The next day Jacob woke up with no memory of the heavy conversation that he had with Simon. He had returned to his usual regressed personality and spent most of the morning engrossed in watching TV, being an absolute couch potato. While he was lying on the couch and waiting for his next episode to begin, Angelique walked over to the TV and shut it off.
Jacob immediately sat up and complained, "I wanna watch TV!"
"Yes, I am aware. But you have been watching TV for the better part of the day, and you need to do something else," Angelique said sternly, placing the remote on the ledge.
"But I got nothing to do!" the boy whined, crossing his arms.
"I thought you might say that," Angelique began, reaching for a pair of dusters. "Why don't you help me dust some of these shelves?"
Jacob slid off the couch and asked, "Then I can watch TV?"
"Later, sure," Angelique promised.
They got started on the shelves near the TV. Jacob dusted the lower shelves while Angelique handled the ones that Jacob couldn't reach. They moved through the living room and kitchen, and when they dusted the last set of shelves, Jacob immediately asked, "TV now?"
Angelique smiled. She thought that Jacob's persistence was almost admirable. Undoubtedly, he had quite a stubborn streak, and while it made parenting him a little more difficult, their progress was even more gratifying. "Later, "Angelique answered, taking the duster from the two-year old. "It's time to eat. Would you tell Simon it's lunch time? He's in the office."
"Okay," Jacob replied, scampering over to the office.
When he got there, Simon was busy typing away on the keyboard. It was less than two weeks until the therapist couple was scheduled to go back to work, and Simon wanted to get a few things out of the way while he was still on vacation. Since Jacob might still be in their care when work began again, Simon knew that he would have other things to focus on besides the business.
Freshly printed pages littered the desk around the computer. The boy crept into the room until he was standing right next to his caregiver. He tried to make some sense of the words on the screen, but he could only recognize a few sight words such as: at, the or it.
Simon reached over to ruffle Jacob's hair and asked, "Did you come to help me work?"
"No," Jacob answered, shaking his head. "It's lunch time, and I came to get you."
"I can't believe it's already lunch time," Simon began, shuffling a few papers. "Let me just save this document, and we can head into the kitchen."
A few clicks later, Simon stood up and allowed Jacob to lead him to the kitchen. Feeling a little playful, he lifted Jacob up and threw him in the air. The boy shrieked when he felt himself freefalling back into Simon's arms, but the older man's chuckles reminded him that he was safe and secure. Simon tossed him into the air two more times, leaving Jacob a giggly and slightly dizzy mess when he was finally seated in the highchair.
"We're having your favorite, Simon," Angelique said, handing him Jacob's bowl of curry chicken and rice.
"Awesome!" Simon beamed, taking the bowl. "Thank you so much."
"You're welcome," Angelique replied, moving to set the table.
"Are you ready to have the best meal ever, Jacob?" Simon excitedly asked.
The tyke smiled up at him and said, "Yes!"
Simon patiently fed Jacob his lunch while taking bites of his own food. Soon, they both were battling sleepiness, stomachs stuffed full of food.
"Alright, it's nap time," Angelique announced, picking Jacob up.
"I wana watch TV until I go sleep," Jacob yawned.
"How about we read a story instead," Angelique offered, determined to shift the child's fixation with the TV. She reasoned that if left unchecked, it would become a tough habit for him to break when it was time for him to transition to daycare.
"TV instead!" Jacob whined as they passed through the living room.
"You haven't even seen the book we will read," Angelique started, opening the door to the nursery and laying Jacob on the changing table. "I think you'll like it."
The boy ignored his caregiver, popping his thumb in his mouth and scratching his leg. From the moment they entered the nursery, he'd already realized that he wasn't going to get his way. Used to the routine, he recognized that fighting about nap time always got him nowhere.
Angelique handed the boy a bright, orange, hardcover book. "This is what we'll be reading."
Jacob took the book from her and stared at the picture on the cover, trying to see if he could guess what the story was about from the illustration.
"It's called, Green Eggs and Ham," Angelique said, changing his diaper.
"Green Eggs and Ham," Jacob repeated around the thumb in his mouth, slightly intrigued. "That sounds yucky."
"Good," she began. "Then I suspect you'll learn a lesson from the book."
Angelique settled onto the rocking chair with the boy sitting on her lap where he had a good view of the pages in the book. She opened to the first page and in an animated voice she performed a dramatic, auditory rendition of the story. The experienced babysitter deliberately ran a finger over the words as she read them, helping him re-develop his sight word recognition skills.
As Angelique read to Jacob, she realized that it was becoming more and more likely that the boy would still be in their care after he fully regressed. If this was the case, then she and Simon needed to plan more deliberately. They needed to start talking about daycare and babysitters. Now that Jacob was almost completely regressed, they needed to take responsibility for his academic development. The gears turned in her head as Angelique envisioned how she intended to add more structure to Jacob's daily routine.
When they finished the last page of the book, Jacob yawned and said, "I want Green Eggs and Ham."
Angelique laughed. "Maybe we'll have some tomorrow, but now it's nap time for a sleepy little someone."
Jacob didn't complain as he was placed in the crib. Batman was already waiting for him next to his blanket. He quickly cuddled next to both items and closed his eyes before the lights were even turned off.
Angelique made her way downstairs to the couch where her husband was lying down. She took a seat next to him and said, "Simon, we need to talk about our future plans with Jacob."
Simon immediately muted the TV and asked, "What do you mean?"
"We go back to work in less than two weeks, and it's becoming undeniable that Jacob will be in our care. We don't have anything planned," Angelique anxiously explained.
"Let's make a plan of attack them," Simon suggested, rubbing his wife's arm to soothe her. "What do you think is the first thing we need to get started on?"
