Tokens of affection

For months now I have been finding little red plastic discs around the house. They’re in people’s shoes, in the washing machine, next to the cereal box in the pantry, and even stacked up by my toothpaste tube in the ensuite. And for months I’ve been mystified by these things. What are they? Where did they come from? Why am I finding them everywhere I look?

Of two things I was absolutely certain: They came from some game I’d never played or seen before or even knew we owned, and they had something to do with my seven-year-old son. Because he loves to carry interesting little things in his pockets and then leave them everywhere. If he got lost in the bush, he wouldn’t need to leave a trail of bread crumbs — all he’d need to do is start unloading the Lego pieces, shells, coloured pencil shavings, rubber wheels from toy cars, marbles, and, yes, small round red discs from his pockets and we’d find him in no time.

So every time I found these red discs in the house, I’d call my son to come collect them and tell him to “Put them away where they belong!” It took me a while to realise that “where they belong” apparently meant “back in his pockets” where they were promptly forgotten until they fell out again. And then his baby sister started discovering the discs and putting them into one of her many handbags because, in her eyes, they were “money”. So then I had a second problem on my hands: Keeping these small red possible choking hazards away from the toddler.

“PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE THESE RED THINGS AROUND THE HOUSE!” I kept thundering at Master Seven, who didn’t even have the grace to look alarmed at my tone as he took yet another handful of red discs from me and shoved them into his pocket. So then I started throwing them away whenever I discovered them. I figured that by the time my kids went to play whatever godforsaken game these annoying red discs came from, they would be sorry when they realised the pieces were missing and then maybe they would stop LEAVING THESE RED THINGS AROUND THE HOUSE. But months went by and the discs kept appearing and no one complained when I adiosed them. Hmm.

So then last week I stopped into the school office at pickup one day and as I was waiting there, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a kid walk by me and drop something into a box on a little table to the left of the office window. I turned my head to see a clear perspex container with four sections, each with a little slot on top, and each filled with a different colour of small round plastic discs. Yellow, green, blue, and… Red.

As soon as my son wandered out of his classroom that day, I frogmarched him over to the office and showed him the box with the discs inside. “What are those?” I demanded.

“House tokens,” he replied, looking at me in confusion.

“And which house are you in?”

“I’m in the red house,” he said. “Why?”

Apparently the students at his school get house tokens from their teacher when they do good things and then they have to go put them into the box by the office and at the end of the year the tokens are added up and the house with the most tokens gets some kind of prize. Possibly pizza. Or lollies.

Except I guarantee you the red house won’t be winning this year, because my kid keeps forgetting to put his tokens into the box, and instead brings them home and leaves them all over my house. And I’ve been throwing them away for the better part of a year.

When we got home, I got an empty jar out of the cupboard and plonked it on the kitchen bench. “House tokens go in here,” I told Master Seven. “We’ll take them into the office together.”

“Okay, Mum,” he replied, and wandered off. I’m never telling him how many I threw away.

Katherine Granich

Editor, Tots to Teens

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