I sit and draw quietly. I sit and examine a puzzle. I might stare at a doll for a long time, figuring out how the joints work.
My friends are always, like, “Heyyy!! Let’s go do something fun!”
I’m always “I’m already having fun!” They won’t leave me alone. “Oh c’mon!”
I used to take it personally – Do I have to jump and smile and scream in order for people to acknowledge that what I’m doing is fun? Is it such a foreign concept that I’m quiet and am still having a blast?
And I realized how adults play with babies here. Shake a toy in front of their face. If the baby doesn’t smile or scream, shake another one! Even if the baby reaches out and grabs it, appearing to examine it, if the baby isn’t meeting the adults’ definition of “fun,” SHAKE ANOTHER ONE!
First of all, if this is the culture, I am surprised that not all Canadians grew up to be attention deficit.
Secondly, now I understand why people like to go to loud parties and call it fun.
Thirdly, if we are encouraging children and young adults to be themselves and celebrate who they are, we must acknowledge and encourage different ways to having and expressing “fun.”
I don’t have a child, so people hate it when I express an observation. They hear it as criticism.
But those same people ask me why I’m always the favourite aunt. Here is my secret.
I never direct babies’ play.
They create the play, use the toy they want, and tell me what to do. I do what I’m told. The baby is about to hand me a doll. The baby notices another doll. Drops the first doll and picks up the other one. Staring at the green jacket the bear is wearing. After a while, sits it down on the bum. The bear refuses to sit. The baby keeps sitting the bear on the bum. I don’t interrupt. I don’t ask “Heyy! You were about to give me that doll?” I don’t tell them “How about you lean it against the couch?” I don’t shake another toy in their face. I just watch. The baby is clearly entertained, and I’m fascinated. There is no smile, scream, or jump, and we are both having a great time.