Monday, April 19, 2010

like buzz, but bright red and with wheels

Henry is ALL boy.


With the exception of one small doll, that he'll carry around and endearingly refer to as "Baby", he does not like any toy that is pink - soft - or cuddly. He is very rough and tumble. He loves to run - be chased - and wrestle. Henry loves tools. He loves trucks. He loves robots and dragons and dinosaurs. But most of all (and next only to Buzz Lightyear), he loves little race cars.


I accompanied Henry to the church nursery this past weekend.


Based upon what all the workers had told me about how Henry morphs in to a vicious child - ambushing the other children and causing a host of violent problems - I was fully prepared for the worst. Instead, what I observed was that Henry zoned in on a play race track that had several of the "characters" from the movie, Cars.


There was Mater and the Hudson Hornet, the green one whose name escapes me, the blue one whose name escapes me, the yellow one whose name escapes me, and the teal one whose name (also) escapes me. Most of all though, Henry clutched on to the famous red Lightning McQueen and wouldn't let go.


Everything was going great, until a little boy toddled over and tried to pull Lighting McQueen out of Henry's hands and my son went nuts. Although ballistic is perhaps a better word. If his language was advanced enough to include profanity, there would have been some BAD words ditched out right there in the church nursery.


Fortunately, I was there to step in and my mind was reeling with how I should handle this. Henry was playing with the car FIRST and he'd only been playing with it for about five minutes before this other little boy wanted the exact car that at that moment, was the center of my two-year-old's universe.


All the other nursery workers were looking at me, probably wondering how I'd handle this. Debating what to do, I looked at my watch and told Henry that he had played with the car for a few minutes and now, it was this other little boy's turn.

Either he didn't understand.


Or, he didn't like what he heard.


Because once I issued my verdict, Henry went in to a boneless mass of screeching.


Imagine everything, his small hands, his attention, his eyes, his passion, his heart, orbiting around that shiny red car.


And now imagine someone plucking it away.


That someone being his mother.


The one that brought him in to the world and tenderly nursed him for the first 30 months of his life. Only to now do this.


He threw himself on the floor and arched his back and screamed until the windows rattled.


My efforts at distracting him with something else monumentally failed, so I scooped him up and carried him off to an area of the nursery where I made him stand with his nose in the corner for two minutes.


By the time the two minutes were up, he was still screaming, albeit not quite so loudly and when we walked back to where he had been playing, the little boy had already abandoned Lightning McQueen and moved on to something else.


Henry quickly picked the car up and gazed at it lovingly through his teary eyes, and then he gave me a wobbly smile that said, "Can you believe it?! I got it BACK!"


While all the other two-year-olds in the room seemed to have very short attention spans and would bore of something within a few minutes, Henry never once put that race car down.


And so it went for the next hour.


Henry would be fixated on playing with that one single toy - a roving toddler would come over and want what he had - and I'd have to peel his fingers back extract it from his tight grasp and show him how to "share. "


Moments later, the other child would inevitably abandon it, Henry would get it back, and then he'd run and hide somewhere no one would find him.


But they always did find him.


Because the room isn't that big.


Thankfully, it never happened that another child was as unwaveringly obsessed with the same toy as my son, or I would have had to have implemented a five-minute playing and then sharing rule, and from personal experience, I know that the only thing worse than pulling a beloved toy away from one two-year-old is pulling it away from two (or more) two-year-olds.


Although it pained my heart to take a cherished toy away from my little boy, I think this was the right thing to do.


It certainly didn't feel like it would be appropriate for me to tell all the other children that they could take a turn when Henry was done, because I could see that he had no intention of being "done" the entire duration of church.


Moreover, this was a great exercise for my little guy since at this point in his life, the concept of sharing is totally foreign. The triplets generally don't take things that their younger brother is playing with - and they are typically very good about sharing things with him that he wants.

So this was his first true lesson in understanding that just because someone wants what you have, that doesn't give you a free license to eat them for lunch.

But I must admit, it never did get any easier. Each time I extracted the toy from his hands, he would throw a fit unparalleled by any fit he's ever thrown. Except for the one he'd thrown about 10 minutes earlier - and would throw again, 10 minutes later.


You'd think that being IN a church, God would automatically make things like sharing among toddlers easier. Alas, He doesn't. So, I put that request in the suggestion box.

I'll be back with Henry at church next weekend.

Working on reinforcing what we learned this weekend.


From now until then, I'll be praying God gets my message.


  1. I'm glad you were able to go into the nursery to help Henry. To help him understand the sharing thing faster you could practice it at home too. If he wants something a sibling has, tell him it's their turn for five more minutes. And even if his siblings don't really want his toys, you could encourage them to ask him for a turn, just to help him learn.

