My son is 3 and a half years old. This should say a lot to most parents, but it really is amazing to watch. We are not sending him to some posh pre-school to learn this stuff. He just does it on his own. You know, 3 year old stuff, mostly of the imaginative-can-barely-hold-myself-still variety.
This is one of those complex chemical reactions that must be carefully directed. You can’t bottle this nuclear fusion. So we have various plays we run on his endless exuberance. There are of course the extremes: on one end is the bathroom in which one may find various and sundry methods of discipline of the Proverbs 23 variety. On the other end of the spectrum is the open-the-door-and-let-the-storm-out attack. In the former, we get the sander out and smooth out the rough edges; in the latter we let the kid out and allow the air, dirt, rocks, bugs, trees, and playground equipment to do the sanding.
But a lot of life is spent in between these two poles, even though these tend to be regular occurrences depending on the day or week or month. For the regular in between times we have several regular plays we run. We have laps. River thinks its amazing fun. We have one hallway that runs from the front door down to the bedrooms. It’s not too long but definitely long enough. Our job is to count; his job is to run. We usually do 5 or 10 lap sessions at a time, depending. One additionally exciting variant on this play is to have him perform “slides” at various intervals. All baseball players must know how to slide. What better way to begin training then on carpet in the hallway.
Another play we run is the Green Chair. This is not “time out,” well, OK, maybe it is. But let’s put it this way: it’s not where we send him when he’s in trouble. It’s where he goes when we want to know where he is. As I said earlier, he has this condition that doesn’t allow him to sit still. Chairs have an amazing objectifying ability. It looks like this:
Bottom in Chair = Good
Bottom not in Chair = Bad
He usually goes to the Green Chair with soldiers, swords, books, or sometimes none of those things are necessary. His handy imagination can sometimes be all he needs. He knows the drill. One of us says, “Alright, River, grab a book or a toy and go get in the Green Chair!” His job is to respond cheerfully and quickly with a “yes, sir!” or “yes, ma’am!”
The other day, Jenny had sent him to the Green Chair several times throughout the morning. He cheerfully, complied each time. Played, read, whatever for as long as required and then off to bigger and better things. I guess it was about the third or fourth time that Jenny sent him off to the Green Chair, when River hesitated for a moment and looked up at his mother, “Mom, do you think you could call it the Cheetah Ship?”
Of course that was just fine, and now from time to time, River is sent on a daring mission in the all new “Cheetah Ship.”
And we think it’s swell.