When Do Fish Sleep?

My three-year-old grandson handed me a book to read. He found the book in the drawer of the beach house this past week (later, he would ask me, “What’s a beach house?). The title of the book was “When Do Fish Sleep?” Narrating our activity, as is my want, I said, “I hope this book isn’t rhetorical—I don’t want them asking these questions and not giving us answers.”

I always wonder: what does this child learn from me that I don’t know he’s learning? This week, I’m pretty sure he learned the concept of “surprise.” Another book we read (we are big book readers) had a band of pirates discovering a treasure trove. Their wide eyes and open mouths showed they were surprised, I told him. “I am surprised,” he repeated wide-eyed, trying it on for size.

He also, inexplicably, learned how to act like an egg in a nest. “Let’s make a nest!” he cried for days. We would build a pillow nest around him with a pillow roof. Hidden inside, he’d wait while I speculated when the egg might hatch. Then, at an unpredictable time, he would erupt from the nest, the egg cracking open, the baby bird born.

Was this game triggered by our reading “Horton Hatches an Egg”? Or because the pirate ship had a crow’s nest? Or because, seated on the steps beneath the house, I pointed to the ocean and told him about the mama sea turtle with the gigantic flippers who swam ashore then used her strong flippers to dig a hole in the sand and bury her eggs where they waited until it was time to be born when they erupted from the nest and scurried beneath the moon back into the ocean and swam away?

Given the number of times we played this game, each time with him bursting from the nest with a huge grin on his face, did he learn that there is no limit to delight?

Or did he learn that his Gogi might be a former hotshot lawyer and a current “award-winning writer,” but when it comes to the sheer number of times she is willing to repeat the same act, read the same book, respond to the same joke, she is sort of a simpleton?

Why, you might be asking yourself, am I willing to repeat these acts ad nauseam? (Okay, sometime I suggest new games like, “Why don’t we do the jigsaw puzzle?” only to realize I suck at jigsaw puzzles, and we move on to stickers—stickers I can do.) My daughter-in-law calls it patience, but patience implies a putting-up-with that I don’t feel. For some reason, I have a child’s extreme tolerance for repetition. I take delight in, and share, the moment of delight. But over and over and over again—what is kinda wrong with me?

I wish life wouldn’t ask these questions and not give us answers.

Oh—and I don’t know when fish sleep. The book was a bummer—lots of words, few pictures, wise-ass answers. I was not a fan.

Remember: You Cain’t Do Nothing with Love

games to play with your grandchild, questions with no answers, when do fish sleep?, why do toddlers love repetition

Comments (7)

  • You sound like the perfect grandma to me. You and your grandson have created a circle of delight in each other and that he probably learned delight from you. At the risk of sounding wise-ass, I think you’re a hot-shot Gogi (which rhymes with yogi).

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Thank you so much! I did look this up and read where children are learning during the repetition. We always study the pictures and add our own comments; the comments then become part of the repetition: “Where is the baby?” he asks; “I think he dove into that treasure pile,” I answer. Then several readings later, he will say, “The baby dove into that treasure pile.” It also said they love that they can predict what is coming next. I think that was what he loved about the nest game – he was in charge of when he got born. And, other than when I’m expecting a book to give me answers, I love wise-asses!

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