationalization that often informs regret will not take place for some time for young M. This is why her regret will continue to be reduced to tears for a while to come.
In the meantime, I will be there to find the silver linings and remind her that while she did not make a snowman that day, she got to stay dry and warm and have the play kitchen all to herself with her best preschool pal. It is hard not to smile to myself when I see her get visibly upset when she has realized she did not make the choice she later wished she had, not because I think it’s funny, but because it is the first glimmer of the independent and accountable adult she will one day become.
Copyright (c) 2011-2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz. All rights reserved.
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