Thursday, April 17, 2008

Josie Grossie

My daughter, seed of my loins, progeny of my DNA, did something so nasty yesterday that it requires a new word, like Grosstastic, or Stinkowatt, or...


She is, potentially, a spitter.


Well, maybe she is and maybe she isn't. According to her, she isn't, but it's hard to be sure. When she arrived home from school crying, she told me that her friend, Guy, had stuck his tongue out at her, so she stuck hers back out at him, and then one of the other kids in the class, Kwami, started yelling that she'd spit at Guy, and then other kids took it up as well, and Kwami ran back into the classroom (they were in the hallway getting their backpacks for the end of the day) to tattle on whatever she did or didn't do. The teacher, Ms. Burns, told the class that they would sort it out tomorrow, but that she wanted the truth or no one would have recess for the rest of the year. There were about ten kids saying Josie did spit at Guy, but both Guy and Josie swear that she didn't. Kwami was in Josie's class last year, as well, and we had a problem with his laying on her desk, cheating off of her, and hitting, so he's not exactly a reputable kid, but still.

This probably would have all blown over, and I never would have known, had the following not happened. Apparently, on the way out of the door, Josie was trying to explain to Kwami that she did 'ptthhh', not 'pa-tuey', and (accidentally, she claims) got some spit on his face. She says that she apologized, but that he told her he was going to tell his dad, who was waiting to pick her up, and sure enough, he did, and his dad called the school all upset about it.

The reason I know THAT is because I called the school to try and get the straight poop from her teacher, who had just gotten off the phone with the dad. Unfortunately, I also got to hear about how Josie and Guy have been in trouble frequently lately in the lunchroom for being too loud, and have been supposed to sit apart from one another, but haven't, so they both had homework from the lunchladies to write 'I will follow rules' 25 times. According to Ms. Burns, this came home with an explanatory note. I never saw anything, meaning that Josie did it in her room at some point and hid the whole thing from me. Nothing was written in her homework assignment book about it, and no one called or emailed me that there was an ongoing problem. In fact, I spoke to one of the lunchladies on the phone yesterday about her lunch account being in need of money, and she didn't say anything to me then, either. I also got to hear about Josie's too-familiar behavior (aka, sassiness) with her teacher. Needless to say, I was NOT impressed.

I spoke to her teacher again later in the evening, and she said that it had blown up into a full-fledged Incident, with both Kwami's fathers calling (Kwami has an odd situation where he has been adopted, but his birth father is still around somehow) and freaking out, saying that she can't handle the classroom, and there have been issues all year, and they wanted the office involved, etc. She said that she got them all calmed down, and that one father hadn't been aware at all that Kwami is actually a significant discipline problem himself. She also said that she had spoken with Guy, who insisted that Josie hadn't spit at him at all, as well as to another student who backed up Josie and said that it was actually Kwami who had spit at Josie on the way out the door, and had been calling her names like 'loser' and 'stupid', so she spat back at him. Ms. Burns said that she believes the children, and the she no longer thinks at all that Josie meant to spit on anyone's body, regardless of whether she really did end up getting spit on someone or not. However, she had had to bring the vice principal into the situation, so all the children may have to go to the principal's office today.

I had a couple of long talks with Josie about choosing friends wisely, and how when she has to lie and cover things up, and gets in trouble all the time when she's with a certain person, that means that that person isn't a good friend for her to have. The little feeling she gets in her tummy of uneasiness and guilt is a good thing, and that's her conscience protecting her from doing things she knows are wrong. Also, I said that she should tell Guy that she can't hang out with him anymore, because of these reasons, but that she still is his friend, and when things change maybe they can play together again, because that will protect her and also show him that HE needs to change, as well. I explained that she needs to be patient with Kwami, who obviously has had a lot of family issues, and probably has a lot of anger, and his tattling is his need for attention and positive reinforcement (thank you for telling me, Kwami, you're such a help) showing itself. So, she doesn't have to play with him, or even like him, but she shouldn't hate him, because he's young and is having a hard time controlling his feelings. She understood that, and said that she didn't want to spend a lot of time with Guy after this mess, either.

This whole thing has shown me that we are quickly reaching the stage where Josie will be having her own problems that I will have to basically stand aside and watch her deal with. Gone are the days of her biggest problem being a tiff with her little friend, which I can solve with cookies and lemonade. So, I talked to her about how the decisions regarding who she hangs out with will always be with her, and it's important for her to become astute in those choices now before she's older and is faced with having to sever ties with friends who get involved with drugs and alcohol. If she's a follower and content to be dragged along into other people's problems now, it will be all the harder when she's older to cope with important decisions. I also told her that her lying, aside from being morally irresponsible and hurtful to me, made it impossible for me to help her at the school, because if I don't know what her actual behavior is, and what events have already transpired, there's no way I'll have enough credibility to walk in there and defend her by saying, my kid would never do that, you must be mistaken.

I know in the grand scheme of things, this is small trouble potatoes, but I'm not used to having her be in trouble at school, and am unsettled at all the things that have been going on there without my knowledge. Sigh. I guess they're really going to be teenagers someday, with real problems, then, huh? Gross.

Now DH and I are trying to decide what, if any, punishment we should mete out to her. She did hide things from us, which is wrong. Since I wasn't at the school, aside from telling her to keep her tongue in her face from now on, I'm not entirely comfortable with punishing her harshly for whatever happened there, especially if she is punished by the school. Also, I think sometimes emotional upset is its own punishment. But I don't think she should get away scott-free, either. Any suggestions?


Swistle said...

I can't even think of any advice, because I find I am so thoroughly on Josie's side. It sounds like things got out of hand, and like there are too many lies and too many versions and too much kid excitement going on here to even know at all what happened for real. The truth is invisible, and the teacher is dumb for saying if she doesn't get it there'll be no recess.

Kristin.... said...

I've been thinking of you all day, trying to find a way to help, and I've got nothing.
I agree that the emotional turmoil may be enough punishment.