Occasionally, I drop an allergy pill or a low-dose aspirin while filling my weekly medicine boxes.
Like any responsible grandparent of young grandchildren, I assiduously search for the renegade pill. I sweep the area, use a flashlight to look under furniture and appliances, and vacuum the whole room, even going so far as to dig through the disgusting crud inside the sweeper bag in search of that tiny, round object. No pill.
But, let my adorable, angelic, toddling granddaughter enter the house, and before I can even pick her up and cover her face with kisses, she spots that lost pill and makes a beeline for it, her mouth already open to eat it.
The same is true of a missing sewing needle, earring, or dried up green pea hiding behind a kitchen table leg.
How does this happen? Do kids have an as-yet undiscovered magnetic aptitude that pulls them to things they aren’t supposed to have?
In 1986 Dan and I were given a “free” (ha) trip to Hawaii. Lara was 7 at the time and Ryan was 4.
Shortly before we were to leave, Dan and I had strewn our house with suitcases, camera equipment, shoes, and clothes we would take on our trip.
Which of those things attracted our kids?
Dan’s brand new, $400 Canon AE-1 camera, of course.
In a feat requiring mechanical ability neither of them should have had, they unattached (broke off) the little metal doohickey (a technical term) on top of the camera that the flash apparatus was supposed to slide into.
On another occasion, Lara opened a bottle of Wite-Out (remember that stuff?) and painted her doll’s face with it. I don’t know where that doll is today, but I guarantee you those white stripes are still on her face.
She also got into my jewelry box, selected, and thoroughly chewed up (yes, with her teeth) the only nice gold necklace I owned.
Her brother opened a bottle of red nail polish and painted our bedroom wallpaper with it. He also broke the windshield in his dad’s truck as he sat inside it one particularly boring, sunny day, and popped open a spring-loaded umbrella he found under the seat.
Dan and I had bought the most popular toys of the day for those kids.
But what kid wants to play with toys when there are expensive cameras, bottles of Wite-Out, and spring-loaded umbrellas to play with?
Perhaps parents should hide toys inside jewelry boxes and camera cases, underneath the seats of their automobiles, and behind refrigerators and couches.
Those parents could then showcase forbidden things like cameras, nail polish, and gold necklaces, inviting kids to investigate them.
Maybe the kids would push past those oh-so-obvious non-kid items to search out the toys secreted away in unlikely places.
But, probably not.
Reverse psychology rarely works with kids.
I tried it more than once.
“One of these days,” I said to my seven-year-old, “you’ll be big enough to help Mommy pick green beans, but you’re still too little for such an important job. I guess I’ll have to pick the beans by myself.”
The named seven-year-old, of course, ignored me and continued fashioning a laser sword out of a hot dog roasting skewer and a full roll of aluminum foil.
Kid experiences like these are what cause old parents to sit in rocking chairs on their front porches, drooling, and picking fuzz balls off old, holey sweaters.