Thursday, March 01, 2007

Can't Bear It

Last night we started reading The Hobbit to the big boys. The results were interesting.

We had finished Harry Potter 2 (COS) the night before, and Stephen wanted to watch that movie right away, since family tradition says they can't watch the HP movies until after they've read the book.

His mother had already told him that we would be watching it Friday night. But he pestered me all through cooking dinner yesterday, asking if we could watch the movie that night. I said no, that it was already too late to begin such a long movie, that it was a school night, that he couldn't watch it while the little guys were awake, etc.

So he got grumpy.

Now, here's the thing. When Stephen gets corrected, disciplined, or denied in any way, he gets grumpy. He pouts, puts on a sour face, hangs his head, and stomps around the house. When he talks to you, if he'll talk at all, he uses a very low voice with the shortest possible answers. Aside from all this, when he's in a grump he'll often do things to make his situation much, much worse. He'll kick things, yell at his brothers, or snap at one of us, and this only gets him in more trouble.

Time usually wears this out, although there have been times where doing one of his favorite things will also make him snap out of it. One time he was throwing a very serious, multi-hour grump about something, only to come skipping and smiling in when we started to play Crash Team Racing.

So, last night, informed at dinner for the last time that we would not be watching the movie nor beginning Harry Potter 3 (POA), he put on a show for the whole family.

Because last night's reading of the first chapter of The Hobbit turned into a full-family event. We read in the living room, Jonah on the couch with me and Sparkles, my wife in the chair, Timothy at the dining room table, finishing up dinner (a combination of a late Karate class and his own naturally slow eating had him finish up around an hour after the rest of us), and Sam bouncing around the room. Stephen, in full grumpitude, lay on another couch, facing away from us all, fingers in his ears.

As I read, he would occasionally mutter, just loud enough to hear but certainly intended for our ears, an angry "Hmph." After several of these, and some physical grumpery involving Sam, I asked Stephen to go upstairs and go to bed. By all appearances, he was not listening to the story at all, and was taking active measures to avoid it.

He stood up, face downcast at the floor, brows furrowed, lips pursed, and stomped out of the room. He even dropped his night-night on the floor in a grand gesture, but immediately thought better of it and whisked it up.

After he had left, we resumed reading. A few minutes later, I noticed Sam standing at the bottom of the stairs, his eyes fixed on about the second step up. Stephen was sitting there, listening to the story, whispering urgently for Sam to go away and not give up his secret.

Being a blunt instrument, I said, loudly, "Stephen, if you want to listen you can come back." There was a loud "Hmph!" from the stairs, and then the sound of a stomping 7-year-old going up to his room.

A few minutes later, my wife whispered to me, "Don't look at the kitchen." Of course I looked, and there was Stephen, standing in the doorway, drawn back to the story. This time, I didn't say a thing, but my wife motioned for him to come over. He did, and he stayed for the rest of the night's reading.

Of note, Timothy listened quietly at the table and Sam didn't listen at all, practicing living room gymnastics for the entire half-chapter. Jonah on the other hand, sat next to me, quietly and repeatedly whispering all the odd words to himself, playing them around each other. "Baggins, baggins, baggins, thorin, thorin, bifur, bofur, bifur, bofur."

We'll finish chapter 1 tonight, and then get on our way to trolls, elves, orcs, eagles, bear-men, spiders, and then, a few weeks from now, the dragon himself.


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