Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Son, The Mobster

I think Conor is becoming a mobster. Honestly, I think he tried to extort payment out of me yesterday.

Give me my payment and no one gets hurt, see?
Give me more money, lady, or I’ll have a tantrum like nobody’s business. Just watch me.

See, a few months back, we figured out that Conor figured out that he could have one tantrum a week and still earn his treasured community outing. 

He’s crafty like that. Sly. You can’t put anything past this guy. 

So, we added a little monetary incentive to Conor’s behavioral protocol. If he has an entire week (or weekend) without ANY tantrums, he earns $3 in addition to his outing. 

All-in-all, if Conor has 7 consecutive days with NO tantrum, he earns an extra $6. Not bad, you know. Works great, most of the time. It’s only $3, but you can buy a hell of a lot of pencils for three coin. 

I bet you thought I was kidding about the pencils.

So now, we wanted to reward him for 1) NOT having a tantrum AND 2) doing his Behavioral Relaxation Techniques (BRTs) to help him calm down. His dad and I, we figure, this is easy. We got this. Obviously, he’s motivated by money.

(Like father, like son, they say. Maybe Conor can get a job on Wall Street. I bet he'd understand derivatives more than that JPMorgan fellow.)

Now, every time Conor gets upset but engages in his BRTs to help calm himself, he earns a quarter. He has to stay calm for 30 minutes after doing the BRT to earn the extra quarter. (And, of course, no tantrum.)

His behaviorist approved the plan, and we implemented it in school. I didn’t really think much of it at home. He didn’t seem to really want the quarter when he got it at school. So I figured, why bother?

(This, by the way, is a no-no on my part. Follow the protocol, Alisa. Follow the protocol and nobody gets hurt.)

But yesterday? Yesterday, it was like he walked into my bodega on the corner of 34th and 9th Avenue, pointed a pistol at my face, and said, “Give me more money, honey, or I’ll have a tantrum like you’ve never seen before.”

Hand it over, easy-like.

It all went down like this, see?

I drop Aidan off at his playdate. I drive home, open up the rickety back yard gate, and 


I walk right into the shakedown on the basketball court. There’s Paisely (Conor's therapist) and my husband trying to get Conor to calm down. They’re doing everything they can to re-direct him, get him interested in an activity, and to chill the hell out. Nothing’s working.

I tell Conor to let my husband go inside. (That’s the first step, releasing hostages.) I keep Paisely on as muscle and we start to negotiate. (In all honesty, when Conor’s upset, for some reason he picks on Jim more than me. So sometimes it’s easier when I talk to him. When I have back-up. Only when I have back-up.)

"Take five deep breaths, Conor," I say. We do it along together. Let’s just move inside, easy-like, and try to pick an activity. Let’s Cook-Something-Fun!

You like cooking! (Fake smile.)

He’s not buying it. Slowly, slowly, I back-up and coax him inside. No sudden moves. Real calm. Real easy-like. Hands up, palms out. There, finally, he’s on the couch. Paisley hands him his headphones. He listens to music for 30 minutes, wiping the tears from his eyes. The red fades from his freckled cheeks.

“Mom?” he says to me. “When will Conor get his quarter?”

“What?” I reply. “Your quarter?” Oh, damn, the protocol.

“Paisley, do you think he really engaged in the BRTs?” I asked. I wasn't entirely sure.

“I think so,” she answered. “He did the deep breathing along with you and he calmed down. I think it counts.” 

I run and get a quarter out of the change jar. “Here you go. Good job staying on Level 3, doing your BRTs, and earning your quarter.”

“Mom?” Conor continued. “When will Conor earn another quarter?”

OMG, seriously? 

MORE money, you’re looking for MORE MONEY? I can see it, too, the little squirrels running around inside his brain.  He's thinking--how many quarters can I earn over the next week to make up for the $3 I'd lose if I had this tantrum?

“The next time you do your BRTs when you’re upset, Conor, you’ll earn a quarter,” replied Paisley.

WANT A COIN THAT’S 45 CENTS!!!!!!!!!” Conor vehemently exclaimed.

Oh, so that confirms it. That’s the game. There it is. He wants more money. Protection money. Buy-me-off money. No way. I’m standing up to my little Tony Soprano.

“No,” I replied, looking right in his eyes and pointing at him. “It’s a quarter, Conor. That’s IT.”

“How many quarters make $97?” he asked my husband later, when he was calmer.

“388,” my husband replied.

CONOR WANTS 388 QUARTERS TO MAKE $97!” exclaimed Conor.

Let's see, does that mean we have to tolerate 388 more upsets (but no tantrum) to earn enough quarters to, oh, I don't know, buy the calculator we want for $97?  Hmmm?

Wait a minute... if I can get 388 days of no tantrums, only upsets, for 97 bucks?  That's, like, a whole year. Hell yeah, I'll take that deal.

Shake on it, mobster.


Jen said...

Um, I would happily fork over an even $100 for no tantrums ;)

Alisa Rock said...

I know, really, in a hot minute.

Jean said...

Absolutely hilarious. When Connor is emperor of the world I'll help him count his quarters XXX

Alisa Rock said...

I spoke with the behaviorist today. She said that if he's having a tantrum, and we can get him to engage in his relaxation techniques by telling him he can earn EVEN MORE money, that would be ok.

Talk about your payoffs. Here, Conor, if you stop having a MEGA tantrum, I'll give you TWO quarters.

LOL. It sounds funny, but for 50 cents to stop a megawatt tantrum? Pshaw, sounds good to me.