Over a lunchtime bowl of mac and cheese, Carter and I got to talking about what he wanted to be when he grew up. It was a toss up between a botanist and a garbage man.
The conversation started with him asking me if glowing seaweed was indeed real (he had watched an underwater themed Scooby Doo episode earlier in the morning while I finished reading chapter 23 in my US History textbook). I informed him that, it was not so much the seaweed that glowed but tiny organisms like plankton or algae on the seaweed that glowed and that it was called bioluminescence. He was awestruck at the thought of it so I went on to tell him stories from my childhood, stories about his Grandpa who studies marine biology and taught middle and high school science classes.
I told him about the large salt water tank in the back of my dad’s classroom that was usually filled with flora and fauna from the Puget Sound that he and his students collected, observed, and released throughout the school year. I told him about the octopus my dad was called in to save. It had gotten itself stuck in a tide pool and some lady walking by saw it and was worried it could not make it back to the water. My dad filled up a large garbage can with water and keep that multi-legged fellow in the front of his classroom for a day or two before releasing it back into the water near where it was found.
Carter ate and listened. Then he asked if there were people who studied plants. I went on to tell him way more than he probably ever wanted to know about botany. He perked up when I told him that when a scientist finds a new plant or animal, sometimes they get to give that newly discovered form of life a name.
carter: If I find a new flower I will name it Carter Family Flower. Or maybe Crazy Head Flower, I don’t know which one!
We talked about how he would have to go to school to learn all about plants so he could be a well informed botanist. He thought about it a moment and then told me that, no, he would rather be a trash man. I told him that was a very important job too.
carter: I am going to be the best trash man ever! I am going to clean up the whole entire universe!! (Insert grandiose hand gestures here to express the vast size of the work he has chosen to do.)
I nodded solemnly and told him that the universe needed someone like him to clean it up. Then as an after thought I asked him why he wanted to be a trash collector. He told me that when trash men do a really good job they get a badge. And he wanted a badge. So much for altruism.
A badge. Really? The wheels in my head started turning as I thought of what this could mean. I don’t like the idea of bribing Carter to do his chores, he is part of the family and is expected to help out, but he does have a very quick temper and sometimes gets destructive or physical. It is something he (and I) have been dealing with, mostly unsuccessfully, for quite some time. Maybe if he got a Better Behavior Choice Badge for when he hits his stuffed hippo and not his brother or rips up some newspaper instead of tearing apart his wall calendar, he would be able to get a handle on his temper. I would be happy and he would be happy.
And he would get that coveted badge.