We may have to withhold pop-tarts

By Mir
January 19, 2006

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.


  1. DebR

    I’m giggling but I don’t have to squelch it. I’ve never met her but I know I’d like Chickadee’s prickly weirdness. (And of course I’d like Monkey because how could I not?)

    BTW: Google ad of the moment is asking me “Are you clean inside? Death begins in the colon.” I just…I…um…yeah. Speechless, that would be me.

  2. Carol

    Heh. How ’bout that. Seems both you and I have the same type of child. The same age, the same grade, the same level of socialization. The same type of pain in the ass – except mine just doesn’t listen to the teacher and takes his dear sweet time eating his breakfast. Heh. Age appropriate? That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it! Sure makes me feel better – how ’bout you?
    My son will be losing his Gameboy if he doesn’t start doing the right thing.

  3. Cele

    Ah, this makes me so glad I am a grandmother. I only have to go through part of this again.

  4. Jenrigg

    *snort* Well, Chickadee has certainly inherited her mother’s fantastic grasp of the English language! Brilliant story – MORE PLEASE!

  5. daysgoby

    Ah, it’s the onset of Big Sisteritis!

  6. Latte Man

    The behavior thing, is one that needs to be “dealt” with, as I am sure you will (or have).

    The fantasy vs. reality thing I think is common for the age. They sometimes have trouble differentiating between what actually happened vs. what they envisioned or altered in retrospect the facts as it fits them best. This one I wouldn’t be as concerned with. The “truth” well come out… eventually.

  7. Ei

    “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.”

    This is why I love you. You so totally get it. Thank you.

  8. Zuska

    I so love Chickadee (and prickly weirdness is a wonderful trait – I know because CurlyGirl fits that to a T). And Monkey…I’m willing to bet he’ll come around quickly.

    This post took me back to an incident that happened just after open school night. The teachers gushed about lovable, cuddly, smiling, sharp as a tack MegaBoy. And the next day? We got a note about how Mr. Sweetness and Light “willfully, and with great force and determination, pushed another child away from his table.” Gulp! But it never happened again.

  9. Chewie

    “which in case you didn’t know is NOT VERY MUCH” ahhh yes…take THAT, Monkey. tee hee

    My sweet darling no trouble child has been keeping the house in a constant uproar for about a week now…I hear ya, woman.

  10. alyson

    Isn’t it like a family member to call one out. good for you chickadee.

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog this last week. I am going to link it to my site.

  11. Amy-GO

    “Also, I am SLIPPERY!” I am SO using that the next time my husband wants to discuss my tendency to overdraw my checking account. Brilliant!

  12. Jenn2

    I love your daughter in all her prickly wierdness. I actually have an older version of her and let me tell you, they get more entertaining and proportionately more irritating as they age.

  13. ben

    Wait, I understood there wouldn’t be any math today.

    *looks for calculator*

  14. Heather

    OMG, I am going through the same thing with my kindergartener right now. Not that his behavior is always perfect at home, he is definately active to say the least, but never ever mean. And he has been doing not so nice stuff at school. Is it the age?

  15. holley

    1. Who said you could borrow my son?

    2. Can I borrow your daughter?

  16. Brenda

    I have my own Monkey at home, but he’s now 7. Excellent social skills, joy spilling out his toes and living a sparkling trail, and huge eyes that he flashes with a determination to suck you into his cute.

    A while back he did something that made me unhappy (I can’t remember what), and I said, “Monkey2, you’re not that cute.”

    He replied with a wounded, tear-strangled voice, “Yes, I am!”

    BTW, the incredible elaboration *cough, lying, cough* has toned down over the last year.

  17. Snow

    At least Monkey talks about school! B is very quiet about everything because his father give him pop quizzes on everything, and he fears wrong answers. It’s hard to get B to say much at all sometimes.

  18. Lulu

    Sonnyboy would go through fits of crankiness/antisocial behavior just before a big cognitive leap or growth spurt. And overall he was pretty sunny, so it was noticeable.

    It might just be frustration with learning to learn. Or not.

    So don’t beat Monkey too hard. He’s probably about to morph, I mean, grow up another bit.

    But letting him know that you know about fibs and exaggeration is really important so he doesn’t learn to keep trying to snow you.

  19. elswhere

    What is it with the lying?! My kid is lying up a storm these days. She’ll look you right in the eye and INSIST she’s telling the truth, and even get teary-eyed if you dare to insinuate that she might be Honesty Personified. Grr.

    In other news, Chickadee appears to have *excellent* math skills. And sistering skills.

  20. Alison Bone

    I love your children. Mainly because they are wonderful, creative, amazing kids, but also because they remind me of my kids, but I don’t have to deal with them!

  21. Susan

    Is Chickadee available to babysit? Yes, I know she’s a little young, but she’s got the right attitude. Please. I’m desperate over here.

  22. Hula Doula

    Chicadee is insightful! Kudos to her! Thank heavens you weren’t eating when she spoke up. I think you might have choked on it!

  23. Cyndi

    I nearly choked. I could just see Chickadee waving that arm, “I am only believing this story about twenty-five percent. Which in case you don’t know, is NOT VERY MUCH.”

    I heart her…she is, as they say in the South, a mess. I think it’s a good thing…LOL

    Poor Monkey. He better grow out of it, or he will heard about it from her, I think. You can’t scam a scammer…

  24. Shiz

    Wait, this didn’t all start happening after the car crash, did it? Otherwise, it’s probably just kid stuff. Weird to hear after all that glorious praise.

    You could write a book about your family. I’m totally going to want advice from you someday. And to laugh with you, too.

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