My two-year-old daughter Ella is obsessed with these tiny little beads that you put on a little grid shaped like a star. Once you are done, you can iron it, and the beads melt together. Except that she is never done, and it’s not for lack of trying. This is actually fine by me since I despise ironing. Also, I know that the star, covered in hundreds of colorful, minute beads, would end up sitting on our kitchen counter for days while I avoid ironing it, barely surviving the shuffle of school papers, letters, and the occasional glare from my husband.
A few things have struck me about this process. One is my daughter’s boundless patience. She will sit for forty minutes, a millennium in toddler time, and carefully place these infinitesimally tiny beads on the grid. Then, when she feels like it, she’ll dump them all back in the bucket (I live in fear of that bucket spilling thousands of microscopic beads all over our kitchen). Often, she’ll accidentally knock all the beads off of her star, and it is no big deal to her. The first time it happened, I thought, “Uh oh. She could get very angry.” But instead, she calmly just started all over again, smiling. It reminds me of the Tibetan monks who create those beautiful, intricate sand mandalas. It takes them days. It is painstaking. Then, they purposefully and ritualistically destroy them. It is often meant as a healing ceremony. I can definitely see some similarities between Tibetan monks and two-year-olds. I love that Ella is totally caught up in the process, not the product. She is fully in her own beading moment.
The other thing that strikes me is not very revelatory, and it is a generalization. When my oldest son George was this age, he could sit and read with his book piles and give it his full concentration. However, if it involved anything crafty? No way. He would never in a million years sit and put tiny beads on a grid for an hour. I had to run him outside like a dog multiple times a day or else his little toddler brain would implode, along with my adult brain. When our town started locking the tennis courts across the street in the wintertime, it was a sad day for our family, because those courts were the perfect, mostly enclosed place to let my son get that energy out of his system. I have two daughters and one son, and I have definitely noticed a difference in their focus, concentration, and need to expel energy. I know people with incredibly active girls and boys who are mellower, but based on my personal experience, as well as anecdotes from friends, along with classroom experience, it seems like the boys in my world have more energy to burn. I wonder how much of it is nature versus nurture. I know that these questions have been researched ad nauseum. It is all pure speculation on my part.
I recall an interesting exchange that I had one night when I was out to dinner with an acquaintance, and she said that her two-year-old son just keeps trying to leave the dinner table. I said, “Oh, we still keep Ella strapped in to her booster seat.” I should know better, right? It is almost always better to listen rather than comment.
She paused, and then replied, “But this is a boy we are talking about.”
I thought, “Oh yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve had to make sure that my son gets his ya-yas out.” I remembered those days at the tennis courts. Now that George is almost nine, if he gets squirrelly, I just send him outside to throw the football, shoot hoops, or ride his bike.
I do think that it is fascinating to observe the evolution of patience and the intense focus on the moment that keeps playing out as my children grow. I can learn from them. They bead, they run, they jump, they create, they destroy, and they don’t get too attached to the end result.