By Delilah McMasters
I spent the morning with a 3-year-old. It wasn’t planned, I was sitting in my office when a head popped in and asked, “Can he stay in here with you? Daycare is closed.”
He came with snacks and a tablet, and immediately showed me a video searching for a blue crawfish and how pinchers worked. By the end of the video he was on my side of the desk edging closer and I had closed out of what I was working on. He sang the ABC song, made all the proper sounds. We found five balloons and blew them up, I tasked him with kicking all of them down the hall and back into my office while I took phone calls.
He asked me my name and then told me his first and last name and spelled it out for me, patiently waiting for me to write each letter and praising my effort. We sang the ants go marching song — all of it, with the boom, boom, booms. Then I taught him five little monkeys swinging from the tree with all the hand motions, he pretended to be the alligator and snapped bubbles I had found in my desk. He helped me make coffee, swept up the spilled sugar and wiped down the counters with Clorox wipes. We made a couple of rounds through the office checking on things, the second round he had it down, he was confident, making eye contact, greeting everyone with “Good Morning” and a big smile.
I asked him if he needed a snack, he said, “yes, ma’am,” I asked him if he needed to go to the bathroom, he said, “no, ma’am.” We walked through the field to the grocery store, he blew bubbles the whole way, stopped to pick dandelions, gave me one, put one behind his ear, and saved one for his mom. He told the cashier, “Good Morning” and “Thank you.” On the way back I held his hot Cheetos and pink drink while he blew wishes with dandelions and bubbles and giggled. We sang some more, he sorted and counted supplies, and whistled for me. He mixed Play Doh together and made cavities in the model of teeth on my desk, cleaned them out and admired how pretty the colors swirled together. He was never obnoxious, never asked, “what now?” Or “Can I..” And then it was lunch time, his mama was taking him to the park, he waved and said “thank you” again, and was gone.
I’m surrounded by kids on a daily basis, all ages, and I don’t hesitate to say the majority of them are glued to a device of some kind and rarely play outside. I know it’s a convenience, and there are times it’s a necessary break from parenting to set a child in front of the TV or YouTube, I’ve done it. Exhaustion kicks in, you have nothing left to give, dinner needs to be made, clothes folded, or you just want to take a shower. Alone. For 15 minutes. Forget going to the bathroom, we all know how that goes with kids, but a shower or bath, alone, or the ability to sit beside your child and zone out and have a uninterrupted thought. It’s worth an episode of Cocomelon or Sesame Street or whatever cartoon, animated, adventure, kid-friendly show you can sit them in front of.
BUT, it’s obvious when a child is being brought up in a media bubble. The social skills, motor skills, emotional development, the need for constant stimulation, the lack of imagination.
The morning I spent with this little boy made me smile. It doesn’t take a lot of money to entertain and encourage a toddler or elementary-age child, but it does take effort. The things he did and played with are the same things all six of mine have played with at the same age, some things are never passé. I know several young moms who are making the effort to limit screen time, read to their kids, take them outdoors to play, encourage them to use their words, be polite, listen, and know it’s OK for their kids to be bored, entertain themselves or just have time to stop and be quiet.
I’m not saying these moms are perfect or their kids are. The kids are still testing boundaries, the moms are still exhausted. What I am saying is make the effort! Everyone needs a toddler who offers to share his pink drink and sings and dances with joyful abandonment. Don’t limit their world to a screen, take it away and watch them grow!
Delilah McMasters is a local resident and the mother of six. Reach her at BlessYourHeart76063@gmail.com.
Mansfield, Texas, is a booming city, nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, but with a personality all its own. The city’s 76,247 citizens enjoy an award-winning school district, vibrant economy, historic downtown, prize-winning park system and community focus spread across 37 square miles. The Mansfield Record is dedicated to reporting city and school news, community happenings, police and fire news, business, food and restaurants, parks and recreation, library, historical archives and special events. The city’s only online newspaper launched in September 2020 and will offer introductory advertising rates for the first three months at three different rates.