“My arms are tired from drawing happy faces.”

October 16, 2013

Notable Stats

Practice Repetitions per Hour (PRH) – The amount of times a child will do the same thing over and over again within 60 minutes whether or not you are telling them not to do so. Infinity is a possible number.

Eyes Glossed Over Thickness (EGOT) – The layer of film that coats a child’s eyes as they tune out the world (and what you are saying) and open the cabinet door for the 3000th time.

My daughter got a taste of the patience it requires to be in the midst of a toddler’s self-induced learning cycle. And it went down like sour almond milk. Her baby sister is now interested in everything and she gets easily fixated on the task at hand. Everyone around her must respect her will to learn by repetition and it matters not if the sun rises and then sets while you are waiting for it to end. If she is determined to comb the dog’s eyelashes with your toothbrush to get them just right, then be prepared to wage war if you are going to break her concentration and interrupt her for frivolous needs like food, a diaper change, or water.

The eldest daughter was recently employed to draw happy faces for the baby. A road I traveled down recently that made me pray that crayons will eventually run out of ink. She does not just want you to draw one happy face to admire long-term, she wants you to cover every inch of white space on the paper so that she is covered in an avalanche of happy faces.
We all know the irony that happy faces do not actually make her happy, per se. In fact, apparently they are downright mocking her when they dare try to be on a piece of paper without ten thousand of its colleagues. She finds it insulting that a happy face be left alone on the premise that one smile is enough. She needs to be blinded by smiles until collectively she is drowned in happiness.
So her older sister embarked on a journey that began with a pen and a piece of paper. And after drawing one happy face, it immediately turned to some sort of diplomatic torture. She had to write happy faces continuously to keep the Northern border of the United States secure. It became clear that her baby sister was not just mandating circles and dots, lines and arcs, she was threatening her with them. It was not happy at all. The page filled, her hand cramped, and baby was still dissatisfied. For toddlers, you have to repeat until it is no longer considered repeating, but a waterfall off of a cliff into the abyss of inevitable tantrums. No matter when you stop, you have wronged her soul.

Mercifully, her older sister asked for a pardon. She did not approach her bubbling toddler sister directly, she came to us, her parents to ask for diplomatic immunity, to beg for a commuted sentence willing to accept the stockade over another nefarious happy face. Her arms were exhausted and her baby sister acted like she was only just getting started.

I can appreciate repetition. A key ingredient to mastery, to learning how to do something that becomes part of our muscle memory. It sticks and becomes step one to advanced skills. Toddlers do this to a level that is impressive even if they would go without water if following their will blindly. I will continue to try and pass the buck onto our other kids to give them a taste of the happiness of a broken record, a skipping CD and maybe then, they will pause and hopefully accept the construct that a happy face is only happy when it is the only one smiling at you on that page.

- Doug Glanville

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