Part of Bugaboo’s schoolwork today involved counting nickels. She’s very good at counting, and is the chief champion divider of bags of M&Ms at our house. We’ve been working on skip counting lately, which is a little more of a challenge for her. Lamentably, she has the habit of pitching a fit when she’s confronted with a challenging task — especially when the task in question is mandatory.
We could have skipped her into kindergarten this year; the reason we did not is that she really needs to develop the habit of actually making an effort when she’s given a difficult task, instead of resorting to fluttering eyelashes and tears (in other words, we are aware that skip counting by fives is not something normally taught to a preschooler). She’s mastered scissors, glue, coloring in the lines, writing uppercase and lowercase letters, and writing numbers. She can count to 100 and do addition and subtraction with an abacus (and, increasingly, in her head), and she can alphabetize words.
I listed her achievements not to boast, but to point out that a simple memorization exercise like skip counting by fives to fifty shouldn’t really faze her. From time to time, though, Bugaboo gets in into her head that she’s simply not going to do something. This is one of those times. My response is pretty simple when the problem is obstinacy as opposed to incomprehension (if she doesn’t get it, I’ll explain it a thousand different ways in a thousand different places until she does) — you’re sitting in that chair until you at least make an honest effort. It’s not the getting it right part, honestly — it’s the attempt. If you start reciting the colors of the rainbow when asked what a number is, you’re not really trying.
Of course, amid the banshee wails, tears, banging on the table, threats to throw her schoolbooks in the trash, saying ugly things to her sister, and other expressions of her dislike for the task at hand, she demanded to speak with Daddy. I hate to bother him at work for a temper tantrum, but in this case, I made an exception, on the condition that she ask politely. She phrased her request properly, so I placed the call and explained the situation.
I’m a little unclear what response she thought she’d get, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the one he gave.
After two hours, she had at least made a credible attempt at each of the eight problems. We’ll correct them tomorrow.
Once she was a little calmer, we talked about hurting the people who love us. We talked about how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are our friends, and how it hurts them when we abuse the gifts they’ve given us. I praised her intelligence and tenacity, and asked her to tell me how she could use those in ways that would make her, her parents, and her friends happier. She replied, “I could just try, and maybe ask for help. I could ask you or Jesus or Daddy, or maybe even Beanie. She knows lots of things, too.”
I’m taping a nickel into her baby book.
Today’s prayer: Lord, You have blessed each of us with a particular set of talents and abilities. Please help me teach Your blessings that You have given these gifts freely, in loving friendship, and that it is hurtful to You when we use them in ugly ways. Help me to be their best example of gifts used wisely and well. And please, Lord, help me remember always not to shriek back. One banshee in the house suffices.