I got a note from school last night. It arrived in the hands of a sheepish child and read: “Your child bit the arm of another student because his arm was in your child’s way” which made me sad for the kid who was bitten, the teeniest, tiniest bit glarey at the kid who did the biting, and deeply grateful there wasn’t a brick wall in my kid’s way because we seriously cannot afford to fix broken teeth right now.
Now, please understand, that note was not necessarily surprising, and not just because that kid’s arm was in my kid’s way, and what could my kid have done, really? Ask him politely to move it? I think not.
No; that note was not surprising for several additional reasons, some of which are as follows:
- I’ve previously received notes from school like this one: “Your child was excused from class today and sat in the principal’s office for head butting a child who cut the line.”
- And like this one: “Your child received a recess detention today for flicking a child between the eyes because he took a colored pencil out of turn.”
- And like this one: “Your kid punched another kid in the nuts.”
That last one might have had certain extenuating circumstances, but listen up anyway, kids. Listen, because this is Important Information: Head-Butting, Forehead-Flicking, Nut-Punching and Arm-Biting are frowned-upon activities at school. Also, other places. Frowned-upon, children. As in, UNfavorable. Which I’m noting because that’s clearly not obvious to certain Woolsey Children.
The other reason I was unsurprised by the note that came home was the fact that I’d received an email immediately following the incident. It read like this:
I had a disciplinary conversation with your child this morning and wanted you to be aware. Upon entering the science classroom today, another student had his arm in your child’s way. Your child bit him.
I let your child know I would be writing a Major Incident Report to document the incident. This will come home today. Please sign the form and have the child return it to the office.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments regarding the incident.
Ms. Assistant Principal
Mm hm. Got that message while I was at work. POP! Up it came in my inbox, a nice little treat like all the generous offers I receive for penis enlargement.
Yep. I got that message while I was at work, and I took Immediate Action because Immediate Action is what Good Parents take. Yes I did; I took Immediate Action where Immediate Action = Face Palming, Head Shaking, and Texting My Husband lots of “OH DEAR LORDs” and “FOR THE LOVEs.”
After I finished my Immediate Actions, though, I wrote back. Particularly because the Assistant Principal had so kindly noted I could let her know if I had any questions or comments. ANY questions or comments, she said, though she did specify “regarding the incident” which was helpful because I have loads and loads of questions and comments about Things in General — like why in the world God put our Breathing Hole right next to the Swallowing Hole because, honestly, that seems like fairly obvious Design Flaw ripe for problems, not to mention other Adjacent Hole issues, if you will — and so her instructions helped me narrow my questions and comments to Just This One Thing.
Thanks, Ms. Assistant Principal, I wrote back, for letting us know and for the opportunity to let you know if we have any questions or comments regarding the incident.
Here they are, in order of importance.
1. What the heck?
2. What the ACTUAL heck?
3. An arm is in your way, so your solution is to BITE IT, Child? WHO IS RAISING YOU? And why aren’t they doing a better job??
4. Do you think this incident will hinder my child’s ultimate career goal which is to become a chicken farmer? Please reply with Yes, No or Maybe and also your reason for that assessment. Unless you don’t have time to send the assessment because you spend your day dealing with biters, in which case I’ll give you a pass.
5. Do you feel that my child has sufficiently made amends? Because I am happy to take away All the Screen Time and turn it into Make Cookies for the Kid You Bit Time. Does he have food allergies? If not, do you think he likes chocolate chips? We believe when a child is injured it’s important to reinforce the idea that food makes you feel better; this way we can keep America obese by eating our feelings. Chocolate chips taste way, WAY better than feelings. And I’m serious about the baking. Nothing says “I’m sorry” like “My mom made me give up Animal Jam so I could make you these stupid, stupid cookies.” For reals.
6. Also, what the heck?
1. This is a school email and I don’t know you, so I used “heck” in the questions above even though that was not the word in my brain. I’ve done this to demonstrate that someone in our family has restraint and, in a twist literally NO ONE saw coming, that restrained person is ME. I hate to throw my child under the bus here, but I sort of feel like this is a personal win. I mean, SEMI-PUBLIC CREDIT FOR RESTRAINT, right?? WOOHOO!
2. Out of our five kids, one has apparently turned out to be a biter. I just feel like you should know that’s an 80% success rate on the Non-Biting Scale of Good Parenting, which is a B.
3. OK, fine; it’s a B-.
4. Oh dear, dear sweet child. God bless you. But, FOR THE LOVE. Seriously. For the love.
P.S. Thank you for the work you do with our kids. All you teachers/principals/counselors deserve medals. Medals, I tell you. MEDALS ALL AROUND.
OK, parents, now it’s your turn to listen. Listen, because this is Important Information: KIDS. Kids, you guys. Kids are NUTJOBS. Every last one. Nutjobs, I tell you. Just like grown-ups, except fun sized. Miniature humans, all divine and devastating and full of magic and madness. Sweet precious angels and darling cherubs with occasional red, glowing eyes and heads that spin on their shoulders. Kissy and snuggly and then — BAM! — bitey, but for good reasons, like there were arms in their way.
KIDS. Kids, you guys. They are ANNOYING, and endearing, but mostly ANNOYING because they are made from imperfection like all of us, and strangely perfect, and they make just AWFUL choices sometimes until they make AWESOME choices after which they make AWFUL and AWESOME choices again in rapid succession.
I don’t know what you to tell you about this whole Child Rearing Scam, friends. I don’t know what to say except this — we are not raising children as though we’re the raisers and they’re the raisees; it doesn’t work that way. We are raising each other. We are all in this boat together, raising each other along the way — kids and parents, humans all — lifting each other like the tide, as consistent and relentless, as high and as low, responding to the pull of the moon which we can’t easily explain. Am I raising them? Of course I am, and I’m doing it well and ruining it all entirely. And they’re raising me. Undoubtedly and surely. They’re raising me, too. And I suspect that Raising Each Other Well means trying to row together, somehow, against and with the tide, and getting tangled in the ropes, and missing the instructions, and falling overboard, and being rescued by each other over and over so we can try to row together again, which is grace.
Being rescued over and over again, to try again, which is grace.
So if you’re spending the evening a little bit huffy at your AWFUL and AWESOME, ANNOYING humans; if you’re spending the day helping your DIVINE DISASTERS bake cookies for the humans they dented with their teeth; if they’re sweet and darling and their eyes are glowing just a touch red while their heads start to spin, and yours, too; and if you’re rising and falling in the boat not sure of your progress, I just want you to know you’re not alone. You’re not alone.
And I’m sending grace.
P.S. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.