Again, Mommy! Coping with your toddler’s love of repetition
What one mom learned from watching ‘The Wizard of Oz’ 14 times (yes, 14).
When my daughter Mary Jane was about 2-1/2, she caught the chicken pox. I gathered supplies for several days in quarantine: baby Tylenol, Children’s Benadryl, her favorite comfort foods, some ginger ale (because that’s what we in my family drink when we are sick) and a stack of of VHS tapes from the video rental store. Yes, this was back in the days of VCRs and before the chicken pox vaccine.
I got all the classics — “Bambi,” “Snow White,” “The Wizard of Oz” and many more. I hated that she was sick but I was also kind of looking forward to this rite of childhood passage and snuggling together on the sofa watching all the movies I loved as a little girl.
Her first selection was “The Wizard of Oz.” I worried that it might be a bit scary for her — I was simultaneously terrified by and drawn to that movie as a child, especially the witch and her flying monkeys. Mary Jane watched the movie attentively from start to finish, and as the credits rolled, she cried out, “Again, Mommy, again. Biz of Boz again!”
So we watched it again. And again. And again. Each time, she was mesmerized from start to finish, and each time the credits rolled, “Biz of Boz again!”
It was that way for four days. Four days. I drifted off to sleep at night with the Wicked Witch’s theme music in my ears. I heard the Lollipop Guild in my dreams. And I woke to “Biz of Boz, Biz of Boz.” We watched the movie 14 times before her fever broke, her pox faded and she could return to day care.
If you have a toddler, odds are this is a familiar story. Toddlers love repetition. Child development experts say this is appropriate and healthy. I think it must be, because if you ask 15 parents, you’ll hear 15 similar stories of books read, games played and videos watched, over and over again.
During toddlerhood, repetition helps children learn and feel secure. They are reassured by a storyline that plays out in the same order every time. They build memory skills. They feel success and mastery as they learn and anticipate the plot, lyrics, dance moves and dialogue.
If you are in those crazy-making days of “again, Mommy,” I would offer this advice: Follow the child’s lead but give yourself a break, too. For instance, introduce a new book alongside a familiar one or offer to watch the video “again” tomorrow. It also can help to take some deep breaths and remember this is a healthy developmental stage.
Our “Biz of Boz” experience was an extreme one, and I have to admit I was getting pretty stir-crazy by the time we were able to leave the house again. But now it and all the other books, games and movies we shared in her childhood make for fond memories for my adult daughter and me.
This post was written by Cynthia Manley, director of content strategy with Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Strategic Marketing Department. She is the mom of a now adult daughter whom she considers to be her best friend — and who still loves “The Wizard of Oz.”
Tell us about your child’s “again, Mommy” favorites in the comments below. Do you have tricks and tips for others in this healthy but sometimes exasperating stage of childhood?