I had a conference with Monkey’s kindergarten teacher this morning. You have to understand that EVERYONE loves Monkey. You can’t NOT love Monkey, because he is generally a very happy kid and he’s got this smile that lights up a room and he’s got that joy joy joy joy down in his TOES (which is even deeper than his heart) and aside from the fact that I happen to be his mother, I’m telling you that EVERYONE LOVES HIM.
[You know I’m not being biased, because I will also happily tell you that while many people enjoy Chickadee, many others find her to be prickly and weird. Personally, I enjoy her BECAUSE she’s prickly and weird, but that’s not the point. The point is that I have never heard anything but gushing praise for my gorgeous, social son.]
So you can probably imagine that I was a bit taken aback when his teacher told me that lately? Monkey has been a real pain in the ass.
She did not use the words “pain in the ass.” She’s a professional. She said, “Monkey seems to be having trouble socializing in positive ways.”
I did the logical thing, in response, which was to blink a lot. That helped. After I was absolutely certain that my eyelashes were working properly, I asked what she meant.
Well, it seems my darling son has taken to poking other children at circle time. To knocking over other children’s block towers. To hogging all the markers. To acting like a baby when he’s caught misbehaving and then fluttering his big green eyes and saying he doesn’t know what happened, or he didn’t do it, or he couldn’t help it.
The child is being a pain in the ass.
We discussed what’s happening and how to handle it and swapped suggestions and had a laugh or two, because on the whole he’s a very sweet kid and even when his head is spinning around he’s still pretty adorable. Plus, we are both well-acquainted with his sister, Princess Difficult; so in comparison, even this turn of events shouldn’t seem too hard to handle. Academically he’s doing great. The other children like him. He’s often helpful. He doesn’t eat paste. It’s all good, except this new spate of behavior.
I was troubled. I AM troubled. No one wants to hear that their kid is misbehaving, of course. And it’s harder to swallow when it feels unexpected.
After our talk, I walked the teacher back to the classroom so that I could say good-bye to Monkey. As soon as he saw me, he put his head down on the table.
I walked over and sat down next to him in one of those tiny chairs. “Hey, buddy,” I said, “why’s your head down like that?”
“No reason,” he said into the tabletop.
“Look at me, please.” He shook his head and his forehead squeaked on the formica. “Monkey. I want you to look at me. Now.” He picked up his head to reveal a pitiful, very contrite face. “What’s the problem? Why are you hiding?” He looked around the room, perhaps plotting his escape. “What do you think Miss Teacher told me?”
“She told you I’ve been bad,” he muttered to his toes.
“Really?” I asked. “And HAVE you been bad?” Now he was sliding out of his chair, halfway under the table.
“Yes. Also, I am SLIPPERY!” … and under the table he went. I sighed and pulled him back out again.
“We’re going to TALK about this at home, later. I have to go right now. But I think you need to work extra hard at being a good listener and a good friend. And maybe tell Miss Teacher you’re sorry for being fresh, too.” He nodded, glumly. “I know you know how to behave yourself. Tonight we’ll talk about what’s going to happen when you don’t. Got it?” He nodded again, and threw his arms around my neck. I gave him a hug and a kiss and left as he was apologizing to his teacher.
After school, I’d gotten both kids loaded into the car and Chickadee was singing some snippet of song over and over and I was mentally weighing the pros of not crushing her momentarily joyful spirit against the con of crippling insanity that would ensue if I had to hear the same verse one more time. Before I could make a decision, Monkey launched into an elaborate story about something that had happened at school. It involved half a dozen people and things and details changed as he went along.
Such a story isn’t unusual for him, and I found myself wondering why I’d been SURPRISED to learn that he’s been lying at school.
I asked a couple of clarifying questions, and the story continued to shift. I tried to decide how to best make this a teachable moment; to discuss the difference between storytelling and actual recounting of events, and how there’s a time and place for everything.
Turns out, Chickadee had it covered.
“Monkey,” she interrupted, gesturing in his direction as if she were cleaning a window between the two of them, “I am only believing this story about twenty-five percent. Which in case you don’t know, is NOT VERY MUCH.” She followed this up with a cluck of disapproval. Because she’s so perfect, I assume.
A hush fell over the car while we all pondered this. And then I was taken by a fit of coughing that may or may not have been the result of sort of snort-inhaling a squelched giggle.