When my younger brother, Mordechai the Elder, was in fifth grade, his rebbe offered the class a challenge. Any boy who memorized all the mishnayot in masechet Yuma would get a set of Mishnayot to own. This was announced on Friday. Mordechai decided that he wanted that set of Mishnayot. I can still see him in my mind's eye, sitting at the top of the stairs all Shabbat afternoon with sefer in hand, memorizing away. He earned his beautiful big set of Mishnayot in school that very Sunday.
I could not say that I was that way. Not that I wasn't determined to do things, I just tended to do things at the last minute rather than doing them early and getting things out of the way. My idea of being a conscientious student was waking up the day of the final at 7:00, meeting my good buddy Malky at Dunkin Donuts, enjoying a chocolate cream-filled donut, and reading through the notes at warp speed so we'd at least have read it once before our 9:00 exam. Hey, it worked for us.
Fast forward to 2007. Six Flags offers a free ticket to students who read 6 hours for pleasure independently. They require each student to submit a form that includes the dates, books read, time spent, and signature of parent or teacher. Back in December, when Mordechai first brought home the form, he calculated the days until the date the form was due and how long he would have to read each day to fulfill the requirements and earn a free ticket. He got to work enthusiastically that night reading a pile of books. Somehow, that initial enthusiasm had faded by the next day and the whole program was forgotten.
Until last week.
The form was due February 2nd. Mordechai came home on February 1st and announced that he planned to read for 3 hours and 30 minutes that night. I was a bit skeptical that he would manage that. He insisted that it was no problem. I pointed out that even if he did get the ticket, the chances that anyone would actually take hime to Six Flags were rather remote. He said that he already worked it out with a kid in school whose mom had said she would pay the fifty dollars for her own ticket and take them to the park.
As soon as his homework, keyboard lesson, and dinner were out of the way, he buckled down with a book. He chose a book I had bought him (at his request) about the United States' presidents. He did not understand a word he was reading and mispronounced a good deal of them, but he was reading. After an hour(!) or so of that, I suggested he read something that he might understand so that it would be a bit more interesting. I compiled a collection of books for him that were more age-appropriate. He did not spend a moment that night without a book in his hands. Every so often he would ask me how many minutes he was up to. He went to bed with a book and was still up reading when Dovid came home at around 9:15. Finally, with twenty minutes to go, I made him go to sleep with the promise that I'd wake him early so he could finish in the morning. He was up an hour earlier than usual to make sure he'd have enough time and then he woke me (*!@#$%) to sign the paper.
Anyone wanna' take a really cute and determined 7-year-old kid to Six Flags this summer? (Some restrictions apply.)