Who says sidewalk chalk has to be reserved for the out of doors? Not the menchildren. That’s for sure. And I think they may be onto something. So what if it is raining outside or you are too lazy to go down two flights of stairs? And who cares if you went through the effort to paint the doors with chalkboard paint? Vertical surfaces are overrated. As long as you have bare floors available there’s no reason not to bust out the sidewalk chalk year round.

This was an accidental discovery for me, similar to the discovery of electricity and penicillin. What I did was I took away all of Manchild 1’s books and toys. It was not a punishment, but merely a function of having to pack up everything we own so it can be moved next week. And, truth be told, packing up all the books was his idea, not mine. I wanted to leave him some to read over the next few days, but he wouldn’t hear of it. “Put all of them in the box,” he said, and who am I to argue with a 3-year-old? Thus the experiment began.

Quiet time started early today, at 12:30 (also at the manchild’s request), and I wondered how long it would take him to get bored and start asking for things. By half an hour in he was singing away, belting out “The Good-Bye Song” and saying his farewells to everyone he knew. In my mind he was just sitting on his bed looking at nothing as he did so, and I was pretty sure he would fall asleep sooner than later. It didn’t take long before the singing stopped and silence reigned until about 4:00 when I decided I’d had it with my alone time (or feared him staying awake all night long) and cracked the door to see what position the boy had managed to fall asleep in this time. And that is when I had my “Aha!” moment. Okay, so initially when I saw the chalk on the hardwood floor it was more of an, “Ack!” moment, but then I realized that the Manchild had drawn something of his own free will and choice and I grabbed the camera to record the moment for posterity.

As I was snapping pictures I thought, “Why is this a bad idea? Certainly something about chalk on the floors is wrong at some fundamental level.” Yes, chalk is dusty and it can get on your feet and your clothes and your couch. But it doesn’t stay there like markers or paint or crayon does, so as far as artistic materials being used in somewhat inappropriate ways, it is fairly benign. And, in fact, the chalk on the floor wiped up with a wet rag in seconds — faster and cleaner than wiping the chalk off the chalkboard doors.

It was only after I had snapped a bunch of pictures that I put the whole story together in my mind. The Manchild, while locked inside his room, realized the similarities between his situation and that of a prisoner. And because he is so familiar with prison stories he knew two things: 1. he needed to keep track of the time of his incarceration, 2. and he needed to distract the guard so that he could . . . do something. Since he couldn’t remember what he should be doing (maybe trying to escape?), he distracted me with his singing while tallying the minutes on the floor. Or something like that. I am glad he forgot the part about trying to escape, and interested to see if the experiment can be duplicated more successfully in a controlled environment. I have no qualms about pulling out the sidewalk chalk next rainy day and seeing what kinds of loveliness can be done on my living room floor.

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