The Office

We often hear the boys talking about kids in their class that get sent to the office. It's hard to get the facts on exactly what precipitated the special event, but it typically involves some type of insubordination. We've never worried about our kids being sent up due to the inexplicable reports we receive from teachers regarding their nearly model-citizen behavior. The boys tend to reserve their angst and ire for the home, choosing to explore it with their parents rather than dilute their special brand by sharing it with the outside world. We'd like to pat ourselves on the back for them exhibiting kindness to others and claim the "Parents of the Year" award, but it appears to be mostly luck.

And as luck would have it, our luck ran out. Last Friday the middle child casually revealed at dinner that he was sent to the office. In the micro seconds following this admission and before his brothers could contort their faces into expressions of utter shock, one can, and will, instantly replay eight years of presumably bad parenting decisions in the blink of an eye complete with hindsight revelations. Of course it would be the middle child. The one at the age of two who was nicknamed "Earthquake" by his much older cousin. The one at the age of three who sat quietly in the back of the van and surreptitiously ate the macaroni glued onto his art project on the drive home from preschool. The one with the manic tendencies who will eat four pieces of toast, a pile of broccoli and five scrambled eggs with chopped ham in one sitting (I was curious how many he would really eat - it's five - another sterling parenting moment where I provided the means to excess).

With three kids in the mix, one must choose battles carefully, and sometimes things may slip through the cracks and then your kid gets sent to the office and you become "those" parents. The ones that other parents think about when they hear their kids talking about how Cooper was sent to the office. And other kids do talk about Cooper, we hear it from parents all the time.

The words "I had to go to the office today" had barely left his mouth when his brothers raced to high-alert status and started the grilling. Sitting across the table from him I was completely expressionless waiting for his version of the truth to be proffered when he calmly stated, "I forgot my jacket." His brothers instantly relaxed, but the cloud of confusion was still following me, as was the unfortunate thought that everyone in the principal's office probably now thought we willingly sent our kids to school without proper clothing.

This is one of those battle moments. With the weather getting colder we tell the kids to wear a jacket to school, and they typically push back. After a few days of back and forth over the same topic, one gets tired of insisting and you let the kid walk to school and assume he will learn a lesson in the process and then this battle will simply resolve itself. Unfortunately, as this story unfolds, the lesson we were attempting to teach didn't pan out quite like we expected.

As it turns out, when kids go out to recess and the temperature is below a certain threshold, the teacher mandates they wear a jacket. If they don't have a jacket, they get sent to the office to be presumably bored into bringing a jacket the following day. However, as Cooper went into detail of his time in the office it became readily apparent that he may never take a jacket to school again. He wasn't bored at all by this mandatory sentencing and the way he retold the experience, he was celebrated...and it was glorious!

The sequence of events are sketchy, but between the laughter and animated expressions we're pretty certain there was music. One of the ladies in the office had music playing on her computer. Cooper said it sounded like Led Zeppelin, but he wasn't familiar with the song so he couldn't be sure. I believe the music led to some type of dancing - not sure if it involved other parties in the office or just Cooper. Then there was a talent show featuring impersonation whereupon Cooper found his mother's volunteer badge on the wall, put it on and walked around stating in his best adult female voice, "I'm a parent volunteer." Following this spectacle he got to go on a tour of the cafeteria kitchen with the assistant principal to see how they made pizzas in the big oven. To top off this fortuitous jacket folly, the assistant principal shared chocolate chip cookies with him. He was ecstatic, overjoyed and beaming with pride retelling his most major school accomplishment to date. He exclaimed it was the best day ever (at school).

I began wondering how we were ever going to get him to even look at a jacket again. But there at the end of his tale of the most awesome day ever existed a glimmer of hope. He said when he got back to class the other kids told him there was a wind storm on the playground and it blew mulch up into a tornado-like whirlpool and he was sad he missed it. My fear evaporated. After five days of school, he's worn or taken a jacket every day and we are once again embracing delusion in our potential for the "Parents of the Year" award.