Some events from the last few days showed me some of the ways that my wife and I are different from each other, but work so well to help educate and entertain our children.
A few days ago Andrew was having a meltdown. He wanted so badly to go to Walmart to buy a crane. (He’s obsessed with construction equipment.) We told him we couldn’t go and get one because we didn’t have any money, and I just don’t know if Walmart has cranes. I got a brilliant idea. I told Heather I need a box, a stick and some duct tape. She gave me the weirdest look as I gathered up all the materials I needed; a shipping box, one of the bamboo sticks from our garden, duct tape, some twine and a chip clip. I put the box together, duct taped the stick so that it was secure inside the box but sticking out long enough to be the arm of the crane. Attached some of the twine to the end of the stick and tied a chip clip to the end of the twine. It wasn’t the prettiest thing, and didn’t exactly function like a crane, but I had built a crude crane that pleased the upset child. I then had to duplicate said crane for his little sister who now wanted one. They played with them for hours picking up things with their chip clips, pushing the boxes around the house. It didn’t matter that it didn’t looked exactly like the crane you would see at a construction site. They had to use their imaginations a little bit, but it served the basic function and they had a ton of fun with their cardboard cranes. Heather looked at me and said, “I never would have thought of that.”
Fast forward to yesterday. I’m at work and I get a message from Heather. “Our little ones are playing store and restaurant at the same time…Andrew is sitting at the table in the kitchen selling Abby stuff. HE’s currently rolling out a pizza to sell to her.” A few minutes later it’s followed by these messages.
“I gave Andrew a couple of tortillas and he’s pretending to roll them out with the rolling pin.”
“I made them a PB pizza, just PB spread on a whole wheat tortilla with a little sugar sprinkled on. I folded it in half and Andrew rolled it flat for me then I cut it into triangles for them. He’s selling it in his store.”
They had built a store in the kitchen and Heather gave them some real food to eat and play with. I would never have thought of doing that. I would have just walked into the littlest one’s room, grabbed the fake food and let them use that.
I get messages from her all the time about things like that. They’ve created something from the most unusual place and are pretending to do crazy, fun and interesting things with them. She’s really good at giving them environments to play in and use to their advantage. Something I’m not so skilled at doing. I think that comes from her being at home with them all the time, loving to be out in nature and doing things with as many different objects as you can. Take something that might not be intended for what it is and turn it into something fun.
On the other hand when something needs to be built on short notice give me a few random things from around the house and I can probably put something together that resembles the desired object close enough that happiness will ensue. I think that comes from my years of being interested in miniature war games. I was always looking at things around me and figuring out how I could turn that into terrain and buildings for my miniature armies to fight around.
Figure out the strengths and weaknesses you each have in your relationship and use them to your advantage. You’ll probably find that you each have things you contribute that the other one doesn’t. Let your kids explore the world around them. Let them play with real things. Let them create something from nothing.
My wife and I, while we have many interests that are similar are very different from each other. We look at things from different perspectives and that’s what makes our partnership work so well. There are parts of education that she really clicks with and understands well. She’s better equipped to handle those things. I’m really good or interested in other things that I have a knowledge and passion for that she doesn’t. We both have times where one of us is struggling with something. When those times come the other one is there to pick up the slack, build the other one up and help.
You just have to get creative. A child’s meltdown doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Help them get through it. Figure out what they want and see if there’s anything you can do to soothe them. If you need to, take a step back, ask your partner to step in and clear your head. Those moments can really show you a lot about yourself