Hello! It seems like it’s been a long couple of weeks, and I apologize for being less than a reliable blogger lately. With not much happening on the Armitage front, motivation is lacking, while on the bright side, the veterinary business is really picking up, so free time has also been lacking. I wish I could say all was just fine, but that’s not quite true. On the home front, our Young Love has been giving us fits. Warning: contains very bad language!
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that we have an intellectually gifted
(though fashion-challenged) first-grade boy. He’s always had an outgoing personality, breezes through school with fantastic grades, and up until recently, he’s had generally good classroom behavior, with occasional trips to the “Take-A-Break” (Time-Out) desk for reasons such as talking when he’s supposed to be working, or not following instructions. A couple of months ago, he did bring home a Take-A-Break form in which the infraction was swearing, and when we asked him what he’d said, he told us it was spelled “F-U-C-K” and he saw it on the bathroom wall, and could we please tell him what that word even means?
Well, we didn’t tell him what F-U-C-K means. We just said it was an ugly word that was definitely inappropriate for school, and asked him to write all the ugly words that he knows, so we could look them over and tell him which words would definitely be inappropriate. He wrote a pretty decent list, including shit, crap, ass, hell, fuck, pussy, damn, and a few more. The only word he wrote that wasn’t really a dirty word was “sex”, but we said it still wasn’t a great word for most school contexts. =)
Anyway, I looked over his list and told him that he had a pretty impressive list of dirty words, and I warned him that we had better NOT start hearing those words come out of his mouth! Being the type to question every statement I make, he asked what would happen to him, so I told him I thought using language like that would mean he had a dirty mouth, so I’d just have to wash his mouth out with soap if any of the words on that list except for “sex” came out of his mouth.
That was that. No major behavior problems for a couple of months, until the last several weeks, when suddenly we started seeing Take-A-Break forms several times per week, and usually involving getting into altercations with other students, shoving, kicking, calling names, etc. When we asked him what was going on, he said some kids were picking on him, and making him really mad. He’d called his classmate Zoe a “Witch” one day, and his classmate Wyatt a “Total Butthead” the day after that!
I wasn’t sure whether he was being picked on, as he claimed, and acting out as a result, or if he was acting the bully. I sent an e-mail to his teacher, and she responded that for the most part, it was typical rough-housing type of behavior… that she didn’t feel like he was necessarily a bully, but that he was prone to getting physical or calling names when he was frustrated. At home, for this type of infraction, he lost all electronics privileges for 1 week, with the 7-day count-down to start over if he had another incident during the “grounded” period. (It’s going on 2 1/2 weeks, because he keeps on having incidents.)
So last Monday, he brought home another Take-A-Break form for swearing. I asked him what word it was, and he admitted it was spelled “S-H-I-T”. I didn’t ask him why he said it, but told him after dinner, we’d have to wash his mouth out with soap, as promised. (I’m a Mom of my word… I may have really regretted making that threat, but once it was made, I felt I needed to follow through!)
So after dinner, my plan was to take him into the bathroom, and I’d take a bar of soap and swish it over his tongue a couple of times to put a bad taste in his mouth. A couple of seconds of parental torture, tops. However, when I tried to do this, he bit down on the soap (to prevent it going in far enough to touch his tongue), and when I told him to open up so I could get his mouth clean, he clamped his teeth down further and stubbornly shook his head. I said “Fine!” and left the soap between his teeth while I got a baby wipe and cleaned around his mouth to remove pizza sauce from dinner. When I finished that, I said I thought his mouth was probably pretty clean, and tried to remove the soap.
It was stuck! Whoops! He’d bitten into it so far that his teeth were embedded, so it took a brief struggle to dislodge the soap! On the bright side, we have a nice dental impression from the Young Love to admire, now. He was silent and furious, face red, and I told him it was ok to go ahead and rinse the soap off his teeth and spit. He did so, then crossed his arms and stomp-marched out of the bathroom and down to the other end of the house, into his sister’s room, and shut the door with emphasis! I was running a bath, and after a few minutes, I went and knocked on his sister’s door, and told her it was bath time. When she arrived for her bath, I asked her if her brother had said anything about what happened, and she said, “Yep. He said you washed his mouth out with soap, and it tasted like Sh—– I mean, it tasted like… Bug Poop!”
(She covers for him, bless her heart! She totally could have tattled that he turned right around and used the same dirty word 30 seconds after having his mouth washed out… but she totally lied to protect him instead! LOL.)
But our story isn’t over. Later that night, at bedtime, I warned him that the same thing could happen again if he kept on swearing, and I advised him that if he felt like saying bad words, he was free to do so, but only in his head, or if he was all by himself, he could say them out loud. He was just not to swear in front of people, or at people, or he knew the consequences. He responded that he was going to be swearing inside his head a lot, especially when I made him mad, and I said that was perfectly acceptable to me, and kissed him goodnight.
