Last week the younger of my 18-month-old twins watched me cleaning the living room and decided to help. As I picked up things and threw them away, she found a crumb of food on the floor, picked it up, came to where I was and threw it into the trash can.
This astounded me and I praised her mightily. (I thought I would have to wait until they were pre-teens to have them help with the housework.)
Little did I realize the coming consequence of my actions. She is so pleased with her rubbish ridding skills that she has become Little Miss Dispose All. She buzzed around the trash can repeatedly today, and I had to keep waiving her off. Throwing stuff away came easily, but the mental discernment to make the distinction of what is to be thrown away and what isn't it is more difficult.
Today she picked up a flashcard with a picture of a truck and, before I could stop her, dumped it into the trash.
"No, no," I told her. "We don't throw away our toys."
She was unfazed.
"The toy is gone now. We threw it in the trash."
Yeah, who cares?
"Do you know what happens to things we throw in the trash? A big truck comes and picks them up and takes them away."
"Yeah," she said as if she understood every word.
"It takes them away, and they bury them."
"Yeah," she said again, like she already knew.
"And sometimes they burn them."
For some reason this struck a chord. I will throw my toy away, and the trash truck can take it away, and men can bury it, but whatever you do, just don't let them burn it.
Who knows how the toddler mind works. It never ceases to surprise me.
*Broom illustration is a scan of one of the aforementioned flashcards -- Picture Words Pocket Flashcards, by TREND enterprises, Inc., www.trendenterprises.com.