More Passive Defiance

One of our prize possessions is a train table. It’s an octagonal thing that stands about 18 inches tall and about four feet across, with bins underneath it for storing stuff. The flat top is covered by a design so it looks like you’re looking down at the countryside. We set up train tracks on it, and the kids push the little trains around the tracks. It’s short enough for them to easily reach the trains, even towards the middle of the table.

Our kids absolutely love it. The challenge, however, has been getting them to play together without fighting over who gets which train car.

Over the past year or so, we’ve gradually worked this out. They each make their own train, and they push them around, being careful not to run into each other. They’re not allowed to take train cars away from each other, nor are they allowed to grab cars unless they’re putting them in their train. This means that when they start playing, there’s a flurry as each tries to secure the favored cars for their own train. Once that period passes, they play pretty peacefully.

Sometimes, however, there are bad feelings that linger after this initial moment of train grabbing. When this happens, the arguing continues into the playtime. We generally try to let them work these things out themselves.

The other day, however, C’s voice escalated from complaining into an outraged howl. I called out from the kitchen to see what was going on, and he immediately came running. Tears were streaming down his face. “He won’t let me play with the trains! He won’t let me play!”

For those who may have forgotten, C is 4. His little brother is 2. Perhaps it’s because I’m a little brother myself, but I have little understanding for a 4 year old who lets himself get bullied by a 2 year old. “He’s keeping you from playing with the trains?” I said. “Show me.”

So he took me by the hand and led me to his bedroom and the train table.

There was N, lying on his back on the middle of the train table, with his arms and legs sticking out to cover as much of the train tracks as he could.  He looked over at me as we walked in. “Not touching the trains!” he said.

I looked and, sure enough, he wasn’t touching the trains. One train was between his feet and the other was between his left hand and his head. Of course they couldn’t move anywhere without running into him, but he wasn’t touching them.

I couldn’t help it. I grinned. C immediately started to wail again. “He’s not letting me play!”

I patted him on the head and then tried to look sternly at his little brother. “New rule: no lying on the train table.”

“Oh, okay” he said and climbed down off the table.

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