Yesterday while sitting near the children's area in a local bookstore, I watched this little person in his private play. He'd discovered a tall rack of stuffed animals put there just for him. As I sat quietly, he'd pick them up one at a time, and bring them to the benchlike display area where I sat, get up beside me, pet and look at his newfound friend a while, then carry it back to exchange for another. He must have repeated this routine 5 or 6 times, occasionally opening his arms wide to gather more than one cuddly toy and squeeze in as many as he could; each time he'd take them back and put them away. (Is it a phase? we wonder. He's very into returning things to their places. A phase or perhaps an intriguing display of genetics, definitely from his dad's side.)
Then he looked up and saw an adult chair nearby. The wooden kind with a wide back and gentle sloping angles, with vertical bars for support. Maybe it's called a Windsor? So Mr. Pie picked up another one of the stuffed animals and carried it over to the chair, giggled at his secret plan and tossed the toy over the back, into the seat he could see through those tall bars. I waited. Now, from where he stood, still behind the chair, he couldn't reach the stuffed animal. For all practical purposes and from his current angle, he'd put his little friend in jail. He walked around to the side, and reached over. Up on his toes, he stretched and stretched, arm long, fingers opening and closing like little crab claws. I heard the growing annoyance in his grunt. Two or three times he'd rearrange his stance and reach again. Still no go. Soon I knew it might be time for me to go help; we were in a public place and the sound patrons would hear if he became too frustrated at his inability to achieve his goal...well, it wouldn't have been condusive to reading. But still I waited. He squatted and reached his arm through the side bars. Got his fist caught for a second, then figured out how to retrieve it. Then I saw the proverbial lightbulb go off.
And baby giggled again, then walked confidently to the front of that chair. Where he threw his arms around his toy, now rescued, and ran back to where I sat and handed it up to me, so proud.
I wonder if this is what it's like for my older and wiser friends and relatives when they watch me repeat my same old mistakes, insisting on banging my head against the familiar walls year after year, until finally the messages start to seep in?