The other night Geoff threw out his dinner because he didn't want it. Just threw it in the trash. So Doug and I freaked out and he got in deep trouble for it. Hours of wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued but we didn't back down.
The following morning he asked for scrambled eggs for breakfast, which is something he never asks for. I complied, because ... hey. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. He ate a little of it and said "I don't like this."
Now, mind you, I make good scrambled eggs. There's nothing not to like if you like eggs.
"Why'd you ask for them then, and why did I waste my time making them for you?"
"Well, I liked the idea of scrambled eggs."
"Well, enjoy the reality of scrambled eggs and eat them. You aren't throwing them away, and you aren't getting away with wasting my time on having me prepare food that you don't want, so eat them and be done with it. No more arguing."
"Well, you guys never buy food that I like or want. You always buy food that YOU like and want."
"Are you kidding me? You love fish. You ask for it all the time. Dad bought fish. You threw it out. What is the deal with that?"
"I didn't like how he made it. He didn't make it right."
"Well, there are thousands of ways to make fish, and I'm sorry that you're some sort of culinary snob or picky eater that you didn't enjoy au gratin and tomatoes and stuff, but all you had to do was pick the top off, not eat the tomatoes, and just EAT the fish. Not pitch the whole plate into the trash. We buy you food that you like and you eat it. In fact, you eat ALL the food in the house sometimes and then we run out of food. So don't sit here telling me that we don't buy you food you like."
Then as he sullenly picked at (and ate) his eggs, I asked "What is it you feel you are lacking, what is it that you WANT more than anything."
He looks at me and says "Apple Cinnamon Waffles from Eggo. I saw them in the grocery store with Dad the other day, and he wouldn't buy them for me."
Aha! That's what this is about. Doug wouldn't buy him something he wanted so he fully rejected something Doug cooked. It's a spite issue.
"Why do you think you want Apple Cinnamon Waffles from Eggo?"
"Well, I love anything Apple Cinnamon," he says... and this is news to me. I had no idea he liked it that much. "I love Apple Cinnamon anything. Apple Cinnamon muffins, Apple Cinnamon bread for toast, Apple Cinnamon oatmeal..."
He starts sounding like Benjamin Buford 'Bubba' Blue talking about all the different ways to prepare shrimp on Captain Dan's boat. I'm trying not to laugh at him as he is wistfully rattling off all his favorite Apple Cinnamon combinations, and I realize I'm finding something that can work to my advantage. Possibly.
"So, you really like all that stuff and you really want some waffles, eh?"
"Yes! But you never buy things like that for me. It's always plain toast, or raisin bran cereal or stuff I don't want!"
That is patently untrue, have you seen my son? Yeah. Boy eats healthy and likes what he eats.
I proposed something to him. He would have to earn the Apple Cinnamon waffles. I laid out a plan that over the next five days, counting the weekend, not just school days, he would have to BE GOOD.
I had his attention, eye contact, acknowledgment, and this all was sounding kind of good to him. Geoff always looks for loopholes of things that could possibly fail on him. He asked "Do I have to be good for five consecutive days?"
"No. If you're good for two days, and then you blow it on day three, I am not going to reset the clock at zero. Those two days, you earned them. You keep them. That's an achievement. But, if day three is a screwed up, messed up, horrible, very bad, no good day... then it doesn't count. It's up to you. This could take you five days, or it could take you a month."
"Right. But if it is taking longer, we'll have to revisit it and see if this is even worthwhile."
"I'll never be able to do it! I'm doomed to a life with no Apple Cinnamon Waffles from Eggo!"
I told him I believed he could do it.
We took and index card. I wrote on it all the things he is not allowed/supposed to do. I told him that if he didn't do these things, I could pretty much guarantee a really good day. I also made a list of GREAT things he could do, but told him he didn't really NEED that list. By simply not doing the bad things on the first card, the second ones would just happen by themselves.
I had him put them in his pocket. I told him "If you doubt how you should act or what you should do, just look at the cards."
Thursday I got an email from his teacher saying he was having a great day. Thursday night he said he had a great boy scout meeting and his scout master affirmed that in an email when I asked him. Same on Friday. A great day.
Now I ask you, you poor, dear who has read this far ... If any of us knew that Apple Cinnamon Eggo Waffles were the key to good behavior, the answer to world peace, wow. We should have served some up sooner. I'll keep you posted on the Apple Cinnamon reward front.
Okay, on that note... I hope you enjoyed the story. I talked to Aaron last night and he always makes me feel better. He makes me believe I'm a great parent and a good person and that Geoff is just a boy. He tells me things he lived through (and laughs about them) and the horrors that it caused his family. He told me that all boys hit rough patches, and all boys do stuff that Geoff is doing... and this too shall pass. So it was good to hear from him and have a good laugh.
And he's right. This too shall pass.