Posted in family life, musings

learning together

Rondel and Limerick are near-constant playmates these days, and the presence of another child to play with is doing amazing things for each of their social play skills! Every day I see them create and play elaborate games together, both physical games or pretend games, with agreed-upon and negotiated setup and rules; I hear them get into arguments and fights and resolve conflicts independently of adult input; I watch them learn to observe and take into consideration the things that are important to and enjoyed by each other even if their own inclinations are different; and I see them choosing freely to share their toys and cups and take turns with coveted items. (It’s pretty adorable to hear your 2.5 year old ask his brother to “please move Rondel”, and even nicer to see said big brother make room for the little one – and best of all to see both of them accepting “no” as an answer and offering other options in the attempt to find a solution that leaves everyone happy.)

I don’t force them to share and take turns. If they seem stuck I might suggest those as possible solutions, but unless they’re overtired and getting physical about their conflict, they usually do better without my input, and can come up with solutions that seem “unfair” to me but result in them playing happily together – successful in resolving their short-term conflict with the added benefit of gaining diplomatic skills and confidence for the long run. Honestly, my interference can often make things worse, it seems!

I also don’t try to make them play together. When they want to, they can play alone; but they almost always choose to play in the same room even when they are doing independent activities, for the shear pleasure of showing each other their creations and telling each other their ideas and plans.

In short, they are friends, and they are learning the skills by which friendships are strengthened and maintained.

If they can learn these social skills so well just from each other, with minimum parental guidance for safety and advisory purposes, simply because they are intrinsically motivated to maximize their mutual environment, what else might they learn through that same motivating power? Forcing them to memorize and drill phonics or addition would be as effective as enforcing my ideas of fair play on their interaction: in other words, it would likely lead to resentment and poor skill acquisition. But when they are ready to learn, motivated because they are interested, caught by the beauty or use of a thing, they will learn with the speed and power of a wildfire in drought.

Posted in family life

best friends

Rondel has a rudimentary understanding of the concept of “best friends” from watching the Pixar Cars movie, where Mater and Lightning are best friends despite the major differences in their personalities and experiences. The other day, this conversation took place between him and his daddy on the topic:

R: Lightning McQueen and Mater are best friends!

D: Yeah! Do you have a best friend?

R: You do!

D: Is your best friend Mommy?

R: No, your best friend is [Limerick]!

What’s fun for me (and also really rewarding) is to watch this play out in everyday life. When Limerick went down for his nap the day before yesterday, Rondel came up to me with a sad expression on his face, asking where he was because he wanted him. When I told them it was bedtime yesterday because they were acting tired, Rondel declared he wasn’t tired and began a huge list of all the things he was doing instead of acting tired, about five of which included Limerick. When they were showering off after the beach yesterday, Rondel started bopping Limerick with one of his floaties and then stuck his belly out so Limerick could bop him back with the other floaty. And when Rondel was crying hysterically in the car earlier today (because we only had cold water for him instead of ice water – he was really tired), he was only able to calm himself down when I asked him if he could try to calm down for Limerick, since the crying was starting to scare Limerick. He really loves his little brother, in a caring and self-denying way as well as in a playful companion way.

When I read the quote about a new sibling being one of the best gifts you can give to your child, I look at the relationship between Rondel and Limerick and feel that in this case at least it is very, very true. Rondel has matured in so many ways through being an older brother, and had so many happy experiences as well. I have no doubt that our new baby will only expand and deepen the friendship and joy within our family, especially since the boys are already anticipating his or her arrival with great excitement and periodically hug my belly as proxy for hugging the baby, and I am looking forward to watching those relationships unfold as well. And for now, I will enjoy the closeness between my boys and pray that it stays that way for years to come.