Thursday, October 30, 2008

to have and to hold.

Today while Andrew was playing train I hear him, on behalf of his trains, say in a squeaky voice "It's my tunnel!" slight change of voice: "No, it's my tunnel!" and on and on. He had two trains lined up to go through the tunnel and one would pull up to stake his claim, right before the other train would do the same. His tone wasn't frustrated. He was enjoying playing this out.

It got me thinking.

I think that having is more fun when others want what you have. Access to the tunnel is more desirable for Thomas if Emily also wants access to the tunnel. Since they both want to be there, it increases the inherent value of the tunnel. It confirms that the tunnel is a good thing to go through.

I know this isn't new, ground breaking stuff. This is a common rule of society that affects the price of everything from real estate to milk. It affects the gifts people give and ask for at Christmas (are flat screen TV's really that great? or is it really about just having one...or better, being one of the first to have one?). And it absolutely affected my need for pink converse sneakers in the 4th grade. I mean the little black star was nice and all, but I had to get a pair before Valerie did.

So what really struck me about principal is how young it all starts. Andrew is 3 and he clearly understands the basics behind 'having' and is beginning to understand that having is all the better when others want what you have.

Last night Isaac was in his exersaucer while I was making dinner and he was getting a little fussy. Andrew was trying to help. Andrew brought Isaac his most prized toy of all: his Thomas train. And Isaac loved it. But, Isaac's play at this point is all about oral exploration. And when Andrew saw his beloved train dripping with baby drool he reconsidered and took the train back. Isaac was devastated. He wailed. And so Andrew tried giving him other things. But he didn't want other things. He wanted Andrew's favorite thing. He wanted the Thomas train.

Could Isaac get it? Does Isaac see that the Thomas train is valuable because Andrew loves it so much? Or was there something about it's construction that is especially soothing to teething gums? I'm really not sure.

When I signed up to be a parent I knew that I would have to feed and clothe my kids. I knew I'd need to take care of them when they were sick and wash their stinky feet. I didn't really think about my role in raising consumers. I didn't think about that I would have to take a stab at teaching them about healthy ways to 'have' and healthy ways to 'want'. And unfortunately for them, I am sorely under-qualified.

I guess we'll muddle through, as best as we can. ;)


Goes On Runs said...

halloween candy is a great exercise in the difference between NEED, WANT, and MUST HAVE in our household. apparently my 3 year old thinks that his NEED for candy is greater than his need for anything else right now. boy, is this fun or what?!

Melissa said...

This has to be one of the most difficult aspects of being a modern parent. Let me know if you get enlightened in this area. I find this one tough, too.

Firefly said...

When we were on vacation in California, Andrew took something that belonged to me. I can't remember anymore what it was, just that I needed it back from him and so I playfully put my hands on my hips and said, "Hey, that is my _________ (fill in the blank, whatever the thing was)." Andrew looked at me, delighted, and then pulled the thing closer to himself and said, "No, it's my ___________." I said, "Oh no, no, no, it's my ______________." A new game was born. We'd go back and forth like this and Andrew loved it. He would afterwards offer me various items and when I went to receive them, he'd pull back and say this line, obviously wanting to play another game of tug of war. It would crack him up. But it didn't really seem like he had any strong desire for the thing. He was perfectly willing to give it up when the game finished. He reminded me of my sister's puppy, Oliver, who thinks nothing is more delightful than a good game of tug-of-war, and is disappointed by anyone who will merely hand a thing over without a good battle. Later, when Andrew and I would play games--puzzles, or singing or whatever--Andrew would often stop and pick something up and shake his head, like "No more puzzles." And then he'd say, "It's my ____________," and look at me eagerly, clearly hoping I'd take the bait (again, reminding me so much of Oliver, who loves to trot over and offer me something, then refuse to relinquish it, hoping I'll give him a run for his money). I am so fascinated about why that mock-exchange intrigued, delighted, captured Andrew so much. I wonder what he was working out through that game. I wonder if that is the game he was making his trains play with each other.

Robyn said...

I think that is exactly the game he was playing with his trains. He's totally into that concept of one things being desired by 2 people.

Mama V said...

Such normal stuff for this age group. I remember seeing this between Lucas and Andrew the day that you went to the E.R. with Dave. Andrew was fine with playing with Billy or Percy or Molly or whomever, until Lucas declared that he was going to play with Henry and that Andrew should keep playing with those other guys. Well, forget it. Andrew decided he wanted Henry. Henry was suddenly the "it" train!

This inevitably reminds me of having and wanting in the larger, global, economic sense and its implications. I remember someone in my host family in Guatemala comparing the U.S. to his own country and talking about the love/hate relationship Guatemalans have with the U.S. He said that Guatemalans didn't know that they were poor until someone else came along and told them that they were. Leave it to privileged U.S. citizens to confuse want with need.... Sad but interesting, huh?

Firefly said...