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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Toddler Projects: the most important things on earth that you will never understand

Being the parent of a toddler can be very challenging. They're moody, they're sassy, they're whiny, they're demanding ...

But they also have this independent streak that cracks me right the hell up. And I think my absolute FAVORITE part of toddler parenting is when Audrey embarks on some "toddler project" that completely engrosses her while making no sense whatsoever to me.

Here are a few toddler projects that have monopolized Audrey's attention recently:

Operation Lego Shoe

On its surface, Operation Lego Shoe was simple: the goal of the project was to fill my shoes with Legos, for unknown purposes. But in practice, the project was far, far more complex than any of us could ever understand.

Operation Lego Shoe began when Audrey took a pair of my running shoes and placed them on the second stair over by the front door. She then toddled down the entire front hallway to her bin of Legos and chose a bunny figurine, carrying it carefully down the hallway back to the front door and placing the bunny figurine inside my right shoe.

She then went back down the hallway to the bin of Legos and selected a chicken figurine. This was carried back to the front door and placed inside the left shoe.

Next was another bunny figurine, followed by a Lego person. A pink brick was offered to her, but she scoffed. It was not the time for pink bricks. We weren't yet to that stage of Operation Lego shoe.

Back and forth she went between the shoes and the Lego bin, carrying a single Lego piece with her each time. The piece was always carefully selected, after multiple different pieces had been examined and discarded. By what criteria was she judging the suitability of each Lego? She had begun with the figurines, clearly, but once those were all inside a shoe (left or right depending on some other, different criteria that we were not privy to), she was choosing bricks to put into shoes. How could any one brick be deemed better than another? Was it based on color? Shape? Just a gut feeling she had?

I don't know. All I know is that she was putting Legos into my shoes one by one for almost thirty minutes. And when she was finished, nobody was allowed to touch the Lego shoes, so they remained on the stairs until after she had gone to bed.

For all I know, those shoes filled with Lego saved all our lives that day. In fact, I'm almost certain they did. And if a single Lego chicken had been placed into the right shoe instead of the left ... I shudder to think what would have happened to us. 

Operation Car Track

Audrey has a Little People car track that she got for Christmas.

Look how bitchin' this thing is! You know you jelly.

At first, she was really too young to appreciate it and mostly just liked to watch as I sent the cars down the track over and over. 

But now, she's old enough to grasp the basic physics of it, which means she not only plays with it, but ... performs experiments. Lots and lots of experiments. I call this Operation Car Track.

I have caught her putting a binkie with a plastic backing down the ball track: 
Rating: 6/10. Made it all the way down, but very slowly.

She has put her 100% silicone binkie down the ball track:
Rating: 1/10. Only moved an inch or two before becoming stuck.

A sippie cup full of milk:
Rating: 0/10. Required Daddy's help to get it out from where it was wedged in a turn.

Some scraps of ripped paper:

Rating: 1/10. Mostly fell through the holes in the track. Each scrap of paper seemed to behave in the same manner. Tested six scraps.

A crayon:

Rating: 3/10. Moved several inches but had no ability to negotiate turns.

A plastic ball from a different toy:

Rating 11/10. Holy shit, this thing had so much speed by the end that it launched itself across the kitchen and under a shelf in the pantry.

So many times I have been searching for something around the house and found it wedged into Audrey's damn car track. So many times.

At least she's curious? :-/

Operation Lego Stick

Audrey has just recently learned how to stick Legos together. When you think about it, this feat requires kind of a lot of coordination. I mean, you have to hold two pieces with them both facing the same direction, and then you have to line up the corners perfectly and push them together until they click into place. Considering that newborn babies don't even have the ability to hold things at all, this is pretty impressive.

The thing is, she can ONLY pull this off with the square pieces. Anything bigger or more complex than that just melts her little mind.

Pictured: Professional-level Legoing.

So she builds sticks. Sticks of square piece after square piece after square piece. As many as she can find in her bin, she just adds on to the bottom of her stick. She becomes so engrossed in this project that you could offer her a binkie made of cheese and she'd still ignore you.

The trouble is, her stick starts getting really really long, and then it becomes unstable. She tries to hold onto it and add another piece to the bottom, face locked in concentration, but then she applies leverage to the wrong spot and the stick breaks in half.

"Uh oh!" she announces, picking up the broken stick pieces and trying to put them back together. But now everything goes wrong. Every point of leverage becomes a point of weakness. Her two stick pieces become four pieces, then six. She is furiously angry and throws the Legos down, scattering them violently with her hands like she's salting the earth to make sure nothing ever grows again.

And that's how Operation Lego Stick always ends. I've tried helping her by repairing the stick, but she just gets even angrier, like I'm showing off or something.

Which, if I'm honest, I kind of am. It's not often that I get to feel superior to someone, and I take what I can get.

Operation Inventory Collection (incomplete)

Audrey was packing supplies to take to daycare one day, putting them into a little bowl. She packed several binkies and a doll headband. Originally, there was also a measuring dropper for liquid medication, but at the last minute she decided she didn't need that (and didn't want to carry the extra weight, obviously), so it was discarded.

When it came time to head out to the car, she made one final stop on the lawn to add the critical final items on her list: two seed pods from our front yard.

Once the bowl was packed, I tried to take it away from her. Instant meltdown. Okay fine, keep the bowl. Doesn't hurt me any.

Then she got in the car and I gave her a cracker. She had to set down her bowl in order to eat the cracker, but it fell out of her car seat and spilled its contents everywhere. Meltdown. Meltdown intensified when we arrived at daycare and I wouldn't let her take the seed pods inside with her.

She's obsessed with these f***ing things.

I don't know what she needed all that stuff for, but I can only imagine that if I hadn't taken it away from her, she'd either be on the moon or at the top of Mt. Everest right now.

Operation Binkie Cup

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find the ideal containment device for all your binkies? Something that fits them all perfectly, is safe from accidental spillage, but is also easy enough to access when you find that you need one?

Of course you don't; you couldn't possibly understand!

Operation Binkie Cup followed several other failed operations. Operation Binkie Bag, Operation Binkie Bowl, Operation Binkie Box ...

But then she tried stuffing all the binkies into an empty sippy cup that had just come out of the dishwasher. And it was like the Heavens opened up and light shone down and music played. It was so perfect!

Of course, once the perfection of the cup as a binkie storage facility had been established, Audrey then had to continue to experiment to find the perfect order in which to put the binkies into the cup. I'm not sure what her definition of "perfect" was, but it sure took her a while to figure it out. Binkies in the cup, binkies dumped out of the cup. Binkies in the cup in a different way. Binkies stirred with hand. Certain binkies carefully removed from the cup. Binkies replaced in the cup.

Once she had it exactly how she wanted it, she ... dumped all the binkies on the floor, walked away to play with something else, and has never attempted to put the binkies in the cup again.

Toddlers are f***ing weird, man.

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