In recent months, the behavior of the little guy has been, shall we say, less than impeccable. He’s a spirited, willful, beautiful, stubborn little imp and naturally, from time to time we have cause to be at odds with him. When this happens, he reacts by digging in his heals, rejecting our reality and substituting it with his own.
In other words, he misbehaves.
But that’s ok, I get it. He’s the smallest human in the house and he must feel a little passed over occasionally. We make many more decisions for him than for his big brother and sometimes his big brother bosses him around a bit as well. It is a difficult thing being the smallest in a group. Just ask the broken wax crayon in the box or the Escape key on a keyboard (UNIX guys will understand).
So, we find ourselves having to make deals with him in order to get him to conform. We set goals for him to achieve so that we can reward him when they are met and then indirectly boost his self esteem and help him carve out his place in the ‘world’ (his school and our house).
Some time back he went through a vampire stage where he seemed to want to resolve all of his conflicts with a bite. This was obviously not ideal given that the recipients of the bite ranged from school friends, to his sibling and AuPair and sometimes even to us if he was feeling particularly set upon. I had visions of disgruntled parents knocking on my door with their bitten children in tow – complete with pitchforks and garlic and revenge aplenty. I eventually resorted to drastic action and took a most prized possession away from him, his Lego Naboo Starfighter.
At the time I said this was a permanent move and that I was going to give it to a children’s home and really, I’d had every intention of following through with that plan for the toy. If I’m honest though, I’ll admit that the punishment was a little severe for our little guy. So I hung onto the toy instead, hiding it away in a cupboard. I didn’t tell him that though.
He was, in a word, heartbroken by this sanction and counter intuitively, it actually initially caused more poor behavior choices on his part. But then some time passed and things seemed to get better. Until one day he drew me aside to have a serious talk with me about his toy.
Where was it? Had I really given it away? Was there any possibility at all of getting it back from the abyss? Daddy?
He’d obviously been thinking about it and was now wondering if there was some way in which he could redeem himself. It was such a sweet little moment with him. He wasn’t demanding it from me. He wasn’t acting entitled or spoilt. He was just asking me if the toy was still within my power to return to him.
I simply couldn’t refuse his heartfelt little petition and so I said that I could actually get it back for him, but it meant that he’d need to commit to achieving a few goals. I think it’s fair to say that at that point, he would probably have agreed to just about anything. I toyed with the idea of a contract like this for a while…
I will never, under any circumstance, ride a motorcycle. I’ll willingly eat broccoli with every meal from now until the end of all things. I promise I won’t ever injest in any way anything made by a chemist in a garage or in a plantation in South America and I will never have cause to call you from a police station.
Your loving little Imp.
In the end I settled for two consecutive weeks of stellar behavior involving the three pillars of conformity. No hurting of anyone. No breaking of things belonging to anyone and listening to people in authority. This then was a formal, verbal contract between a parent and a child. We even shook on it.
It’s been a little over a month now since our agreement came into effect and the target date has shifted out a few times. This is primarily due to a few lapses in concentration and judgement on his part but also due in part to some environmental factors outside of his control.
But now I’m on the bubble. You see, all I want to do is get the bloody toy back to him before he decides he no longer wants it. He may just decide that the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze. If that happens, the entire plan is doomed. I’ll have about as much leverage with him as a builder trying to shift a boulder with a piece of cooked spaghetti.
So be a good boy…boy.