Posted 10-03-2003 at 15:03:59
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Some folks believe in the 'that's one, that's two' type of discipline. We tried it for awhile and still slip into it on occasion when one of the kids commits an infraction of some minor type. Shoes in the middle of the floor, dishes left in the living room, little things. Naturally once you get to the 'that's three' stage, the poop hits the fan.
Jake and one of the girls were arguing the other day and when Jake gets overwhelmed with words he resorts to threats to get his way. Fred overheard the threat and he raised his right arm and index finger and gave him that look...
"That's one, boy."
Rarely do we ever get to three 'strikes' with any of them. It's more like a reminder not to let things get out of control.
This morning I had to go to school. Guess who was in trouble. He and another boy had been shooting each other with folded up pieces of paper propelled by rubber bands outside school before the bell rang. It was a game. They were playing the way boys tend to play. Strict rules, below the waist only.
Another boy decided he wanted in the game so he raced by, let one fly, and proceeded to hit Jake in the face. Left a big old welt and a major red mark. By the time the dust settled it took two teachers and another kid to pull Jake off the offender.
Jake got in trouble for retaliating with violence. The school official, Ms Burnett, was not upset with Jake, and empathized with his reaction, but reminded him that violence was not acceptable. The offender readily admitted that he shot Jake in the face and had no real reason why, and accepted his punishment without question. Jake was upset and Ms Burnett gave me the choice of bringing him home or putting him in ACE (alternative classroom environment).
I chose to bring him home.
On our way to the truck I was flagged down by one of Jake's teachers. I've seen the guy before, bookish type, big old glasses that he is constantly shoving up the bridge of his nose. I almost made it off the property with no real bad news, and now it looked like I was going to get an earful anyway. Crap.
"Can I talk to your mom for a minute, Jake?" The teacher winked at Jake.
"Go wait in the truck son." I instructed Jake.
Once Jake was out of earshot the teacher leaned down and whispered confidentially in my ear.
"I was really proud of your son yesterday."
This was the last thing I was expecting. It was clear he knew who my son was, coudn't have mistaken me for someone else. When you spend enough time reacting to bad news, if someone tries to hand you good news, sometimes it's hard to know what to do, so I just stood there staring stupidly at him.
"Jake was in the hall yesterday morning outside my class. I just happened to have my door open. One of the other boys came running down the hall and slammed into Jake, knocking him into a locker. I just knew it was going to get ugly. They were evenly matched, Jake could have taken this boy out or vice versa."
He paused to do the glasses thing.
"I don't know what possessed Bryan to slam into Jake like that, but the hallway began to clear out immediately, even the other kids were clearly expecting a fight."
I still just stood there waiting, and then I thought of something intelligent to say.
The teacher smiled.
"Jake did something I never would have expected him to do. I have known Jake for two years. That was a perfect invitation to a fight, and the Jake I know would have jumped in with both feet and a big grin. But he didn't."
"Nope, and confidentially, if he had, I would have done everything in my power to protect him from the consequences. He didn't deserve that, it had to hurt."
"So....what happened?" I asked.
The teacher shrugged.
"Jake looked at Bryan, raised his right arm and his index finger and said.....that's one."
I almost choked laughing.
"Nope. It was the funniest thing. Even Bryan laughed. One of those ...'oh yeah right, I'M REALLY scared' type laughs, but it cut the tension. To me that is a sure sign that he has come a long way and isn't so eager to fight as he once was, and, by the way, I gave Bryan a referral and sent him to the office. I just wanted you to know that."
I just stood there grinning trying to picture Jake doing the right thing, and I wished I could have been a fly on the wall when all that happened.
"Well thank you. Thank you very much for telling me that, it's good to know that he is using some sense some times." Then it hit me why I was there and I laughed out loud. "Umm... you're not on your way to see Ms Burnett by any chance are you?"
"No, no...I'm on my way to class, why? Did she ask for me?"
"No! In fact, if you do see her make a point of not asking about what happened between Jake and Joseph this morning."
"Awww...no! A fight?"
I kind of felt sorry for the guy. He looked positively crestfallen.
"Don't give up. Please. I appreciate your optimisim and you obviously care, so please don't give up." I said quickly.
"I would never do that." He reassured me. We shared a smile and he went on his way and I mine. I had tears in my eyes, by the time I got to the truck. I found Jake in the passenger seat, picking at a hole in the upholstery.
"So, now what? Did you call Fred (dad) yet? Is he mad? He's gonna kill me right? Now I'll never get off restriction."
"Jake.." I said, starting the truck. "I don't want to talk about what you did wrong today. Forget about that. It's ancient history as far as I'm concerned. I want to talk about what you did right yesterday."
I backed out, glanced at Jake's puzzled face, and smiled.
This teacher had given me the greatest gift anyone could ever give me. He gave me the ability to praise my son. These instances or reports of good behavior are few and far between and I so badly needed one at that moment. The teacher gave me something positive to work with, a chance to be proud, a chance to make him proud of himself, and there was no way in he11 that I was going to let it slip by.
He may have just not felt like fighting that morning, or maybe he thought he might get his butt kicked, who knows. But for now I chose to believe that he acted like a man and made a wise decision. I also let him know that the teacher felt the same way. If I have hope and faith in him, maybe it'll inspire him to live up to it.
Stranger things have happened. (smile)