We may have experienced a minor breakthrough.
Being a five-year-old boy, our son likes to play when he should be doing work in school. Throughout autumn, he got better at focusing on his work, mostly through the skilled guidance of his teacher, but also with our encouragement.
Then Christmas break hit, followed by a parade of snow days. The routine of school became hodge-podge. His attention to school responsibilities regressed. We started getting disappointing reports from his teacher.
He lost privileges at home. This got his attention, but it wasn’t so good at holding it when he was in school.
There’s a color chart in his class. Everybody starts on green. With good behavior, kids can be promoted to orange, then blue, and finally purple – the pinnacle conscientious pupil-hood. Behaving poorly can sink them through yellow into red.
Our son took a few tastes of red. Friends suggested that maybe he was bored in school. Okay, bored is an excuse when you’re a super-genius whose talents lie three grades ahead. Bored is not an excuse because school work is more boring than play. He’s a bright kid, but I believe a super-genius would have mastered telling time by now.
One day we found an add-on to his train set on clearance at the store. At 75% off, we couldn’t pass it up, but we lacked an occasion for him to get it. We made a deal. If he stayed on orange for a whole week, he could have it. If not, I’d return it to the store.
75% off! Like I was going to return that? So some other parent could bag that deal? I’d keep that thing in the basement until he was 50, if it took that long to earn it. But he didn’t know that.
The next day he jumped to orange, and brought home a golden ticket. His mom and I gave him high fives and did celebratory dances. The next two days brought more orange, high fives, hugs, and dancing. Best of all were his proud smiles.
On the fourth day, he slipped back to green. I’m sure it was all a misunderstanding, but what was done was done. I said I’d give him another chance. If he made it to purple one time, he could have the train.
Funny thing though, he didn’t seem so concerned with the train. He seemed more interested in making his parents proud.
The next week, he fluctuated between orange and green. Then, one day, I was greeted with the news that he’d reached blue. There was much rejoicing. He didn’t mention the train.
The next day, as I hugged him goodbye in the morning, he asked, “What would you do if I got on purple today?”
“I’d be so happy that my head would just about blow up.”
He laughed. I think he’s close. There’s a train at stake. But most of all, it’s a chance to blow up his dad’s head with pride.