Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My bad. Actually, my kid’s bad, but I’ll fix it.

Two things happened yesterday that left me confronting my own anxieties and making apologies for my rotten children. There’s nothing earth-shattering here, and I’m certainly not going to be up for any parenting awards, but I feel like an adequate mother and person, nevertheless.

When I picked up the kids after school, Lisa immediately said, “I have to tell you something in the car.” “Are you in trouble?” I asked. “Maybe.”

The story is that Lisa and her friends were playing Manhunt on the school grounds after school. Lisa found something on the ground, but couldn’t identify what it was. A group of grade 3 girls (Lisa’s in grade 6) came rushing toward her and she threw the object behind her. It landed on the school’s roof.

The little girls asked her why she had done that and explained that the object was a piece of another girl’s scooter. The scooter-owner is the younger sister of one of Lisa’s friends. Lisa responded with a weak/snotty “Sorry!” and walked away.

By the time she reached the end of the story, my face was fully flushed and my ears were ringing with rage. “Why? Why would you throw the thing at all, let alone on the roof?” “When you knew you had done something horrible, why did you respond with such disrespect?” “How would you feel if someone from your class had done the same thing to Bart or Maggie?” “How would you have felt in grade 3 if a grade 6 kid had treated you the same way?” She didn’t have an adequate response for any of my questions.

In the 5 minutes it took to drive home, I had decreed that: a) she would call the girl as soon as she got home to deliver a sincere and heartfelt apology; and b) she would be responsible for replacing the scooter, from her own money, if the part could not be recovered from the roof. As I was looking up the girl’s phone number, our phone rang and it was her mother.

Now, this mother is cool. She understands that kids will be kids and that her own are not angels. I told her what I knew and she really appreciated my outrage at my daughter’s behaviour. Apparently the school custodian had come out and thought he could probably get the thing off the roof the next day. I repeated the offer to buy the girl a new scooter if the part could not be retrieved or was damaged in any way. The next thing I did was to ask for the girl to come to the phone so that Lisa could still deliver her apology. She did, and I could tell that it was excruciatingly painful and embarrassing for her. I hugged her afterwards as she cried a little.

The next thing I did was to prepare her for a trip to the principal’s office. I instructed her to be humble, make no excuses, to apologize sincerely and to just take whatever she has coming to her. She agreed. It weighed heavily on her the rest of the evening and this morning (this is not a kid that’s accustomed to trips to the principal’s office). I’m dying to call the school and see what (if anything) went down, but I’ll resist and wait until I hear it from Lisa.

The second thing wasn’t nearly as bad as the first. Maggie had a bunch of papers jammed into the bottom of her backpack. I pulled them out and she explained that they were old papers from her desk. In amongst the mess was a small sealed envelope, about the size of an invitation. It didn’t look fresh and I opened it, hoping that it was either a thank-you card, or that it wasn’t too late to RSVP if it was an invitation. Of course, it was an invitation… for a party that was to have taken place on November 20, 2011. Yikes.

I actually found the invitation in the morning, and proceeded to stew about it all day. I know how I feel when I have sent out party invitations and get no response from some people. It’s annoying, it’s frustrating and, ultimately, I think less of the parents. Even though I told Maggie to tell her friend what happened, I quickly concluded that the message would more than likely get lost between 6-year-olds.

So, last night I called the RSVP number. The mom wasn’t home, but I talked to the dad. I explained to him what happened and apologized profusely for any frustration it may have caused them (4 months ago!) He was super nice, and admitted that his wife had been a little upset about it (I wasn’t the only one, apparently). He took my number, saying that he was sure his wife would want to hear this too. I felt so much better and so much like an actual grown-up; a grown-up who could easily pick up the phone and right a wrong. A grown-up who could set aside her phone anxiety and make someone else feel a little better.

Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with such grown-up things too often.