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?

Choked Up

We had friends over this weekend.  As the adults were sitting outside on the lanai, my friend’s son comes racing out to announce that “T.Puzzle is choking!”  We weren’t too concerned as he had just been reprimanded for being a poor sport over a Wii game.  He was full of tears and snot so we figured he was ‘choking’ as part of his tantrum.  Mad Dog went upstairs to investigate.  What did he find?  T.Puzzle straddling Full Speed with both of his hands wrapped tightly around his older brother’s neck.  Full Speed was so stunned by this choking attack he wasn’t even trying to defend himself.

Thankfully, Full Speed was uninjured.  And, thankfully, this happened around the kind of friends who understand that kids lose it and still love us anyway.  I tried to imagine if we were only acquaintances how T.Puzzle’s behavior would have gone over.  Something like, “Their house was lovely but man, that T.Puzzle is CRAZY!  Watch your backs!”

Of course T.Puzzle was punished for his temporary loss of sanity.  Mad Dog and I tried to keep it in perspective.  Imagine no matter how hard you tried or how fast you ran, you never, ever get to beat your older brother at anything.  That has to be a pretty frustrating way to live.

So, even though we understand his motivation, we will never condone choking your brother out.

Technically I guess that is one thing T.Puzzle is better at.

T.Puzzle as a toddler showing 4 year old Full Speed glimpses of attacks to come.
T.Puzzle as a toddler showing 5-year-old Full Speed glimpses of future attacks.

Grocery Stories

I’d like to take full parenting credit that my boys were excellent for me during checkout.  Instead, I owe it all to the technological era of our time.  They knew if they acted like crazy monkeys they would not get video game time when we got home.  Therefore, they were downright angelic.  Oh sure, there was a point when Full Speed somehow got attacked by the grocery cart and nearly had his ear ripped from his body.  And of course T.Puzzle couldn’t get over that there were no sprinkle cookies left.  He approached a meltdown and with his head hung low rather ungraciously accepted a plain sugar cookie.  The only thing that saved him was he remembered his manners and said ‘thank you, ma’am’ to the very accommodating woman handing out the cookies.  After a few more seconds of nonsense he got over himself, ate the cookie and promptly declared, “That was delicious, I would like to have a second one, please!”

All in all, not a bad day at the store.

I don’t particularly like to resort to all out bribery to get my kids to behave.  I also don’t particularly like to have my children’s pictures on the grocery’s red-alert watch list.

To bribe or not to bribe?

Today, I chose bribery.

You’re welcome, America!

Ten Minutes

My Type-A personality is slowly conquering the insanity of kindergarten drop-off.  My solution is to be there extremely early.  Full Speed has responded well to this.  He loves to get to school early (Type-A in the making, baby!).

So, I get the boys out the door by 8 a.m. and we miss all sorts of traffic and chaos.  The downside is we have to sit in the school’s car drop-off line for roughly ten minutes before the doors open.  No problem, right?  That is if you enjoy being in a confined, motionless space with the antics of Full Speed and T.Puzzle.

Me?  Not so much.

The first morning I tried this routine it was a disaster.  The boys went absolutely insane.  If they could have somehow managed to run laps in the truck, they would have.  Me?  I silently wished for a tranquilizer gun.  Now that could have been fun.

I regrouped.  The second day I had some hand-held electronic games to occupy them.  This turned into a no-go as well.  They couldn’t figure out to use them and their frustration only increased their hyperactivity.  Also, one of them manage to break their game which caused it to emit a high-frequency continuous beep.  For the life of me, I couldn’t get it to stop.  I tossed it on the floor in frustration and it kept beeping at me in contempt.  I still have nightmares of that beeping.

I switched gears again.  Quiet coloring activities seemed the route to go.  This is mostly working except for Full Speed’s accidental grafiftti work of the truck and his shirt with his dry-erase markers.  Of course T.Puzzle keeps dropping his artwork and color-wonder markers (oh, how I love color wonder, no mess on clothes or car) and this doesn’t help his mood.  To problem solve these challenges I discovered washable dry-erase markers (yay!) and now use scrapbook mounting squares to hold T.Puzzle’s artwork in place on his mini-lap desk.

What are these guys gonna throw at me next?

It’s only ten minutes is my mantra.

I can handle anything for ten minutes.

Well, except a homemade car bomb.