Here’s what I want to know:
How do babies learn to be mischievous?
I’ve been wracking my brain about this each and every time Elliott starts to make his way up the stairs for the millionth time in an hour, or when he speed-crawls into the kitchen to get his fingers stuck in the same drawer they got stuck in 5 minutes before.
He This question is driving me bonkers.
At first I thought, well maybe it’s a learned behavior. But that would imply that Will and I are mischievous, thus teaching Elliott to be so as well. We’re not mischievous… at least I don’t think we are. It’s not like Will says something like, “Holly, no. I’ve already told you that you can’t jump on the couch. You’ll get hurt”, and I respond with, “Ha ha! I’m so totally jumping on the couch anyway!” Maybe I’m mischievous when it comes to food because I get snacky, but that’s not enough “testing the waters” exposure to rub off on a baby, right?
So then I figured it must be innate. Elliott was born curious, crafty and clever. He always, always finds his way around my attempts to keep him within his boundaries. For example, he’s discovered the kitchen, a.k.a. The Drawers of Wonderland. For the moment, he only has two favorite drawers, inconveniently located beneath the oven. Perfect! I blocked the drawers with a chair to keep him from getting near them when the oven is on. Yet despite my solution, he figured out he can move the chair just far enough away from the drawers to get a hand in. Yes he absolutely did get his tiny hand stuck in the drawer, but whenever that happens, I can legitimately see him thinking, I’ll show you…, as he nurses his hand back to health. He’s not deterred by pain – he’s inspired! Energized! Spurred on! The kid doesn’t give up.
I think what boggles my mind the most is the fact that he has toys. Perfectly fine, usable, fun and entertaining toys. Every morning we get out the toy box, pull out its treasures and listen to all the music-making devices sing ten different lullabies at the same time. I stack blocks, shake rattles, put on stuffed animal shows… I even debase myself to act out Elmo. “Elmo likes friends named Elliott! Elmo is so happy when Elliott is nice to him! Elmo is wondering why Elliott is leaving and going where he’s not allowed! ELMO SAYS COME BACK!”
Perhaps the problem is Elmo?
We’ve got this corner in our living room that’s kind of a disaster. I’m pretty sure it has flashing lights and “PLAY HERE” all around it as far as Elliott’s concerned. It’s not that it’s dirty, it’s that the WiFi modem is hooked up to our only convenient outlet, as well as a lamp, and an iPhone charger. Elliott is always crawling back there to see if he can knock down the modem and make me pull my own hair. Finally out of exasperation, I temporarily cleaned up the corner and built Elliott his very own blanket fort. I put pillows in a semi-circle and leaned a few of his favorite animals up against them. I threw in some toys, books and one tolerable music-maker. I was sure this would do the trick and score me some serious Mom Points. But to my chagrin, upon realizing he was no longer banned from the corner but invited, he pooh-poohed my efforts and headed towards the next closest banned area.
I can hear you wondering/worrying why on earth we don’t have gates or safety locks. Fear not – we finally fixed up the place. Now we’ve got gates around the living room which blocks our wanderer from the stairs and kitchen. We’ve got a lock inside the coffee cabinet. We filled the entertainment center’s drawers with his toys and hid all remote control devices. Life is so much simpler now! Elliott doesn’t entirely love the new setup, but he does love yelling at me through the gate’s bars about it while I’m in the kitchen.
Whether a baby’s mischievous spirit is learned or innate I may never know, because in order to know I’d have to read about it, and reading about it would mean reading something about science and psychology, and both of those topics make my eyes sleepy. Regardless of the answer, I’m sure grateful for my mischief-maker, even when he squashes up banana slices and rubs them on the living room wall.