What’s Your Number?


Wednesday, my son was sick and irritable with the latest iteration of stomach bug. Much like my father, Liev reacts idiosyncratically to stomach troubles. Rarely does nausea touch him. But when it does, it is time for TV.

We watched the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse all day. That was more TV than we consume in a week.

At the end of a day, sleep deprived and filled to the brim with Disney propaganda, Liev requested computer time. The soothing sameness of the online metronome always quiets him.

Within minutes, Liev ’s hyper focus kicked in. His fascination was with an online stopwatch. He loves countdowns and timers. Our YouTube site has the funkiest countdown playlist you’ve ever seen.

Anyway, I sit nearby on my laptop to prevent unauthorized Google image searches.  Last Halloween, he snuck in and typed “bad hello kitty.” Even with safe search on, I had some explaining to do.

After ten minutes of countdowns, he flung the chair back from the computer and this conversation took place:

L: “Mama! Mama! I need something!  Right away! Mama!”

Me: “What Liev ?”

L: (tearful) “I have to have it! Mama, please!!”

I turned to look at him.

Me: “What is it, Liev ?”

L:  (hysterical) “My free credit report for 2012! I have to have it!! Let me fill out the form! I have to have it! Please! I need to know my number! My credit score! For 2012!”

Free credit report? Good grief.

I noticed that his online stopwatch has a Free Credit Report banner, with inviting, empty fields. Liev loves to fill out forms but is forbidden to do so. Last September he went on a form filling frenzy which infected every inch of our computer for three weeks.

I know how this conversation will go. Liev was on the verge of tears, because knowing his credit score was a life and death matter.

For once, I resisted the temptation to explain to him the complexities of modern life and credit reports. This was hard for me. As compelled as he is to fill out the form and see the numbers pertaining to his life, I am compelled to deliver a lengthy lecture and tell him the truth. In fact, I slip into lecture mode ¾ of the time.

But not today.

Looking at him, tears in his eyes, tense and frantic, we speak:

Me:  “Okay. But there is a problem”

L: “Problem?”

Me: “Yes. You need to get  a W-2 form before you can have a free credit report.”

L: “Oh.”

Miraculously, he was satisfied.

L: “So when I get my W-2 I can have a free credit report?”

Me: “Sure.”

L: “Okay!”

Meltdown averted.

This is one of my prouder parenting moments.

I am proud, not only for avoiding a meltdown, but for being able to put aside my own immediate agenda.  I must work diligently to corral that tiny professor in my head, who is always seeking an opportunity to take the stage.

I must also remember that meltdowns are not logical-reasonable lesson teaching moments. Meltdowns are all about shifting focus away from the frustrating onto the doable.