The Good Kid

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When asked about The Scientist’s childhood, his mother, to this day, turns pale. His father mutters under his breath. His brothers shake their heads. Only his friends have plenty to say: You know what he did if someone didn’t obey the rules in street hockey? Your husband would not only quit the game, he would also pick up the net and storm off with it. If he wasn’t going to play, no one was going to play. Oh, and speaking of hockey, he used to come to class wearing full hockey gear, skates and all. We all knew he would be kicked out of class for it, and so did he. Smart kid, he went behind the school and skated around on the rink. We all watched him jealously from the window. And don’t let him tell you he switched schools because he wanted to go to a less religious school. You know how much the administration at our school loved him. But did you know that when he “left” our school, his poor mom was the president of it?

His poor mom, urged to talk, manages two words: Family therapy.

His poor dad, meanwhile, comes to life with a story about an enormous fit The Scientist took one day on the way to shul. And on the way home. In the snow. Then his poor dad is muttering again.

And so, as you might imagine, when I got a note home from school last week informing me that LL “shows no respect for the teacher,” I looked accusingly at The Scientist. “What?” he asked. “I didn’t do anything!”

Harumph.

A day after the note, LL was being wild as he was getting into the car. I asked him to stop. He didn’t. I asked him to stop. He didn’t. I asked him to GET! HIS! BUTT! IN! HIS! SEAT! He did–stepping, to get there, on the cup holder and breaking it.

The next evening we had a babysitter. “How did it go?” I asked.

She hesitated.

“What did he do?” I didn’t even know which “who,” but I had a pretty strong suspicion it wasn’t Baby MoFo.

“He yelled a lot. And said the F word.”

“The big one?”

“And then the middle one after him.”

Fuck.

What to do with this kid? That was the day I decided it was time for military school.

Oh yes, it sounds cliché, I know, but really, what does one do with a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad boy?

Someone recommend Alyson Schafer’s Honey I Wrecked the Kids, but the subtitle scared me off. If I can’t “Yell . . ., Scream . . ., Threat[en], Bribe . . ., [use] Time-outs, Sticker Charts [or] Removing Privileges . . .,” what the heck is left?

So I yelled (“What’s wrong with you??? How could you speak that way??”). And screamed (“AAAAAAAAAAh”). I threatened to throw out the Wii (military school being too abstract). I tried bribing him that he could get a $100 Lego if he was good (January is the month for fantastic Lego sales). I sent to his room for Time-Outs. I made a sticker chart to reward him for making beds and putting away Lego. I told him he couldn’t have afterschool snacks.

And all that failed (eh, screw you, Alyson Schafter, parenting guru extraordinaire).

So I cut out all sugar (it so happened Mama was on a sugar-free cleanse that week . . . as well as caffeine-free, alcohol-free, gluten-free, animal product-free, chemical-free  . . . which might have added to the yelling a wee bit).

And when that wasn’t enough, I moved bedtime from 8pm to 7pm.

And I got rid of the Wii.

And guess what?

THE KIDS WERE FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

. . . .

until we brought back the Wii this weekend. And then they were less awesome.

So we took away the Wii again.

Did that do the trick?

Oh yes!

At 6:50 this morning, my darling little 6-year-old jumped out of bed. He got dressed. He brushed his teeth. He went downstairs. He poured himself a bowl of Cheerios with milk. He ate it. He took his bowl to the sink and wiped the table.

Bleary-eyed, I was getting Baby MoFo out of his crib when LL came back upstairs. He took MoFo from me and led him to the bathroom and helped him brush his teeth. Then he brought the baby downstairs, holding his hand step by step, and poured him a bowl of Cheerios with milk. When I came down, LL was playing the car game with Baby MoFo: “Open the garage door for Elmo’s car . . .”

Was this the same kid I threatened to send to military school last week??

At the end of the day today, I picked LL up from his bus. First he excitedly told me about his new spelling words (this is a kid who insisted on going to school half-sick on Friday, despite my recommendation that he stay home and hang out with me and watch TV, because he didn’t want to miss his weekly spelling test). Then he said, “Mama, the sandwich you made me for lunch was so yummy! Thank you, Mama!” Then he said, “Can I help you give the baby a bath?” The he said, “Mama, can I help you make dinner? You always make the best dinners.”

Then I got suspicious.

“Sweetheart, are you being nice just to be nice?”

“No, I want to earn Wii back. If I’m super super nice, can I earn one day of Wii back?”

Ah . . . of course. Well, I should probably just take advantage of the nice . . . What do you think Schafer would think of –not bribing exactly –just kind of stringing a kid along, you know, suggesting good things might happen if he’s exceedingly nice for an exceedingly long time . . . ?

A good, happy boy at his siddur ceremony

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