Thursday, June 26, 2008

Star of the Day

"Why aren't you listening?" This has become my mantra to my 5 year old son. Lately he's been pretty much ignoring everything we say. If he's tapping and we say, "Stop tapping", he does it again. If he's running around the house and we say, "Stop running around the house," he runs one more time. If he's jumping on the couch and we say, "Stop jumping on the couch," he jumps a few more time. If he's...okay. I'm sure you get it.

The "stop jumping/running/yelling/spinning" is usually followed by, "Did you hear me?" Of course he did, and then we talk about going to the doctor and getting his hearing checked. "I heard you though!" Exactly! So why didn't you listen??

After a not-so-great-listening weekend last weekend, we decided that we would implement a rewards system. For every day that he is a good listener, he gets a star. After 5 stars, Daddy will take him to Dave & Busters. The first question he asked, "Do the 5 starts have to be in a row?" Smart kid, right? "Yes," we told him, "they have to be in a row."

Day 1 was good. He listened to the babysitter, didn't torture his sister too much, listened to me when I got home and was generally pretty good. Ahh, I thought, we're on our way.

Day 2 was good too. When I got home, babysitter said he was great. He had a playdate over and was pretty good, included his sister, got along with his friend, didn't whine. Well, whined once. But in the scheme of things, and thinking about our weekend, I'll take it. Wow! This is all we had to do? I should have done this reward thing earlier, it's working great. Am I going to have to bribe my kid fo the rest of his life? If all it takes is Dave & Busters (and not a car at any point), I'm good. Let's hear it for bribery!

Day 3. Not so great. First he threw up on the floor. Obviously, having nothing to do with listening, but I thought I'd throw that in there. Puking episode over and confirming that there's no fever and he's not sick, he went to his friend's house on a playdate. When he was picked up, we learned he did not listen to the friend's babysitter. She is a lovely woman, and described her day as "sometimes challenging." Oy, that's not good. What else did he do? He didn't listen. He whined. He didn't want to eat what she served for lunch. He spit on his friend. Seriously, this is a good kid. He spit on his friend? Are you sure? Spit like saliva from his mouth??

I spoke to him on the phone. "Mommy, I'm not getting a star today," he said, clearly fighting back tears. "Why?" I asked. "I didn't listen today, it wasn't a good day." I almost felt bad. Not bad enough to give him a star anyway, but still bad.

Later we talked about his day. I was much less concerned with the not listening than I was with the spitting. Who spits on someone? I cringe just thinking about it. He said that his friend "was crying, and I was just trying to help." Now, this might make sense to a 5 year old mind. It might even sound like it could get him out of trouble. But this didn't make any sense to my 30-somthing year old mind after a lousy day of work at a job that I am teetering on leaving at any given moment. "Huh?" I asked. "What do you mean, how does spitting on someone help?" He really couldn't explain it, but insisted that was what it was.

End result of the day? No star for the day. No tv or computer for the night. But we didn't dwell on it. We didn't talk about it anymore. He played Shrek Operation with Daddy and went to bed for the night. I checked on him when he was sleeping and felt this incredible surge of love for him. You know the feeling, when you see your kids and they are fast asleep, not moving, not talking and not terrorizing anyone. You question how could this little angel ever do anything wrong?

Tomorrow will be better, I thought. He's such a good boy. When I get home from work, we'll see if he gets a star today.

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