When John said his first skill was crying, I scoffed
and thought, crying is a reflexive, emotional response to an event. Some days have passed and I have had time to reflect on my first response, I was wrong. John did indeed develop crying as a skill because he got rewards from Mamma
by doing so. I recall many instances where a food was put onto his plate that he thought he would not like he would immediately start to cry. The rule in the house was, eat everything on your plate, or else, (this was enforced even though Mamma
never ate some foods.) All five of us kids were amazed that John did not "get it" when he cried. He actually got away with it and Mamma
would remove food from his plate.
Of course, as with most things in life, that did not always work. John, a great gamester, would then up the stakes by rushing from the kitchen and throwing himself on a daybed that was in the next room and cry loudly. This soon became his total ploy: cry at the table, rush from the room, throw himself face down on the daybed and cry. Many a time we had finished eating and he was still on that daybed crying. Mamma
would remove something from his plate and he would return to eat something.
John's behavior was so predictable that Bernie and I contrived to play a trick on him. Just before dinner, without John knowing, we moved the daybed from the wall and into the center of the room. Sure enough, John started to cry, ran from the room and threw himself on the daybed that was not there. He hit the floor with a loud thunk. Now his crying picked up a few decibels (we knew the origional was faked) but now hitting the floor he felt some pain or perhaps surprise. He really wailed
. My recollection is that Pappa
berated both Bernie and I, but he did so with a curious little smile in the corner of his mouth.