I really have no idea when kids develop the ability to have ulterior motives, but I am pretty sure two and four are too young for that. Maybe the four-year-old will get a little sneaky sometimes and try to play one of us against the other, but I think four years old is still an age where there is only purpose in what they say, and not deception...I hope.
We let the four-year-old play video games only for a couple of hours a day, and he is developing some pretty important skills from playing games. Video games helped his father to smooth out problems with the English language when he was younger, and now video games are excellent for teaching the little one how to associate images with sounds and other helpful skills. The little dude is really good at them too..much better than I.
No matter how many times I tell my four-year-old that I am working all day when I am home, he never seems to give up. He gets some video game time after breakfast and I usually head upstairs to start my day. But every morning, before I can even get out of my chair, I look into those eyes and hear a little voice say "Bapa? You coming to play wif me now?"
I'm powerless. I truly am. But I have to let him down every morning and explain that I have to work. It is not easy for the little guy to understand because to him, being home is play time. I get that. But he never gives up. He gets a little more play time after his little brother goes down for a nap and inevitably the door to my office will open and a little intruder will walk in, with those eyes, and ask me in that voice "Bapa? Are you done working now?"
I explain to him that I just got started and I promise to play with him after I am done. He begrudgingly seems to understand and heads downstairs. A few minutes later, that first bottle of water I drank wants out, so I head downstairs. As I am heading downstairs, that little voice calls out again "Bapa? Are you done working?"
This goes on all day. The little one just doesn't seem to understand that Bapa works at home just like Nana goes someplace else to work. Sometimes I ask him why he just doesn't ask Daddy to play with him. I get the eyes, and then I get the voice saying "But I want to play wif you."
No ulterior motives there, just the eyes and intent of a kid who knows he is loved. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
George N Root III is the proud grandfather of two wonderful and deviously creative boys. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.