Did you know that a certain amount of wild energy and boisterous play is not only normal but appropriate for toddlers? If you watch any nature show where there are groups of young animals, you will notice that roughhousing is as much of a part of their daily lives as eating and sleeping. While we are not animals, children do still have needs to wrestle, climb, and jump. Now that Blake is about eleven months old, he is moving around a lot by crawling and cruising. He loves to play alone, but he really loves to play with his big brother Dylan, who is now three years old.
One of the ways that the boys love to play with each other is wrestling. For the past month or so, I have started to let the boys play – wrestle with each other. It is something that they were both trying to do for a while before that, but I was just so uncomfortable with the idea and fearful that someone could get hurt that I simply refused to allow it. They would not be deterred, though, and one day I just decided to go with the flow and see how things went. It was a very intense experience for me, as I sat on the edge of the bed, waiting to swoop in and snatch Blake out of harm’s way if things got out of hand.
As the boys tumbled around, they both laughed heartily. Dylan was mostly gentle and careful, and I realized that the situation presented a good opportunity for learning how to play well with others. Blake was having a great time and laughing a lot, but if Dylan got too rough then he would begin to fuss. I told Dylan that he could know whether he was playing okay or too rough by the way that Blake was responding to him with his face and the sounds he was making. He seemed to catch on fairly quickly, and I am beginning to be able to relax a little bit when I am supervising their wrestling matches.
I still watch them like a hawk, I can not help but do that. What I have been able to do is interfere less often, because right before my eyes, they are learning how to communicate their needs to each other and to respect each other’s needs. They know that in order to be permitted to play rough, they need to respect each other’s boundaries and feelings. These important skills are well worth whatever anxiety and discomfort I feel while watching them at their rough and tumble games.