Any respectable prince will have to live up to certain expectations as he grows. The Lightning Kid and his older brother Shark Boy were no exception to this rule. As one travels across kingdoms, any given prince one might encounter should be in turns a Warrior, a Scholar and a Gentleman.
It should come as no surprise that many of the warrior’s skills came quickly and easily to the two princes. While formal instruction had failed to make a swimmer of Shark Boy, diligent practice with his grandfather had developed his natural abilities to the point where he was keeping himself afloat and traversing pools. When bodies of water got larger and deeper, he would call for assistance and lose some confidence, but no-one could fault him for being cautions.
Shark Boy was also an accomplished rider of the steel horse, and had been since he was 3. At his school, his favourite recreational pastime was to engage in running races with his best friend across the yard. If you put those three skills together you get the King’s favourite sport, and earlier that summer, Shark Boy had won first place in a competition.
The Lightning Kid for his part, was getting to be a better runner, and could be seen at some races in the spring and early summer too. The tricky part would be teaching him to swim and ride...
Between programs that had failed to get Shark Boy swimming and scheduling conflicts, the summer went by without the Queen being able to find good formal instruction for the Lightning Kid; his special needs were a tertiary concern at best. Still, they observed that we was starting to piece together some of the motions, and when he was wading in water that was just the right depth, he could actually swim and float, yet still put his feet down to stand if he felt the need. Learning to keep his mouth closed in the water was the first, and arguably most important step. This wouldn’t be the year for him to race in all three sports, but the King and Queen felt confident that they could have him swimming independently in his fourth year.
Throughout the summer, both boys worked on these skills; riding was especially addressed through formal instruction with Shark Boy in a group camp and the Lightning Kid in private lessons. Shark Boy attended other camps to work on engineering skills, leaping, climbing, throwing and catching. Both boys learned to kick a ball, with the Lightning Kid continuing in his original program, and Shark Boy joining a team that was mostly coached by the King himself; they didn’t win many games, but the King accomplished his goal of sending the players home with smiling faces and tired legs.
Thanks to the healers in the kingdom, the King and Queen knew what the Lightning Kid would be expected to be able to do in the coming school year. While the uncertainty filled them with apprehension, the worked on teaching him how to use scissors, using scissors that were designed for children who might have difficulty with regular scissors; these scissors helped the child keep the handles together, or could help them spring apart for the next cut.
The Lightning Kid practiced counting, identifying letters, sight reading names of loved ones on cards, and writing out the letters of his name on a small chalk board. The frame of the board helped him keep the lines bounded, and made them a little straighter. Healers often insisted that the strokes be more downward than upward, since this helps them get written language oriented in space (we do, after all, read from top to bottom, as you are doing now).
Some skills that the parents of typical children might take for granted, but that the Queen and King were reminded of were putting on shoes for outdoor play, and opening containers that held the midday meal. For the former, the Lightning Kid developed a routine (thanks to guidance from his parents) of loosening the straps of his sandals, slipping in the feet (usually on the wrong shoes, but what can you do?), then fastening the straps. It was a certainty that other shoes in colder months might pose a problem.
Several types of containers had frustrated the little prince and his mother, but as a final resort, the King took the prince to one of the largest merchants in the world, sat with him in the aisles, and tried different types of containers out, and didn’t leave until they found some the Lightning Kid could open without assistance.
The Queen had found a very competent healer to help the Lightning Kid with his speech, and together they had helped him make huge leaps in his vocabulary and pronunciation. He had started saying Shark Boy’s name almost perfectly and was a lot easier to understand. Still, they wanted to advance his speech beyond using single words (or two word combinations) to more sophisticated sentences. “Papa up!” could mean “pick me up” or “help me climb up” or “go up Papa!” and that was the kind of elaboration the Royal family worked on encouraging at all turns.
Of course, keeping the “please” and “thank-you” in his requests was mandatory. While travelling, the King and Queen would stop for meals en route, and appropriate behaviour in eating establishments was one of the biggest challenges for both princes. Appropriate volume level, staying seated, using utensils, appropriate conversational topics and generally getting food safely from plates or bowls to the mouth seemed to be a bigger challenge to the princes than feats of physical prowess or tests of wits...