I think sometimes we adults forget how quickly we process environmental and experiential information compared to small children.
Pickup from daycare was a little different today. Normally, 3-year-old E’s Dad picks her up, but he had something else this evening and I agreed to pick her up. My daughter would meet us at my house, we would all spend a little time together, and then they would continue the rest of the way home.
Everything went well (other than a massive attack of mosquito bites on my daughter because of the rain last night and I haven’t been keeping up with the creek treatments and mosquitoes have always desired her gourmet blood). When it came time to go home, I put 1-year-old A in her car seat while 3-year-old E was climbing from the front seat to the back seat. Granddaughter E and I both realized at the same second that there was no car seat in its regular spot — there was just a big empty void of space above the back seat. Instantly, my daughter and I knew what happened. I told my daughter it was okay, I would drive E to their house right quick and I started assisting my granddaughter out of my daughter’s car, back into my house to grab my car keys, and back into my car, moving even more quickly than would otherwise be requisite due to the mosquitoes gathering in numbers with the descending dusk.
All the while, little E’s agitation continued to rise and finally broke out into outright wails. Safely in the car, but before starting to drive, I turned to console her.
E wanted to know why someone stole her car seat.
What my daughter and I had simultaneously deduced, without ever saying a word, was that she and my son-in-law had moved E’s car seat to the other vehicle over the weekend. They had simply forgotten to the move E’s car seat back to the main child-transporting-vehicle last night.
Because it was immediately obvious to the adults what had happened, we had simply reacted and adjusted course without verbalizing exactly what that situation was. However, it had not been obvious to 3-year-old E. At all.
On the entire drive back to their house, I explained to E what had happened: that it was just an accident that Mom and Dad had forgotten to move her car seat back and that they would surely take care of it tonight. E asserted that she would check the other car herself to determine that her car seat was actually where I said it was. Fair enough.
It’s hard to be 3. A little information helps.
It’s hard to be a parent, a grandparent, an adult, too. We keep trying and, hopefully, keep getting a little more skillful at it.