Wednesday, January 11, 2012

If It's Broke, Fix It

In typical 2-year-old fashion, my son breaks his toys on a regular basis. Sometimes he breaks them through a combination of enthusiasm and klutziness, but most of the time, he breaks them because he’s trying to explore how they work or what they do. For example, he has a Matchbox motorcycle with handlebars that swing back and forth, and he regularly pops off the handlebars while trying to see exactly how far they can bend. Similarly, I have to pop the doors of his snowplow back in place on a regular basis because he twists them as far as they can go (and, obviously, slightly farther) out of sheer curiosity.

The vast majority of his “broken” toys are easily fixable. More often than not, it’s just an issue of popping a piece back into place, sliding a tab back into a slot, or fitting two pieces back together. Occasionally it’s something truly broken, like a torn page in a book that can be taped back together or a snapped-off wooden peg that needs re-gluing. Ryan is especially fond of watching his father or me repair things with glue or tape – so much so that now every broken toy is solemnly brought to one of us with the request, “Fix it with glue or tape!”

But every once in a while, he breaks something more permanently. His toy snowplow used to have two little plastic flags on the sides of its plow blade that he’s snapped off. I probably could have glued them back but they would have snapped right off again. Luckily, they were completely non-functional outside of their coolness factor, so the snowplow itself is unaffected by its injury. He recently stepped on his little toy backhoe and snapped off its boom and bucket. When he brought it to Daddy to be fixed, Daddy filed off the stump of the boom and made it into a tractor, a repair that Ryan (fortunately) accepted without question. He also has a toy garbage truck that he loves – and which is as yet unscathed by his clumsiness and curiosity – that came with a guy to ride on the back of the truck. The guy has not been quite so lucky. He has hinged arms that turn on little plastic pegs, but they don’t turn quite as far as Ryan made one of them turn, and he bent the pegs and snapped off the poor guy’s arm at the elbow. He brought the pieces to me and said, “Fix it, Mama,” and I was hard-pressed to explain that he was unfixable. When I told him I couldn’t fix it, he looked at me blankly and said, “Fix it with tape and glue, Mama.” Again, the guy is relatively functional even with only one arm, so Ryan still plays with him without question, and only occasionally mentions, “Oh! Mama, his arm broken!” or approaches me with another request to “Fix it”.

It’s nice to know that he thinks that Mama can fix anything, but it makes me sad to think of the times that I will have to disappoint him by my failure to fix some beloved toy. I look ahead with trepidation to the first death of a pet – a goldfish, a hamster, a turtle – and having to explain that Mama and Daddy can’t bring it back to life again. I know that it’s an important (and unavoidable) step in childhood when a toddler realizes that some things can’t be fixed, and hopefully it will be a good lesson for him to be careful and gentle with the things that he loves. But for now, I’m just enjoying my time as the Mama Who Can Fix Anything.

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