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Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Scarlet letter F

I have not tried to hide the fact that I was a bit of a troublemaker as a kid.  Well, I have hidden it from my own kids, but not everyone else.   I like to act shocked when they get caught doing something they shouldn't be doing.

In fourth grade, I tried to use my sister's bug collection and pass it off as my own. She and my dad spent weeks making a wooden case with a plexiglass window.  Inside were all the insects she had collected day and night all summer. All of them intact with a long needle right through the middle.  Each was labeled with labels she lined up in the type writer to get just perfect.

We went to a small private school, but nonetheless, I thought I could pass it off as my own. I may mention that she is nine-years older than me, and the insects looked a little... crusty.  Despite my sisters research on what looked to be expert insect taxidermy, my teacher could clearly see that these insects had been dead for almost a decade.  They had legs falling off, some even had cobwebs.  But, on the day it was due, I marched it in and presented it to my teacher.

This box was not light. It was cumbersome so my Dad had to help me carry it in. He didn't say a word.  I sat it on the table next to all the other bug collections and although I felt a tinge of guilt, I was happy I spent my summer swimming and not killing bugs.  At the end of the day, the teacher gave me a note and a grade.  The note said I needed to take it home, and that I got an F,  and that my parents had to sign it.   This time I had to carry the stupid bug collection out to my Mom's car by myself. She didn't say a word.

They knew very well what I was doing and neither one of them stopped me.  They let me get caught, and they let me carry the guilt and consequences (literally). The teacher didn't give me a chance to make it up either.  I had to carry that F as a scarlet letter for the rest of trimester and work my butt off to get a C. Which I did.

My parents didn't seem to think my actions were a reflection on them, but more on me.

I realize now that my parents were bad asses.  At the time I blamed them for all of my problems, like most kids, but I'm glad they let me walk out of the house and into a trap that I had set for myself and that they were going to let me get caught in.

Did I try and cheat again? Yes.  A few years later,  I waiting until the last minute to do a leaf collection. Rather than collecting leaves all Fall, I waiting until they were dead and covered in snow the night before it was due.  I attempted to color, and cut the leaves into various leaf shapes, then laminate and label them.  Although an Oak leaf may not look like a Maple leaf, with a little help from some craft scissors it can.  It is no surprise, I got caught... again. And once again wore the F of shame.

I would like to say that was the last time, but it wasn't.  In high school, I missed a history quiz so I was taking it in the library and I used my text book to find all the answers.  But as I was turning it in to Mr. Rethlake, I burst into tears and told him what I had done.   Once again, I got an F, but rather than making me tell my parents, he made me read him the chapters  that I should have read, out loud, and then asked me the same questions that were on the quiz until I got them right. Because of this, I was late to soccer practice. Because I was late to soccer practice.  I  had to tell my coach, why I was late , he made me run laps around the field for an hour and a half.

In unrelated news, that day my boyfriend broke up with me. #worstdayever

It was around that time I decided that it wasn't worth it.  I was destined to get caught, and not only that, I wasn't going to get off easy.

As much as I don't want my boys to experience pain or humiliation, a little discomfort goes a long way.   Of course, they are perfect in every way, yet they have each done some seriously stupid things,  and I have let them.  As long as it wasn't going to result in physical trauma, I stepped aside.

What I didn't realize is that it is not easy to do that for parents. Not at all.  It hurts ten times worse.   I find myself wanting to correct their wrongs, but if I constantly do that,  how will they learn what is the rights are?

Recently one of the boys plagiarized a book report.  I was a little suspicious because all summer I had not seen him open the book once.  But, I'm not a helicopter mom so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  On the day he presented his report to the class he was feeling sick to his stomach.  By the time he did, he was in full on guilt mode.  He admitted it to his teachers.  He didn't eat his lunch, he barely touched his dinner and afterward, he called Don into the bedroom.

On the bed, he had every item of value to him. His laptop, his iPod, his gaming system.  He (in dramatic fashion) said he needed to confess something. But, before he did, he was grounding himself from screens.  Don watched as he dry heaved confessing something he thought we didn't know. He made it right. It's like we are raising self-cleaning ovens!   They are regulating themselves.

By the time he told me, I too (in dramatic fashion) acting shocked and dismayed.  I'm not at the level of badassery as my parents were to let him know I knew. I'll get there, I'm sure.

Being a kid is hard sometimes,  but if I make it easy for him how will he ever be able to cope with the fact that being an adult is even harder?

As an adult, I can't blame my mistakes on not knowing better.  Chances are I do, but still make the dumb choices. Or the easy choice.  Like saying yes to that third glass of wine or saying yes, I want to watch the next episode of Orange is the New Black even though I have to wake up in 5 hours. I digress.

When you know better, you do better....most of the time. 

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