    At my daycare we use a little timer that we set for 2-5 minutes (we usually ask them how long until the other child can have a turn - helps them feel like they have more control about it). Even if they do get upset we can distract them with, "Do you hear the timer?? Listen... It's going to go beep, beep, beep. Did you hear it?? Shhh, let's listen... OH it went beep, beep, beep!!! Your turn again! Good waiting!"

    Even the kids who come into my room at 20 months are able to understand this, so Henry at just about three will probably pick it up relatively quickly!

  2. I work in our church nursery and we just let each kid have their obsessions. We distract the other child and leave the quiet players alone. It's one hour a week so we don't see the benefit in upsetting a perfectly happy child just to teach sharing. But as his Mother I guess you can be the mean one and teach him to share.

    My son has learned from having a little brother that he can find him a good toy to give him instead.

    You are doing a great job, don't let the little things bring you down.

  3. Oh Jen! That sounds so hard! You did great! I'm proud of you for helping Henry learn this new skill that is so difficult for two-year-olds. Like you said, even more difficult for babies of the family!

  4. This is a really tough situation for two year olds. They have no concept of sharing and no concept of time so sharing and waiting for 5 minutes doesn't really help Henry right at this minute.

    My best suggestion is that you buy a sand timer that lasts for five minutes. Practice watching 5 minutes go by at home, doing things for five minutes and getting the concept that when the sand runs out it is the next person's go. To be fair on Henry he needs to experience at home that the other person gets 5 minutes and then it is his turn again so it is worth the wait.

    At the nursery my children went to (Montessori) if a child has chosen an activity then until they are done with it the second child must wait and do something else. If the first child never finishes, (as Henry looks like he might!) then tough on the second child. I guess the children are 2 and a half and older there so a little more able to cope with that rule but it is hard for little people ot have to give up favourite toys so quickly.

    I suppose your other option is to buy him is own identical car and label it clearly but some creches don't let home toys in because of the fights that can ensue from that situation.

    Not easy. Good luck!

  5. Maybe it's because I think Henry is so cute- or maybe because I'm a grandma- whatever the reason, I don't think the kids should be allowed to take the car from Henry. What's that teaching them? And Henry may be getting the idea that sharing is really NOT fun at all.

  6. My youngest was a screamer (note how hopefully I'm putting that in the past tense -- he's five now). One time he was causing a disruption in church and I had to take him out. He screamed "I WANT MY DADDY" so loud and so long I had to remove him not just from the sanctuary but all the way down the hall and outside, where he proceded to scream for a good long while. Good thing it was summer.
    He too, could not be distracted. If he wanted something, there was absolutely nothing in the world that would be better. I don't know if that's a function of being the youngest (he's the youngest of four as well, although my older three are not multiples.)
    For what it's worth, he is MUCH better now. He still has an occasional fit, but not nearly as long or as loud. So there is hope -- they do grow out of it. Eventually.

  7. if it's any consolation to the little guy disney had buzz pjs that look like his costume on sale

  8. We set timers all the time for the triplets and still do. It's just not something that we've done with Henry because the need for sharing hasn't been much of an issue. But I really like the suggestions here to start practicing.

    As for taking the toys from Henry, I struggled with whether or not that was the correct thing to do and while it certainly didn't feel good - telling all the other children that they couldn't have a turn would have felt worse.

    If we were home and that was Henry's toy, I'd defend his choice not to share. But since we were out and this was a community toy, do I allow him to monopolize something other children also want to play with? It's a tough situation, for sure. One in which you'll be damned if you do, damned if you don't. But since in this case, the reason I was called into the nursery was to help Henry interact with the other kids, I felt like I needed to do something to encourage socialization - not let him play whatever he wanted, uninterrupted.

  9. I think you did the right thing. I also think that 'practicing' sharing is a great idea. They do start to realize that eventually, they will get the toy again, no worse for the wear (hopefully). Maybe you could get him the same car, like someone suggested earlier, to play with at home --- that might defuse some of its appeal (though he may just find something else equally appealing to obsess over!).

  10. ok i dont understand why the other kids think they need to take the car from Henry. They seem to only have it for 2 seconds and then they abandon the car. It looks like they are doing it just cause they like making him get mad. i dont think its fair. Henry had it first. Its like they just want it cause he has it and they really dont want it anyway. But thats just my opinion

  11. Sweet, loving Henry as TOY TERRORIST! Sounds as if you did an admirable job in handling the situation no matter how hard it was on both of you.

  12. Maybe its me, but I'll never understand the importance of FORCING a toddler to "share."

    I mean, would you share your brand new car that you just bought from the Ford Dealer? If you answer yes, please, let me know where you live, and I'll be by to "SHARE" with you.

    I mean, a toy car? Tell the other kids to play with something else.

    OK, I do get that its important to share other things, but a toy car? That is like LIFE for kids. And Henry doesn't understand that its a "community car" just that he might have found the PERFECT place with the most AWESOME Lightning McQueen Cars EVER, and now, you're forcing him to give it up so someone else's little grubby hands can play with it too?!

