Please Make Spot Stop Going to the Beach

DSCN5316Toddlers love repetition. When faced with new and potentially overwhelming environments on a daily basis, nothing is more comforting and predictable than reading the same book for the 100th time.

Unless you are that toddler’s mom.

Then it’s skin-crawling, blood-pressure raising, I want to rip out my hair I can’t stand it anymore tedious. Seriously, will someone please make Spot stop going to the beach? How many more times can I tolerate watching him build that sandcastle? Or what about that binge-eating caterpillar? I get it, you’re hungry. Do you seriously need to recount every single item you have ingested?

And then there’s Sam. That Sam-I-am. That conversation about green eggs and ham should have gone something like this:

– Do you like green eggs and ham?

– I do not like them Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham.

– Okay. No problem. You do not like them I can see. I’ll walk away and let you be. I will not pester, coerce or bug. I will not act like I’m a thug. Yes I’m respectful, yes I am Sam. You do not have to try green eggs and ham.

The end.

Seriously what lesson is this book teaching my kid? Bug, pester, and harass mom enough and I’ll get my way? I’m with the tall, yellow top-hat wearing character on this one. I do not like that Sam-I-am.

Beyond books my son has a lot of other ways to torture mom repetitive activities he likes. For example, the peek-a-boo from his baby days has morphed into a game I like to call “where’s Oliver.” In this game Oliver hides behind the SHEER curtain and giggles while I walk around the room shouting “Where’s Oliver?” (If I say this line like I’m Jack Nicholson in The Shining creepily yelling “where’s Johnny” the tedium can be delayed for a couple rounds).

DSCN5311“Hey Wiz (the dog) do you see Oliver?” I ask. Wiz looks at me like I’m a sucker. “Hey Mickey Mouse,” I direct my question to the stuffed animal sprawled on the floor, “do you see Oliver?” Pretending Mickey might actually answer my question is as ridiculous as pretending I can’t see a 30 pound toddler through a piece of see-through fabric. But I persist. Finally Oliver will pop out from behind the curtain, which is my cue to run over yelling “I found you!” and tickle his belly until he can’t stand it anymore.

And then there are the toys. The rings that he stacks on the post only to dump them off and stack again. The ball that he inserts shapes into only to hand it to me upon completion to dump them back out. That one song on his singing remote control that he insists on playing over and over and over again.

“I’ve got a remote and I’m ready to roll. Making things happen cause I’m in control.”

Yes Oliver, if I’ve learned one thing thus far it’s that you are in fact the one in control.

As much as I cringe at reading the same books repeatedly or playing the same games day in and day out, there is one thing I will never find tedious. There is one thing that makes all the repetition worth it: Oliver’s reactions.

Watching Oliver watch Spot go to the beach for the 100th time is like seeing it unfold for the first time myself. The way he gleefully points out the sandcastles and the birds and the ocean waves. They way he squeals with delight when Spot jumps out of the boat to take a swim in the water. “Puppy overboard,” I say. Oliver claps his hands like I’ve just read a passage from a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of literature. I may get bored with Spot, but that look of delight on his face, that never gets old.

Walking around the room shouting “Where’s Oliver?” is monotonous and mind-number at best. But then I hear Oliver laughing from behind the curtain. I watch him reveal his hiding spot. He has a grin spreading from ear to ear. His cheeks are flush with excitement. He happily runs toward me and I imagine if he could talk he would say something like, “Mom you’re so fun. This is the best game ever.” As he crumples up on the floor in a fit of giggles I think to myself, this game may get boring, but the smile on his face and the sound of his laughter, that never gets old.

Same goes for the rings and the shapes and the singing remote control. As boring as they may be, watching Oliver discover and play with them never gets old. When I shift my attention from my experience of the object to Oliver’s experience, I start to see everything in a new light. I may not yet enjoy the repetition, but through my son’s eyes, I’m learning to appreciate it.