We decided to start using a marble jar a few weeks ago after a series of ruckus days where everything seemed to be “No!” and “Stop!” and “Don’t do that!” Both T and I were exhausted by the constant reprimanding and redirection, and both of us agreed we needed to do a better job of pointing out the positives; of noticing the small, awesome, kind things Bean does daily—and of pointing those things out to him and affirming them.
Being six is hard, I think. It’s hard for me as Bean’s mama, for T, for Sprout, and maybe hardest of all for Bean.
Being six means being at the cusp between being small, and maybe not being quiet so small any more. It means being on the verge: of ending kindergarten, but not quite starting first grade. It means utter pure distraction one moment (he has this habit of pulling his socks off wherever he is and never ever remembering where he left them) and then absolute focus the next (he’ll draw for an hour now, his pictures the detailed blueprints of a future engineer.)
Being six means understanding that the world might not be all good: overhearing the news, wide eyed in the car; it means dreaming of Tsunamis, of thunder, of tornados, of things that can come out of closets at night. It means unwaveringly believing in fairies and gnomes and in one very special plastic alligator named Honey Honey who mysteriously eats the food he leaves on a small china plate for her before bed.
And most importantly, being six means trying to learn how to be in charge of yourself—-which often looks like trying to be in charge of everyone else. Especially his brother. And somehow the marble jar shifted the focus away from the struggle to the good stuff.
Keeping a marble jar has made us more aware of all the ways that he is helpful and thoughtful and self-reliant, and it makes him more aware of how he can grow those behaviors. Less frustration, more easy moments. Less negotiating, more helping. Less yelling, more hugging between brothers.
His first goal was easy: ten marbles would result in a family trip for ice cream cones. The next goal, harder: twenty marbles would be an indication that he’d be ready and responsible and caring enough to take care of his very own fish. And he did it. We did it. We all noticed and helped and laughed and shared.
“This is the very best day of my life!” Bean said as he walked through our front door carrying the small plastic container with a carefully selected Beta fish inside.