C climbed on to my lap last night and stretched out. I wrapped my arms around his skinny little self and told him how much I loved him. Suddenly, he got to confessing. He seemed to be checking in to see if I would still love him once I learned that twice he had to have talks with his teachers about his behavior in lines, once on Friday and again that day. I quickly assured him that I totally loved him that he didn't need to earn my love and he wasn't going to lose it, but I got curious and asked him to tell me about the line issues.
He explained that while in line he was working hard to follow the rules. Once the class went by "the tree of silence" he stopped talking--completely. The problem, however, was that a couple of his classmates had not. And those of you who know my son, or at least read this blog occasionally, know that C is a rules follower. He follows rules and he really expects everyone else to as well. He has a grand sense of justice and injustice about big things (incredulous and vocal about the unfairness that gay folks cannot marry in CT) and small (talking in line when you are supposed to be quiet, for example).
And here was the root of his line issue. What to do when other kids are talking once they pass that "tree of silence"? C explained that he knew he couldn't tell the teacher because clearly he would be breaking the rules by talking so first he tried a silent shush. When this didn't sway his classmates, he went to his arsenal, beyond the finger to the lips, and pulled out an elbow. Needless to say, his teacher saw him throw the elbow--BOTH TIMES-- and when the class returned to the classroom, C was called out for a private discussion about this behavior. P and I suggested that this would be a really good thing for him to work on in school: he will work hard to follow the rules in line but ignore other kids if they are not. At first, C didn't jump at the suggestion. "But I just can't ignore that. I just don't know how to ignore things." Well, that may be true on one level but that's not quite accurate as he is quite adept at ignoring us, especially when a book is involved.
However, this suggestion suddenly got a bit sticky because we remembered other conversations with our sons about the necessity to speak up when someone is doing something wrong. If kids are being unkind to another child, you must speak up. If someone is asking you to do something that is not right or makes you uncomfortable, you must tell him/her that you will not participate. Ahhhh-- this is a sticky line. Call out the big injustices in the world. Oh, but don't be a tattletale (and certainly don't throw elbows into the mix). How do you explain to your kids when to speak out and when to let it go? I discussed this strange mixed message we were sending C with his teacher this morning. She gave me a solid guideline that they use in their room about "when a child is hurting or going to hurt himself or another child, this is the time when it is necessary to tell." I thought this was a sensible message for this age.
And then, I was driving to school this morning when we reached a busy intersection. Suddenly a siren came screaming from up the street. Dutifully, I pulled my car to the side of the road to let the firetruck barrel past when I noticed other cars didn't seem to follow suit. This got my hackles up. Frankly, it pissed me off even though the firetruck did get through. It was a similar feeling to the times I get supremely annoyed when cars make a right on red when the sign clearly states "no right on red" or when those jerky drivers try to bypass traffic by driving up the shoulder and then cutting in. Dude, there are rules and you just aren't following them. It's just not right. If I wouldn't do extensive damage to my car or possibly subject myself and any of my passengers to possible injury, it would be great--just once--to block one of those jerky drivers by straddling the shoulder right when they come charging up. Yup, the light bulb dinged.
Rules follower. Elbow. Yeah, I get it.
I don't condone it. But suddenly I got it.