19 Dec 2017
Every single week I give myself a solemn promise to finally write something positive about parenthood and yes, every week I fully intend to keep it, because of course there are great things to say, but, sh-t, Sofia lives another week just to outdo herself… and me. She may be seven but she is on some conspiracy level sh-t and nothing is coincidental, I am sure of it.
On the last day of term, I picked her up from school half an hour early, like all the cool mums do, so we could go see the newly-released movie “Wonder”. (Please, I urge you, whoever you are, go see it. It is not a Christmas film but due to its unshakable spirit it well should have been – it is pure kindness, bravery, greatness and, obviously, wonder, explored through the prisms of parenthood, childhood and friendships – it will lift you up and carry you throughout the rest of the day. Also, Julia Roberts!) And I guess Baby got inspired or spiritual or whatever because I can’t put my finger on why else she chose that particular evening to let me know that two months ago she had pretended to be sick so she could cut class.
A seven-year-old girl went to the bathroom and pretended to puke so the school would call her mother to come pick her up. Rinse and repeat the next day. I remember those two days – I was so worried about what was wrong with her health and couldn’t figure it out, it drove me crazy. I was frustrated, too – like any parent with no child care I plan my days and errands around the school and extracurriculars and there went two whole days’ worth of plans and errands.
How does one deal with something like that? It’s a pretty serious lie, non? A grown-up lie. It is also not a lie that can be reprimanded in a simplistic manner, and no shouting will do the trick. It is a lie reproaching which requires certain gentleness, a little dance around it, to ensure that the punishment does what it is intended to do: firmly prevent this from happening again (yeah, right) and making it at least SEEM more serious than other misdemeanours while not spooking any future “revelations” Baby might come out with (I am scared already). It definitely couldn’t be the “no TV for a couple of days” situation.
F-ck it, I told her that if she feels grown enough to come up with a lie this advanced she should act grown enough to make it right. I told her she must go and admit everything to the teacher. It this good? Does anyone know? I mean, it sure scared the living daylight out of her but I also knew the school wasn’t going to go ham. Sofia cried and pleaded so hard though, it was not easy to look at or to follow through, tell you that much. She did it though. She got her shit together the next morning, cried some more and she did it. Is that wrong of me to feel… proud?
I am finding this balance between crime and punishment a real challenge from time to time. The scale tips too slightly and subtly. On the one hand, I have made it a mission to teach Sofia to approach “punishment” as an inevitable consequence to the f-cksh-t she does now or will commit in the future. I want her to not be terrified of it, I wish she would cultivate the skill of bravery which would lead her to a (rare) ability of admitting her wrongs and embracing the outcome. Truly, I believe that righteousness in tandem with a correct apology will get you a long way, and if you approach your own wrongdoings by headbutting them then you are by default a more decent human than the cowardy half of the population (I have made the statistic up, I bet it’s more than a half.)
On the other hand, if Sofia learns early on that being reprimanded is no more than part of life and causes no lethal effects, will she become desensitised? Like, will she see crime and not-that-scary punishment as a package and be OK with it? Because that’s also a slippery slope, isn’t it? Man, I am so struggling, please help me. It’s the weirdest feeling to know in advance you’re going to mess up but to not know how.