Thursday, September 19, 2013

The First Day of (Trouble at) School

Why post brag pictures of your kids on the first day of school when everyone else is doing it? I figure I'll just be fashionably late. So, almost five full weeks into the school year, here they are:

I had joked with a friend of mine on the over/under for her first phone call home from the principal of her kindergartner's school. I had the under on one week - but I'm pretty sure he's doing great, boundless energy but a great kid.

My kid is a great kid, too. I promise. And he has boundless energy. But he also has a problem keeping his hands to himself. I'm sure there is parenting failure in there; like every other honest parent out there, I'll tell you I'm doing my best, but there are days I'm not quite sure I'm doing it right. I try my best, but every once in a while I'm too freaking exhausted to repeat for the millionth time: "use your words" or "stop that" or "keep your hands to yourself." Maybe that millionth time would've made a difference.

Because we got a call from the Vice Principal's office today.

John was on green so far this year - until yesterday. There was a shoving/shirt grabbing incident at recess. But from the note that came home, and his explanation, it sounded like typical horseplay gone awry because my six year old occasionally can't curb his enthusiasm.

Today, though - there is no excuse for his behavior. He hauled off and popped a kid right in the nose at lunch today.

Mad, embarrassed, disappointed, frustrated, annoyed, irritated, unsure exactly how to discipline him... all of those things. I wish there was a Parent Handbook with a cross referencing index, because I really could've used it today.

So I spoke to the Vice Principal, and I spoke to John through the tears. I asked that his teacher call me after the school day, so I spoke to her, too. Turns out the other little boy had been calling John names - but that's part of first grade. We have talked about strategies for dealing with name calling - literally, talked about it on the way to school this morning. Seven thirty on the dot this morning, on the way to school:

Me: What do we do if someone calls us a name?
John: Ignore them!
Me: What do we do if they don't stop?
John: Tell a teacher!
Me: Right on, buddy.

That was only about the thousandth time for that conversation, so I guess I have nine-hundred ninety-thousand to go.

Again, there is never an excuse for hitting another kid. Still, I relayed this conversation to his teacher today, and asked if she might have known the source of the inferred argument. She shared that the other little boy had called John a name - "Diaper," in fact. An odd choice for name calling, given the universe of available first grade insults.

Ironically, without knowing it, the other kid pushed John's arm-the-warhead button. Let's just say, he's hypersensitive to anything that implies he's a baby. Especially anything having to do with wearing diapers. And when I sat down to talk to him about what happened today... yep. Hurt feelings on a seriously disproportionate scale.

The anger and the frustration and the determination to impart severe punishment swiftly turned into trying to reassure my child that Mommy understands. In those moments, when he's trying so hard to hold the tears back, I see the vulnerable little boy that he still is. He may be a big man in some ways, but reality is, he's not a big man. He's my little boy who can get hurt with words as easily as with fists.

There will be times when harsh punishment is appropriate. Spankings have their place in the Coussoule discipline arsenal, just as grounding, taking away privileges, and taking away favorite toys have theirs. Tonight, though, love and sympathy with strong words of disappointment and warnings of "if this ever happens again" are all he got.

I hope I'm doing this right.

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