Play is such an easy concept but people tends to make it complicated with expensive hi-tech toys. It’s hard not to be wowed by the smart toy designers who market their toys so well that kids recognise those toys and parents just have to get them.

I must admit, I am still crazy about toy shops and gadgets, that it’s hard to remind myself that money don’t grow on trees and that it isn’t something that TJ needs (tho’ the truth is it’s something I want). D plays his Xbox 360 every night after TJ has gone to bed. And if we have a bigger place, I would have gotten myself either the Guitar Hero combo set (with the drum kit etc) or Rock Band… and now, there is the Deejay version. It’s just so hard to keep up with all these interesting toys.

But with TJ, we are very clear that play needs to be done outdoors as much as possible. On good days, my helper will take him out in the morning, either the park or the playground and just let him “loose” … much like walking a dog I suppose. ;p And I would try to be home early and take him out for another short walk round the neighbourhood after his nap. He likes to watch the buses and cars go by and doesn’t mind just walking along the pavement, getting all excited over those vehicles. Sure, I do get bored of the same old routine, but it’s not me that matters. What matters most is that TJ still enjoys it, everything still looks different and new to him even though we have been to the same places all these months, since he started walking.

So I suppose the same old places don’t matter to TJ. Perhaps what matters most is the company and I think he is just glad to be out. It’s an adventure of sorts for this 27-month-old boy.

And now that Xmas ’09 is just a couple of days away, we didn’t especially get him a Xmas present. D and I buy him toys throughout the year and the most recent was Edward the train which I bought him last Saturday. The name “Edward” is the only one he will say out loud, while he gets extremely excited over James, which by the way, would be the toy he takes to bed with him  each night.

For now, his Thomas & Friends collection include: Thomas, Percy, James, Edward, Toby, Bertie and the Musical Caboose which plays part of the theme song. TJ would kinda sing the tune and look to either D or I to continue with proper lyrics.

We aren’t very good with creating traditions in our family, perhaps we should seriously consider implementing some kinda Xmas tradition. Maybe our tradition is just this: Giving gifts shouldn’t be limited to just birthdays and Xmases…. it should be anytime anywhere.

I enjoy observing TJ at play, whether it’s out in the playground, indoor playgym or at some playdates. Especially at the playground when there are other lil’ humanoids like him. To me, the playground is a battlefield for these wee ones, and it gives him the opportunities to learn some conflict management and handle unpredictable situations. We do keep an eye on him and pre-empt any crap that unruly and rude kids (whose parents obviously don’t think they are) would dish out on TJ, so that we would be prepared to “protect” him if he isn’t able to.

Most of the time, TJ doesn’t get into any trouble, hit or bite anyone, but if things get a lil’ too much for him, he would show his frustration by whimpering. Usually TJ would walk away from the crowd and find alternatives to play and still enjoy himself. If it’s too crowded at the slides, he would not push his way up the stairs, even though he really wants to and would listen to us when we tell him to play elsewhere. If there are kids around, TJ would just break into a run round the playground, always looking behind him to see if any kid runs after him. If one of them does, my son will be shrieking with joy and excitement.

While at playdates or the indoor playgyms, TJ is still at the stage where he acknowledges another human being like him, and will play beside them, but don’t expect him to engage in some interactive play with the other little person. Basically he does his own thing, and as long as the other kid doesn’t come and take his toy before he is done with it, TJ is a happy boy.

We were at Wisekids Indoor Playroom this morning and he spent the bulk of his time playing at the kitchenette. Later while the rest of the kids were having circle time, TJ asked my permission to play elsewhere, by holding my hand and wanting me to accompany him but I didn’t budge, and that resulted in a little tantrum throwing. It was only after he had calmed down a little then I let him hold my hand and take me to wherever he wanted to go. And the train set was where he wanted to be.

Although deep inside me, I prefer that TJ has the entire playground to himself, so that he doesn’t need to be in a “dangerous” situation with some gangster kid, or that he has his own set of toys that he plays with without having it being snatched away, life is never like that, definitely not a bed of roses. I don’t think D and I will be good parents if we shelter our children that much, and it’s not that we enjoy to see them struggle with life, but I suppose we need to equip them with the correct values and skills to tackle life. And it is never too early to start, hence the playground/battleground simulation.

Last Sunday was our second time back in church, and TJ’s second Sunday School session (he’s in nursery session) while D and I attended the service. The first time we took him to church, D wanted to stay with TJ during his sunday school service, thinking that he would have some kinda separation anxiety. We had worried about this the few days leading to that first Sunday, and wondered how our boy would react with new faces and new environment.

But we had underestimated TJ. He went into the room on his own, said his byes and sent us flying kisses before keeping himself occupied with some toys the teachers had placed on the floor. When we returned to pick him up, I had a quick chat with the teacher who said that TJ has been well-behaved. That’s all I needed to know, it would be a bonus if he came home to sing us the songs or told us the story he heard, but all we are interested in is that our son has behaved well and not given anyone any trouble.

That my son has good manners and proper behaviour are two very important things to us, and frankly, if my kid is some rascal, I can’t place the blame on him or say, “I can’t do anything about him, he just doesn’t want to behave.” Because the truth is we are the parents, and we can’t be that liberal and think that the kids will learn manners and good behaviour indirectly or learn them later in school.  Parents are the first teachers and it doesn’t mean teaching them the academics, but proper values and discipline.

Boundaries need to be drawn and kept small while they are still this young and as they grow older, boundaries can be redrawn and enlarged but the boundaries are still there. I believe in tough love, and as much as it hurts them and hurts me more, discipline needs to be enforced and there cannot be any inconsistency. Likewise, if promises have been made, they need to be kept.

I want to keep the black and white of life as long as possible so that TJ grows up to have a good sense of right and wrong, so that when the time comes for him to experience the various shades in between and when we are unable to come up with the answers, TJ will still be a level-headed man who is open-minded and respectful of different perspectives.

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