Lately my son has been getting in trouble at school.
And it isn’t big stuff.
Little silly boy things.
Like not staying in his seat at lunch. Being silly. Talking. Not getting his work done.
You know. Pretty much a typical day for me.
And every once in awhile I don’t mind and I know how to handle it.
No video games. No playing outside with the neighbors.
A stern talk about listening and respect.
And of course the assurance that I love him no matter what. No matter how many stamps or bad notes he gets.
But we are on day 4 of no stamps.
And he gets in the car and his little chin quivers.
And my tears fall before his do.
And we get home and he goes straight to his room and climbs into bed.
At 4:30 in the afternoon.
And I coax him out.
Assure him that we all have bad days. And that he can try again tomorrow.
But tomorrow it is the same thing.
And I wonder if I need to get sterner. Amp up the punishment.
Or pour on the love and reassurance that he is good even if he can’t sit still and keep his hands to himself.
And I make a bigger deal out of it than it really is. My kid is just 5.
He still likes school. Is learning a ton. Has friends. Likes his teacher so much that he decided that he no longer wants to be a spy when he grows up but a kindergarten teacher.
He is silly and active and social.
And at the end of the day that doesn’t always get you a stamp.
But bigger questions arise. That have very little to do with him and lots to do with me.
Am I doing it wrong?
Does he have ADHD? And if so should I do really have to put him on meds?
Do I need to meet with his teacher?
Am I not punishing him enough?
Am I not rewarding him enough?
Should I be making him make his bed everyday?
Should I be making my own bed everyday?
Do I let him watch too many cartoons?
Is he just bored?
Am I too easy on him?
And my brain could go on....and at 2am sometimes it does.
And I know that I love my kid well. That part is easy. And frankly I don’t see how any one can’t. His big brown eyes. Silly grin. Infectious laugh. And mad dancing skills could win even the coldest heart over.
But loving well and parenting well aren’t the same thing. And that maybe I somehow missed the manual that all the other parents seemed to have gotten. (and yes, I have read more than my share of parenting books and they all contradict each other. Spank. Don’t spank. Be firm. Be gentle. Give them choice. Show them whose boss.). And so each additional day that my kid comes home in trouble I feel like I am failing him.
And I ask friend after friend what I should be doing.
And me and his dad talk about punishments and rewards and try and choose our battles and come up with a game plan to keep him out of trouble.
And I ask if I am doing it wrong. Or if I am making a big deal out of nothing.
And just like all those books, I seem to get a different answer with each person I talk to.
And so after about a half dozen conversations with a half dozen different answers. Some un-reassuring internet searches. And a few kind words.
Where I’ve landed is this:
I hope my kid grows up to be a lot of things. Kind. Smart. Honest. Generous. Brave. And most of all to love others well.
But, quiet, sits still, keeps his hands to his self, not so silly, walks appropriately in line…
I mean, I see the need for that in some settings, but they aren’t exactly high on things I hope my kid grows up to be list.
And I’ll keep working on the top list. And let his teacher worry about the bottom one.
(and unrelated....and should have posted this yesterday....but my friend Tina graciously used one of my posts over at the Laity Lodge family camp blog)