“I’m not jokin’,” said the brown-haired kindergarten boy.
My son, removing his snow clothes, looked over. “You’re not jokin’ about what, Porter?”
The boy blinked. “…I’m not jokin’,” he said again.
Moral: kids repeat what they hear.
Later that same week, I pulled up into the parent’s queue and sat idling, waiting for the kids to be released. I hadn’t quite made it up to the little corral where they contain the buggers until each parent opens the car door and sucks them up, when one of the teacher’s aides came walking up to me in the car, toting my son, Jude, by the hand.
I got out of the car.
“Jude struck another boy today,” she said. Her cheeks were apple-red. It was cold, but she was also flustered, I could tell. “He hit him once and left a red mark on his cheek. Then he hit him again and left a scratch.”
I looked at my boy’s fingernails. “I’ll have to trim those,” I said.
“Please, for us.” She said.
For us, I thought. What an odd phrasing. Then I asked, “Who was the little boy?”
“I can’t tell you that,” she said, “but, Jude knows.”
So, I apologized profusely and promised we would have a long talk about it, my son and I. All the while though, I was thinking, she can’t tell me who the other boy is? Double odd.
But that’s the way things are today. Everybody is protected by some law or act or another. There’s no one-room schoolhouse anymore. It’s a compound of little potential lawsuits running around.
As we drove away I asked, “Jude, who was it?” He was remorseful, crying a little. No jury would convict him. “Porter,” he said.
“Why? Why did you hit him?”
“Because I was reading a book and he came over.”
Oh, makes sense, I thought. “But why did you hit him?”
“Because I hit him with my hand, with my fingernail.”
“No, Jude, that’s not why, that’s how. What made you mad?”
“Because I was reading.”
“I don’t know.”
“Jude, you don’t just hit someone because you are reading. If so, the subways of New York would be a constant brawl. Did you want to read by yourself?”
“Yeah. I wanted to be alone.”
Ah, I thought. Let the healing begin.
Moral of the story: Interrogate your children like they are a prisoner of war.
That was Friday. It was MLK weekend, so school resumed on Tuesday. I didn’t make a huge fuss over the event during the weekend break. I figure too much attention brought to a negative thing only makes a kid think, wow, look at all the special attention I’m getting when I do something bad. But, I didn’t ignore it, either. Here and there we’d talked about it, as part of normal conversation. Then I sprung it on him Tuesday morning when we got into the classroom that we were going to apologize to little Porter (who is, incidentally, about half a foot taller and at least fifteen pounds heavier than my son.)
“Jude, can you tell Porter you’re sorry?”
Porter, I saw, didn’t have a visible mark on him. Both young men were amenable to to the concilliatory exchange. Jude said, “I’m sorry I hit you, Porter.”
Porter was sort of half-smiling, looking around, probably thinking of red balloons and plastic toy horses. He said, “Thank you, Jude.”
And it was done.
Moral of the story: kids are quick to forgive.