The following day, a Tuesday, we received another Take-A-Break form. He was swearing again! I expressed my disbelief that he would get caught swearing the very next day, and he said he hadn’t done it in front of any teachers, but he had done it on the playground, and some other kids had told on him to get him in trouble. “What did I tell you about swearing out loud? That’s why if you do it out loud, you need to be all by yourself. Otherwise you get in trouble, right?” He agreed, and tried to get out of the soap procedure, but that wasn’t happening, totally effective parent that I am. (*rolls eyes*) This time, I applied a tiny dab of liquid soap on a toothbrush, and he had to brush his teeth with it. To my surprise, he took it in good stride this time, with none of the storming-off antics. (In fact, he was so nonchalant that I made the mistake of tasting it myself after he left the room, thinking it couldn’t have been all that bad… MISTAKE! Blech!)
Along came Wednesday, and Hubby and I were talking via cell phone on the way home from work, when Hubby had to take another call, from the school. I waited with bated breath, and pretty soon Hubby called back, and he’d heard from the Principal’s office. “You’re never going to believe this.” Apparently, our Young Love and his classmate, Zoe, (a.k.a. the “Witch”) were called to the Principal’s office… after the teacher caught Zoe hitting our boy in the genitals! (I admit that rather than feeling horrified or outraged, I stifled a laugh and immediately asked what he’d done to deserve it!) When the Principal asked the two of them what was going on, our Young Love told her it had been happening several times per week since after Spring Break, and Zoe admitted that this was true, but said she only hit him there after he called her names. He in turn admitted she was right. (Evidently he’s a very slow learner when it comes to insulting the wrong girl!)
That night, we had him compose a letter of apology to Zoe, asking forgiveness for calling her names. He did so, and it was a cute note. “Dear Zoe, I am sorry for calling you names. I don’t want to make you sad. Or mad. I don’t want to be your arch enemy. From, [Young Love]” He gave it to her the next day, and behaved himself up until yesterday, when he had another Take-A-Break for shoving, and Hubby received another call from the Principal’s office. Earlier that day, his classmate Wyatt, (a.k.a. the “Total Butthead”) had evidently dared our child to insert his finger in the pencil sharpener, and when the Young Love took the dare, the kid cranked the handle and (slightly) cut his finger! This time the other kid had to go to the principal’s office, and Young Love was just gently chastised by the teacher for taking a foolish dare. Sigh. And we thought he was so bright…. =)
Later, however, I think Wyatt was resentful about the Principal’s office, because just as school was about to be over and the kids were gathering their backpacks, he blocked Young Love’s access to the backpack area and said something along the lines of “You can’t pass, you fat weirdo!” At which time, our son gave him a hard shove, and had to Take Another Damned Break. To make matters worse, it was Tuesday, the day before he was FINALLY supposed to get his electronics privileges back, and he knew that shoving the kid and going to Take-A-Break would mean his 7-day countdown started all over. He apparently cried, and his other nemesis, Zoe, piled it on by calling him a “cry-baby”…
Rough day, right? I feel bad that he’s having these types of exchanges with name-calling, physical altercations, and so on. Now that we hear about the genital hits and the pencil sharpener, I think he is genuinely being picked on, but obviously at least to some extent, he brings it on himself! I know kids will be kids, but I’m afraid of this escalating.
To that end, we talked to him about better ways to handle such a situation, for instance, if Wyatt is in his face, blocking his path, and calling him names. Rather than shoving, swearing, or name-calling, that is. =) Knowing that he has a fantastic memory, I came up with a list of good “comebacks” he could use that might help him keep up his confidence, and come off as cool and nonchalant, which I hope will eventually help prevent bullying. I think it becomes a vicious cycle at some point, in which the kid who is called names loses confidence, and that self-conscious demeanor only triggers more negative attention directed his way.
We actually had a pretty good time last night, taking turns calling each other rude names, practicing our nonchalant demeanor and our comebacks, then turning and walking away! Here are a few:
Young Love: Daddy, you’re a Weird Nerd!
Hubby: You say that like it’s a bad thing….
Mommy: You’re Fat and Ugly!
Young Love: Where is your “Off” Button?
Little Sister: You’re a Big Poo Poo Head!
Hubby: Talk to the hand!
Young Love: You’re a Stupid Baby!
Mommy: You Again?
Hubby: You’re a Disgusting Booger-Eater!
Young Love: It takes one to know one!
Mommy: You’re a Spoiled Brat!
Little Sister: They say everyone has a talent!
And so on… it was actually pretty funny, and cathartic. This morning our Young Love was back at it with his list, begging to be insulted during breakfast! We’ll see how it goes….