My four-year-old has been refusing to eat dinner lately.
Sometimes she tells me that she’s too tired to eat, sometimes she protests the tiny specks of color that somehow made it into her meal. Once she tried explaining that some people are eating people and some people are not.
At first, I thought I’d let her suffer the natural consequences of her actions. But once I realized that the natural consequences of her actions involved her waking me up at 2 a.m. to ask for a bowl of cheerios, I figured I needed a new strategy.
My four-year-old asks me to fill her water bottle with really, really, really cold water. She likes her water on the rocks. Or, perhaps better said, she likes her rocks with a splash of water.
I’m on my ninth ice cube when I notice that she is doing the pee-pee dance – legs crossed, hopping as she shifts her weight from side to side, as though she’s practicing for Riverdance.
My four-year-old has been coming home from pre-school lately singing songs about recycling, which my wife and I have seized as an opportunity to get rid of the stacks and stacks of paper – covered in purple scribbles and Trader Joes stickers – cluttering the house.
It’s our way of honoring the earth, we tell her whenever she begins to protest.
My daughters had been playing quietly for a good ten minutes, which is always cause for alarm.
After following a trail of graham cracker crumbs, I finally found them in the bathroom with my three-year-old on the potty and my six-year-old sitting on the floor in front of her – the two of them holding hands, rocking back and forth, singing row, row, row your boat.
My six-year-old is at the art table, drawing pictures of sunflowers when the tormented spirit of Van Gogh suddenly swoops in and possesses her body.
I can’t work with these lousy crayons, she yells.
I sit down next to her and explain that it’s the process not the product that matters, that when we slow down and take the time to observe something carefully, we move from passive absorption, as Maria Konnikova tells us, to active awareness.