When Oscar was too young for me to really comfortably admit, he discovered the battery compartments in many of his toys–and thus the batteries themselves. He was fascinated by them–so much so that he wanted to take them to bed with him at night. Today, at six, he, of course, finds this hilarious–especially since it was his desire to snuggle a handful of AA batteries at night that led to the “no hard toys in the bed” rule. Edgar never really balked at this rule since his life seems to revolve around ensconcing himself in all things soft.
We have also never been fans of “toys at the table,” reasoning that when you’re eating you’re eating–not playing. Oscar and Edgar never seemed to question this–they eat, ask to be excused (usually), then play.
But recently with August we have had to revisit both of these rules since he insists on going to sleep with at least three books every night and demands books throughout the day, including at meals. Could we say “no” to these “demands”? Of course, we could–and some might argue even should. But, as a teacher, I learned a long time ago that fair is not everyone getting the same treatment but everyone getting what they need.
Oscar, starting at age five, needed to watch the Star Wars movies. Edgar needs to touch his food. And August needs to be surrounded by books. And though some may think five is a little young for Star Wars, that touching your food is unhygienic, unsightly, and impolite, and that books in the bed or at the table is inappropriate, I remind myself that for whatever reason, these are the things that are important to them, and that I may in fact be in the company of a future Oscar-winning director, Edgar Degas, or August Strindberg.
I am married to someone who needs to eat his dinner at midnight and who needs to pick up his guitar daily and when you least expect it. And he is married to someone who needs to be alone in the yard for hours at a clip every spring and needs to write when she needs to write. As a couple, we have always tried to recognize and respect each other’s needs and not impose our so-called rules when they interfere with the other’s need.
Oscar needs to disappear into a story he has created, Edgar needs to create sculptures out of masking tape that render our kitchen uninhabitable, and August needs to remove and look at all the books in the bookshelf–and we let them–because it is obvious that they have to. And as the boys grow and learn and are given the freedom to express who they are, I hope they’ll also learn to give others the same freedoms that allowed them to become the fullest expression of themselves.