We’ve known for a long time that Owen is a ham. He will perform for anyone and loves to be the center of attention. Often this is very cute, sometimes it is downright embarrassing (like the time he ran over and blew out his friend’s birthday candles). As a fellow attention hog, I get it. I totally do.
One of his favorite things in the world is to watch videos of himself. I know, I know, I’m feeding his natural toddler narcissism. I’m hoping Baby #2 helps Owen realize he’s not always the center of the universe at all times. On the flip side, he’s gained quite a bit of confidence and a huge personality being the star for so long. He glows in the spotlight, my friends.
Over the weekend we had an empty cardboard box sitting around and we came up with lots and lots of hilarious games to play with it. Owen’s favorite game quickly became “pretend you’re going shopping to buy a box and then – surprise! – there’s a little boy in it!”. He played the game so many times that Benjamin and I thought it would be funny to videotape it. Unfortunately the minute we turned the camera on, he decided to sing really loudly instead of playing it the same way. So what you see here is an incredibly abbreviated version of the game, but it’s still funny.
Not pictured: Usually after he popped out of the box, we would say, “Oh! There’s a little boy in here! What is your name, little boy?” and he would shout out names like, “Bob!” and then laugh hysterically at his own joke.
My favorite part is how he pops up out of the box to finish our sentences (a la this post). Once you play it one way, you apparently have to play it the very same way, every single time. So much for improv.
Remember when I was all excited that Owen’s little mind had opened up into the world of pretend play? It’s hilarious and amazing to watch, yes, but there is a dark side. Here’s what I’ve learned about “pretend play” with Owen: He’s totally into it, until you don’t do it right. Then he flies into a surprisingly emotional fit of frustrated rage. Sometimes he can be talked off the ledge. Other times, it’s Game Over.
First let me say that this type of outburst is not generally part of Owen’s easygoing personality. That said, it’s a perfectly normal 2 year old response to a situation he can’t put into words fast enough. And let’s also just put out there that I have a very strong hunch I know where he gets that fiery side of his personality (while Benjamin and I are both very calm, cool and collected most of the time, we both have our triggers that make us react like 2 year olds once in awhile!). So I’m not terribly worried about this latest development… but I’m not gonna lie. It is quite exhausting.
Case in point: Owen, Benjamin and I were playing yesterday. Owen’s new “thing” is to direct us all where to sit and fills us in on a pretend situation. This day he said, “Mommy, you sit right dere and I sit right here and Daddy sits up here and we’ll take da train!”. Cute. So Benjamin and I hop onto the couch in our spots ready to ride the train. But Owen shouts, “NO! Put your legs like ‘dis, Mommy”, showing me how to sit with my legs out straight. Except there wasn’t enough room on the couch for me to sit like that with him sitting in front of me. So I opted to sit cross-legged (which Owen calls “criss cross applesauce”, which I think is hilarious). This caused a mayjuh tearfest and Owen jumped off the couch and ran to the corner to pout. (Personally I was quite proud that he opted to do that to calm himself down. rather than to hit me, like he would have a few months ago!). No matter what I said, I couldn’t convince him that I could not physically sit the way he wanted me to with all three of us on the couch.
Benjamin and I had to stifle our giggles and did our best to take his emotional outburst seriously. Eventually we decided to just play another game, but it’s not the first time this type of “you’re doing it wrong” frustration has halted a pretend play session entirely.
Sigh. It’s tough being 2, huh?
On another note, in doing my best to comply with Owen’s pretend play wishes, I am wary of creating a total bossypants kid who expects everyone to bend to his every whim. It’s a tough balance between following his very specific directions to build his imagination, and teaching lessons like “not everyone is going to want to play exactly like you want to play”. Any thoughts on how to strike this delicate balance? Do you even bother teaching the flip-side at this age, or do you figure he will learn that lesson at school and while playing with friends?