Thursday, May 19, 2005

Love Triangle

Speaking (as I did in the preceding post) of surprising things that can get you kicked out of school, I've by now accumulated a list of offenses committed by one of my own children. We can start with age three or so, when the little shaver was asked to leave two different Montessori schools for "disturbing other children's works."

Then there was the difficult year of kindergarten. This is the one that stands out most. It was a good thing that I was a stay-at-home mom then, telecommuting part-time as an editor and contributor for an online writers' magazine. Trying to keep a regular office job would never have worked; you see, when your five-year old is a notorious delinquent, the school calls you every couple of days to retrieve him from the principal's office or take him a change of clothes or to give you some other kind of unwelcome news. So you have to be constantly at the ready to drop everything and intervene.

The big call came in the middle of winter in our Chicago suburb. Kids were bundled in so many layers that they looked like Michelin Man and couldn't even move their arms. They were having a Teddy Bear Week, during which they were permitted to take their favorite stuffed animals to class. Part of the festivities involved cutting out little outfits for the animals. I can't remember if they were construction paper or fabric.

Now it's time for a little backstory here. The child--G--had developed a long (for a five-year old) friendship with classmate Hannah, who lived nearby. They often had playdates. But a family bought the house around the corner from our house, and the new boy, Ryan, wound up in G and Hannah's class.

Hannah started having playdates with Ryan. She paid attention to him at school and on the playground, too. Having decided that this injustice was too much to bear (so to speak), G formulated a plan. After they had cut their teddy bear clothing, G secreted his scissors somewhere instead of returning them. He also found Ryan's expensive knitted balaclava. You know, one of those ski hats that covers your whole head and face and has holes for your eyes, nose and mouth. During naptime, pretending to doze, G cut a bunch more holes in the balaclava, until it looked like Swiss cheese.

"I'm sorry to inform you that G has cut another boy's hat," the principal, Mrs. Weisely, said.

I did not know what this was supposed to mean and wasn't prepared with a snappy comeback, so of course, I said, "What did you say?" Perhaps I should have said, "Well, gosh, I dunno, Mrs. Weisely. Do you think we need to bring in the police?"

I had to go collect him from the office. They showed me the balaclava. What an embarrassment. Bizarre. I had to force myself to keep a straight face instead of falling down laughing. Meanwhile, I had to formulate "appropriate disciplinary action." This particular offense isn't in the Mommy Manual, just in case you were wondering.

G had earned some money, so we took the balaclava to REI (where its label said it had come from), found an equivalent one, and G paid $20.00 for it. Then I helped him script what he was going to tell Eva, Ryan's sweet Polish nanny. Once he had it memorized, we marched over and he gave his spiel. It was humiliating for me, too. After all, what was he thinking? I did NOT take the original balaclava!

In ensuing years, here are a couple more, but not by any means all:

First grade: drawing disturbing pictures. One was supposed to be the devil. Mrs. B. didn't like them, so we had to have several discussions. But, wait, Mrs. B, the therapist said this was normal, and it was good for him to get out his demons! He's still drawing monsters.

First grade again: pushing someone off the slide. This was one of those classic things that ALWAYS happen at school; the playground monitors NEVER see the original instigator, only the victim's reaction. In this case, one of the fourth-graders, known to our family as a neighborhood bully [Zachary, you KNOW who you are!], had pushed little G from the top of the slide. G retaliated, got caught, and got sent home for a "serious offense that cannot be tolerated." When asked, "What was a fourth-grader doing on the playground with first graders?" the school had no answer. When asked why they saw the victim's expected response, but not the fourth-grader's misbehavior, the school had no answer.

Second grade (this is at a different school): foul language. Had to go to principal's office. It turned out that the principal wasn't even there; G just had to sit in the office and stare for a while.

Third grade: was a good year.

Fourth grade: Constant non-compliance. And a real nut case of a teacher. More visits to an empty principal's office. Effective system that, eh? It's not working, so let's keep doing it.

Sixth grade: 1) Caught by his team leader, the wonderful English teacher Mr. Hine, reaching his hand toward a hallway fire alarm trigger. Warned just in the nick of time. Admitted later that he did it on a dare. 2) During the last week of school (traditional prank week), in the company of five other boys, snuck milk cartons out of cafeteria and stomped them on a staircase so they exploded. When the gracious assistant principal called, she was the epitome of professionalism. She did not condemn him or us, and made it clear several others were involved. She never even mentioned to me the concepts I thought of immediately: not only did this create a mess, but was also a safety hazard. and kinda gross. The a.p. let me know that the boys who were caught [not all of them had been] were given a custodian's lesson and got to mop up the stairway.

Still, after I got off the phone, I burst out laughing. Stop, Mommy, stop! Bad Mommy. It's precisely this sort of dismissive attitude which has shaped your son into a public menace.

So, who needs the kids who--as they did at G's school last year--set the dumpster on fire or sell dope from their lockers, when a giant burrito or six simple milk cartons will suffice to get you in big trouble?

And to think, in our family, it all started with the G/Hannah/Ryan love triangle. At age five.


At 5/29/2005 12:43 PM, Blogger sputnik said...

Heh, heh, NO, what am I saying? A balaclava does not have a hole for the nose, because it's supposed to keep your nose warm. Goofball.


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