That damned stick has two ends
…and Grace, she has such an affinity for the wrong end of it.
Grace. My sweet, gentle, dippy Grace. What is happening to you?
If I had one word to describe Grace, it would be ‘gentle’. She has spent much of her small life so far ‘in the world but not of it’, her big blue eyes not quite focussed on the activity around her, staring off into the middle distance. When she does enter the play or the conversation, she’s most often three beats behind. She has a beautiful, ready smile.
Mostly, Grace is a joy. She’s quiet, peaceable, content to play on her own, content to play with the others. She’s gentle with the other children, she’s affectionate, she’s happy. Grace Plays Well With Others. Three beats behind, perhaps, but well!
Until this week.
There are two armchairs in my living room. One easily fits two toddlers, the other can only fit one. Typically, when the tots pay them any attention at all, Grace and Jazz sit in the big chair, Poppy sits in the other, and Daniel runs back and forth between the two. Up onto Poppy he blunders. Poppy shrieks and shoves him off. Okay, then. Over to Grace and Jazz he goes, attempts to scale the wall of flailing arms and legs and shrieks.
Once in a while Grace or Jazz will feel particularly gracious, however, and one will slide down and let Daniel clamber up. Where he will wriggle and twist and flail and twitch for all of twenty seconds … before sliding down to find something more interesting to do. Because just sitting? In a chair? Is BORING!!! Chairs, Daniel very shortly discovers, are no fun at all.
(He discovers this umpteen times a week, yet it comes as a surprise every time.)
Our story begins at one such moment of generosity. Jazz and Daniel are in the one chair, Poppy in the other. The requisite three beats have passed, though, and Grace, who had been contentedly colouring, notices. Normally, that would mean that Grace would go over and stand by the chair. She would watch and stare. She might whine in my direction, hoping I’ll come and rectify things for her. (The less-attractive extension of Grace’s gentleness is passivity, a tendency to whine about problems without making any effort to resolve them herself.)
Normally she would not charge up to Daniel and say, in a loud and strident voice, “I want to sit inna chair, Daniel. You get down!”
This week has not been normal.
“I want to sit inna chair, Daniel! You get down! Get down, Daniel!”
Of course, in that instant, the chair, the boring chair, becomes the only place in the world Daniel wants to be. Forever! Of course it does. Because Daniel is two. Because Daniel is two and Grace is being rude, rude, rude. His little chin comes up.
“No. I no get down. I stay here.”
Grace leans into his feet, which just clear the edge of the cushion. Leans and thrusts into his face.
“SHARE! You have to SHARE, Daniel!”
I sigh at the cosmic unfairness of it all. Grace’s passivity has been a thorn in my flesh for two years. For two years I’ve been working with her to get her to “use your words”. “If you have a problem, talk to the person, don’t just stand there and cry.” Over and over I’ve encouraged her to take action, to think of solutions, to try alternate approaches. To just stop being so damned passive!!!
“SHARE! You have to SHARE, Daniel!”
No passivity there, no, no, no. Also no manner, consideration, politeness, constructive options, alternative approaches…
I see his legs start to twitch. Purposefully this time. Grace is about to get an almighty kick in the chops if she doesn’t back off. Which she’s not about to do. Though one might argue Grace is currently earning an almighty kick in the chops, it would be unprofessional of me to allow it.
I put one hand on Daniel’s shins, the other on Grace’s shoulder.
“Grace. Daniel does not have to share. It is nice to share, but he doesn’t have to. If you want Daniel to share, you must ask nicely, then wait.” And I walk them through the script. Ask, wait, respond, resolve.
Now, take that event and multiply by eleventy-gazillion. All week, she has been doing this. All week she’d charge up to another child, rip a toy from them, burst into their activity, crowd their space, and otherwise be intrusively obnoxious, and every time they objected, she’d go all, “SHARE! You have to SHARE!!!”
And every time, I’d say that no, while sharing is nice and good, they don’t have to, but what Grace HAS TO DO is ASK NICELY AND WAIT.
ASK NICELY AND WAIT, Grace.
ASK NICELY AND WAIT, dammit.
Every time. How much of that did Grace absorb? How much made it into that pretty little head?
Grace is sitting in the big chair. Jazz approaches and asks nicely to sit with Grace. And then she waits for Grace to speak before climbing into the chair! Jazz has this “ask nicely and wait” thing pretty much nailed. (Well, right now, in this one perfect moment of time she does. Right now, in this one perfect moment of time, I am pleased.) Ask nicely and wait. Well done, Jazz!
Grace says, calmly and with absolute confidence, because hasn’t Mary said it over and over again all week …
“No, Jazz, I don’t have to share.”