Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wasn't-My-Fault Wednesdays

On Wednesdays the boys bring home folders brimming with graded papers, important notes and the dreaded behavior charts. Jake's chart is printed on yellow card stock so it's referred to as the yellow card.

Two Wednesdays ago the yellow card tattled that Ms.B discovered unfinished papers in Jake's desk. This prompted her to write "very disappointed" on the yellow card. I, too, was disappointed since that is the current method of discipline I'm using. The I'm-so-disappointed-guilt-trip method. Jake explained that it wasn't his fault that those papers were crammed into the dark corners of his desk. He didn't know Ms. B wanted those turned in. I saw his point. Really, how often do teachers assign work and expect students to complete it and turn it in?

Last Wednesday Jake slinked up to me after school and complained of a stomach ache and oh, his head too. I lovingly touched his blond locks. Could it be the start of swine flu? Regular flu? The common cold? Not enough sleep? Poor eating habits? Where had I gone wrong as his mother?

I kept him close as we walked to the car, carrying his backpack for him. In his weakened state the load of the Wednesday fol...wait a minute. Wednesday folder. Yellow card. I had a hunch about this sudden illness and proved it when I pulled the screaming yellow card from the folder.

Oh my. An S- in conduct. Can't stop talking when the teacher is talking. Disappointed the teacher and now his mother once again. Feeling the guilt in his tummy even before I had served up today's helping. I asked him about the talking.

"But I wasn't talking," he claimed.

"So Ms. B said you were talking but you weren't."


"Why would she mark this on your card?"

"I don't know. I was at their table but I wasn't talking."

"Whose table. Why weren't you at your table?"

"I was just seeing if they needed any help."

"And you could do that without talking?"

"Yes, but she said I was talking and made me go back to my table."

"I think it would be best for you not to be so helpful," I suggested. "What happens if you're caught talking?"

"You get a warning."

"And what about the next time?"

"You miss 10 minutes of recess."

"Did you miss 10 minutes of recess today because of this?"

"No I did not."

Relieved, I said, "Well that's good. I'd hate to know you missed 10 minutes of play because you can't be quiet."

"Well, I didn't miss 10 minutes of recess, I missed 15."

"What? 15!"

"Yeah, the first 10 were because of talking but the extra 5 wasn't my fault. That's when I was trying to help her, you know at the other table? I was seeing if those kids needed help with their work."

"So Ms. B unfairly gave you 5 minutes."

"Yeah, really, it wasn't my fault."

Of course it wasn't sweetie. Those teachers are just so unfair that way, expecting kids to do their work, keep quiet and stay in their seats. I'll have a word with your teacher right away.

I did speak to Ms. B the following day, just to be sure there wasn't anything more to Jake's chatty behavior than chatty behavior. She confirmed that Jake is talkative and friendly and sometimes needs a reminder to listen and do his work. She told me something else too. Something mothers live to hear. She said "Jacob is very polite and he has a big heart. Many children are polite but they don't all know right from wrong or have big hearts."

Jake's off the hook for this Wednesday, no school today. He's in the front yard building a fort with his buddies, not thinking about good behavior. But one week from today will be a different story when Wednesday comes around. We'll look at the yellow chart together and I'll let him know when I'm disappointed. We'll talk about ways he can do better but we'll talk about things he does well too. And I'll be certain to remind him of his big, big heart.


  1. I like the cast of characters in your sidebar! That's very creative and helpful as I read your posts! (And will be especially helpful for new visitors!) Great job! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  2. Wise handling of this situation. Sometimes it is exhausting talking to the kids to get to the bottom of a story. Our son was the worst about omitting details, nuancing his statements. We had to stay the course, and my wife was good about it. He would want to know why we wouldn't just take his word for things and had to keep asking questions. Years later he said he understood why we did it. He saw other parents side with their kids against other kids, teachers, principals, etc., without ever hearing the whole story, and it created false expectations in the kids - they were always right and should always be believed, no matter what! You are teaching your son some important lessons, good job.

  3. Mind if I refer to this story in a post I'm going to write for another blog I write for (Titus 2 In Action)? I won't give the details, just refer to it.

  4. Thanks for this snapshot of my future! In many ways, I can't wait for my little girls to become strong-willed and sassy little people, but on the other hand, I dread it. As a parent, navigating these waters diplomatically but firmly seems like an immense challenge. One you appear to be handling with genuine grace. Will you give me tips when the time comes?

  5. Jody- thanks!

    Warren- yes, kids are selective when it comes to details. I feel like an interrogator sometimes! I've heard of the parents who take their kids' words as gospel and then complain to teachers. I knew Jake wasn't really trying to throw his teacher under the bus, he wants so much to please her. He is young and learning. I'm just trying to listen.

    Aidan- would you agree that the nice thing about blogs by moms is reading about the future and hearing how a real mom is responding to parenting, sometimes succeeding, many times struggling? I like strong-willed and sassy little people (I was one). Still am a bit strong -willed and sassy. You will know what your girls need. Grace helps. I guess the grace helps keep the sass corralled:)

  6. Jake is precious. All that "disappointment" will turn into Most Popular into the future with that him, for sure!