When my daughter was 20 months old, with both sets of Grandparents over for dinner and all eyes upon her, she smiled beguilingly and shoved rice-a-roni up her nose.
I had to march her to another room, sit her down, give her the Mom-eye and say “I don't like it when you shove rice-a-roni up you nose. Never do that again.”
I managed a straight face, but I almost broke a rib holding in laughter. The rice-a-roni litmus test became my standard for parenting.
Because I nag, mock, scold, admonish, threaten to share and care and generally talk non-stop to my kids about good behavior, it is easier to toe the line than listen to me. The system has been Win-Win over the years.
Imagine my surprise yesterday, when the Vice Principal of my Son’s high school called me.
She asked if I was his Mom. I said I would defer that answer until I knew why she called. She said my Son was safe. I told her I was relieved. There was a tingly silence. Finally I cleared my throat, thinking that might restart the conversation.
“Um…what?” I asked. I worked in news. Information shouldn’t be this hard to convey.
She told me her name was Mrs. Deadhead. Immediately, I was dying because 10,000 smart-ass inappropriate comments were trying to get out of my mouth.
She told me that my Son had smarted off to the substitute math teacher and then moved his seat away from the kids that were being rowdy in class. Words like suspension were bandied around. “Don’t you think that might be a little severe considering the offense?” I asked. Vooom! Off she went again, on and on.
Mrs. Deadhead talked for about 20 more minutes; mostly about what a great kid my Son is, before I interrupted. “Being a substitute sucks. My Son will have to sit in your office and write an apology to both his regular and sub math teachers. He has to deliver them in person. Would you please give him detention? Can I talk to him now?”
If I hadn’t interrupted, I’d still be on the phone with Mrs. Deadwood.
My conversation with my Son went like this:
Him - “Hi Mom”
Me - “So, how is your day going?”
Him - “I’ve had better days.”
Me – “You get to tell you Dad about this.”
Him – “Anything that gets me out of this room”
Me- “I’m hanging up now before Mrs. Deadhead gets back on the phone.”
Him – “Lucky you”
When he got home, after my mandatory lecture on consideration and respect, he mentioned that upon hanging up the phone there was 20 more minutes of sharing and caring with Mrs. Deadhead before he could write his apologies and get detention assigned.
“I told her, like 40 times, that there weren’t problems at home.” He was so disgusted.
Egads! I hope I never meet Mrs. Deadhead face to face.
“So, what did you do?” I asked.
“There were a bunch of kids being loud, so I got up and moved across the classroom so I could do my worksheet in peace. The sub yelled at me and I told him it wasn’t my fault he couldn’t keep control of the class.”
I thought about it for a minute. “Ok”, I said, “You give the consideration and respect lecture back to me, so I can be sure you understand every word.” He did a good job, complete with my hand gestures and intonation.
The best part – when he showed up for detention he was sent to three different locations before he could find someone who would monitor said detention.
“Why didn’t you just leave when the first two place you got sent were empty?” (I would never have tried that hard to atone)
“Mom,” he said to me with great patience, “I was being punished.”
The whole episode really passes the Rice-a-Roni litmus test.