I knew there was no point in leaving the collards in the orange and purple bag. I took them out as soon as I got home, and squashed the greens for the chickens into two zip-lock bags. I tucked those zip-lock bags into the door of the refrigerator. And I tied the old shoestring around the fridge door handles in three square knots.
And I left the beloved cello bag for Owen to find
After this generous act, I was a little stung to discover the organic baby tomatoes demolished the empty box put back, pointlessly hiding on the stack of plates. And, in a different cupboard, half a chewed pear sitting on top of the box of pears I thought I had hidden!
It’s true, I knew that leaving the Glory Collards bag in Owen’s drawer I had removed about half the fun from the whole thing. A good part of the incentive seems be the sneaking behind my back, or catching the fridge open, or getting the old shoestring’s 3 square knots untied (Mom: is this possible?!), and escaping quickly. Otherwise, why not just ask? I do feed this kid. All the time. One day I found him and stopped him with the green plastic box of mushrooms three separate times, until he finally got them both, (Does he really know how to untie 3 square knots?! He must know how to untie 3 square knots!!) and emptied the mushrooms into the bathroom trash basket, no doubt while I was outside deep breathing in the garden. You know, perhaps, those scenes between the gibbering twitching Chief Inspector and Clouseau in The Pink Panther movies? That’s me, looking for my missing mushrooms, frothing at the mouth.
In a three week period during which I have multiple events to run (because I volunteered for them), and Edward has several trips, and we were trying to rent an apartment, and to get the gardens planted and figure out what to do with the broody hen (read more about the Simons Gardens at suburban growing.com) it is I guess not surprising that Owen should become really, really difficult. Spring is busy. But I think it also has a lot to do with what he has been finding in the trash cans.
That is to say, what he has been eating.
I will never forget, as an undergrad at Temple University in the 80s, in the darkened and packed auditorium, the psych lecture on Pavlov and his salivating dogs. And more pertinently the mice and VARIABLE REINFORCEMENT. How could the professor know how many times one student would reflect upon his lecture, over years of raising children and dogs? Variable reinforcement, more effective than consistent reinforcement. We learned in that darkened auditorium that if mice were given a reward every time they performed a behavior, this was not nearly as powerful as if they only sometimes got the reward. The power of uncertainty — will there?… or will there not?… be something GOOD at the bottom of the trash can?? — is something that my son Owen has manifested beautifully this past couple weeks.
If, for example, one day well after Easter you happen to see something lurking under a few layers in the kitchen trash can, as you lean over the kitchen gate and flip the lid up super quick before anyone can stop you — and that thing turns out to be a cracker – OR a bag of assorted leftover crackers! – which Mom foolishly only partially concealed – WELL! who knows what yummy food source might be found under layers of garbage at any moment! in any trash receptacle!
Owen’s prescience is amazing. First he scoped out those crackers in the kitchen trash can. Then he dug up a bag of gluten free bread out of the back bottom refrigerator drawer and ate 4 slices, satiating and also further firing his awakened carbohydrate cravings. Days later he struck it rich in my bedroom trash basket where I had put (underneath stuff) the aged Halloween popcorn balls from G’mom, cached for absent college children at their request, rediscovered too late. I knew it was a little risky, but figured what are the chances of Owen looking into my bedroom trash basket? There’s never anything good in there. On any other day it has nothing in it but dead Kleenex and scrunched up dry cleaning bags. (Dry cleaning bags are not cool plastic – Owen has zero interest in them.) Of course I forgot they were there at all. Until Owen’s archaeological dig left the spoils floating on top.
So, his system wrecked on carbs and then hard sugar, Owen became irritable, unresponsive, unable to understand basic instructions, or to speak, incontinent, surly, and just generally difficult. And mom, try as she might to start calm and positive, wound up frothing. Being bought off with a orange and purple cellophane Glory Days collards bag at that point is just an insulting bribe. He took it of course – and shredded it – but he didn’t enjoy it. Everything we had to do became a struggle — walks, supper, getting dressed, getting dressed again, getting out the door, coming to the table, staying at the table, pulling up a sock — a long, drawn out, mulish Idon’wanna until my nerves were raw.
Times like this, I understand completely why parents of kids with behaviors take off into the sunset. I start to have visions of climbing on a bus going south and west til my money runs out. Yeah right. But it was really, really good to see Edward back home from his second trip Tuesday night, and to have Kathie take Owen all Wednesday afternoon. And when Owen came home from his Wednesday afternoon with Kathie he came right to me in the kitchen where I was making soup and laid his head on me and gave me an Owee hug. Spontaneously. Very unusual.
And in that hug I heard or felt this “I am sorry for being such a butt head this past week. I am glad you are still here. I forgive you for being so angry at me. I am not angry at you any more. Also, I am really glad you are making my supper, instead of working on a project somewhere else. It smells good.”
Huh. Did that just happen?
Something to treasure. Even better than a cellophane bag. Glory be.