Saturday, February 14, 2009


Let's just say that there was a transgression on the part of my 11-year-old daughter. Let's say it was a minor transgression, as transgressions go, but that there were some untruths told in the performance of said transgression. And if there's one thing I do NOT take well, it is being lied to.

[Also, for the record, let's just say that I am well aware that this was neither the first nor the last time such a thing will occur. I also imagine it's not the last time I'll hear myself saying, "But, no. But, seriously. WHAT were you THINKING?" Because, what with puberty being more than just a theoretical "one day" around here, the thought processes of my darling daughter are more and more frequently making little logical sense. How any of this is evolutionarily advantageous, I'll never know. But I digress.]

Anyway, let's just say there were phone calls between myself and Baroy, and a punishment handed down while I was still in the office, hours before I was to get home. And let's just say that Em then spent those hours in her room, because she was afraid that showing her face to her father would only make things worse. I never said she wasn't a SMART child.

She's also a very--and often unintentionally--funny child. During that time in her room, Em wrote a note to the two of us. An apology note. An apology note with lines like this ("I am upset that I couldn't go to girl scouts and that I can't have a sleepover with anyone, but I guess I just have to take it like a man") and like this ("I just want to say sorry one more time and I love you. I know that might sound like I'm trying to suck up to you, but I'm not").

Damn it's hard to come down like a ton of bricks on child who makes you laugh that hard.

Her punishment, as her note made somewhat clear, involved being grounded. She lost a field trip with her Girl Scout troop to an animal shelter, and she lost an already-planned sleepover with a friend. And she also lost any other social events for the weekend. Which seems like it would be a clear-cut sort of thing, right? And it is.

Except when it came to last night at temple. Because last night was a special shabbat service--a dinner held annually in memory of one of the key members of the congregation in days not-so-long gone by. The kids had been practicing for weeks to help lead the service; Em is one of the oldest and most vocal children in the religious school--one of the leaders in a school which has a TOTAL of fewer than 25 kids--and her not being there would have made the evening less successful.

All of which inclined me to bring her. After all, when you ground a kid, you don't keep them home from school, right?

But there was the other side...the fact that there is nothing so exciting and fun and looked-forward-to by Em as a social event at the synagogue. How exactly do you say "You're grounded young lady...except for tomorrow night, when you'll get to go hang out with all your friends for four hours in the evening and laugh and play and run around"?

There are worse things, I suppose, than having a synagogue be a place your kids look forward to going, a place they consider to be a treat. And so, after talking it over with Baroy, I took her. I told her that she needed to take time during the silent amidah to look inside herself and think about the choices she had made. And then I told her that while we were going to stay the whole time--I could have taken her home after services and/or after dinner, but *I* didn't lie to me, so I don't think *I* should have to be punished by not being able to have an evning *I* was also looking forward to a great deal--she wasn't allowed to have any fun.

It only took her a milisecond to realize I was joking...and then to make sure, every time she passed me all evening, to slow down, push out her lower lip, and say, "I'm having a very bad time, Mommy. OK?"

Frankly, what with all the planned events that were cancelled, with having to turn down every friends who's called since to ask whether she could come out and play, and with the what-must-have-seemed-interminable lecturing she got from both Baroy and myself that first night, the point is already made. Whether she gets it--whether her increasingly hormone-soaked brain is capable of getting it--remains to be seen.

Parenting. Feh.


Anonymous said...

You're a good mom. Em's a lucky girl. Transgressions and all...

po said...

How impossible to be stern in the face of those apology note examples! :D

I know you know this, but "what were you thinking?" can usually be answered by "I *wasn't* thinking!" since kids just are not neurologically complete. Those connections are still forming, and will be for many years to come. That doesn't make it any less frustrating, especially when you have a very smart and mature kid whom you feel SHOULD know better, but much of the time, they just can't.