With eyes like saucers, elfin features and kissable cheeks, Little Bear is gorgeous. You can tell from his pouty lips that he will be handsome when he is a man. Incidentally, Big Bear is gorgeous too and one of my friends says she can envisage our future: two queues of women down our drive and me in the kitchen offering cups of tea, a conciliatory biscuit and a soupcon of counselling to the poor girls whose hearts have been broken by my offspring.
Little Bear’s gorgeousness doesn’t define him of course. When you look into those saucer eyes, you can see that he is filled to the brim with mischief. The composition of that mischief has changed since he arrived though. At the start it was a mischief with hard edges, bordering on delinquency. For example, Dad would say “come here” and Mischief would whisper “why not run the other way as fast as you can?”, or we might say “it’s time to get in your car seat” and Mischief would argue “how about you stay right where you are and press those buttons you aren’t supposed to touch and if they try to move you just hold the steering wheel with a vice like grip?”.
Little Bear’s mischief has also had a long standing friendship with Opportunity. So when Opportunity ventures “I don’t think anybody is watching you with that hose”, Mischief tends to reply “why not squirt the cat?”; or Opportunity might point out that he is holding a toy hammer and Mischief would say “seems daft not to hammer Big Bear’s Ipad with that whilst he’s playing on it”. Of course, Mischief then meets the most unwanted friend, Consequences. Again.
Along with Mischief and Opportunity, Little Bear is also directed by Curiosity and Impulsivity. So when we took him to a pet shop to handle snakes (Big Bear is something of a reptile fan – it wasn’t my choice of activity!), Curiosity evidently said “that looks like it feels interesting” and Impulsivity countered “so lick it”. I kid you not.
A similar dialogue must have taken place when Little Bear tried washing his hands in the toilet; when he threw some freshly laid eggs on the ground and trod on them; when he saw the open car window and was moved to throw his favourite toy out of it whilst we were moving; and on the many occasions when he just couldn’t stop himself from touching the stinging nettle or hot item before him that we have clearly stated will hurt him.
It is not Little Bear’s fault of course that Mischief and his cronies have come to such prominence within his character. It is really born out of too many long hours spent alone, unsupervised and trying to entertain himself. Not entertaining himself with toys or other age-appropriate activities but with switches, taps, hoses, climbing, keys, escaping, wires… all the sorts of things that suddenly weren’t permitted when us meanies arrived on the scene.
That initial mischief could not be left unchecked – it was dangerous and all too frequently rather destructive. In those early days, the mischief meant that Little Bear needed constant supervision.
Over time, Mischief has met Consequences innumerable times and is now somewhat of a reformed character. He’s still here thankfully. We wouldn’t want Mischief to disappear – he’s a big part of Little Bear after all – but he has mellowed. He’s now more likely to make suggestions such as “see those pants? Why not wear them on your head?” or “Mum is starting to look a bit annoyed, why don’t we wink at her?” or “why not try out one of those rude words Big Bear has taught you?”.
We like Mischief. And Curiosity. He’s a fabulous trait when pointed in the right direction. We still have to watch out for Opportunity – he provides a strong temptation and no doubt will for some years yet. Impulsivity has been helped by a bit of Experience – getting stung by that nettle or burned by that hot plate tends to give a stronger and more lasting message than any words of warning. Unfortunately for Little Bear, there are going to be many more lessons he will end up learning the hard way.
Other traits, like Common Sense are creeping in too. Little Bear has quickly learned some basic road sense, is sensible around water and even brought a pair of scissors I had accidentally left out straight to me the other day, instead of experimenting with them on the curtains or his own fingers.
Our level of supervision has reduced from 24/7 prison guarding to maybe a couple of minutes out of direct sight (as long as we can hear him. Silence is never a good sign – Opportunity might have come a-calling).
Well done little mischief maker, you really have made so much progress.