Friday, May 16, 2008

Return of the imaginary troublemaker

This week Will’s been pulling his ancient “Ally did it!” trick out of the bag. It was way back in November when I last recorded Will’s habit of blaming his imaginary friend Ally for evil deeds. Ally shaped up for a long while, but apparently his mischievous instincts have returned.

Yesterday I caught Will in the act of spitting on the top of Owen’s head, while Owen sat playing with blocks, oblivious to Will’s antics. I could see the light of intrigue in Will’s eyes, and I’m pretty sure I could read his thoughts: “I wonder if I can make this spit land right there in the middle of Owen’s head. I wonder how Owen will react? Bulls eye!”

I instinctively admonished Will immediately -- I don't remember my words but I was letting Will know how inapprorpriate it is to spit on another person and asking him how he'd feel if another person spit on him. And Will, knowing full well that I’d seen him, shouted in protest, “I didn’t do it! Ally spit on Owen.”

He’d pulled the same stunt on Rob, just a couple days before, then got more insistent about Ally being the culprit when Rob said: “Will, I saw you do it.” (I can’t even remember what the transgression was that time but Will got all worked up, protesting his innocence, shouting that Ally had done it and on and on.)

So this time -- since I was fresh off a new chapter in the “Ten Greatest Gifts” book, currently in a section where Steven Vannoy talks about guiding kids through questions not admonishments -- I decided to change course and play along with Will.

“How do you think we can help Ally learn that it’s not okay to spit on Owen?” I asked him.

Will thought about it and decided we should tell him together. First, though, Ally had to go the bathroom, then Ally had to wash his hands. And then, when Will decided Ally was ready, we went over to a little patch of thin air together and told “Ally” that it’s important to be kind to Owen and that we don’t spit on people in our family.

Will did most of the talking. “Spitting is yucky,” he told Ally.

And we’ll see how it goes from here on out, but as of yet neither Ally nor Will has spat upon the nearly hairless head of Owen again.

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