Last night at pickup, Declan’s aftercare teacher practically tackled me at the door and said, “Don’t be too hard on him, he’s totally panicking already.” Uh-oh. So I go find my kid, happily playing, and I notice his shoes. His shoes, one which now has huge 3″ high letters across their suede fronts exclaiming “Declan!” That little punk.
I ask him about the shoe and he burst into tears. I calm him down enough to get him to the car so I can berate him in private.
And when I say berate, I mean, ask him “Why would you write your name on your shoe?” And his cheerful answer made total sense in 4 Year Old Land: “Because they are mine!”
So, I went on to explain that sometimes Mama and Daddy write his name in his hats and jackets so that teachers know they belong to him, but he knows the rules well enough to know that he should not write on his clothes. What he needs is some punishment!
I ask him what punishment he thinks he should have. He whimpers, “To never write on my shoes again?” Well, that goes unsaid, dude.
We talk about it some and decide that for one, he needs to try to clean his shoes and see if it will come off. OK, what else? Cause I’m ticked.
We talk some more and he blurts out: “Well, Lily was the one who did it!!!” Oh, crap. This is a whole ‘nuther ball of wax, because he is clearly lying – the letters are totally his handwriting and not to mention his teacher told me he did it. (P.S. Any advice on dealing with 4 year old lying would be much appreciated! I was at a loss and I even told Declan so.) My exact words were, “Declan, I am at a bit of a loss here because I know you did it and I want you to tell me the truth always, no matter what.”
And then we sat in silence for like 5 minutes because I really was at a loss.
Finally I said, “How would you like it if Lily got in trouble for something and told her mom you did it?” I must of hit a nerve because he burst into tears again and admitted he did it, albeit in a voice so quiet I almost needed a hearing aide to actually hear him say it. So I was sure to tell him how proud I was for telling the truth. Stroke stroke stroke the positive.
Finally it was clear that my kid had been tying himself in knots all afternoon over this and I was just making it worse. And it was just a silly old shoe after all.
Thinking about what a crazy perfectionist I am, I changed my tack. I told him that it was clear he learned his lesson and that his only punishment would be cleaning the shoes that night. And he immediately interjected that he would NEVER NEVER NEVER do it again.
Then I probably broke about 50 major rules in the Mom Handbook, but I told him, “You know what, buddy? I did stuff like that when I was a kid too.” His eyes got huge, like saucers full of teary milk for kittens. I continued with, “Yup. See, everybody makes mistakes. The important thing is that you learn how to do better the next time.”
That seemed to really make him feel better. Or he’s playing me. The jury’s still out on that one.
Either way, later in the evening, when we were cleaning his shoes, my little Felix Unger had a blast. How can this kid find a way to have fun even when he is being punished?