Children are constantly exploring the thresholds of pain. Sometimes willingly, sometimes not so willingly. And it's all an experiment for them.
A messy experiment that usually ends with tears -- sometimes blood -- and mostly could've been prevented if they had just listened to you in the first place.
"Don't touch that, it's hot," to me, is an invitation to touch. I don't know why I do it. It's like I'm just looking for a chance to prove someone wrong. Like I'll score major points if I touch something and notice that it's not hot. Like there's any reason to lie about it in the first place.
Luckily, I'm not alone in that stupidity. Thousands suffer from the same affliction and my daughter is one of them. Luckily, it hasn't resulted in any major pain yet, but I'm not counting on that luck holding on forever.
Katie learned about hot much more easily than most children. Yet, she still has to give the oven a quick test when I tell her not to touch because it's hot.
I try not to picture myself doing the same thing when I'm laughing at her.
She's smart enough to be quick, so there's been no damage yet.
She's still exploring her limits.
She was playing with an empty coffee mug on the table and for some reason picked it up and slammed it down on her brother's fingers. I came into the picture when I saw T.J. rolling on the floor in pain, trying manfully to control the tears.
I sat down and pulled him close. There's not a lot you can do in that situation except wait for the pain to dull and hope sweet words and close hugs will make that moment come sooner.
I made Katie say sorry and give him a kiss. He choked out an assurance that it was OK -- mostly for Katie's benefit. He still had his hand in a death grip as if cutting off the circulation would end the throbbing.
Katie patted him on the head saying, "Is OK. Is OK, T.J."
I tried to explain to her that what she had done hurt and told T.J. that she didn't know what she was doing.
Clearly, I was right.
Before T.J. was near the recovery stage, Katie laid her palm on the table There was total silence for about a fifth of a second as a look of surprise jumped on her face.
The result was not what she expected.
Before a full second had passed, I had two crying children on my lap, each holding the same damaged hand.
That made T.J. feel a little better. It was proof positive that Katie is still learning about cause and effect.
Sometimes there are lessons in pain.
After a weekend camping trip, I told Katie to put her little suitcase in her room.
"I can't," she told me. She was pretty belligerent about it, too.
After asking her a couple of more times and getting the same reply, I sent her to the corner until she was feeling a little more cooperative.
Stubborn little cuss.
We went through the same routine about four times in the next half hour because each time I told her to take her suitcase, she said she couldn't. The suitcase, by the way, is on wheels. She spent an hour hauling it from one room to the other the whole time I was trying to pack it. Evidently she can, as long as it's a game and it's on her terms.
I gave her permission to leave the corner as long as she grabbed the suitcase. She walked slowly to it, passed it without a glance and kept going.
As I approached, she backed up one step at a time, right into and backwards over the suitcase. She landed on her back on top of it and I couldn't help but laugh at the picture she presented. She looked like a turtle with a Sesame Street-coated shell.
She, not seeing the humor, bawled.
"I told you that you should have put it away," after 45 minutes of arguing, I couldn't muster much sympathy.
And I didn't need to. She got up and five minutes later the suitcase was in her room.
Granted, it was about an inch inside the doorway and I tripped over it the next time I went in there, but I still count it as a small, hard-fought victory.
Maybe it was the pain of falling. Maybe it was the time spent in the corner. Maybe I just browbeat her into doing it. Maybe the headache I had afterward wasn't worth the battle.
There are many forms of pain, and as much as you adore them, children are definitely one of them.
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.