Monday, February 2, 2009

Sticky Situation

Somewhere in my career as a parent I read an article about how toddlers have a difficult time making generalizations. Toddlers, for example, will put a blue marble in their mouth. The parent will say something like,

“Honey, please don’t put that in your mouth.”

And, the toddler, theoretically unable to extend the generalization, will put the red marble in their mouth to determine if they receive the same reaction. The parent will thus repeat the recommendation, and the toddler continue this “testing” until they have exhausted all of the marbles, or, more likely, until they have exhausted the parent.

As the mother of three, I can quickly debunk this theory. I have three kinds of children. I have a child like George, who will listen to your recommendation and likely refrain from putting anything else in his mouth ever (including food). I have a child like Gladys, who will find your reactions intriguing and change up the test by “testing” with multiple marbles at once. And, I have a child like Andrew, who will explain that he is merely practicing his oration skills and will convince you to buy more marbles and encourage the others to chew them as well.

They are all perfectly capable of generalizations.

I also know, for example, that as soon as George learned the word “cow” everything with four legs of a similar shape (horses, zebras, even giraffes) became “cow.” And, having been called “Mommy” by enough children who do not belong in my family, I know children are very capable of understanding that “Mommy” can easily be generalized to mean “the woman who is currently in charge.”

In our house, like many houses, we have an “all food in the kitchen” rule. This means that my children are highly discouraged from wandering about with pretzels and bologna and cheese and other things that I might later find behind the piano. (This is not to say that I keep a pristine house, but rather that I have a distaste for cleaning bologna from behind the piano – especially very old bologna).

Sunday evening in our house, like in many houses, we watched the Superbowl. This annual tradition brings with it food outside the kitchen. Yes, indeed, there were chips and dip in the family room.

So, as a parent of three, I am jumping to the conclusion that George’s behavior tonight falls under the category of “mimicking” behavior, and not a lack of listening or ability to generalize. But, just in case,

“No using syrup as a dipping sauce for pretend French toast on the living room couch. Please. Um, especially when left unattended for an embarrassingly long few minutes.”

Thank you. The Mommy.


OHmommy said...

You are one heck of a mommy blogger. Do you know that?

I'm quitting *this* tomorrow. Right after my post. ;)

This comes from the mother that found a black and green banana under her bed and poptart crumbles in between her 1000 thread count sheets.

MIT Mommy said...

Thank you. I am glad to hear there were poptart crumbs. That is a clear indication that your third child is being properly fed. It is when they learn to consume all the crumbs that we need to worry.

Anonymous said...

Literal George, Free thinker Gladys and persuasive Andrew! Love it!

As I didn't (past tense) vacuum behind the sofa as often as I should have, I once discovered slightly rotting apple pieces.

This led to an explanation that there was no pressure to eat everything if he didn't wish to - there were alternatives, or smaller portions.

Badass Geek said...

Sometimes, I generalize things that my wife says, just to test my limits.

I don't often get very far.

Anonymous said...

Ha HA!!! Love it.

This falls under the same heading of learning not to say "don't let me see you do that again" to your entirely too literal 4 yr old.
Because the next time she does it, and you bust her.. "But mom, you didn't see me"


Smart little buggers.

MIT Mommy said...

splodge - Totally understand. I could never say 'finish your food or you won't get dessert' because my tenacious children will eat themselves sick in order to be rewarded that way. Kids figure out how to cope within whatever crazy framework you give them. I am more likely to say "stop when you are full, guys."

Badass - You so need a kid.

Rachel - That is really funny. I'm running over to your site to see if I can find that post. You DID post that story, didn't you?

Anonymous said...

Bologna behind the piano. This would NEVER happen in my house. Not because my kids obey the "food in kitchen and dining room only" rule, but because none of them like bologna. We have had a rotting banana behind the books on one of the bookshelves, which resulted in fruit flies in the house for weeks.