Someday, K-Man will have to deal with PSATs, SATs and whatever other tests he decides he wants to take (none of which was ever appealing to his parents). But for now, K-Man isn’t taking any tests. Instead he’s giving them. Every day is a new test of patience, or a new test of our “positive parenting” skills. And just when we think we’ve passed one test, along comes the opportunity to earn a bit of “extra credit” to decipher some kind of mystery ailment (which is identified by an equally mysterious crying fit).
The kid’s favorite and best game is something I like to call “I remember.” (This is WAY different from the game “I never,” which was popular in college.) “I remember” goes something like this:
“K-Man, what do you want to do after school today?”
“Ummmm…Maybe we can go a fire station.”
“Okay, do you want to go to a park with a pole?”
Easily and relatively painlessly, we head off to the first station for what I’m sure feels like three or four hours to the firefighters, but is really only about 20 or 30 minutes. The fire station is usually followed by (the now famous) “pizza and a cookie,” and then we head home. This, of course, is where the game gets good.
Right as we approach the driveway to our house, K-Man remembers his option from earlier in the day, “I want to go to the park with the pole.” At first, he’ll just sort of say it sort of matter of factly. As we get closer to the driveway, however, the test gets harder. There aren’t more difficult questions, but there are more difficult deliveries of his “request.”
At this point, chaos has usually ensued. After parking the car in the driveway, I explain to K-Man that it’s starting to get dark out and that we can go to the park with the pole tomorrow. As the books point out, I make sure he knows that I understand he’s upset. Of course, above the cries and with his head spinning around 360 degrees, I think he sometimes has trouble hearing me.
His other favorite test is dubbed "The Big Stall." Anything to avoid going to sleep (or taking a bath, or whatever he’s not all that interested in doing). This one, also self-explanatory, is apparently a favorite among his friends, as well – at least according to other parents. He will have us change his shirt, get him more water, add more ice to his water, want to brush his teeth more, ask for more books and just about anything else he can think of (short of asking to go to the park with a pole). Just like “I remember,” his tactics are subtle at first. Then, when he knows he’s being funny, he pours it on: “I wanna go play in the car.” (Sorry, kid, that’s clearly not going to happen.)
Three-year-olds (or nearly-three-year-olds) testing their parents isn’t anything new, of course. He’s just learning how to play games to try to get what he wants. Already he’s trying to play his parents against one another. If one of us doesn’t give K-Man what he wants, he’s figured out that if we don’t have all the information about his game, he can sometimes get what he wants. (Especially when he asks in his sweet little voice, “More leche please, Daddy?” How do you say no to that? Well, when it’s his third cup right before bed, it’s not such a good idea.)
K-Man is a great kid, but he’s coming into his own. The tests are a natural part of his development. And it’s really just the beginning. Obviously, as he gets older, the tests will get harder and the stakes higher. In the meantime, we’ll keep trying to pass the tests by killing him with kindness (and boundaries). And if that doesn’t work, we’ve got plenty of books to read.