Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Making It Right

Just as we were leaving his school for the day, The Mayor purposefully walked up to his best friend Caleb and smacked him hard enough to knock the cupcake he had been holding to the floor.

Caleb burst into tears and, as he wailed, his open mouth and the surrounding ring of blue cupcake icing formed two, perfectly concentric circles.

The cupcake lay upside down on the floor and The Mayor's hand was a guilty blur of icing.

Minutes before, The Mayor and I had been sitting and talking with other kids and their parents.

I was incredulous.

"Why did you do that?" I asked, wiping blue icing from his hand and coat.

"I didn't. It wasn't my fault. I didn't do it on purpose," he said.

"Caleb's Dad was standing right there, Mayor. He saw you. So why did you do that?"

Now The Mayor burst into tears.

"There are going to be consequences for your behavior." I told him.

"What consequences?" he sobbed.

"I'm not sure yet. I'll have to discuss it with your dad."

The Mayor started crying harder until he arrived at full throttle wailing.

He balled all the way home and, even when we got there, he was inconsolable.

"We should do this sooner rather than later," K said. "What consequences should we enforce?"
We decided on a punishment and then went to talk to The Mayor about it together.

"There are going to be several consequences for this," K said.

"First, you're going to have to sleep with out your blankie tonight."

[Harsh, I know, but The Rooster had just suffered the same punishment for extremely rude behavior towards a friend.]

"Secondly, you're going to have to call Caleb tonight and apologize to him and his father."

"Finally, you're going to have take money from your bank, buy Caleb a new cupcake and bring it to him at school."
The Mayor, who had calmed himself enough to listen to his fate, began sobbing anew.

K and I went to the kitchen to start on dinner.

I'm used to The Mayor being alone in his room screaming and throwing tantrums, but this seemed different.

When my kids were babies, other mothers kept telling me that I would learn to distinguish their cries, that I would soon understand the difference between the tired cry and the hungry cry.

I remember thinking they were crazy -- every time The Baby Mayor opened his mouth to cry it all sounded the same to me.

[Oh, how I routinely fail as a mother and a woman!!]

Of course, over time, I did learn the difference between his cries and this cry was different.

I'm pretty sure The Mayor surprised himself.

I don't think he was proud of what he did, in fact, I think he felt terrible.

Also, being four, he probably doesn't have enough self-awareness or experience to recognize -- or even name -- jealousy.

I asked K to finish cooking dinner and went into The Mayor's room.

I sat on the bed with him while he sobbed and rubbed his back.

"Why are you here? Why are you doing that?" he shouted at me.

"I'm waiting for you to calm down," I said. "I want to talk with you."

"Why do I have to do everything," he choked, "and Caleb doesn't have to do anything?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I have to have all the consequences and he doesn't have any!"

"Caleb didn't do anything to deserve any consequences, Mayor. You hit him and knocked his cupcake to the floor."

"But I didn't do it on purpose!" he moaned.

"It doesn't matter if you did it on purpose or if it was an accident. When we ruin or break something that belongs to someone else, we offer to replace it. We make things right. That's what we do."
[We had to go over this particular concept many, many times.]

Still, no amount of talking seemed to calm The Mayor down.

Finally, I suggested we count out enough money to buy a new cupcake from his bank and set it aside for our trip to the market.

He agreed, but sobbed as we dumped all his coins out on the bed.

I helped him count out 10 dimes.

"Is that all the dimes I have?" he cried.

"No, there are a lot more dimes. See?"
He counted the remaining dimes.

"This pile of dimes equals one dollar and it's what you'll need to buy a cupcake. We can put the rest of the coins back in your bank."

"I can keep the rest?" he asked, shocked.

"Yes, Mayor. We can buy a cupcake with only these ten dimes."
Things were looking up! Cupcakes weren't as expensive as The Mayor feared.

When he finally calmed down, we called Caleb's house.

"I'm sorry I hit you, Caleb," he said. "I'm going to buy you a new cupcake."
There was a pause.

"You're my best friend."

"Okay," Caleb said.
The Mayor apologized to Caleb's father too.

Later, at the market, The Mayor picked out a cupcake for his friend and paid for it himself, handing ten of his own dimes to the cashier.

There's a pastry box sitting in our refrigerator waiting to go to school with him tomorrow.

Best of all, I think The Mayor had his first opportunity to learn that even when we make what feels like a terrible mess of our best relationships, we can find a way to make things right again.

I'm feeling awfully proud of him.


Patience said...

This story brought tears to my eyes! His little heart was broken, but now it's fixed!

-The Shiny Happy Mama- said...

Made me cry, too. Being four is so hard! You handled it beautifully, though. You should be feeling proud of yourself, too.

Jodi said...

WoW! What a great post! I am proud of him too!

Merrily Down the Stream said...

Love this post. The Bunny will say things were an accident that clearly weren't. 'I accidentally built a bomb and accidentally put it under the White House and accidentally detonated it...' - that sort of thing.

Woman Undone said...

I'm a teacher and I would like to say....THANK YOU!!! I love to get children who have been taught rules and consequences.

You guys get the PARENTS OF THE YEAR AWARD!!!

WILLIAM said...

I am siding with the Mayor on this.

