“I won’t take no for an answer.” We hear that a lot. Unless you have a five-year old. You take a lot of “no” for an answer. It doesn’t really matter what I ask him to do–the answer is no. Can you put on your coat? “No!” Please come here. “No!” Would you vote to extend Obamacare? “No!”
I’m a glass half-full person who I teaches 250 high school students–the answer I like to hear (unless the question is “Are you going to skip my class again?” or “Are you going to punch that kid out?”) is “yes.” I expect them to listen when I say something the sixteenth time and they generally do. I can’t achieve that level of greatness with a five-year old.
The Elementary Crew sees it differently. “He’s developing a sense of independence.” Yeah, well he’d better develop a sense of vocabulary and obedience soon. They will say, “We use positive strategies to help him make the right choice.” I’ll positive strategy him right into time out. He’ll be there so long he’ll get Flava Flav’s clock for Christmas.
I get a lot of positive reinforcement from his teacher. I’m not sure what her particular religion is, but I am pretty sure she’s up for sainthood or enlightenment. She might even be scheduled to be reincarnated as a relative of God. She’s certainly getting a holiday gift from me.
Maybe school will train Declan in the right direction. He’s doing amazing things–it seems like he’s reading overnight. He walks around chanting “vowel buddies, vowel buddies vowel buddies,” “vowel, consonant, vowel,” and “crazy ‘e'” while he spells everything in sight. It takes hours to bring him grocery shopping because he reads every can and discusses the structure of each word. Truly amazing. If he can spell “salad” then I have high hopes he will be able to understand the word “yes” before he gets himself into too much trouble, though.
The elementary mind is a big gaping mystery to me. It used to be Declan said what he was thinking. And always, the sentence involved “no.” But now, he parrots what everyone else thinks. Peer pressure. At five. “I can’t watch this show. It’s for babies.”
Why do you think it’s for babies,” I ask.
“Troy said so.”
“Is this part of Troy research? Is Troy an expert in how media affects the kindergarten mind?”
“Troy said it’s for babies. And Dora is for girls.” Kid, your favorite color was pink until you turned four and a half and you’re writing on a “Hello Kitty” whiteboard. What’s the big deal? “Diego is for boys,” he said. No, there will be no engendering here!
“Someday you’re going to like Dora much, much more. I promise you.” He disagreed. Right now he likes Isabella. I know this because she got her name inscribed on The Box. But I’m not allowed “to tell Dad.”
“DON’T TELL HIM!” I kept my promise. I didn’t tell my husband. I just put the picture of the box on Facebook and am blogging about it now. I’m following directions to the letter of the law. Sort of like Declan does when I tell him not to do something.
“I told you not to run.” I’ll say.
“I’m not running. I’m moving my feet straight and really fast.” It’s like Johnny Cochrane was reincarnated in the boy. Luckily this means I won’t have to pay for Harvard law.
But for now, we need to focus on getting through kindergarten.
Declan was not good yesterday. This was his second time “in the red.” Last week, he was as well. This is big stuff–it’s not a card in a soccer game, it’s a card in the game of life. I had to go to the classroom for a moment when I picked him up, so I saw the teacher face to face. I told her we might go to the book fair.
“Oh,” she said clearly trying to stop the impending reward, “Declan didn’t have a good day at all.” It must have been serious, because I could actually see the italics in her voice.
“What happened, Declan?” I asked.
“I stayed in the green! I was good all day!” he replied.
Are you kidding me? We’re both standing here looking at you. Two feet away. “Are you sure? We can both hear you. You need to tell the truth.”
There was no truth forthcoming.
Earlier this year, we went to the Renaissance Faire. It was really expensive and I was overtired, but we decided it would be fun to take Declan to see the knights and horses. They were a bust in Declan’s eyes.
The only thing Declan liked was the elf. He actually wasn’t an elf, he was a Ren Faire character with dwarfism walking around talking to guests. But to me, he was godlike. He was indeed Santa’s elf.
“Excuse me,” said Declan, approaching the man. “Are you Santa’s elf?”
The man, this saint, looked right into Declan’s eyes. “Why yes. I am Santa’s elf. But don’t tell anyone. I need to check and see if all the boys and girls are being good. Santa sent me.” He took Declan off to the side and lowered his voice. “Are you good?” Declan immediately replied in the affirmative. I stood behind shaking my head no faster than a bottle of Wishbone Italian.
“I don’t know about that,” said Santa’s elf. “You have to….tell the truth.” He paused with great care, staring deep into Declan’s eyes. Hypnotizing. Because when you are talking to Santa’s Elf, only the truth will do.
“Um, no. I got in the red at school a couple of times. I didn’t listen to Mom.” Confession.
Santa’s elf whispered. Declan’s eyes grew. I heard a snippet here and there about “being good,” “important,” and “watching at all times,” and that was good enough for me. Declan beamed a smile. He behaved for a solid half hour. And that’s longer than my lunch period at school, so I felt completely refreshed.
All things considered, I’m not really sure how to defeat the evil little genius that masquerades inside a five-year old mind, but I will continue to try. But now I know that if all else fails, I can drop a note to Santa’s Elf.