But I'm not saying that it's easy to articulate that, as managers or teachers or team members we often don't know exactly what we want. Or as parents. For the boy, on a day to day basis, it's hard for me to remember to spell out exactly what kind of behavior I want. But yesterday, I did and I was rewarded with a good boy.
The boy had been begging to see Peppa Pig's Party, a play for children staged in a central London theatre. Peppa Pig is a popular cartoon in the UK, featuring a precocious little piggie and her little brother George, Mommy Pig, Daddy Pig and a array of friends (Suzie Sheep, Pedro Pony, Danny Dog). If you haven't seen it, here's a nice bootleg clip from YouTube.
It was heavily advertised on buses and even a flier on the door to his nursery. I made some vague promises about going to see it, but the boy knows our track record on such things and continued to make a fuss. I finally caved in and bought tickets for the 28th of December (and just as well I did, as only seats with 'limited view' were still available). I showed him the ticket receipt. I marked it on the calendar. I think he was almost as excited about Peppa Pig as he was about Christmas in general.
The night before, I was set out my expectations. That we had to get out on time so we could pick up our tickets at the box office. And that this meant he had to get dressed without argument (a common problem). He had to be very good and not run off while we were in town. And that during the performance he had to stay seated and be quiet.
The next morning he begged to get dressed. He stuck with me through complicated Underground line changes. He stayed seated on the train. We arrived slightly ahead of schedule and picked up our ticket. He didn't run off when we got to Piccadilly Circus, although he did check out the map (his latest obsession). He did ask for a light up toy they were selling at a concession stand, but since he'd behaved so well through our labrynthian travels through the many stairs of the grand old subterranean Criterion Theatre.
We got to our seats so early, I thought there might be trouble, but the Peppa Pig spinner I bought for him kept him occupied for the half hour we waited for the show to start. Ridiculous amount of money well spent.
He sat quietly throughout the performance. A little too quietly perhaps, as there were many calls for audience participation and when I was singing and clapping he told me to stop. "Shhh, mommy quiet," and he held a finger over his mouth. And "Stop singing,".
Afterwards he asked for a Krispy Kreme donut when I stopped into a local store for some ibuprofen. (The performance was good but it was loud.) He was good in the bookstore and good on the long-ish walk to Green Park (a station from which we could travel without complicated underground changes). He had a tiny melt-down in Fortnum and Mason's (a luxury food and hamper store) which meant we didn't buy any over-priced fruit candy or Turkish delight which I'd had my eye on. But we had a lovely time opening all the sample pots of select teas and smelling the darjeeling.
We had a brief little wander through Green Park, feeding the pigeons with the leftover from my donut (too sweet and icky). And when the donut was all gone, we turned on the spinner and they took off with a woosh. It turns out that pigeons are very scared indeed of small boys wielding Peppa Pig light up spinners.
For a three and half year old boy on a big day out in town on the busy streets of London he behaved incredibly well. And I told him so. And later on that night, I told his dad, too in his hearing about how impressed I was. But that's when his conduct took a turn for the worse. He was clearly upset by this. It's as if he doesn't mind being good when it suits him, but he'd rather have the reputation of a bad boy. Can't imagine where he gets that.