As I try to embrace the precept “a busy body is a sign of a busy brain,” I generally welcome creativity and innovation from my little ones. In these opportunities, I am a bit freer, much more lenient with them than at most times; I rarely discourage spontaneous artistic expression, except in the cases of bodily danger or at the whimsy sacrifice of my walls and furniture.
“Entertainment,” therefore, seems to have become a fluid concept for my two young humans. I suppose I am lucky that my toddler and my baby will most certainly make the best lemonade out of a half-eaten lemon, a box of Uno cards, and a twig. Nevertheless, it can be surprising the objects they find relatively amusing.
Recently, we took a family road trip to secure a much-needed change of scenery. “Vacation” is a discretionary term that some use, but, with my children, there is usually too little rest and a lot more energy when we are far from home. Jrue has been on several long rides since about the age of 3 months, and Jai is rolling steadily at 2 priors. The drive to Virginia was going to take us almost 9 hours with two stops and, as is our normal custom, we left hours before the sunrise to get a start ahead of the children’s alertness and subsequent fidgetiness.
It’s always fun to say that we attempt a head start…particularly with the knowledge that Jrue will be wide awake like an owl in the dark for several straight hours and will eventually crash out, mouth opened and drooling, after whining about being sleepy.
I would call the trip an overall success. I didn’t feel like a maniac at arrival. Neither of the kids vomited.
Once Jrue had exhausted his books, the few cars, his trusty tablet, mommy’s cell phone, writing on the window, blowing air repeatedly, tapping on Jai’s car seat toy, and singing loudly, recreation for him became a bit obscure. Jai was in and out of her comatic sleep phases and, when awake and delighted, found great satisfaction in removing her socks and sucking her toes.
This is the point I recall learning how stealthful my toddler may be. Let’s include the baby in this one because she presumably went rightfully along with her brother’s plan.
At various points when I was not dozing in the passenger seat, I’d whip my head around behind me and find Jrue engaged with a random artifact. I am a master at picking worthy battles and figured taking these items from him would have only caused a disagreeable in-car meltdown. So, I just opted to observe his playtime.
First up: A to-go cup with 17% beverage, 82% ice, and straw. Once a Diet Dr. Pepper from our breakfast stop, mommy’s retired cup became Jrue’s sailboat, several music instruments, and a water park. Distributing the ice around in the cup using the straw was a pastime of his, followed by plucking the ice out onto the floor. I’ll admit, I ejected some sighs and “Jrue, stop” commentary the first few minutes, but quickly figured that his focus was worth the quiet. I’d just have to remove the floor pad under him and dry it out later.
Which I never did.
Soon after, Jrue magically produced a 2-ounce spray bottle. I’m vague on whether the bottle had been sitting in the door on his side, but it was a travel size available to keep mommy’s hair coily when away from my beloved products. The top unscrewed from the bottle was an amazing truck, able to drive itself across the door and window. The pump could provide some type of invisible nourishment when stuck in his mouth, obviously. Blowing in the bottle became an addictive horn of sorts.
Not too far from our destination, Jrue uncovered a formerly-used remote control from the house. I did a double-take to recognize it and wonder why it was on our trip. My guess is Jai, honestly. Like its usage at home, the remote was all kinds of steering wheels and derby caps and mechanical doohickies. If the piece holding in the batteries was removed, that furthered the fun for Jrue, even with no batteries involved. This also meant “Mommy, take it off,” in reference to the battery door, adhering the fate of a insistent chant, so the remote play was short-lived.
Bonus item for the one-year-old: A buckle within arms’ reach. I kept hearing a seat belt pull and witnessed a little arm reaching, reaching. Jai gradually retrieved the buckle in the maneuvering of her bare foot around it and pulling the seat belt towards her ever-waiting mouth.
She’s perfecting the similar engineering craft of her brother.
Why buy toys?