My name is Lisha, and I am an enabler. My son has had an addiction for the past two years and shows no signs of overcoming this obsession. Because he is nearly three years old, one might imagine his addiction involves some sort of sport, imitating animal noises, or having tantrums. In fact, my munchkin is addicted to stickers.
It all started with a sticker book his grandparents gave him when he was nearly a year old. Because it had reusable stickers with those wax-like pages, we wore that book out until it had five of its 40 pages and 2 ½ stickers left. Fearing a sticker meltdown, I bought more stickers and stuck them on the remaining handful of pages as my son slept. Upon waking up, he went straight to the place he always went – his sticker book. He opened it up, smiled from ear to ear, and probably wondered how the sticker fairy was capable of performing such a tremendous feat.
Because at this stage, my little prince was most interested in trying to peel stickers off of pages as opposed to putting them on, I was filling up empty pages at 2am. My husband would walk by, shake his head, and say something about the adhesive affecting my brain.
At a later stage, when the little fella preferred to stick stickers – onto a door, wall, table, desk, bed or one of us – instead of peel them, I was the indispensable sticker peeler offer. In one day, I was the proud peeler of 800 of the 1000 stickers in one book. Of course, that same evening, fearing that the remaining 200 stickers would disappear in all of one hour and my son would get delirium stickermens, I ran to the nearest bookshop to see if they had any of these same sticker books. Here is an account of those few minutes in the bookshop:
Me (to woman with bookshop badge on her shirt): Pardon me. Where might I find the little red sticker books with one thousand stickers inside?
Woman: Oh, I think we sold out of those.
Me: No, that’s impossible. Please find one immediately.
Woman: Please, Miss, calm down. I’ll have a look in the stock room.
Me: Please don’t come back out here until you’ve found one.
Woman: (dirty look)
Me: (waiting as patiently as possible)
Me: (still waiting as patiently as possible)
Me (inside stock room): Pardon me. Ma’am, are you in here? Are you still looking for the sticker book?
Woman: You’re not allowed in here. Please go back into the bookshop. I’m still looking.
Me: Do you have any idea what that sticker book means to me?
Woman: I’m guessing it means something monumental. Now please go back into the bookshop.
Me: Are you sure you don’t need help looking?
Woman: Please, Ma’am, please. Go back into the bookshop before I have to call security.
Me: (waiting as patiently as possible)
Woman (exiting stock room six minutes later): I found three.
Me: All of them, I need all of them.
With my bag of books in tow, I stepped outside the shop, reached inside the bag for one of the books and proceeded to flip through it, sniff the pages and use my index finger and thumb to peel one solitary sticker and relish in a moment in which the Earth stopped, and only my digits and the bonding agent on the back of this lone sticker existed.
Who was really addicted, you ask? Good question. Since we humans often use addictions to avoid confronting something, was there something I was trying to avoid? I contemplated this for a long time, and realised that I wasn’t trying to avoid having to wear the big bad wolf and pig hand puppets and act out the same scene for the hundredth time, I wasn’t trying to avoid learning the difference between an apatosaurus and a brachiosaurus, nor was I trying to avoid making vegetable soup in the play kitchen (out of chocolate cake, a croissant and a burger). I wasn’t avoiding anything. I was perhaps addicted, though, to seeing my son smile and laugh. Stickers seem to be his personal cloud nine.
Why? Surely the tactile component of the sticker adhesive – contemporary descendant of birch-bark-tar and plant gum – isn’t the only attraction. Stickers offer so much more than this. They represent a time when my son has my undivided attention and during which he is genuinely learning. The sticker books he particularly favours are those that require matching shapes, numbers, letters, objects, colours, animals, dinosaurs or people. Thus, he is discovering his colours, numbers and the alphabet, as well as how to recognise different shapes and forms. His visual perception, along with eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity are all getting a workout. And who knew stickers alone could be so beneficial for verbal communication, fostering the ability to focus, and lengthening my little guy’s attention span.
Our sticker activities are also helping to develop his reading skills and boosting his and my vocabulary and knowledge. Just this week, I learned that the wings of a Blue Morpho butterfly have been used in jewellery making and that the Irrawaddy dolphin has a constant smile on its face.
During these formative years, I appreciate the importance of play and one-on-one time. I admit that sometimes when I hear the word “stickers” from my little Enlai’s mouth, I think, “Oh, please, can’t we do something else, please, please, please.” But I know that what he wants and needs is for us to spend time together, for me listen to him and take pleasure in playing with him, and if he chooses stickers as his preferred activity, I’m happy to indulge. I’m also content to make a complete fool of myself the many times I’ve walked out of our flat unaware that I had stickers on my bum, pants, coat or on the bottom of my boots.
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