It was an accident. I am sure Caleb has some type of cupcake insurance poilicy and I figure the Mayor should only have to pay the deductible which in my gues would be 2 maybe 3 dimes tops.

Sandra Miller said...

Nicely done, Jessica.

You handled the whole thing beautifully... and in the end, so did The Mayor.

I'm proud of you both.

nutmeg said...

But what did you make for dinner?

Only kidding. You are one amazing parent!

Anonymous said...

Poor kid. That's a tough lesson, but a good one.

amy said...

Aw, what a big kid The Mayor is! I'd be awfully proud of him, too...

JoeinVegas said...

Yes, that was a very good reaction. You are learning.

Amanda said...

Beautiful, Jess. I don't think there is a sight that compares to the face a kid makes when told by their parents, "I am just so proud of you."

John Ross said...

I will remember that one for when Aaron, also four, has need of it.


Megan said...

I am proud of the Mayor too! That story brought a tear to my eye.

DysdHousewife said...

Oh now you've done it. You made me bawl for that poor kid. Did you ever find out WHY he really did this? Poor little guy. He totally needs his own cupcake.

Jordan said...

Now THAT'S really good parenting. I wish every parent could read this. Well done. The Mayor will grow up to be a compassionate and fair man, I'm sure of that.

You all have a lot to be proud of.

Mimi aka pz5wjj said...

oh that is the sweetest story ever!

Good for you, Mayor!

Mary G said...

Nicely handled. And beautifully written. I could see the cupcaked wail.

mo.stoneskin said...

Crumbs, I don't think I could handle a night without my blankie.

I thought about knocking someone down at work and spilling their coffee the other day. However I'm glad I didn't, I'll bet my punishment would have been more than a night without a blankie and having to replace their coffee...

King Isepik said...

Well Done! One question. Was there any altercation between the boys before the smack and resultant flying cupcake?

I'm just interested to see if there was some history behind the act. I have to occasionally figure out why my youngest does something to my oldest seemingly out of the blue (or vice versa) and sometimes it turns out to be an incident from earlier in the day or week.

I like the way you handled this one. I'll have to remember it for similar situations.



Magpie said...

Oh, you are a good mama.

Little Nut Tree said...

ooohhhh - this is so adorable.

I think we are having these same lessons with the 4 year old in my house and they are hard lessons for them. We were just saying the other day that they must have emotions they don't understand let alone name - I think one of them is frustration. Rowan can never understand why she has to forgive Ella some things that she isn't allowed to get away with - Ella is 2 years younger but who gets that when they're 4?!

Bless the Mayor.

movin' down the road said...

wow. I love how you handled that!

carrie said...

It's tough being a kid, this was perfect. Just perfect!

ps - my word verification says hothw. Think that stands for "hot house wife?"

yeah, probably not. :)

Rebecca F. said...

Great job on the follow up and making the most of a teaching lesson.

I do however, think that sleeping without the blankie is a bit of an odd consequence. Why would you want to take away your child's security as a result of misbehaviour? The rest of what you did was so incredibly logical but I just don't follow how sleeping without your blankie is a logical consequence for knocking the cupcake? And please, I'm just putting an idea out there, not saying you're horrible or anything. No flames please but thoughtful discussions welcomed.

SUEB0B said...

I'm going to be a bit of a shit and say "Yes, it was his fault, and he should be made to understand that." Even though there were consequences, it sounds as if he still didn't think it was his "fault." I am sensitive to this because I am around a 40-year-old who never learned that lesson and boy, is it a pain. He can always think of some way to make things other people's fault.

But you know I love you, right?

just bob said...

Man, I wish it was that easy to patch things up as adults!

Fairly Odd Mother said...

You know, so many parents would've screamed at their kid, dragged them out of school and sent them to their room. Period. Your ideas may have taken more time and effort on your part, but you've taught him so much and probably made Caleb and his dad pretty happy to the The Mayor as a friend. Such a great job.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.I'm feeling a bit of the "parenting devil's advocate" wash over me here. First, because you seemed awfully concerned with including the dad's father into the whole thing - the Mayor didn't do anything to him. And second, because you didn't really consistently bust him on the fact that it was NOT an accident and third, because I bet there was something behind that interaction that you never really got to. Why did the Mayor hit him?

Maybe I'm just being grouchy because I ate too much yesterday so feel free to disregard...

Anonymous said...

This made me weepy. Sweet story. You two are the dynamic duo parent team if ever there was one.

Karen said...

(Oh, how I routinely fail as a mother and a woman!!)

I wish that mommies with all the great responsibilities and stressors they tackle and conquer every single day did not ever have to say that to themselves. But I guess it is all the rest of us who judge and make you feel that way.

Anywho, it sounds like you and your spouse did a bangup courageous job of handling that situation!

Anonymous said...

You can be proud of yourself as well - handled that with an enviable aplomb.

(Did they have school on Thanksgiving?)


Expatriate Chef said...

I struggle with the whole taking responsibility for your actions thing with the Kiddo. It's very important, and I have to remind myself that the phase of denying/lying about fault is normal, but needs to be ended. It's all up to me to guide that process and help set a good pattern.

It's way bigger than bottles and bandaids for us moms isn't it?

Miss Ash said...

I really liked this!!! You handled it beautifully.

My guy & I are raising his 5 and 6 yr old every other week, and you've inspired me to try something new!