Friday, July 4, 2014

Words and Rules

From my spot in the shade at Welch Pool, I can hear Ethan's voice as his swimming class goes to the back of the pool area to grab life jackets. They're right near the little wading pool, which is not functioning and filled with water that is a nasty shade of green. "That's not a kiddie pool, it's a baby pool," I hear Ethan correcting another boy. The sign outside is clear: "Baby Pool."

"Well, you can call it a kiddie pool too," the other boy mumbles grouchily. Ethan pays no attention.

I've written often about Ethan's need to be exact, about the literal way he interprets, well, just about everything. Lately I've decided to gently work with him on that. Gray-area thinking is an invaluable skill. So is the ability to recognize nuances in language.

Outside on our back deck, I've been getting lectured lately. We've dragged Chloe's exersaucer there so she can play to her heart's content in the cool of the evening.

"Mamma, you broke the rules," Ethan keeps telling me. "It says Do Not Put Near Steps." I'd never even noticed a warning sticker or fine print. So we had a little conversation about how near to the steps it would have to be to actually be dangerous, and the fact that there is no way Chloe can heave the monstrosity several feet forward to the edge and tip over the deck with her little five-month-old legs.

We've talked about thunderstorms (always a concern with Ethan). He hears the weather report and panics...even if they say something like "a 30 percent chance." We talked about how a small number means a small chance, and a number closer to 100 means it's more likely -- BUT, sometimes they may say there's a good chance of storms, and we don't get any.

"Why are the weather people wrong like that?" he asked in disgust, to which I had no answer.

And the time. Yes, the time. This might take a while. Ethan has an understandable habit of telling you exactly what time it is. "It's 7:02," he'll tell you, or 5:59 or 3:31. The other day I glanced at the clock and saw it was 8:03. Ethan was right there, so I called his attention to the time.

"Hey Ethe, I'm going to tell you a little secret about time. If someone asks you what time it is, you know it's okay to say 8:03? But it's also okay to say 'a little after 8, or 'about 8 o'clock.' If you use a word like 'about' or 'around,' it's okay. It's still true."

He listened intently. I decided to take it a step further. "Or sometimes if it's closer to 15 minutes past the hour, or 15 minutes before a new hour, you can say "a quarter of 9 or a quarter after 9."

"No, that would be 25 minutes, not 15," he said, confused. "Like a quarter." Of course, he was thinking about money. I gently corrected him and realized maybe the quarter thing was too complicated for the moment.

Of course since that conversation, the time and estimating issue has come back to burn me. In the past I learned if I didn't want Ethan nagging me about when something was going to happen, I needed to give him an exact time, rather than just a vague "in a little while." Except now, if I tell Ethan breakfast is going to be at, say, 7:15am, he's started coming to me at 7:10 and announcing, "Time for breakfast! You said 7:15 and it's close enough!"


Back at the pool after Ethan's lesson, we walked by the slimy abyss that was the wading pool. "This boy said this was a kiddie pool, but I told him it was a baby pool," he announced proudly. "See that sign right there? It says Baby Pool."

"You know what, Ethe? It is a baby pool. But you can say kiddie pool too. That's just another name for it," I replied. I thought about the infinite number of scenarios in which there are interchangeable words for the same item. My head spun a little. One thing at a time.

"Okay," he said. I'm pretty sure his brain will file this away for future use. One down, thousands to go. We'll get there. Somehow, we'll get there.

1 comment:

Deenie said...

We are dealing with these same issues in my house. Sometimes it's funny but sometimes it gets exhausting. Jay has always called them "swim trunks" and at the pool this weekend someone said "swimming trunks". He got out the water to ask me which was correct. I tried explaining that either one was fine but he did not want to hear that.