I'm stealing a night alone while my kids are with my in-laws. Knowing that my son has had some rough days lately, I wasn't sure which version of Shep would show up at their house. The fun-loving, sweet Shep that likes to hug and laugh? Or the crazed hammer-wielding child that "accidentally" hits his sister.
To my delight, my mother-in-law texted me: "Shep learned how to play!"
I chuckled. I know exactly what she means. My son is showing interest in toys - and is actually playing with them with gusto!
Since he was able to grab toys and shake them, Shep has gravitated toward anything that isn't actually a toy. I stopped buying toys at one point and just started saving paper towel rolls cores. Of course, why would you want to play with that awesome ride-on rocket your mom bought you when you can just knock over the humidifier again? No one in their right mind prefers genuine toys over random pieces of paper and plastic hangers.
In a way, I'm glad Shep has such a fierce creative streak. It's comforting to know that he likes to build and make new things - that he doesn't need a lot of direction to find a way to have fun and entertain himself. But it really wasn't until recently when he'd start doing that with toys - you know, those things that were rapidly filling his room. Even though I had stopped buying toys, our families loved to spoil Shep - he is the first grandchild, after all. It feels like everyone is trying to outdo each other with the coolest toy at Christmas. We notice who buys us noisy toys and who buys us quieter ones. Yes, we're keeping track.
Shep learned to walk when he was 10 months old. I'm pretty sure he learned so early because he could no longer contain himself - he needed to pull on the lamp's cord. He needed to throw a diaper in front of him as he walked from one end of the apartment to the other. I really can't complain - he knows how to entertain himself. Mister Rogers even has a song about thinking of things to do to entertain ourselves while we wait. That kind of playful drive is what keeps life with a toddler interesting.
I love watching Shep learn - and I encourage him to learn about his environment. Life is not meant to be lived with clean hands. When we encourage our kids to use their imagination, they'll surprise us. Hopefully they'll surpass us.
As he grows and learns more and more, I fall in love with a new layer of my son's personality. Secretly I hope he never outgrows his preference for humidifiers over toys. I'm beginning to pick up on Shep's interests (he's chosen Spiderman as his favorite superhero), and I start to envision how these interests will shape his future. Will a young love of basic household electronics lead to a career as an engineer? An electrician? Maybe an auto mechanic?
I don't know what the future holds for my son. He might soon grow to love his toys and play with them independently. But there's a part of me that will always remember him as the little guy who would rather fiddle with the light switch than build with his blocks. He'll be that kid - and he'll be so much more.
What is your kid's favorite toy-that-isn't-a-toy? Have they ever decided that one of their favorite toys was no longer interesting? What did you do - did you keep it, give it away, or throw it away?