1, 2, 3 Strikes You’re Out

I want to give you fair warning.  This post is going to be pretty emotional.  You are going to get a sense of how deeply connected T.Puzzle is to me, his overarching love of school and lastly, Full Speed’s brotherly commitment to look out for T.Puzzle.  It’s all there…enjoy.

In recent months we have been noticing a theme in T.Puzzle’s life.  And that theme is…video games.  He is rather obsessed and talks about gaming constantly.  Even when we have a round of ‘family questions’ at the dinner table, rather miraculously he can loop it back to video games.

Here are some examples:

If you could be anyone in the world for a day, who would you be?

“Someone allowed to play video games all day and night long.”

If you saw your friend steal something, would you turn them in?

“That depends on what it is.  If it’s a cool video game, probably not.  I’d want to play it with him.”

You get the idea.

A couple years back, T.Puzzle was given the task at school to make me a Mother’s Day card.  Here’s the final result, and get those tissues ready… the tears are going to fall…

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I told you it was emotional.  I’ll give you a minute while you collect yourself.

Better?  Good.

Since it’s clear that T.Puzzle loves video games above all else, what’s a mom to do with this sort of intel?  About two weeks ago I put T.Puzzle on an incentive program.  His manners and attitude still often leave much to be desired.  If he happens to forget his manners, roll his eyes at me or give me lip when asked to do a chore, he gets a strike.  If he gets three strikes in a seven day period, he loses gaming privileges for the weekend (the only time he is allowed to play them during the school year).  Naturally, it’s working pretty well.  Except for this past week, he was feeling particularly ornery with his brother and had already used two strikes.  We were on the edge of our seats…would he make it the final stretch without a strike?  He did ok on the last night, but he still had to make it through the morning (the seven day strike period runs Friday after school through Friday morning the following week).   As he trounced into the kitchen this morning I asked, “Do you think you can make it until you go to school without getting another strike?”

“Sure!  But I better leave now!  Gotta go.  Can’t wait to get there!”  This all coming from a kid who is currently appalled that he has perfect attendance.

Of course, this made me laugh.  He is self-aware enough to know that his inabilty to control impulses could land him in third strike territory.

We managed to get through breakfast and the rest of our morning without incident.

T.Puzzle was first out of the garage with his bike as usual.  I turned to Full Speed and said, “Can you believe he actually made it without a third strike?”

“Mom!  He didn’t say goodbye to you!  That’s an automatic strike!”

“Nice try, kid.”

“I’m serious, Mom!  He rode his bike DANGEROUSLY FAST down the driveway.  He’s gotta get a strike for that.”

“Full Speed, it just warms my heart how much you look out for your brother.”

Wonder if he loves him as much as video games?

Two Steps forward, One Bike Ride Back

I know as a mom, there is an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t compare your kids.  It’s like apples to oranges, right?  Yes and no.  If all you have known in your parenting history are the actions and behaviors of your firstborn, how can you not apply this knowledge to your second kid?

If you’ve ever read any of my early posts about raising my boys, you know that they both were incredibly stubborn and highly active children.  The good news is that while they remain stubborn at their core, they are thankfully a lot more compliant and much more pleasant to live with.  These behavior changes came over a period of several years and after lots of hard, consistent disciplinary work from my part.  At around the second grade, Full Speed completely transformed.  He became a delight to be around.  He developed manners and empathy.  While he still has spurts of insane, high-energy, they are much easier to handle.  Naturally, I thought that once T.Puzzle hit second grade the same would ring true for him.  I waited and waited, and then I waited some more.  Manners?  Nope.  Being compliant?  Not so much.  Having a filter?  Not on your life.

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His behavior baffled me.  I did all the same things I did with Full Speed, so why wasn’t it sinking if for T.Puzzle?  After a while I began to realize that, wait a minute, they actually are quite different kids.  While Full Speed remained vocal and independent at school, T.Puzzle kept to himself.  Full Speed’s confidence certainly won the respect of his teachers, but T.Puzzle’s quiet nature won them over completely.  Where Full Speed sometimes didn’t get ‘outstandings’ in conduct, T.Puzzle was bringing them home left and right like nobody’s business.  Yet, when he return home from school again, he would be that flip little loose cannon who does not like to be told what to do.  At home, this is where Full Speed shined.

