Funny to say it, but *years* ago (all 3 of them) I was enamored with finding peg puzzles and wooden puzzles of any sort, along with the much-coveted (amongst us puzzle hunters) puzzle organizer you could only get at the Mom 2 Mom sales if you were an actual vendor, with the privilege of scoping out the goods before anyone else arrived. Between generous grandparents, appreciated hand-me-downs, Salvation Army, and garage sale-type venues like the Mom 2 Mom sales, I aquired a wonderful collection of wooden puzzles perfect for little hands.
Never having done this whole “raising a kid” thing before, as I collected these puzzles with my infant in my arms I had an idyllic vision. It involved a full puzzle rack and a content toddler carefully exchanging the farm puzzle for the furry-animal puzzle, then the rescue vehicles puzzle, all done with care and wonder, patient twisting and satisfying clicks as pieces found their mark. I had the fulfilling impression that I was offering my child a rich tactile and mentally stimulating environment by offering opportunities like these. **REALITY CHECK** Little Boy didn’t care for puzzles as a toddler. They were irritating, frustrating bits bent on thwarting his short fuse for things that almost make sense but don’t quite because it’s upside-down, causing him to feel agitated and angry, and more trouble than they were worth. Oh. Into the closet they go.
Take two. I have cautiously pulled a puzzle out here and there for the Littlest, uncertain as to whether the reaction I was accustomed to was ordinary. Surely peg puzzles would not be so popular though if they were a despised plaything by many children though as they were with my first? Tentatively I have watched my Littlest engross himself for extended periods of time, with great care and patience, twisting and turning pieces until the ducks fit just so, and the cow joins it’s black-and-white cow counterpart on the puzzle board. His delight in quacking like the ducks and blowing air through his lips like a horse while playing with the pieces has me amazed, as it’s such a fresh take on the puzzle collection.
And so today it finally hit home how, in addition to being different in almost every way, the Littlest *gets* puzzles. Engrossed in potato chopping, the silence from the living room becomes suspicious. Fearing another art show is being created on the drywall, I stop to check in with kids for a moment. Turning the corner I instead see my Littlest boy, not even a year and a half yet, patiently and diligently building a train track. The trains go together like puzzle pieces, and they require great patience from little hands to put that peg in it’s hole just so. The pieces were calmly placed, each taking some time to attach, but he persisted and knew exactly what he was trying to create. He completed his little oval with just a couple of placement suggestions, clapped for himself, and started filling the bridge with blocks and driving a little engine around…so calm, so unflappable.
So I’m letting go of my puzzle-related anxiety stemming from too many negative experiences. I think I’ll go ahead and let one boy’s frustration be his own, and another boy’s calm pacing satisfy him. And I’ll get back to making dinner. And in the mean time, today was one more reminder that though they may fall from the same gene pool, nothing can prepare you for who they show themselves to be as they grow.
Discovering what makes your kid tick is like opening a present that you hadn’t a clue what might be inside.