I wrote recently about the time my beautiful little Button-Pusher repeatedly requested that I drive to the park, in a post entitled 5 Buttons That Have Been Pushed Recently.
Repetition is a theme that features heavily in both my posts and in our lives. B-P repeats herself endlessly. It’s a constant source of button pushing for me: hearing the same phrase over and over again. I remember a friend once telling me that her daughter said most things at least 3 times (‘blueberry mummy, blueberry, blueberry, blueberry please’), and she’d realised that it was her way of reinforcing that what she was saying was correct. It fascinated me that children would instinctively do that: learn through repetition. And it shouldn’t have surprised me. If I think back to school and uni days, revising (for me) relied heavily on repetition: read the text, write it out in full, paraphrase and write it down, read my version, write down bullet points, read the bullet points, all said aloud for reinforcement. It was what I did to ensure that the information was saved on the desktop of my brain and not accidentally moved to ‘trash’.
B-P’s repetition constantly raises my stress levels, repeatedly (every pun intended!). It can drive me crazy. That particular day I wrote about, had other factors at play of course: we were running late; there were some unexpected road works blocking our route, and then there was a big old queue of traffic that brought our journey to a standstill. Throw in B-P’s ‘Park Mummy, park, that way Mummy, go that way, park over there Mummy’ and we pretty much had the perfect storm to raise my stress levels to defcon 1.
I’ve been thinking about this recently and have realised, like many things that my gorgeous little B-P does, it’s not done to deliberately wind me up! It feels like that in the moment of course, when emotion takes over, and it drives you insane. But what I’m trying to hold onto these days, is that she does it to reinforce what she’s learnt.
Children are a work in progress. They are constantly processing the world around them. The images, sounds, the smells even that they take in and learn about on a daily basis are endless. A trip to the supermarket (something so mundane and routine for us) is such an adventure for a toddler. Why would they want to sit calmly and quietly in the trolley when there is so much to see and touch? They are simply working out how the world around them works. I know that a milk carton is cold and possibly a bit wet. I know that a coconut is hairy, and pretty heavy to pick up. I know that a tomato is smooth and if I squeeze it too hard it’ll burst and be squished between my fingers making a right old mess. My little Button-Pusher doesn’t know any of these things, until she knows them. And even then, just as I had to repeat French vocab (out loud) over and over again for it to sink into my brain, B-P will reach out for the milk, or the fruit, to remind herself what it is and how it feels. It’s also an opportunity to reassure herself, of the words that she already knows: tomato, red, mummy lunch.
If I think back to that incident in the car, when we never made it to the park due to road works, I appreciate more what B-P may have been doing, as she repeatedly reminded me that the park was in the other direction. In her world, when she is told we are going to ballet, we drive a certain route (one she now recognises after a year of weekly classes), and at the end of the journey, she goes to a ballet class in the park. That day, who knows what she thought might be happening when we didn’t take our usual exit on the round about. Did she panic? Was she worried? Did she think I’d forgotten the route and she was trying to help? Did she think she was saying it wrong? Two year olds often don’t have the vocabulary to ask specific questions, so her repeated ‘park mummy that way’ may have been her way of checking that I had understood her. Two year olds are also learning syntax (how we organise sentences) so perhaps she was reassuring herself that a) she said it correctly and b) she understood the reply she’d heard.
So I think that’s why it’s so often like Ground Hog day with a toddler around. Today, as I write, rationally processing those events, I know and appreciate why they happened. Tomorrow of course, in the moment, without the benefit of rationality, the repetition will push my buttons and drive me slowly crazy! As with many toddler challenges, this won’t last forever. And I’ve just read that when B-P turns about 3 or 4, she’ll start asking ‘why?’ questions, about 400 times a day. And that will really push my buttons!