I’m pretty sure that every spring around this time, my brain goes to work blocking my memories of how stressed I get. This is always an incredibly busy time for me at work and yesterday I was thinking about how the three springs prior to this one, I was taking two graduate classes (and getting As). I really can’t even begin to imagine, nor do I want to, how completely freaked out I must have been. And I really don’t know how I didn’t a) flunk out of grad school b) get fired or c) permanently alienate my family and anyone who had the misfortune of coming into contact with me.
I voiced this concern last night. “You were annoying, that’s for sure,” replied the husband. Gee, thanks.
That saying that God will never give you more than you can handle might have some truth to it, provided that God or some universal force does, in fact, exist and determines exactly what pile of shit we’ll fall into and God or this universal force has either a drinking problem or is just sadistic and prickish (because, really, WTF?). My evidence for this is that the baby has been pretty well-behaved up until this year.
He’s not up to anything really delinquent. All of the flies in our vicinity still have wings and he has not seen the inside of a juvenile detention center. But something in him realized that some bad behavior would no longer send his mother completely off the edge so he decided to try some out.
A few weeks ago, I received a phone call at work from his teacher, who sounded so completely DONE that I very nearly offered to buy her a drink. The baby had incrementally raised his level of douchiness over the preceding week or so. At first it was mostly small, isolated incidents of not listening, but by the time I received the call, he was nearing Lord of the Flies levels.
I listened quietly as his teacher, who I know is a reasonable person with as much patience as one should have in a second-grade teaching position, listed the increasingly assy things he had done. I wasn’t entirely surprised. A lot of it was stuff that we struggled with at home, just amplified by the presence of other 8-year-olds.
I apologized and immediately set up a parent-teacher conference, screamed via email to the MamaPop writers that I was sending him to Dutch country, and then the husband and I started crafting the crack-down.
We drew up a contract that outlined the behaviors that had to improve considerably over the period of two weeks and the privileges that would be removed during that time. No DS. No Wii. No Cartoon Network. Earlier bedtime (which will remain in place because I think he might have been a little sleep-deprived, contributing to his behavior). No arguing. No whining. Doing what he’s asked to do the first time. We would evaluate his performance in two weeks. If he had improved, he would start to get some of his privileges back. If he hadn’t, we would take away more stuff: no TV, no iPod, even earlier bedtime, no excursions with grandparents. No fun or joy, basically.
All three of us signed it and posted it on the fridge. We explained to him that it’s bad enough that he wasn’t behaving well for us, but we were disappointed/PISSED that he wasn’t behaving at school.
He got it. He cried, mostly because he was going to miss his DS, but partly because he felt pretty rotten about screwing up. A couple of times I’ve explained to him exactly how and why I get stressed and upset and how his behavior affects that (ie, I’m just trying to make a nice life for us and it’s hard and you being a jerk makes me feel like crap) and while still over his head, I think it twinges his empathy. So that’s good.
By the time we went for our parent-teacher conference, his teacher informed us that he had done a 180. So, I think I’ll go ahead and put a W in our column.
I don’t know. It felt kind of severe, but we really wanted him to understand how not cool it is to behave like a jackass. It’s an important life lesson, you know?Of course, it might not be entirely his fault. Last night, while looking through the baby’s iPod, the husband said to me, “Did you put The Chronic on here?”
It appears I was not paying close attention when adding music to the baby’s iPod and added an album that, while undoubtedly a classic and one that I hope will be part of his regular rotation in the future, is not entirely appropriate for an 8-year-old and his spongy brain. Tonight’s project: re-evaluate iPod contents.