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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Constructive Behavior? How about fixing and then playing the keyboard

Yesterday had a special looking date: 01/01/11. One /One/  One - One. But it did not look to be that special a day when it started out. Sword had a friend over for a New Year's sleepover the night before. They stayed up much later than I could allow myself, because for me the start of the new year was a regular day and I had to be back in the pen at six-thirty a.m.

Since Sword was celebrating that night, I was not even going to suggest that she practice the piano, but oddly enough her friend asked her to play something, just for fun. Sword played the Siamese Cat Song from Lady and the Tramp. It was much later than she usually practices her piano, and I wonder in retrospect if Bow heard her in the pens and whether it woke him up.

The next morning, the girls slept late, and Bow and I had our breakfast in the pens without them at the usual time, and I was back on the computer doing my regular stuff by seven a.m. When the girls came in to breakfast, even though the guest was very polite to Bow on entry, Bow's hair stood on end, and he puffed himself up to twice his normal size and insisted on displaying his strength and might at them by rattling the doors and rebounding off the glass for at least five minutes. The girls more or less ignored this display, but it bothered me that he was behaving this way.

After they were done with breakfast in the pen, the girls stayed a little longer and played charades. Bow sat and watched, and he was calm now and very interested in their game. But he didn't try to guess on any of the charades, and when Sword's friend asked him if would like to try one, he only hunkered down as if looking at her from under the lower grid.

"A snake?" the little girl guessed.

Bow took my hand and spelled: "Yes." But I didn't believe him. I felt that he just said that because he hadn't really thought of anything.

The rest of the day was devoted to answering comments and cleaning out my email account of things that had accumulated there and were filling up the disk space. They disabled "ftp" at the well this year, and so it took me a while to learn how to use the new method to transfer data, which is why I had a backlog of old emails that needed to be downloaded and archived.

Bow asked for his shoe to play with and his blanket. Eventually, he made a small hole in the blanket and separated the insole from the shoe. The shoe had already lost the shoestring it came with at Christmas. I felt disheartened that he was up to his old destructive behavior. He made a soft, "ooh ooh" sound when the insole came out, to alert me that something unexpected had happened. (He also did that the other day when he discovered a spot of dirt on his blanket and decided he should clean it.)

I took away the insole and the blanket and went back to cleaning out my email account. It was a long and laborious process. But Bow was not happy. He made raspberry sounds. I went back in with him, quite irritated. "I left you your shoe. Do you want me to take the shoe away?"

He handed me the shoe and gestured that he needed my hand, so he could spell things on the glass. I gave him my hand. "What do you want, Bow?"

"I want to play music like Sword," he spelled.

I gave him a skeptical look. We had tried so many times to interest him in making music, but he never once took to it. All he ever seemed to want to do was break the instrument. "You want to play music?"

"Yes. Like Sword..."

That seemed to be the big point with him. Not the music, but the competition with Sword. "Bow, you can't play music like Sword," I said, sighing.

He spelled: "Then don't let her." He looked me straight in the eye, in the usual challenge that I suppose every parent with more than one child has to face. Do you love her more than me? he seemed to be asking.

"Okay, okay, fine. I'll have to go look for the old keyboard."

I ran to my room to fetch it, before he could get into any more mischief. The old keyboard was a Casio that my father brought home one day sometime around 1980. He said it was for the whole family, not just for one of us. It was the keyboard I used at all my filksings in Grand Prairie. Sword was using it to practice her piano up until my mother bought her a full sized Yamaha a couple of years ago. Since then, the Casio has been in disuse. I found it on top of a chest and under some pillows that my dolls had been reclining on.

I hurried back to the pens with the keyboard, but when I turned it on, it had no power. "I have to get new batteries, Bow." I rushed to the kitchen for a package of batteries. Back in the pen, Bow watched me open the battery compartment and replace the batteries. But after I did that, it still didn't work. There still wasn't any power.

"I'm sorry, Bow," I said. "The keyboard doesn't work, anymore." I brought it in to show him.

Bow tried the keyboard. Then, when nothing happened, he turned it over and opened the battery compartment.

"No, don't do that!" I was afraid he would break it, but actually he opened it correctly, without breaking, and I was able to close it again. Then Bow picked the keyboard up and held it over his head and shook it. Suddenly, it started making sounds.

"Bow, you fixed it! It works now," I said, very much surprised. "Put it down and play it now." And he did! This is the first time ever that he has fixed something! How about that!

He pounded on the keys for a very long time, enjoying the sounds he was making. Sword came by from her room to see what was going on. "Is that what the noise was?" she asked, when she saw it was Bow playing the keyboard. "I thought you were watching something on YouTube."

"No," I said. "Bow has decided he wants to play the keyboard."

"He's not playing it very well," she said, and went back to her room.

I only got a chance to film the very end of Bow's playing. After that, he gave me back the keyboard and spelled: "I need to learn to play like Sword."

"You want lessons? But Bow, the teacher can't go in with you."

"Tell her to try," Bow spelled. Then he gestured for me to take the keyboard out, because he was done with it.

How's that for constructive behavior?


  1. Very good! I think he wants to make friends with Sword's friend! ;)

    You know, there are videos for learning how to play the piano. Maybe he could use some of them...

  2. Wow! His playing is pretty good! He seems to be choosing sounds once he identifies which keys make which sounds, and he knows how he is supposed to hold his hands. He is not pounding on the keys with his fist or the backs of his hands, rather ,he is using his fingertips. Good start! :)

  3. Thanks, Suzanne! I think his playing is not random, too. He makes intentional and informed choices.

    While I agree that not everybody needs a teacher to learn how to play music, I have a feeling that both my kids are the kind who definitely would benefit from having a teacher. You can learn by watching videos, but there's nothing like a real person to correct your mistakes.

    I sent a copy of the video to Sword's music teacher! I wonder what she will say about it.

  4. You state that when Sword's friend guessed "snake", Bow typed "yes", but you didn't believe him he meant that, and felt that he typed that only because he hadn't thought of anything.

    What kind of science is this? You are not free to interpret what Bow means, or doesn't mean, based on your own feelings!