Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I Need A Note

The house is filled with the usual last-minute pounding of feet. Upstairs to brush teeth; downstairs for shoes and jacket and backpack. Bang! One kid out the door. I pause, but there's no second bang. Then, a man's voice, "What?" He sounds strangled. The heavy footsteps of someone who knows he's in trouble enter the hall and a small body thwumps down on the stairs, our time-out spot. This can't be good.

I thump down the stairs faster than I have in weeks. Ross is sitting on the step, with the very still posture of a boy who knows he is in way over his head and looks as if he's about to puke. My stomach drops. "Why aren't you going for the bus," I ask.

He winces slightly as he catches his breath. "You need to write a note to the Principal," he says softly.

I almost puke. "I WHAT?"

"I need you to write a note saying what we'll do for my punishment, for taking clay from the Art Room," he says to clarify. I feel my brain trying to process this information.
7:52am is not my finest hour.

7:52am! The time makes it through my pre-coffee fog. I grab his shoulder and propel him toward the door with an adrenaline urgency. "Run! You're going to miss the bus!"

"But I need the note," he wails. I note that he's now sounding strangled and it occurs to me that his not having the note will be a great start to the punishment.

"We don't have time for that now! When the Principal asks you for the note, you'll have to tell her why you don't have it today," I say and whoosh him out the door.

I glance at the clock: 7:53am. Too soon for wine, even in Paris. I decide to call the Main Office and let them know about the late news delivery, so it won't be a surprise when Ross turns up empty-handed. After, I send up a quick prayer for patience, strength, $225,000, and get on with my day.

After school, we entertain the usual dance of homework, reading, and hockey bags. Ross is atypically attentive to his work and doesn't say much of anything until dinner. After he's mostly through with his meal, he braces himself and says, "Mama, we need to do my note. I have to have it for tomorrow." He pauses, takes another bite. Almost with spirit, he adds, "And you can't make my punishment be that I have to stay inside for recess this week, because I already have to do that." Ross takes another bite and Chris struggles not to choke.

We manage to swing into a casual discussion of what he'd done. It seems that Ross took the bit of clay to work in his classroom, while he was thinking. His eyes popped open when I pointed out that stealing something small is still stealing - clearly he hadn't thought of it that way. He also hadn't thought about what would happen to the Art Room clay supply if every child in the school took just a small piece for himself. We talk about these and I watched Ross realize why the teachers are so upset; why his little bit of clay is such a big deal. He is well aware that stealing is wrong - he just hadn't thought to hang the term "stealing" on his own action. As the label falls into place in his head, he takes a deep breath. "So, what should we do for my punishment," he asks, head hanging.

"We'll talk about it when you get back from hockey," I say. He looks grim as I thrust him out the door again. The anticipation of his punishment has got to be giving him an ulcer by now. While he's gone, I start to compose the letter. When he gets home, he hangs his hockey gear and gets ready for bed. We read the letter to his Principal together and I make sure that Ross understands what I've written and what it means. The punishment Chris and I agree on is writing lines, which Ross can do during his inside recess periods. Ross HATES writing lines. He takes several stabs at getting out of it but looks blank when I ask what he thinks would be a suitable alternate; he can't come up with a single thing to suggest. Finally, we print the letter over his protests and both of us sign it. I clip the letter to a blank writing book for his lines, stick both into his knapsack, and send him up to bed.

As Ross rounds the corner at the top of the stairs, Chris offers me a high-five. "You're awful," he exclaims, quietly. "Good job!"


Epiphany Alone said...

This is awesome. I am not worthy to score points on it.

Yeah, right. Y'all saw the beer bath pics.

Sending Ross to school without the note...1 WMP

Calling ahead to warn the principal...-1 WMP

[Was that a bribe offer or a prayer to the patron saint of new kitchens?]

Making him wait until after hockey to dole out the consequences...1 WMP

Writing lines during recess...1 WMP

You've earned 2 WMP for this incident.

Grandmoo said...

Letting him GO to hockey after stealing??? hmmmm... you're slipping right to the bottom (top) of WME!

Epiphany Alone said...

I'm not sure that there's "letting him go". It's an obligation to his team that he shows up at practice, isn't it?

For that matter, punishing him from all physical activity seems counterproductive and the wrong message. In our school system, they're neither allowed to punish by taking away recess nor award with food...

karen said...

The prayer for $225k is kitchen first, but would also cover fixing the back hall and the bathrooms upstairs.

Going to hockey practice is an obligation, complete with signed contract. Ross can no more skip hockey than school. Plus, locking him on the rink for an hour and a half is a great way to ensure that he's safe and out from underfoot!

Chaotic Joy said...

OKAY! Call me a wet blanket. AGAIN. But I just can't understand how Karen managed to earn 2 points for disciplining her child for stealing.

Also, We attempt to enforce a rule here that anything shown to mama in the morning before school does NOT get signed. Need money for the basketball game? Sorry. Should have asked the night before. Need your permission slip signed. Sorry. Now we do cave on this occasionally, because we are week. But Ross was obviously trying to save his discipline slip til the last posible second so sending him to school to sweat it out unsigned was the perfect parenting move.

I hate to say this Karen, but there is just no way getting around it...you're just a good mom.

Oh and I made Allie write lines when she "accidentally" stole a lipgloss from "The Gap" as well. Among other things.

karen said...

@joy: ...and to think, I used to like you! :P

Missy said...

I didn't realize 'writing lines' was still a used punishment...I will never forget when my dad had me do lines for screaming in my sister's ear. I wrote "Shouting hurts ears" but spelled shouting with a double 'o'. Well, shooting hurts them too! My dad still has the paper, sentimental goof!

The Plaid Sheep said...

I think the points were deserved. It's not about whether the punishment fits the crime, it's about the glee with which the punishment is doled out.