We were playing calmly (mostly listening to him list off all the things he would build when he gets older – houses, chairs, boats, picture frames, paper, castles, birthdays) when all of a sudden his little four-year-old hands came up like T-rex and he said, “Know what kinda monster I am?”
“Uh..no?” I couldn’t come up with something witty fast enough.
“The TICKLE MONSTER!” He just stood there with the gleamiest gleam in his eyes, both daring me to flee and daring me to stay for the attack (he was prepared either way).
So, I lept up from the ground and encouraged the chase. Over the toys, around the table, circling the stairway, through the front room and looping around the kitchen with a speedy, gleeful tail following me all the way. When I slowed ever-so-slightly he moved in for the attack, but not for long. He backed off quick and asked again, “Know what kinda monster I am?”
“No, silly! I’m the TICKLE MONSTER!” The same gleamiest gleam filled his sweet blues and I got full of giggles, because this time I had my T-rex hands ready, too.
He chased and then I chased and he said, “No, IIIIIII’m the Tickle Monster.”
“Oh, but I like to be the Tickle Monster, too,” and I could see the wheels turning – this wasn’t the way the game played out in his head but he couldn’t figure out how to make me realize I was breaking his rules.
We played on – he chased and then I chased and then his little socked feet got slippery and he took a tumble on the wood floor.
That’s when he looked up with solemn, instructive eyes to say,
“Please stop doing anything that you like.”
Little Zachary was making the rules based 100% on what he wanted to do. The only way he could figure out how to respond to my rules (based on what I wanted to do) was to ask nicely for me to not follow my rules.
I’m not sure we ever grow up. We just find a bigger vocabulary and adopt a new conversational dance. The bottom line is nearly always the bottom line: I’d like you to stop doing what you like and do what I like instead. At least children still have the innocence and decency to ask nicely.
Oh, the lessons we can learn from little ones.
Maybe a better question is, instead, “what is it that you would like to do?”