    Maybe its just me, or maybe its cause he's SO CUTE. I never forced my kids to share their toys, and they understand that other kids want to play with them too, so they just do it automatically. I'd rather tell the other kid to try to find another car, then listen to my kid scream for ten minutes, just to watch the other kid drop the toy for something bigger and better.

    But you're totally right. Dammed if you do...Dammed if you don't, LITERALLY! HAhah.

  13. One of the most SOLID pieces of advice I have ever gotten was from a totnastics teacher. My son was running around amok in a room full of mommy and me-ers. I had all three of my 2 year olds (I know you have been there, done that). I looked at the teacher in an apologetic way for not having my shit together and she simply said, "He does it because he can".

    It knocked me over, and I felt a little sting from it too. But my mind got defensive, wondering who that little heathen (my son, not the teacher) was to think he CAN act like that. HE. MAY. NOT.

    And now, that phrase helps me keep my kids in check. Kids will act however they are ALLOWED to act.

  14. Jen, I know your kids are very sweet and loving most of the time. In hindsight, (and since I can't read what I wrote) I hope my comment didn't come off as a holier than thou.

  15. At our school, they don't call it sharing, they call it taking turns. Maybe a mommmy & me class is in order. Sorry we couldn't meet up with you guys today. Call me so we can plan something!!!

  16. Oh my goodness do i know what you mean... My Sam gets OBSESSED with toys. I wish there was someone that he needed to share with once in a while... he could use a lesson in this too.

  17. I have a 21 month old daughter, and we are just sortof getting into sharing. Until a short while ago, she never cared if someone took what she was playing with.

    I know we have to teach them to share, and I know it will cause screaming tantrums.. but sometimes, I have a quiet thought.."Why can't the other kids just leave her alone when she is playing so nicely!!" But of course, you can't ACT that have to go through the motions, teaching sharing..

    Gosh, parenting isn't so easy is it!

    A second thought, I LOVE the reflection in the table...

  18. I applaud what you're teaching him, but for the record, I have NO PROBLEM saying to another child- or telling my child to say- "I'm playing with this right now. Please don't grab it from me." I think the "sharing" concept would sink in with something not so treasured, like have him share some crackers. Sometimes, when things seem so extremely unfair to a child, the message won't sink in anyway. Plus, if Henry were to walk up and snatch something, in all fairness, he would think it was the other child's duty to "share" the snatched toy.

    I know you are a good, experienced mom, so I'm not saying this is as a criticism; more just adding my view to the conversation.

  19. Hmmm, as a nursery worker I agree with Drew and Emily. This is also about developing his love for being at church so in children's ministry we do what we can to make the whole thing a fun experience. There is structure but not discipline because it's not really the place for us to be teaching them anything but that God loves them and church is a fun and safe place. So it gets tricky when you want to make sure ALL the kids are safe and having fun. However, we almost always indulge these younger ones when they get attached. It's more important to them than it is to the kid who just wants to see it for a minute. There is a lesson for the other kids in that.
    I'm also not certain that kids can really grasp the sharing concept at Henry's age. It's something we model and encourage but he doesn't really understand it. He is still pretty much autonomous in his play, they typically don't begin to really interact with other children until four or five at least. That's when they will begin to see how their actions effect their friends.
    My two cents. :) Hope this nursery thing resolves soon!

  20. Sharing is not an inherent ability for sure. Back in the day, the timer became my best friend (and their worst enemy). Nowdays I have them fighting over who reads a book first. Honestly, THOSE fights are music to my ears because it doesn't happen too often (But they have found a series they all love).

    You handled it well.


  21. Ohhhhh..... There are some great comments here. I've been formulating a whole 'nuther post all about sharing but haven't had the time to sit and write. i'm at a meeting all week (with the family) and posting this commEnt from charlie's iPhone. Once I get some time ( and a real keyboard) I'll write more on this important topic. Until then, thanks for all the food for thought.

  22. I completely agree with what you home, if he didn't want to share that is one thing and you would respect that as you stated in the comments above. But, in a group setting, I would have made him give up the toy after he'd been playing with it for a reasonable amount of time. 2 years old DO understand sharing, they just don't WANT to do it. I would also have removed him while he was throwing the fit like you did. I think you did a great job handling it all!

    My daughter will be 3 in June and she LOVES to "share" with her baby brother (9 months old). She will bring him little toys from HIS toy basket all day long and say "I share with baby Reid" and look all proud of herself. If I ask her to take one of HER toys and give it to the baby she looks at me like I am crazy!!! She will only share his own toys with him, not hers!


  23. So Jen, I saw your post on Finniskmo's post wondering who ever pays attention to your favorite thing Fridays.. I just want you to know that I've bought the hats, I had the roasters or I would have, I want the shoes, LOL..I love reading your favorite things!!!