Willing, but clueless…
Daniel is a tank. We know that. We know that he’s cheerful and happy and well-intentioned, but that he’s also a big, unempathetic doofus when it comes to the other children. Other children are fun! He loves them! He loves to smile at them. He loves to watch them. He loves to run with them. Sometimes when he
lumbers along runs with them, he bumps into them and the fall right over! He loves that, too, because it’s very interesting when that happens.
Yesterday, Daniel was loving the thick, chunky sweaters that everyone is suddenly sporting. He loves their colours, he loves their texture. He was particularly loving Grace’s sweater, because it had big bright wooly buttons on it. Buttons just begging to be clutched in giant meaty fists. Begging, I tell you! And Daniel? He is not the man to deny something that so obviously NEEDS TO BE DONE.
Daniel clutched Grace’s sweater-buttons. Anchored by the substantial bulk of Daniel, Grace can go nowhere. Being the passive little thing she is, she just stands there, eyes wide and alarmed, hoping that somehow, if she just stands very still and quiet and does absolutely nothing, she will magically be freed. (And yes, sometimes I just watch and refuse to bail her out, to see if I can force her to take action.) Just as she’s beginning to panic, another child — in another chunky sweater!!! — toddles by. Grace is saved. Rory, however, is now anchored. Rory, being a different sort than our Grace, does not take this passively.
“Daniel, yet go of my sweater!!!” Good for him, using his words!! Of course, his words are completely useless. (I often consider how apparently unfair it is that we insist they “use their words” when really? With young toddlers? Words don’t work. We all know that. I do it, of course, because you have to start somewhere! And if you don’t begin the expectation young, when will they learn it? Still, the irony of praising Rory for using his words when WE ALL KNOW they won’t work, never escapes me…)
So. He used his words, and his words didn’t work. Surprise, surprise. Rory grabs Daniel’s wrists and attempted to wrench himself free. A perfectly reasonable use of physical force, I figured, and a reasonable second step when the words didn’t work. Daniel holds firm, though, a wide grin stretching over his face. Rory is holding his hands! This is interaction! This is fun!!!
Rory has tried his words and has taken reasonable action. His next step will undoubtedly be equally reasonable, given the circumstances, but less acceptable. Time to intervene. I kneel down in front of them.
“Daniel. Rory said ‘Let go.’ You need to let go of Rory’s sweater.” As I say the second “let go”, I am peeling Daniel’s hands from the sweater. “Let go. Thank you.” Daniel’s hands lunge for the sweater again. I block and re-grab his wrists. Time for a redirection.
“Daniel. Daniel, hands are not for grabbing. Hands are for hugging. Can you give Rory a hug?”
Well, now! THAT is one of THE BEST IDEAS Daniel has EVER HEARD! His face lights up like someone flipped a switch. His eyes sparkle, his beaming grin widens even further. (Who knew it was possible to grin that big?)
“Huh! HuH!” He flings his arms wide and latches them onto a rather stiff and uncertain Rory.
“Isn’t that nice, Rory? Daniel is giving you a hug! That is so nice! That’s right, Daniel. Hug. Hands are for hugging.”
Rory is reassured. Somewhat. And permits the onslaught of affection.
“Huh! Huh!” Daniel is loving this. This is SO! MUCH! FUN!!!
“Hug. That’s right. You’re giving Rory a nice hug!”
Grace toodles by.
“Huh! Huh!” Daniel releases Rory and barrels toward Grace, arms wide. Happily, Grace is right in front of a chair, so she’s only knocked back into the padded cushion rather than flattened to the floor when The Hug makes impact. More soothing, reassuring noises from me, helping Grace to understand that no, this is not an attack, this is love. She smiles, more warmly than Rory managed, and gives Daniel an enthusiastic hug back. Then she pats his head and kisses his cheek.
(Oh, I could just melt from the cuteness some days.)
“Good boy, Daniel. Now you’re hugging Grace! That’s right. Hands are for hugging. Good for you!”
Well, now. Hugs, pats, AND kisses? And noises of encouragement and praise from Mary? Daniel is all over that! Who else can he hug?
Round the room Daniel goes, hugging one child after another. Now that they understand what’s going on — it’s love, not attack… well, it’s an attack of love, not aggression — the others are all into the game. Rory gets hugged again, then Jazz. Grace, then Jazz. Rory, then Grace, then Jazz.
“Oh, isn’t that nice? All those hugs! Hands are for hugging!”
And then Daniel spots Poppy, who has been playing quietly with a toy in the next room, oblivious to the hands-are-for-hugging love-fest going on in the living room.
“Huh! Huh!” He moves toward her. Except he’s surrounded by the other three huggees. “Huh! Huh!” He has Poppy in his sites, and love in his heart… but the way is blocked. What to do?
If you’re Daniel, the solution is clear.
“Huh! Huh!” Jazz staggers one direction, Grace another as Daniel bulldozes his way through. Grace plops down on her butt, Jazz grabs Rory and manages to stay upright.
“Huh! Huh!” I’m not quite quick enough. Poppy lies on the floor under Daniel, crushed by the hug.
Of five children, three are on the floor, one is staggering, and one upright but shaken.
Because hands? Are for hugging.