I have been so impressed with Ruby since I’ve been in the States. A few really horrendous, whiningly jet-lagged days aside, she has been a delight, and she really does get attention everywhere she goes. She smiles an angelic smile on that cherubic face with its white-blonde halo, and she wraps the toughest men and the hardest women around her little finger. She’s had a lot of adjustments to make though. For one, we have had to leave nearly all of her toys at home, and her big bag of pens and glue and scissors got lost somewhere along the way as well, so she has been getting by on some very makeshift games and toys.
One thing I’ve noticed is that her imagination has blossomed enormously while we’ve been away. Whether the move just happens to have coincided with a developmental leap, or whether it is a direct product of her sudden forfeiture of all her usual props, Ruby’s ability to play alone, and with nothing, is mushrooming. She spends hours making tea for her animals, and I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked to blow out the candles on an invisible birthday cake.
In stark contrast, we have spent the last few days at a friend’s house in Boston, a great big sprawling place that reminds me of my own childhood in England, with kids, dogs, innumerable toys and immeasurable space. Ruby has been in heaven. She has been kayaking, swinging, sliding, trampolining, scooting, playing with the dogs, petting animals on the farm, and the list goes on and on and on. All of this stands out in sharp relief against our tiny living space in Manhattan, Ruby’s blowup mattress on my bedroom floor, her limited playthings. Even the comparatively bigger home we left behind in the UK would fit into two rooms of this beautiful house. I love my apartment, I love the higgledy-piggledy cosiness of it, and the buzz of the life outside the windows, but I know that Ruby has unwittingly made sacrifices for my adventure. Just watching her come alive with these new playmates and all this space and all these things has triggered the guilt I feel for taking her away from everything that is familiar, but then I remind myself of how beautifully she is coping with every change and every new day. I have watched her adapt from playing with her nursery friends and all her toys in the home she knows, to entertaining herself for hours with a couple of plastic cups in a tub of water in the bottom of the shower, to jumping in a kayak on a lake in Boston, and I know tomorrow she will adapt right back again, and I have to remind myself that she will be just fine.
She needs more friends her own age, I can see that now, and I will make that my focus when I get back to the city, but I am not going to attempt to replicate the amount of toys she has at home because I can see now that it is completely unnecessary. Just watching her ability to entertain herself with the most makeshift of toys has shown me that, if anything, being over-stimulated and over-entertained numbs her ability to imagine. She has had a ball up here in Boston, but I know full well that if this level of attention and entertainment were at her disposal all the time she would still reach the same points of frustration and boredom that she does at home. I guess, like anything else, it all comes down to variation, and while I can’t wait to come back her for Thanksgiving and set her loose again, I think that learning to make her own fun might be one of the most valuable lessons she learns.