March 24, 2010

Jackyl and Hyde

As much as I love him to death, my kid's a walking contradiction.

On Monday, he got in trouble twice at school.  Once for coming in to finish a test and then not actually doing it, at all, but bothering all the kids around him instead. The second offense was to move his desk away from a girl he didn't want to sit next to.  Sounds innocent, even responsible, don't you think? Yea, me too. Then I heard the other side of the story - the teacher's - and I had to agree that scooting one's desk repeatedly and loudly during a quiz, and giggling while one does it, and drawing attention to oneself deliberately in the process, wasn't exactly responsible. Anyway, so there he was, busted again.

As a result, he has to stay after school tomorrow to finish the test. And, his consequence at home was that he was grounded until that test was done. Fair enough.

That was until I realized that he still hadn't found the $70 pair of Converse basketball shoes he lost a week ago. Crap! Now I have to impose the consequence for that, too!  So, figuring he's already grounded this week, I decided to have him work off some of the cost of the shoes, since he didn't seem to be making much of an effort to look for them.

When he got home from school today, I told him this, and I suggested that since he was dying to go outside, he could wash my car.  Good lord, you would have thought I'd said he should clean a septic tank barehanded.  He started crying and stomping. In between sobs, he'd spit out "I don't want to wash the car."

Everyone together, now, what was my response?

"I didn't ask you if you wanted to wash the car, I asked you to do it." Firm, yet calm.

But the meltdown continued until I left the house to find solace in the little nursery down the road.  After all, it was a gorgeous day and I could be outside planting, not in here, listening to this temper tantrum.

When I got home, the car was almost finished.  I was so proud! I thanked him, then gave him the rest of the Pay Off the Sneakers List: clean the cat box, take out the garbage, empty the dishwasher.

Waaaaah!!!!!  It starts up all over again. Throws himself on the couch. Sobs into my silk pillows, snot and all.  I ignore him; after how many years of this parenting thing, I'm finally learning the art of not escalating a situation.

Finally, he calms down.  He does all the chores. I even hear him singing at one point.  When he's all done, I let him go outside to shoot hoops for a bit.  Alone, of course.

I sat down for a few minutes to think about how I should handle this stuff in the future.  How am I going to help him become more responsible? Stop throwing fits when he has to do things he doesn't like? Oh my God! Is he going to end up a delinquent too??? Will he ever be able to accomplish anything ???

But just as my own tailspin began, the one where I take one bad moment in the present and transform it into an entire lifetime of bad behavior, I had to regroup and make dinner.

After all, we didn't want to be late to the Awards Ceremony at school.  You know, for Honors Society: where the members all maintain at least a 3.5 GPA, participate in a community project, act as leaders and role models for their peers and generally shine above the rest of the world  behave well and achieve great things.

And there he is.  The same kid who tore half his room up in protest of basic manual labor, who couldn't get his shit together in class and got himself a detention, showing us his Honors Society Certificate.

Go figure.  At the end of the day, he's a pilar of society.


  1. That was a great post....typical of the joys of parenting.

  2. Jack?? Threw a fit?? Got in trouble at school?? I don't believe a word of it. I fell in love with him when I was out there. He is such a cool, polite kid! I stick my fingers in my ears and sing la-la-la at this post.


    I wanted to write you an email but I don't have your address. Can you send it to me? heidi_willis(at)verizon(dot)net. I want to properly thank you for last weekend...and for the most amazing Amazon review ever!! :)

  3. Every day I am grateful... well, you know the rest...

  4. Not a parent, but from this post it sounds like you're doing it right. And Jack is the cutest little guy.......