In the next room, the churning barrel of the rock tumbler methodically beats with a single pebble inside. My son dances to the metronome-like beat. The noise is like the constant blaring sound of a hair dryer – loud. I’ve come to co-exist with it, to a point. After about an hour, I insist he turn it off.
The rock tumbler has been with us since last year. I was able to sneak it away last fall where it remained hidden in my closet until a few weeks ago. The persistent, relentless requests for me to take it off the shelf eventually broke my will. We have no rocks to tumble in it. It’s simply a machine with buttons that turns the barrel inside with a single pebble adding an extra clank.
It’s soothing to my son. He dances to it. He lays next to it pushing its buttons and watching the barrel spin around. He walks away from it to another room, calm and content because he can still hear it. I’ve tried turning it off when he leaves the room. He will immediately stop whatever he is doing in the next room, return, and barrage me with questions about whether the rock tumbler is tired and needs a nap. When I say that the rock tumbler needs a rest, he will yell, “Nite nite, rock tumbler!” and then pace around it for a minute or two, toe-walking, talking to and about it until he cannot tolerate it any longer. He pushes the start button, runs to me and yells, “Sor-ry! Sorry mommy! Give mommy a kiss!”
He runs from apologizing to a “Shake-N-Go” car. He shakes it repeatedly. It makes sounds of an engine revving up with each shake. “What’s that noise?” he asks with a smile. He knows the answer. My child is often rhetorical. When he places the car on the ground, it says a phrase and races across the floor 10-15 feet and comes to a stop. “Go–oooooh!” he yells with increasing high pitch and delight.
“Mommy, say that noise!” he yells. He is asking me to imitate the sounds coming from the “Shake-N-Go” car. He doesn’t wait for any response from me. He revs it up again and off it goes. Each time, he does not allow it to complete the length of the run. He runs after it and picks it up halfway, wheels still spinning.
The idea is to race them. He has quite a few but he doesn’t like to race. He focuses on one, to the exclusion of all others. Shakes it. Lets it go a foot or two, retrieves it and then repeats, yelling “Go-oooooh!” in his low to high pitch voice again. On occasion, he will race two of them. If I ask which one will win, he will answer by their colors – both of them. He’s indecisive this way. He bores himself quickly. Yet he never says he’s bored. I’m not sure he has any idea what it means.
Navigating his way to the bean bag chair he plops himself down with a small cheap plastic toy turtle, intended for a small child’s wading pool. He pulls a string and the turtles front legs spin around in a circle like he’s swimming. He watches the legs spin and then puts his finger over the moving legs to block the spin. He stares, pulls his finger off and watches it whirl around some more. All the while he’s whispering to himself – in inaudible tones. Louder, he says, “Miss Lizzy…. Miss Laurie”. These are his preschool teachers. They have nothing to do with the activity in which he is now engrossed.
He sets down the turtle and walks away. He darts across the room to his Shake-N-Go cars again. He’s in the mood for a race but no matter the outcome, they will both win in his book. He picks them both up before their engines come to a halt. He wants me to watch while he does it again.
This is play at my house. Strange and wondrous play. My son is happy in his world with me at his side. It won’t stay like this forever. I know that. So, for play, I can put my worries in a box far away, kiss and hug my little guy and watch the race of the Shake-N-Go cars that will tie, for the 24th time. I will again express surprise that these same cars tied again! I will look back one day and see how precious these moments were, and how I knew it from my insides out.