The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Flashback Friday!

Did you ever want to play the brassy prison matron to the naughty convicted felon? Or maybe vice versa? C'Mon guys, work with me here, will ya? You see, I have some experience playing the prison guard. And I'm very, very good at it, too.

Now, before you start thinking that this week's Flashback is NOT SAFE FOR WORK, you're just not that lucky. So, pull your filthy mind out of the gutter and come with me on a little journey I call Creative Punishment Alternatives.

Kids will be kids. I know it. You know it. Hell, everybody certainly knows it. And there's no way to stop it. Not really. And sometimes, you have to look at the teaching opportunities they throw at you while they're being "kids". Sometimes, it's the only way to deal with it. You know, making the lemonade.

See, I adore my kids. I mean that. They are most special to me. And I don't want any of you to forget that, as I share this maternal moment with you. It's not as if I don't realize that my kids are capable of doing the same mischievous things that other kids do. Oh, I realize it most clearly. Especially, when they do things that I did as a kid myself. I try not to show how humorous that is to me, with varying results.

Some years back, when "T", my oldest (now a high school junior) was in fifth grade, and her next youngest sister "K" (now a high school freshman) was in third grade, they embarked on a crime spree. Part of the story, I came to learn much later, but rather than keep you in the dark, I'll clue you in along the way.

I suppose it's possible that spring fever could have had something to do with it. And, of course, they have a genetic criminal predisposition on their father's side of the family. But, apparently, young "K" had gotten herself into a spot of trouble at school.

It seems that she hadn't completed an assignment. She was then charged with bringing home the blank sheet to show a parent, and getting a signature from said parent, acknowledging that the child is shiftless and lazy. I never saw this sheet. To this day, I still haven't. When "K"'s teacher didn't get the signed sheet back the next day, she wrote me a little note. Very considerate. She was concerned that I know that my child wasn't being particularly diligent. And I do appreciate that. Honestly. But, alas, I never saw that note either.

On the third day of this little stand off, I got a call from "K"'s teacher, advising me that she'd been trying, rather unsuccessfully, to get some information to me. Which, I will say, came as a complete surprise. She suspected that the signature she had received back on the note, bearing my name, was actually the work of someone else. Someone much, much younger.

Apparently, "K", fearing repercussions for her slacking, and upon discussion with "T", crafted a scheme, whereby "T" would sign MY name on the note that went back to the teacher. Again, "T" was a fifth-grader at this point. Hardly a seasoned veteran of this sort of unseemly behavior. But I suppose they believed that her handwriting was more apt to fool a teacher than a third graders.

I was rather upset with both of them, but wanted, moreso, to take the opportunity to teach my junior forgers a valuable life lesson. Upon sitting them down to discuss the situation, I reviewed that signing someone else's name to something constituted a fraudulent act. They seemed to have already surmised that. And given their humble dispositions, I was able to move forward. I explained to them that adults who were found guilty and convicted of a crime such as this, were sentenced to prison time. And then I began to expound on what prison life was like.

As they listened semi-intently, wondering, I'm sure, when I would be done yammering and would allow them to get back outside to play, I could see the glaze in their eyes. But, I knew they'd "get it" soon enough.

They asked what their punishment was to be and I stood and said, "T and K, you have been found guilty of the crime of forgery and are hereby sentenced to spend the entire weekend in prison." They kinda looked puzzled, as I continued. "You want to be forgers, I will show you what your future holds."

And so, at 6AM on Saturday morning, I got them up for an oatmeal breakfast and told them to put on some old clothes. They were on a kind of "road crew". I had them spend the entire morning raking old leaves out from under the bushes, pulling weeds and doing general yardwork. After lunch it was more of the same. At first, they kinda thought it was cool. A weekend of yardwork was much better than some of the other punishments I could have dreamed up. They thought the old gal was slipping. Ha!

By dinner time, it was starting to sink in. This sucked. I had them come in and clean up for dinner. They got to eat at the table and after dinner, at 7PM, I handed them each a book. As I recall "K" got "Little Women" and "T" got a collection of short stories by Edgar Allen Poe. I told them to each take a shower and get ready for bed. They could not watch tv, or listen to the radio, or play with any toys. They could read until 8PM and then it would be lights out.

By 7:45, you could almost hear the strains of a harmonica on the cellblock. Everyone went to bed on schedule and back up again bright and early on Sunday for more of the same. Working in the fields, and I'd occasionally take them out some water. No fancy food. No visitors. No phone calls. And they weren't in lock up long enough to get any letters from home...though that might have been a nice touch, had I thought about it ahead of time.

In any event, after the second day, they were pretty demoralized. Pretty sure that prison was not a cool punishment at all. And understanding, pretty well, that the matron would have been only too happy to have denied their parole had they deserved more time in the joint. But, they'd repaid their debt to society and were released.

I've never had another instance, since that day, of either of them forging my name on anything. I like that. I like that I didn't have to yell or scream or cry or spank them. That I got my point across in a memorable way. (Plus, you know, I got a lot of yardwork done, too!) They still remember it. They laugh about it. Crazy mother, put us in prison when we were little kids! I'm a pretty firm believer that parents have a responsibility to their children. That they are charged, from the child's birth, to teach them to live independently in the world. Not that they can't be an individual. Not at all. But that, as a society, we have rules and that there are consequences when an individual breaks those rules. So many parents don't take their job very seriously.

I'm missing them pretty badly right now. And I can't wait until they come home tomorrow!



Blogger Highlander said...

Beautifully written entry, baby, as always. I already knew the story, but enjoyed enormously reading you write it out. And I deeply admire your creative approach to parenting. No wonder we got such great kids, with a great mom like you.

I miss you today. Hope you're doing well. Love you!

3/24/2006 10:36 AM  
Blogger Opus P. Penguin said...

Glad you're back, and I hope they gave you good drugs. mother was much less...creative. She did the sneak attack, however. She knew exactly what our favorite things were and if we misbehaved, she took them away. Sending me to my room didn't work...I loved to be in my room. She would take away my television rights and make me go outside. My younger brother, who bounced off the walls if he couldn't be outside, was sent to his room. Subtle, but effective.

3/24/2006 11:28 AM  
Anonymous L.C. said...

I just love it when kids can actually learn something from the punishment. Makes me feels like I don't completely suck at this mothering stuff. Hard labor works well around here too.

3/24/2006 2:24 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

Creative punishment is not only good for the child, it gives the parent a perverse joy at seeing the child deal with the consequences of their action.

3/25/2006 5:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

S.G. -
I have done the same kind of thing!
Instead of taking something away, I add something - jobs! My teenager, in a fit of "attitude", got himself assigned to all-day laundry detail AND cleaning the bathroom! My younger child, should he hit or call names, "earns" the right to such fun as taking out the trash, picking up newspapers, folding towels, and sweeping floors. The worse the offense, the more assignments you receive!
Great minds think alike!

3/25/2006 7:32 AM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Gotta admit, that sounds wonderfully effective. The 'rod of correction' doesn't neccessarily have be smacked into a delinquent juvenile 's backside to be effective. Sometimes just tapping out the 'oarsmen's beat' with it works just fine.

3/25/2006 4:32 PM  

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