I have figured it out.
The biggest breakthrough of all time.
Have you ever seen a teenager with, say, a cellphone? They open it. Shut it. Check the ring tone. Send a text.
Not because they need to do any of those things, but because they can. This is a cell phone. It opens and shuts and sends messages. I will make the phone do the thing it was born to do. Yeah, me!
Doors, buttons, you name it, kids will make them function. Over and over and over.
When they sit there during the movie opening and shutting the DVD case one million times with an irritating little snap-snap-snap-snap-snap-snap-snap, they are not trying to annoy you to death. They are setting the Universe to rights. A DVD case opens and shuts; they are simply helping it to do that thing it was born to do.
I realized that they look at me the same way. Hey look. There's that big lady that can pour milk and open cracker boxes. Hey, you, fetch me a drink. No. Not in that cup. I want the pink one. Well, clean it then. Now dry it; I don't want water drips in my milk. I want a cracker. I want peanut butter on it. Wait a minute. You can't just walk away like that. Get me a napkin.
Not because they want any of these things–I kid you not, 99.9999% of drinks I pour and snacks I serve are never consumed–but because they are helping me get back on track; to do that thing I was created to do. They feel like they are doing me a favor.
I have one little girl who will get up to the table, rest her arms in front of her, fingertips touching, elbows out, and very graciously inform me, "I'll have a cracker with cheese and a drink of juice."
"We don't have any juice; snack today will be pretzels and grapes; you just threw your breakfast in the garbage and went outside. Snack isn't for another hour. Maybe two."
"Oh. Well, I guess I'll have some grapes."
She feels very magnanimous about this. Directing me, lest I should forget I'm the beast of burden in the true order of things.
There are some curious kinks in the train of thought, however. . . like why some children take everything and force it to serve one purpose. The child who makes everything into a gun. Blocks, trucks, forks, and if you take those away, he turns to his cheese and his shoes. Clearly cheese was never born to be a weapon, but in his mind all things should have been.
Or the ones who fixate on certain functions and not others. Turning pages, but not paying attention to anything in the book. Slamming a door over and over and over. Flushing the toilet repeatedly, but never actually depositing anything into it. (Do they even face in the toilet's general direction when they unburden their bladders? Is it possible?)
The key is to get them to recognize different functions than the one they are currently obsessing over, right? Maybe that's how we define maturity, I don't know. I'll definitely be cautious about adjusting their perception of my function–clearly they believe M is genetically related to a trampoline; the moment he comes in the room he is besieged by the mob and they take him down and pummel him mercilessly.
Worth a more thorough thinking through. But right now, judging by the indignation abounding all around, I am clearly in dereliction of duty. Hee-Haw.