"Daycare," Angelique answered. "He's got to get into the best ones to get a strong foundation for kindergarten."
"That's perfect," Simon said. "Should we look up the ratings of the ones near our office?"
"Let's do it!" Angelique agreed, going to the office to grab her laptop.
The therapists combed through the exhaustive lists of daycares in Seattle that had spots available. After nearly an hour of searching, reading reviews and creating spreadsheets, they decided on their first-choice daycare center. They printed all of the application materials, including the forms that Jacob was required to complete on his own.
Simon went back to work on a few more items for the private practice, leaving Angelique to get started on the application forms. She highlighted the questions that she would need to read to Jacob later.
Angelique allowed the boy a ninety-minute nap before she went to wake him up. She reached into the crib to lift the sleeping toddler. While she changed his diaper, she rubbed his tummy until he stirred awake. "Jacob, it's time to wake up sweetie," she sang.
The boy opened his eyes and stretched his little legs. He felt well-rested and content. During his nap, he had dreams of playing with Batman and flying.
Angelique lifted him into her arms and took him downstairs. "Do you want a snack?" she offered the boy.
"Crackers!" Jacob exclaimed.
"Alright, crackers and cheese it is," Angelique agreed, sitting him in the highchair while she went to make him a snack bowl.
Angelique waited until Jacob finished eating to wipe his face and hands with a wet paper towel. She took him out of the highchair and led him over to the kitchen table. Taking a seat on a dining chair, she kept a hold on Jacob's hand.
"I have to ask you a few questions for this paperwork that I'm trying to fill out, and I need you to be a good boy and answer them for me," she explained. "You think you can do that?"
"Yah," Jacob replied, fidgeting in her grasp. He felt a little energetic after a good nap and a filling snack.
"Can you spell your name for me?" she asked with a pen in her hand.
"J-A-um-C-O-B," the boy answered.
"Good job," Angelique praised, checking off a box on the form.
She asked him a few other simple questions, checking off the boxes as she went. Finally, they got to the worksheet pages that he would need to complete on his own. "For these pages, you need to count all the fruits in each basket and write the number," she explained, handing him a crayon along with the sheet of paper.
Jacob took the crayon from her and placed his paper on the floor. He started counting the fruits, but the task slightly overwhelmed him by the time that he got to the third picture on the page. His mind strained to remember how to count effectively according to the specific kind of fruit, and after struggling to complete another problem, his adult consciousness surfaced.
Twenty-two-year-old Jacob tried to make sense of the papers that were staring back at him. It looked like a bunch of academic work for a preschooler, and he had no idea why his caregivers would give him work like that to do. He looked over at Angelique and realized that she was filling out some paperwork that had the same formatting. He tried to connect the dots for a few moments, and when he did, Jacob knew exactly what was going on. His kidnappers obviously intended to enroll him into a daycare program, and he refused to contribute to his captivity.
"I'm not doing this," Jacob objected, crumpling the page he was working on. "I'm not going to help you put me in baby detention."
Angelique sighed. She had a feeling that Jacob's adult consciousness might make an appearance if the little boy's intellect was stimulated. Wordlessly, she grabbed the tyke's arm and led him to the naughty step. "It was naughty of you to crumple the paper," she explained in a stern tone. "You will sit here for five minutes."
Jacob crossed his arms, seething on the inside. His current existence frustrated and confused him at the same time. He felt like he was experiencing life as though it was a time lapse, going from moment to moment with no intermediary. His kidnappers clearly had some form of day-to-day routine, and every interruption of his led to swift punishment.
The boy reflected on how his punishments shifted as he became more regressed. He remembered how readily he volunteered to be placed in the corner or confined to the playpen. Only weeks ago, he felt no fear of a spanking, but now he had no doubt that a single swat to his diapered behind would leave him in tears. Sitting on the naughty step, he felt a little sick to his stomach, but he instinctively knew that it didn't have to do with anything that he might have eaten.
The therapists had conditioned him well, teaching him to crave their praise, affection and warmth. Even his adult consciousness couldn't escape the very primal and physiological responses to chastisement. He still craved their attention, and it actually hurt to have that taken away from him. Feeling the worsening sensation of butterflies in his belly, Jacob didn't know if he could take another round of this torment. The choice for the twenty-two-year-old was clear: suffer or surrender.
So, when Angelique alerted him that his five minutes were over and asked him to apologize, he readily did so, despite how humiliated it made him feel. Secretly, he enjoyed the hugs and kisses that followed his apology which only served to deepen his embarrassment over the entire ordeal. Apprehensively, Jacob allowed his caregiver to lead him to the living room, and he frowned at the sight of the stack of papers that was left to complete.
Already expecting Jacob's resistance, Angelique waved the bag of jellybeans in her hand in front of the two-year old, and the boy's eyes immediately lit up. "For every worksheet that you finish, you get two of these," she told him. "You get two to start."
Jacob eagerly took the jellybeans from her and popped them in his mouth. Adult consciousness or not, he would never refuse candy.
Jacob immediately got straight to task, doing his best to trace the letter on the page. It took him a few minutes to complete it, but he finished his first page and immediately went to get his reward from Angelique who remained seated at the dining table to complete her portion of the application.
"I finished one," he said, handing her the completed page.
"Good job," she praised, opening the bag of jellybeans and handing him two.
Jacob popped them in his mouth and enjoyed the flavors, already heading back to the living room to work on the next page. They continued with the reward system until he was completely finished with all the required pages. Angelique turned on the TV for the hyper two-year old, and Jacob danced along to the music playing on the kids' channel until he wore himself out.