The Wrong Number Ramification

I think I may have made a parenting boo boo. I overreacted.

Last night I left my newish iPhone with my eleven year old son while I went to a meeting. He and some friends were working in a science project and he was going to talk to his friends while I was working but he accidentally Facetime’d the wrong number.

I didn’t think anything of the random middle of the night phone call. After all, things happen. I did notice however that the same number called around noon, notifying me that someone was texting inappropriate things from my phone. Then he hung up.

What? I called back to apologize, to ask exactly what was happening but he hung up again.

And rightfully so, would you want to talk to someone who was harassing you?

Then my mind started thinking the absolute worst. Who was this person and why would anyone want to call someone at two in the morning?

I was absolutely terrified. Had my son shared personal information like our address or our names? Did he send pictures? Did this caller send pictures? What did this caller know about us?

I drove to our cellular service provider after that phone call and explained my situation in tears. I felt terrible for our youngest. Poor kindergartener watching Mommy cry over something her brother did. The guy who helped me listened and tried to make me feel better. He had heard worse.

Nope. Didn’t make me feel better.

I called my husband, three time zones away, who is dealing with his own issues for advice. I cried again, promising to never leave the big bad Internet alone with our children ever again, wishing he were here, right here, to help me figure out what to do. Why was I jumping to these conclusions? Wouldn’t you assume the worst to keep your children safe?

My husband’s suggestion? Grill him. Put the fear of God in him. Make him tell the truth, after all, I would know if he was lying.

Would I?

I did exactly that. Tears from both of us fell. I told him that I wanted to make sure he didn’t give our info away. He adamantly denied sending or doing anything inappropriate.

Later my brother came over and when this caller (who may have been accidentally dialed again– ugh, I know!) tried to call again, my brother answered and straight out said, “Stop calling!” and yelling ensued.

I saved the number, assigning it the label “DO NOT ANSWER” and choosing the silent mode should this caller decide to bother me once more. This situation has made me so nuts that I feel physically ill and have decided not to go to work tomorrow.

But what makes me feel lower than pond scum is the fact that now my son knows that I do not trust him.

And he is crushed.

I don’t know how to even begin to fix what I have done in these hours of stress, anxiety, tears, and stomach cramps. Most of the pain had subsided once I came to the conclusions that I am 99.99% sure nothing inappropriate happened yesterday and that I will change my number first thing in the morning.

But knowing that I have hurt my son with the best intentions in mind doesn’t feel like it will ever go away.

The Tween Temper Fluctuation

I knew the truth. This abillity to weed out lies and exaggerations is something one learns through years of experience. I was lucky to be a teacher before I became a wife and mother.

Daddy was wrong.

Pet responsibilities are divided amongst the three kids. While the littlest at five years old may not be able to fill the giant water bowl, she still does her share. The older two take turns cleaning up after the pets and giving them food and water.

Last night the kids were going to spend the night in the living room, watching movies with Daddy. As I walked up to my room for the night, I asked the middle child A to feed the dogs. I didn’t know this but she proceeded to pass the buck to the youngest who had fed the cats earlier. The boy fed the dogs this morning.

When the youngest L said she was too tired (she was almost asleep on the couch), my husband told M to feed the dogs.

And he did.

But he was very upset.

He even came up to my room where I was enjoying knitting by myself while a book on CD played in the background. “Mommy, before you say anything, please don’t tell me that I’m just tired!”

So I listened his story and didn’t say he was tired (even though he was). I said I’d take care of it. He cried very loudly and retreated to his room. I yelled down the stairs to A to feed the dogs.

She did. Immediately.

R came up the stairs as soon as he heard the dramatic crying and I whispered what had happened. R went to M’s room and admitted he was wrong. He tried to talk more but M was too upset.

My husband came back to see me with a tired look on his face. He shook his head. “How do you deal with this? I feel so bad!”

I had to share my newfound knowledge in a nutshell. The girls were calling him downstairs. M’s behavior was normal. Our guilt was normal. His temper flares will appear quickly but disappear just as fast. He’ll probably go back to his normal self in the morning. (He did. He needed rest. Ha! I knew it!)

“You’re a great dad,” I reassured him. “I only know all this because I’ve done a lot of reading! See?” I pointed to a couple of parenting books on our dresser.

