Staying Serious

Dear Courtney,

I once had a student named Jordan, he was a 7th grader, 4’6 and bone skinny.  He was a wisp of a kid; he could easily have passed for a 2nd grader, but what he lacked in physical build he made up for in personality.  He was funny.  Quick witted and fearless with his humor.  I guess he’s an adult now (which makes me feel old), and I wish I could have a beer with him; I’d probably spend the night in stitches.  I bet he’s a great friend,  but as a student he was, um, difficult.  He pushed EVERY boundary; he often brought class to a halt with his jokes and antics; to be honest I never knew if I should laugh at him or kill him.  I’ll never forget the day he asked to get a drink of water for the 3rd time in 20 minutes (English class was NOT his favorite subject); I said no, and he proceeded to follow me around the room whining, “Please?  Please?  Why not?  Please?  Please?”  Finally, exasperated, I hissed, “Get in your seat, NOW!  Do. Not. Get. Up. A-gain!”  He must have sensed his life was in danger; he gave up the game and walked toward his desk; I went to help another student.

Then there was laughter, and I knew he was up to something.  I swung around, ready to drop the hammer, and there he was– IN his desk, upside down, standing on his head.  It actually took a minute for me to figure out what I was seeing because, “Surely he’s not doing a headstand on his seat.”  But he was.  “What?” he quipped,  “You told me to get in my seat. I’m in my seat.”

Lilly often reminds me a little of Jordan.  She likes to play at the edges of the boundary, and sometimes, out of fun or curiosity, she’ll stick her toe over the line.  I know this is normal, typical, even healthy behavior for a 4-year-old.  Her job is to test, my job is to be firm; the problem is sometimes the way she tests is so darn funny.  Sometimes the drama of a tantrum, the snark of her disrespect, the audacity of her behavior is as comical as it is naughty.  Do you struggle with this?  Disciplining when you want to laugh?

The other day Lilly and Tommy were playing together in her room.  It was quiet for a few minutes, so I went to check.  He was soaked, dripping wet from his hair to his toes.  So was the carpet.  I was mad,  “What the heck, Lilly?  What happened?”

She shrugged, “We were playing house.  He’s the baby.  He needed a bath.”

“But with real water!  Everything is soaked!  You don’t play with REAL water!  You know that!”  Lilly looked at me for moment.  She does know that.  This wasn’t the first time she “played” with water and made a mess.  The rules on this are not ambiguous.

She shrugged again, “I guess I made a mistake.  It’s okay; everyone makes mistakes.”  Those are MY words.  My exact words.  That is what I say to calm her down when she ACCIDENTLY spills her milk or wets her pants.  She smiled one of those cute, shy smiles and used more of my words against me, “No problem, Mommy.  We can clean it up.”

I stood there struggling to stay stern.  She knows better, I thought,  this is not okay.  But the scene was ridiculous.   The adult words, the adult intonation coming out in her mushy, little kid voice.  The baby soaked but happy, picking up the now empty cup and dumping it over his own head.  And Lilly standing over the him in her favorite, too small Halloween pajamas  doing her best to look innocent.  I had to walk away.  I had to close the door and chuckle where she couldn’t see.  They may be naughty, but man they can crack me up!

It reminded me of this comedy routine.  Have you ever seen it?  So. Funny.  Especially minutes 1:40-2:30!


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