Okay, I get it, these guys are opposites in some regards.  They have to mix it up to keep me on my toes.  I let it go and focused on being grateful that most of the time, away from me, T.Puzzle was a pretty well-behaved kid.  Then, it happened. There was this shift in him.  He has started to remember his manners more, he does things the first time he’s told with less commentary and he actually offers to share things with others on occasion.  I noticed something subtle the other day, too.  I snuggled up to him on the couch and instead of me putting my arm around him, he put his arm around me.  He even began to absently pat me on the back.  Exactly like Full Speed does when he is ‘taking care’ of mom.

To help encourage this new-found growth and maturity, I sent T.Puzzle to his friend’s house by bike.  He did so good.  He called me when he got there and called me to let me know he was on his way home.  When I greeted him by the garage I was so proud of him.

“Mom, my helmet feels weird.”

“Uh, that’s because you are wearing it backwards.”

It’s not a perfect system, folks.  Not by a long shot.

Living Arrangements

ry=400-1Gathered at the breakfast table we began to discuss how awesome our dogs are.  Full Speed said that because our dogs are so awesome that he will definitely have dogs when he grows up.  I turned and asked T.Puzzle if he would have dogs when he was grown.

“I’m probably just going to live with Full Speed when I’m older,” he said.

“I guess that means you’ll have dogs, then,” I said.

“Well, maybe I’ll just live with you instead…”

Awww!

“…until you pass away.”

Wait?  What?!?

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It is only a recent development that I am now comfortable taking my boys to the grocery store.  It’s not without challenges.  Since the Superbowl is approaching, they tend to participate in imaginary football games using all the displays that advertise this big game.  It doesn’t seem to bother them that they are the only ones in the whole store running passing patterns and/or blocking for their brother as he runs to the freezer section which is the designated end zone.  I found the best way to combat these football antics is to give them actual permission to run plays before we head inside.  Somehow, if your Mom says ‘2 imaginary field goal attempts are acceptable’, they suddenly lose their charm (see previous post Parenting 101).

I have also found it helpful if I have the boys participate in the task at hand.  They alternate between being the cart pusher and my assistant.  The cart pusher generally endangers himself and all other patrons in the store.  Any sort of food display is at risk as well.  I tend to apologize to my fellow shoppers or praise them for their mad dodging skills.  As for the displays?  I often wish I was on the grocery store payroll for the number of ‘clean-ups in isle such and such’ that I have hastily done as my boys knock over yet another stack of food items.

This past week I had T.Puzzle as my assistant with a new recipe in hand and Full Speed was my cart pusher.  It was going fairly well except for an unfortunate, crushing turn that Full Speed had made.  Luckily, all that suffered were some coffee filters.  We regrouped and headed to the next isle.  Since I hadn’t made a Target run all week, I also had to get some basic household items which I relayed out loud to Full Speed.  I then checked my text messages to see what Mad Dog needed from the grocery.  I told Full Speed those items as well.  I then checked in with T.Puzzle and we went over the recipe and he set out to get the final ingredients.

As we turned the last corner our cart was so laden with food and other various products, Full Speed could barely push it.  I made him stop as I went over my lists, rechecked my text messages and tried in vain to make sure I had everything I needed.

“I sure hope I got everything,” I said as I eyeballed the mound in our cart.

“Mom, you have to remember like 300 things!  I think it’s okay if you forget one or two of them,” Full Speed said.

That goes for all of you reading this, too.  Just as my boys will inevitably simulate a sport while shopping, it’s inevitable that as parents, we are going to forget something along the way.  Keep it in perspective.  Look at the 298 things you DID remember.  Now, go kick a field goal!

Doors

DSC_8521There’s something about the doors of our home that make my boys feel the need to slam them on a daily basis.  This leads to some very heart-stopping moments as you hear the whiz of the door at unexpected times.  You hope as it slams into place that no fingers or hands go with it.  So, it did not surprise us as we sent our extremely energetic guys outside, that we heard a thud followed by the keening cries of Full Speed.   Upon further investigation, T.Puzzle had slammed Full Speed’s fingers in the doorway leading outside.  Since my patience was near zero with him already (that’s another blog post for another day), I got very angry even though it was ‘accidental’.  He had to be sent swiftly away to his room for his own safety.  Eventually I calmed down and realized Full Speed’s fingers were thankfully intact.  I then allowed T.Puzzle to come back downstairs.

“I’m sorry I got so mad at you.  I realize that it was an accident and we all make mistakes sometimes.”

“It really was an accident, Mom.”  T.Puzzle’s voice quavered and his eyes were rimmed with tears.  “I just wish you would have told me to be more careful with the door and then it never would have happened.”

And, just like that he was faultless.  In fact, not only was he faultless, he was actually an injured party in this debacle as well.

I may not agree with his logic, but I respect it.  Something tells me this kid would do well in a court of law.