My almost two-year-old is entering his defiant phase.
“OK, CP, time to clean up!” I say after dinner. “You’re in charge of the Legos.”
“No,” he says with a smile, and then turns in circles, arms out like an airplane. Or he walks away and grabs a toy car and starts pretending it’s zooming on the furniture. And then grins at me with that infuriating glimmer.
“CP,” I say with a sterner tone, pointing at the rug. “Legos.”
This happened three nights in a row. Three nights ago, when his exasperated brother tried to boss CP into cleaning, CP took a heavy wooden car and hit CM in the mouth. CM wailed; I put CP on the couch, and he giggled at me when I told him how unhappy I was and we don’t hit in this house. (I later told A. it was time for me to read up on toddler discipline again, because CP’s personality is so different from CM’s. I default to this woman’s advice, and I’m also going to pull out some of the books on my shelf.)
Two nights ago, when CP wasn’t cleaning after several prompts, A. and I decided to put the Legos away. He put them on top of the fridge, so CP could see them and ask for them.
Yesterday morning, CP was wandering the house.
“Mama, I can’t find the Legos anywhere,” he said in whiny voice, hands up-turned.
“CP, you didn’t clean up last night,” I said. “You don’t get to play with them for a few days.”
He cried for a moment and then said, bottom lip out: “Ohhhh.” It’s tricky because I’m not sure he really gets it yet.
But here’s what I noticed. With the Legos out of sight, the boys got along better. They played in a huge cardboard box we’ve had for two weeks that we turned into a “house.” They giggled and pounded on the box like it was a bongo. Then they jumped into a toy bin and pretended it was a hot air balloon. Later in the morning, I took them on a hike in the Sandia Foothills and they walked on what was left of the snow and jumped in the mud, and CP made up a song that went, “CM, I loooove you.”
The boys don’t need much to be happy. We’re all about simple play. We want to foster their independence, creativity and love of nature. Sometimes the best idea, even though it can feel hard in the moment when they’re upset, is to simply put those toys away.