Prior to the last few weeks I was always skeptical when parents of older children would tell me that kids would “test the boundaries” as a part of natural social and mental development. “Oh, my little Billy,” they’d say. “He’s a handful, but he’s just testing the boundaries. It’s how he learns.” I usually just nodded, but I always privately thought it much more likely that Billy was just a little bastard at heart and that the only boundaries he’d be testing later in life would be prison bars. If we’re lucky.
Alas, the last few weeks have disabused me of those quaint notions. Samantha, previously the most milquetoast of creatures, has begun poking, jabbing, and kicking at every boundry she can find. Take the following exchange, which happened over the weekend when Sam grabbed my power drill and pointed it at her left eyeball.
“Samantha,” I barked, “put that down! It’s not a toy.”
“It’s not a toy,” she repeated, putting it back on the floor where I had carefully left it and then stepping back. She then gave me a sly look and added, “I can just look at it.”
“That’s right. Just look. Knock yourself out with all the looking.”
Keeping an eye on me, she edged closer to the drill again. “I can just touch it,” she said, kneeling down and laying a single finger on it.
“No, Samantha. Don’t touch even it.”
This got her to stand up and remove the offending finger. Again she gave me a coy look and gently nudged it with her toes. “I can just kick it.”
I’m pretty sure that if I had left her to it she would have moved on to poking it with a stick or activating it with telekenesis, but I figured the easiest thing to do was to just put the thing away. Dangerous power tools aside, I can see I’m in for a balancing act. I don’t want to stifle her natural curiosity and attempts at exploring the world. I want her to experience and learn as much as she wants to. But obviously there are limits as to what’s healthy and what’s socially acceptable. I guess we’ll just have to do our best and hope she doesn’t end up sharing a cell block with little Billy.
And now, pictures.
The last thing I wanted to address this week is the mystery that has recently developed around Samantha’s coloring books. Like many kids her age, she delights in grabbing fist fulls of crayons and scribbling madly over some cheery outline. Or she’ll ask us to draw something like a heart or a flower of Thomas the Tank Engine so that she can color it in. I don’t have any frame of reference for the artistic merits of her work, but most of her coloring seems to me to be within the normal parameters of a two year old. Here’s a typical portrait:
Now this picture makes my inner child chuckle for reasons that are both too obvious and too uncouth for mixed company, but it’s a good example of what you’d expect from someone who can’t hold a crayon in anything but a tight fist.
However, when flipping through the coloring books I find that up to ten percent of the pictures resemble something more like this:
Note the slight increase in penmanship. Crayonmanship. Whatever. Now, either Sam is entering into and out of a temporary state of artistic savantedness or we have a phantom artist hitting the books when I’m not looking. I don’t want to cast any aspersions, but I do sometimes see Geralyn sitting at Sam’s little table, hunched over something. So it’s either her or, if Saturday morning cartoons have taught me anything, Old Man Jones wearing a rubber mask and using a fog machine.