She just puts things down…

Posted: May 26, 2010 in Notes from the Daddy Front
Tags: , , ,

She just puts things down.

Whenever she’s finished with something – her sunglasses, her hat, her iPod – she puts it down wherever she is and walks away to the next moment that has grabbed her attention.

Not surprisingly we spend a great deal of time looking for stuff. “Where were you the last time you had it?” “I don’t know.” “Think.” I don’t know.” So, far, we mostly find everything but it’s never easy. At first I invested most of our time searching our surroundings like a possessed person. But I have learned that it’s much more efficient to watch her more closely when she’s using one of her oft lost possessions. And when she put its down – on the table, in the bathroom, on the bed – I pick it up and put it somewhere where I know where it is. And then I try to be clever by letting her look around a little before I make the big reveal.

I thought it would teach her to be more careful. Hah. All it did was to teach her to now ask me when she’s lost something. As if I’m now in charge of knowing where everything at every minute of the day. Of course, the alternative is to let her just lose these things, some of which are not only expensive but also precious to the world of a nine year-old. And that’s never a pretty scene. And that’s because there’s no concept of responsibility – only loss. You would think that the pain of the loss would modify her behavior but, no. She still just puts things down.

So I tried something new.

I tried to teach her the concept of place and belonging by showing her that each one of these things has a place where it lives all the time, and every time she finishes with one of these things it always goes in the same place and that way she will always know where it is. So, dutifully, we indentified all the things that go missing regularly and then established homes for them. Especially her new iPod which is oft used, not cheap and much beloved.

So the next day I’m tidying up the room and I notice that the iPod isn’t around. Triumphantly, I seize this moment to re-enforce my point while secretly hoping that it’s not gone forever because I really don’t want to deal with that. So I say somewhat suggestively, “Hyla, do you know where your iPod is?” I am, of course, expecting the usual panicked look of sudden realization of loss. Instead, very calmly, “Of course Daddy, it’s in the place where we decided it lived!” And then she calmly goes over to the suitcase, unzips the side pocket and smugly hoists the iPod aloft.

I am dumbfounded.

When I tried to teach her about place and belonging I thought it would be like many of the other lessons I try to teach. It often takes a few goes before it takes. But when I couldn’t find the iPod I never even thought to check where it was supposed to be because it never occurred to me that it would actually be there. They just keep surprising you like that.

And about the way she puts things down – there’s a lesson in that, too. The reason that she is able to put it down and move on the next location or activity is because children mostly live in the moment. Whatever they are doing at the time is their whole world. Nothing else exists except for that activity and when it no longer holds their attention they simply switch their focus to whatever’s next got their attention. And that part I love. Because it reminds me to try and stay in the moment.

John Lennon said that “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans” and I think he’s right. We become so busy, so preoccupied with what’s next or with what just happened that we miss the here and now. But for Hyla there only is the here and now and there’s a tremendous serenity in all that.

And so, while I love the way she exists for the here and now and how that reminds me to feel, I still wish she would stop putting things down. I’ve already told her that if she loses the iPod she will have to wait till next Hanukah for another one. Next year. A whole year. But that’s not a scene I really want to deal with and the next time I see her put something down that doesn’t belong there I’ll still probably hide it to try and bring the point home.

But secretly it reminds me that sometimes I just want to put something down and walk away. And for that I kind of admire her. So I prod and I hide and I watch and wait. But I know that there will come day where she will better understand time and place and be more responsible about her things. And part of me hopes that day will never come.

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