Declan went through a phase recently, in which he seemed to be in a bit of a rut. Getting multiple "time outs" throughout the day at his preschool was not uncommon. His daycare providers are great about communicating with me and I do my best not to be defensive or discourage them from keeping me abreast of his progress, or lack thereof.
He and I began having regular conversations each evening, trying to identify why he was acting out and I wasn't seeing a pattern or anything I could directly address. Which isn't uncommon I have found out, sometimes kids are just kids. Not wanting to simply wave it off, I attempted to address the behavior problem by offering some motivation on the other end.
I am not particularly fond of him playing video games on a regular basis, even the educational ones he has. So I began using them as a tool, a carrot for him to chase. If he didn't get a time out that day, he could play his video games while I cooked dinner. It worked, or at least it became our afternoon conversation each day when I picked him up, during a time when his reported "time outs" during the day decreased. (Who really knows if it helped, all we can really do as parents is put our best foot forward and make certain we can look back on the job we've done and say we gave it everything we had.)
When I picked Declan up earlier this week he was very excited to report, "I got no time outs today... oh wait. I mean I only got one time out today."
"What was the one for?" I asked as I buckled him into his car seat.
"I slapped Matt," replied Declan plainly.
"Why would you slap Matt?" I asked surprised.
Declan was quick to respond, "I wanted him to slap out of it."
I couldn't help but chuckle a little to myself, "Do you mean snap out of it?"
"No, you know, slap out of it," said Declan. When I asked what he wanted his friend to "slap" out of, Declan informed me that Matt was tired and wanted to rest and Declan wanted him to push him on the bike. I reiterated what his teachers had probably already given him an earful about, we don't hit and even slapping is hitting.
I kept cracking up, thinking on the drive home of how confusing the world must be to a 5-year-old. To hear people constantly telling others to "slap" out of it, but when you try to help someone to actually "slap" out of a slump, all you get is a time out.
It was a gorgeous day, as we have had several this week, so Dec and I went home to change and quickly drove to the park to get some play time in before dinner.
In no time at all he had asked every kid at the park if they wanted to play with him and help him build a road in the sand. It was amazing to see nearly a dozen kids, about 3/4 of those at the park, all in his corner of the sand box and working on his road project. He is not shy at all and it is just precious for me to watch him in action. Sometimes it can be a bit stressful, I don't quite get how parents can be annoyed by any toddler approaching their kids and asking if they would like to play, but quite often I see it.
Declan is not oblivious to it either, he will often come up to me and say, "That lady doesn't like me," or "Why won't that boy play with me?" We have good conversations about it, but sometimes I am just as confused as he is.
Toward the end of our trip to the park his "road crew" had dwindled down to him and two other boys. I was sitting at a picnic table writing notes about our conversation in the car when he looked up from his bulldozer at the two toddlers playing with him and said, "Do you want to have a sleep over at my haunted house?"
I have never seen anything get the attention of two toddler boys, that were playing in the dirt with trucks, like that question did. The wide-eyed boys looked at Declan with a mix of fear and confusion. The expression on their faces was easily read as, "Why in the world would I want to spend the night at a haunted house?"
The older of the two toddlers said, "Haunted house?" The younger quickly pointed down the street and began speaking excitedly, "Do you mean that one house over there?" As is often the case with toddlers, they were quickly distracted by their work in the sandbox, but the look on the two boys faces was priceless.
Last Halloween, while trick-or-treating with Declan, he decided he wanted to make our house into a haunted house. Again taking the quick way out, I promised him we would, "next year." It seems he plans to hold me to that commitment and much to my amusement, is planning his guest list well in advance.