How Olin Thinks

My poor Olin has had an interesting last few days. On Saturday, he was outside playing with his tractors and bulldozers, ‘plowing’ various bits of the yard. At one point, he decided that he needed a different “attachment” for his tractor, and the logical option was to go down to the lower shed, and attempt to get the planter out. I am referring to a “real”, full size operational (or at least formerly operational) 4 row planter. Maybe it’s a 6 row, I don’t remember. In any case, he thought that was a good attachment for his 1:32 scale John Deere 5000 series toy tractor. This is the way my Olin thinks. When I yelled at him to come back up because he was out of bounds, he looked at me like I made no sense and said, “I was just trying to get the planter out, Mama…”

Yesterday, he noticed a little bottle of Mentos gumballs that was sitting high on a shelf in the office, and asked if he could have some. I said no, because the kid does not need any more sugar. Now, keep in mind that when I say Olin asked something, I mean he asks the same question repeatedly with a minimum of two and maximum of fifteen seconds of silence between answer and repeat of question, regardless of answer. Saying, “Olin, do you know the answer to that question?” results in inarticulate grunts of irritation and a repeat. Anyway, he was denied the gumballs.

A few hours later, he was being mysteriously quiet up in his room. I went to his room to investigate and found him very nicely sitting on the bed, reading a book. Then, I realized that he hadn’t said “Can we go downstairs to the basement?” or anything else at all, which is seriously unusual. He wasn’t talking because his little mouth was stuffed so full of gum that he could hardly open it! The little stinker had very stealthily stolen the bottle of gum, brought it upstairs, and then ate all the pink ones (there were pink and blue – they taste the same). I asked him why he only ate the pink ones, and he said, “A’cauth I wike pink”. Whatever, my dear. I retrieved the blue ones and pretty much left it alone after a short reminder that he had been told no, and taking things anyway was wrong.

Today at around 10:30AM, I got a phone call from Mrs. Hatlan, Olin’s “personal assistant” at school. She said he didn’t feel good, and demonstrated this with the illustration, “He’s lying on his rest mat and he’s so sick, he isn’t even asking any questions.” Now, that is a very un-Olin-like situation! Maybe he ate too many gumballs, yesterday. Who knows! Luckily, Tim was home and Lance was babysitting the girls, so Olin could be retrieved from school without me having to leave work.

Yesterday afternoon, though, was the real kicker. Lately, Olin has been on this kick of emptying bottles of soap. Baby soap, shower gel, bubble bath, anything colored, viscous and within his reach, basically. We’ve gotten after him a number of times for pouring an entire, brand-new bottle out on the vanity, and then using a toy vehicle or his hands to smash it around and make as much of a mess as possible.

I can see why he does it, in a way. Watching it pour is fascinating. Feeling the thick and slippery and squishy is fun (and Olin is nothing if not sensory) but it is starting to get pretty ridiculously expensive. Yesterday afternoon, he started out “washing the dishes” (which means getting water all over the counters and floors without actually accomplishing anything) and ended up taking one of Evie’s little plastic dollhouses, and pouring an entire economy-sized bottle of dish soap into and over it. I started out the same way as before, scolding him for wasting it, but that hasn’t work the last 8 or 10 times, so I changed tactics a bit.

“Olin,” I said, “You wasted all the soap. We have to buy more, and I don’t have any more money. You’re going to have to pay for it with one of your toys.” And I confiscated his excavator attachment for his tractor. Not his favorite toy, but high enough on the list that he’d notice the lack. Harsh – I felt like a big meanie for doing it, especially after about 20 minutes of him crying and 10 minutes of that snuggling in my arms, crying and vowing that he’d never waste the soap again. But, we’ll see if the lesson sticks. And I didn’t really sacrifice the excavator, I put it away and will bring it out again when he has forgotten abotu the incident. How long the point carries remains to be seen.


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