He sighed. We both know we have a lot to learn, especially him when he retires from the Navy and becomes a full-time father.

As he left the room, I said, “Can you imagine? We get to do this two more times! And with GIRLS!”

Yep, I’m pretty sure he groaned.

Mommy Maestra

Back in 1999 life was great.

I was back in my hometown after spending six years in the Bay Area. I made new friends and was dating a sailor who was studying at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey.

I remember the first farmer's market we ever went to, R bought me a caramel apple. We had to have another one for old time's sake.

I was in my third year of teaching and so excited to be with six year olds again. Yes, I was teaching first grade again.

After thirteen years, I still remember the question that I was asked by parents the most that year: “So… do you have any kids of your own?”

I have to admit that I was mistakenly offended whenever someone asked this question because I got the impression that parents couldn’t believe that I could adequately teach their children if I wasn’t a parent already. Maybe some parents deep down believed (and still believe) that notion but I think that many were questioning my fabulosity youth.

While I don’t think you need to be a parent to be a good teacher and vice versa, I know that both roles complement each other… and I exploit them ruthlessly.

What I Learned Being a TEACHER:

1. The moment you engage in an argument with a child, you lose. Mommy won’t argue with you. Period.

2. Diffuse the situation with silence. Quiet is MUCH scarier than yelling.

3. Routines work. Bedtime and alarms are the same and vary only by an hour on weekends and on vacation.

4. Lists work. To-Do Lists put the responsibility on the kids.

5. Use bribes sparingly. “What? We’re gonna go to McDonalds? We haven’t been there in a long time! Let’s hurry up and clean our rooms!”

6. Find allies quickly. Team up with teacher/parent and agree on an objective whether it’s reading independently or remembering to study. Constantly reenforce objective until kid knows it like the back of his hand. Like when your older daughter refuses to put her sweater on during a Disney On Ice show. Simply turn to the woman next to you and whisper, “Would you mind telling my daughter to put her sweater on?” and a knowing gleam appears in her eye. Problem solved.

7. Let learning be its own reward. I don’t do raffle tickets or anything too complicated or I’ll get too lazy. I do simple but special things like table/group points for Lunch Bunch (bringing lunch back to the classroom and eating with moi). I have been known to do something special such as letting the kid choose the once-a-week (TRYING to keep it at once a week) foray to the drive-thru of choice for a great report card or note.

***GUILTY SIDE NOTE***
Last trimester my son got STRAIGHT A’s in third grade for the FIRST TIME EVER. We decided to go big and get him a huge Nerf foam dart machine gun. He was so happy and excited that as he was lugging it out to the car, he said, “This feels really good!”

I said, “What? Getting a huge present?”

“No,” he said. “Getting good grades does!”

YESSSSS! We’ll see if he gets those grades again and remembers what he said…

What I Learned Being a PARENT:

1. Every student is someone’s child. I don’t get too grossed out if a kid has a runny nose. I just get the kid a tissue. No biggie.

2. Every kid walking or biking or skateboarding on the street is going to be treated like it’s MY KID out there so honk if you must but I’m still not going to speed up. Jerk.

3. Every kid has a backstory. It may be something as simple as getting reprimanded for something minor or worrying about whether or not he packed his homework. It may be something life-altering like dad getting in a car accident. Whatever “it” is, it’s important to the kid so it’s important to you.

4. Kids can’t hear ANYTHING. “What? Clean my room? Huh? What did you say?”

5. Kids hear EVERYTHING. My daughter was upstairs in her room playing but she heard my husband and I talk about where we might go for lunch. Apparently the phrase “BEAN BURRITO” registers in her superhearing.

6. Kids don’t remember anything. My son forgot his homework for an entire two weeks in a row until…

7. Kids remember EVERYTHING. My son quotes his new fourth grade teacher verbatim and has a newfound responsibility that kinda freaks me out a little. Also, they never forget when I forget to pay them for cleaning up the dog doo in the backyard or the promise of going to the movies every season.

WHAT ALL PARENTS AND TEACHERS HAVE IN COMMON:

1. They check their egos at the door and let the kids be right at their own goofy expense.

2. They are compassionate, caring individuals who contribute to our society in the highest roles possible as parents and/or teachers.

3. THEY ROCK!