In celebration of a good first day at the new preschool, my kids and I went to a local fast food restaurant as a treat for dinner this evening.
In the indoor germ pit, I mean playground, a little girl of about four was put into time out by a young man in his early twenties that I thought at first was her father. He told her to stop spitting. This was reasonable. After a minute or so, however, he began to loudly and publicly berate her for the spitting, telling her he would make her spit into a cup 100 times if she ever did it again (for the record this is stupid and very bad idea) and how that spitting into a cup was going to take at least two days to complete. It went on and on. “I don’t know if your parents let you spit at home but you will not do it in my household!” It was then that it dawned on me…he was either fostering or more likely, he was part of the local children’s home that has kids divided into “family units.”
I wanted to take him aside and tell him that punishment does not have to mean breaking a child’s spirit. Whatever was going on in her life, she was not with this man by choice. Her expression was flat as he went on and on, like so many kids in her position who have learned that no expression is best at keeping the attention off of them. If I could have wrapped her up in a huge hug and held her tight without the authorities being called, I would have. Instead, I whispered to her that she was beautiful and she snuck me a smile.
Feeling self righteous and indignant, I took my own kids home.
While we were playing on the porch in the rain after getting the kids unloaded, my back was turned as I was picking a flower for my daughter. Thud. I turned around and there was my son standing over the remains of my favorite big blue pot.
Anger rose up in me and yelling I sent him to time out. I seethed, thinking of some creative punishment that I could use on him.
Sometimes, time out is more for mommy than it is for the errant child. A minute ticked by. Then two. I calmed down enough to realize that he had no idea that the pot would break. He had never done something like this before. In his world, everything is plastic and rubber and bounces if you throw it.
I was embarrassed over how easy it had been to get over the top with my own son. I hate reminders that I am not perfect, but here it was again…I am human just like everyone else in this world. Damn it all to pieces. Fortunately “I’m sorry,” can go both ways.