How to Get Your Child to Stop Touching Things in the Waiting Room.
Back before germs were a big deal, my daughter Ava, who had just turned three, was sick with something and we ended up in the Doctor’s office. Although she was sick, it wasn’t taking her down. In fact, she seemed almost completely fine and was her normal active self.
We made it into a private exam room quickly but I knew from experience we would be in there for quite a while.
It started almost immediately even though I had my daughter’s game device with us. She wasn’t interested in that old thing when there was all this cool stuff to play with, a mushroom like rolling stool, a mountainous step table, a talking trash can with a peddle. There was no stopping her.
I gave her specific instructions not to touch anything.
She tried her hardest to follow the rules, only opening the trash can by using the foot peddle, not touching the step with her hands. Don’t put anything in your mouth or your mouth on anything.
Overall she did a very good job following directions but she could only maintain that level of restraint for so long. It was so hard for her to hold my instructions in her mind while also figuring out the best way to interact with all of these new objects.
I could see the situation deteriorating. I was becoming desperate. I needed a solution. Then it came to me!
Simon says stand on one leg. Ava’s reaction was immediate. She stood in front of me with rapt attention, on one leg, with a huge smile on her face. We had never played this game together before. I felt like a bad mother. I don’t even know where she learned to play it.
She went on and on following all of the instructions that Simon said, some harder than others, and she loved every minute. To my surprise, I was also having fun, real fun. This was no longer just a chore of waiting somewhere that I really didn’t want to be. I was happy to be here in this moment, having this experience with her.
As I tried to come up with moves that would challenge her, her creative mind worked to meet each challenge. We played and played until finally the doctor arrived. Ava didn’t care that I sometimes repeated the same moves more than once, or sometimes over-complicated things. She was just so happy that I was playing with her.
On this day, I felt like I had re-discovered one of life’s gems. Play. Of all the precious joys that had come during Ava’s infancy, this was on another level. Pure gold.
As parents, these opportunities surround us everyday. Your child’s mission is to remind you how to have fun, the kind of fun you used to have as a child. They persistently and patiently work with you until you agree to play with them. They will try to entice you to be fully present in the moment while playing but they can’t force you to do this. You have to realize the opportunity and choose to take advantage of it.
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