Saturday, February 26, 2011

Experiment of the Day

 This is a re-post from Sunday, July 5, 2009.  It still makes me laugh...

Matching the energy level of an 8 year old is tough to do. But the real challenge is trying to keep up with an 8 year old BOY who also happens to be extremely smart – even gifted in some areas – and who struggles with ADHD, SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) and a scattering of other special needs, alphabet soup diagnoses. Then throw in a three-day holiday weekend with neighborhood gatherings, cupcakes, sprinkling rain and pool water too cold to dip a toe in and you’ve got a boy low on options and high on sensory overload and a mom who needs a serious break!

I think it is fair to say that I spoil my little man as much as I possibly can while still trying to raise him to be a responsible, compassionate, giving bigger man. Vacation is the best because I literally say yes to almost everything. Then we get home and settle back into reality where I end up saying no far more than I say yes despite the spoiling. A week after vacation and an entire day of requests and ‘no’ answers I realize that we need a new way to approach today.

Hence the experiment…

I explain this with excruciating detail because I know that if I don’t, he will ask so many questions that I will regret having even suggested this brilliant plan of mine. The deal is that he can make only one request today – that’s it. Every ‘I want’, ‘Can I have’, ‘Will you’ counts and there can only be one. His eyes light up as he’s thinking ‘this could be a great game.’ There is no guarantee that I will say yes so the request needs to be thoroughly and thoughtfully considered. If it is something I always say no to, then it just becomes a wasted request. A little less light in the eyes but he’s still on board… ‘What if I make it the whole day without making any requests?’ I cannot help but laugh and I try not to sound too sarcastic as I explain that is not something we have to worry about.

I know this will be hard so I will even agree to reminders. As soon as I hear the start of a request, I will gently say ‘stop and think’ and then he can decide if it’s worth continuing. ‘I know what I want my one request to be’ It’s only 9am. You might want to wait since the day has just started. You never know what we might be doing or where we might go so if you use it now – it’s going to be a LONG day. After the one request, I will not entertain others. As a matter of fact, I am not even going to say no. I will just not acknowledge that another request has been made. The brow furrows as it sinks in that this might just be a tough game. ‘OK – I can do this. Are we going to do this every weekend?!’ Again, all I can do is laugh.

He wanders off downstairs and I start to blow dry my hair. 10 minutes in… ‘What can I have for breakfast? I ask because I was thinking that I want’ Is this going to be your request? Silence. Let me give you another tip. Do we eat breakfast every day? Shakes head. If it is something that you know is going to happen without a request, it would be wise to be patient and let me offer instead of using your request. ‘Ohhhh – I get it.’ Runs down the stairs and I laugh some more. If nothing else, this could be a very entertaining day!

He is very literal so I also have to add that true emergency requests do not count – I did not want the house to burn down while he was saving his request for a Popsicle. Fortunately there were no emergencies. And he became a master at looking for ways to ask for something without actually asking for something. His miming skills were honed as he pointed and play acted without ever uttering a sound. I held strong with my ‘stop and think’ at each pointed finger.

He went from questions to statements and watched my face to see if I was going to take it as a request and if so, would it be a yes or no. ‘Can I have a snack? Oh wait, I was thinking that I might want a snack. So I think I will make some popcorn. Wait, not popcorn, I was thinking about organic cheese puffs. Yea, I will just take these downstairs.’ I never had to say a word. Seriously – this plan really was brilliant.

As the day wore on, I had to institute another rule in the game. If he did something that he knew I would not let him do then it was an immediate time out. No warnings, no discussion, just time out. Let’s just say he spent a fair amount of time sitting against the dining room wall but he was not asking for something every 5 seconds and he was making decisions and accepting the consequences both good and bad.

We went to a couple of stores and he did not ask for a single thing. There were a couple of pointed fingers and quite a few pointed statements. ‘Hey, did you know they had cool balls like this one?’ Smiled while laughing on the inside. The experiment was going so well that I threw some finger paints into the cart which he later used to paint a beautiful rainbow and is now proudly hung on the fridge. He waited to see if the weather was going to cooperate but he never once mentioned the pool. He made it until 1:30 before finally making a request, the real, only one for the day, request. And it was a good one – I said yes. His friend came over and they played kickball. I am not sure anyone has ever come up with such an incredible plan and I am smiling as I pat myself on the back.

Once the request was used up, the rest of the day was a little more difficult. But we made it through as I ignored requests with only the periodic reminder that he was done for the day. Needless to say I probably gave reminders as often as I would have said no to requests. But it was worth it. As I tucked him in to bed 12 hours after the start of our little experiment we both smiled as we talked about how well it had gone.

‘If we do this again next weekend, can I have two requests? And then can we go up in the number of requests each day we do it?’ But I do not answer this new request – I only laugh.


  1. i'm so glad it was a repost. I'd forgotten about it, though had read it once on FB I believe, or you told me about it and it is as well told/appreciated as the first time I soaked it in. You're such a brave mama. my word.

  2. Thanks J! And thanks for being my first follower!