Thursday, November 4, 2010


I've touched on this subject slightly before, but since it gets it's own post, the story deserves to be told from the beginning. Little man has a thing for numbers. He likes to count. And count. And count. He writes down numbers and fills up pages and pages. He recognizes patterns, which simplify mathematics and it's more advanced ways. He understands money and counts it, saves it and negotiates around it. I'm not saying "Rainman" obsessive. Not blow you away genius type doing quantum physics. Thankfully. A really smart kid. Little Man has many other talents of the mind and body worth a subject of their own,  but numbers definitely integral. All the old folks of the family/friends circle meet or see him and immediately prophetically voice his future calling to become a great mathematician or engineer (then they see him run and do karate and...). But numbers, through creative outlets have led to an interesting interest of maintaining a collection - of tickets.
True to form, not the typical collection, but one nonetheless, that had outlasted the many attempts along the way (except with money which he's always enjoyed collecting, as we all do). Simple tickets. The kind you get at some schools or some teachers. The kind you get at fairs, festivals, raffles and special events.
Most tickets need to be traded in for a prize, a ride, an entrance to this or that. That's what they're for usually, the means to the ends. Well Little Man, would ultimately rather keep the ticket. Sometimes we're able to manipulate the situation allowing us to do the thing AND keep the ticket/s. At times, depending on the venue, it's not exactly the right kind of ticket so the calculation to turn them in and collect is made. A rare occasion. They're pretty universal and range in colors. The kind I've described in the past as Andy Warhol painted and silk-screened. It's a funny little collection. The ways a 6 and a half year old rationalizes the sacrifice of giving up something for keeping a ticket is fascinating. The dedication and devotion to the cause is impressive. The independence invoked by situations where he needs to buck up and ask the person in charge of the tickets if he could keep his for "the collection" is a priceless lesson in going after what you want. Sometimes it's possible. He certainly has learned that it never hurts to ask. And usually whichever one of us is with him at the time has to explain further to the third party his thing for tickets in some funny one-liner sort of delivery. Keeps things interesting and light amongst interactions.
He counts his tickets and handles them often. And pretty much gets a lot of enjoyment out of them, their growing numbers  and the processes involved in acquiring them. So we go with it. Have for a while. And it seems to be sticking around and growing. So like a marriage, you have to get creative and find ways to spice it up. Take it to the next level. I'll let your imagination roll for a bit and then bring it back to Little Man's level.
On a recent trip to the local office-supply-super-mega-chain-conglomerate, I noticed or was reminded that we could purchase a roll of these suckers and have control in-house. Use it as a tool. I mentioned it to Orit and agreed that at the next visit to the same or similar place, one of us would buy it and we'll figure out how to apply them. So, while I was away a few days on a recent out of town job, Orit purchased a roll and began the process of laying down the rules and negotiating the terms of rewarding with tickets. A process which continues to evolve, be shaped and amended daily. Certainly more intricate in nuances than Pavlov's experiments. But we hold firm in our convictions and our ways. Sounds easy. He keeps us on our toes that's for sure. So you have to get creative. Or you don't. We do.
Reading is another big part of Little Man's life and daily routine. Currently he 's in the midst of refining fluent reading and the confidence and ability to get past the difficult climbs and plateaus of any learning curve. He reads. And is quickly becoming more fluid and less mechanical. We're over the hump of small books with large letters perceived as easy books for him. He gets that size of letters don't make a difference in difficulty. And longer words just need to be vocalized and broken down to sections until it clicks. And he's at a stage of prolific reading. He's always been a prolific listener of stories. No bed time stories and no dessert are the two worst punishments he could conceive. And mostly in that order. But now HE reads. And even though it started as a chore, he's quickly acquired the liking as the proper skills have fallen into place. Our current trend is poetry. Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein to name two very prolific writers of novels, short stories, poetry and songs that we've been exploring for a while. He usually reads a couple of poems and turns over as sign of his readiness to listen for the remainder of his conscious experience.
Which brings us to last night and the reason for this post. Last night the urge for tickets was stronger than the urge to sleep. Little Man is usually not one to fight that sleepy feeling that creeps in at a certain hour.  He tends to recognize the feeling and allow it to do it's thing. Not last night. Tickets have found their way in our home to encourage his reading. So, tickets, as the ends to the means of reading, were triumphant. He devoured poem after poem. Some a few lines short, others up to four pages long. And not big bulky letters that take up space. With his mind on the growing collection and his hands often rubbing his tired eyes, he changed positions constantly trying to stay awake. I even saw him falling asleep for a slight second  a couple of times and quickly coming to, saying "where was I"? Reminded me of hearing my grandfather telling me stories when I was a kid. Not until he had secured 18 tickets for himself was  he ready ready to hang up the towel. To give you some sense of scale, it's usually around 2,3 maybe 4 tickets per night thus far. I get the sense we'll need to take another trip to purchase more rolls of tickets sooner than later. I'm ok with that. 
These tickets may mean something different to him and us. But ultimately they are a means to an end. For him a collection. For us, learning. Another tool that benefits all of us players involved in this particular game of life. A simple tool, applied simply to achieve something positive.  Parenting is not new. Cliches overly describe it's universal messages. The techniques are not new and not all apply to all. We simply all have a duty to get creative and experiment in order to learn to apply them in our own lives. As I heard someone say once, "you're bringing a person into the world, it might as well be good one." That's the part some people don't seem to understand comes from their own efforts beyond letting nature takes it's course. We didn't invent anything new with this ticket collection reward system. We just discovered that it works for us and the feeling that comes with it - Well, it might as well be our invention.