I was a little nervous about what I’d encounter when I joined Finn on the recess yard today, especially since the first thing I heard when I stepped outside was a chorus of small voices announcing that he’d been messing with Coach Candace’s equipment. Settling my kindergartener into rest-time had taken a bit longer than anticipated, and as a result, I came on the yard midway through recess, without first giving another adult my typical warning about such a coverage gap. (My typical warning, verbatim, is this: “Um, I’ve kinda unleashed Finn alone on an unsuspecting universe, so if you have a couple seconds, you may want to see what he’s up to.”)
I found him walking towards the planter box, carrying an inverted traffic cone filled with water. A small group of girls flitted away from the box as he approached; I breathed a small inward sigh of relief. Finn dumped the water into a muddy hole in the ground and I realized that this was a Work in Progress.
“I’m pouring water from Coach Candace’s traffic cone into the hole.” Immediate flashback to going over Finn’s performance on the Test of Pragmatic Language Skills with the speech therapist: he had answered a “what’s happening?” picture question with the description, “They are pulling a boat”, happily omitting the most salient detail that the aforementioned stick figures were dragging the wreckage of their meager possessions away from the aftermath of a terrible flood.
“Um, yes. Yes, you’re putting water in a hole using a traffic cone. And I’m sure you realize this, but the traffic cone is now rather dirty and it would be Unexpected to return it to Coach Candace like this. I guess my question isn’t a what, it’s more of a why. And also a what next.”
“I’m going to wash the cone out.” He did so, returning it neatly to the stack of traffic cones Coach Candace used to mark off the hula hoop game. I realized that, tattletale six year olds aside, I honestly didn’t see how it would make sense to forbid using a traffic cone as a water vessel as long as you cleaned it up afterwards.
“I’m making a potion.”
“A potion, huh? What kind of potion?”
I’ve known Finn and his quirks long enough that this actually didn’t faze me. When it comes to this kid, experience has taught me that it’s no use to appeal to the idea that something Isn’t Nice: when it comes to discouraging unwanted behavior, logic will triumph, every single time. I pointed to two second grade females, standing nearby and watching. “Finn, it doesn’t seem like a very effective device. A girl repellent, I mean. It doesn’t look like it’s working.”
“It’s very effective. It makes me attractive to them.” Finn dropped in a couple twigs and gave it a contented little stir, and I realized that he had gleaned the exact opposite meaning from the term he’d first used.
“Well, they’re going to come, and ask me questions about it. See, it attracts them.”
And it did, indeed.