The other day a somewhat flustered fellow in a suit stood by his car and spoke to his toddler.
"Don't make daddy get in the car to fish you out. Daddy get cross."
The little fellow looked at him and did not budge. The fellow sighed.
"Daddy count to three. You better come out."
The little fellow did not move.
Still no movement.
By this time I had walked by. The toddler sat grim-faced in his child-seat and his father looked ready to pop a vein. I turned around to watch what would happen next.
"I said 'three', Timmy."
Ouch. If you have to repeat numbers, you are well and truly beaten. I had half a mind to pat him on the shoulder and shake my head sadly.
When I looked again, the fellow was reaching into the car with a hangdog expression.
I've always wondered what it is about the counting of numbers that so often has kids obeying with alacrity. Is it a burgeoning sense of doom? Is it that the anticipation of punishment is worse than the punishment itself? What is clear, though, is that not all kids respond to the numeric threat; in fact, even those that do don't do so all the time.
My boy is a prime example. He's eight now, and still under the shadow of the count. I don't use it against him very often. "Don't make me tell you twice" usually does the trick. But there are times when that does not work, and then I say, "I'm going to count to 5."
Increasingly, he likes to see how far he can push me.
"Count to 8, acha," he says.
"One," I say.
"Seven?" he says, hopefully.
"You are no fun," he says.
Or he might say "Three, four!" and edge quickly towards whatever it was he was supposed to do.
Sometimes I say, "Three, four, fff...!" and he makes a run for it.
"That is not fair!" he complains.