I got every parent’s favourite call yesterday – the one from the principal where you get asked to come by the office for a little chat about your kid – that call.
As it turns out, my middle son and his friend were caught on security camera egging the school this past weekend. The principal wasn’t making it more than it was, but neither was she just going to let it slide, which I thought was a fair approach to take.
When I arrived at her office, my kid was sitting in a chair looking more worried than I’ve ever seen him. He listened quietly as the principal explained that vandalizing the school usually warranted a suspension. He just nodded when she suggested that his previous good behaviour meant that she’d prefer to give an in-school suspension that wouldn’t go on his record. He was completely subdued.
On the way home I explained that because he hadn’t been able to make wise decisions playing on his own with friends, he wouldn’t be able to go places without a parent for a while – not until he could show himself able to handle the responsibility. I also told him that he would need to write an apology to the custodian who had to clean up the mess.
He was quiet until we got to the front steps, then he said, “Dad? Are you mad at me?”
“No,” I told him. “I’m not mad. I am disappointed in your actions. I think you made a poor decision. But I still like you just the same. I still love you just as much. You’re still my son. Nothing you do will ever change that.”
He perked up a little. “So, can I go places by myself then?”
“No,” I said. “You still need to take responsibility for what you did. Just because I love you, doesn’t mean your actions don’t have consequences. In fact, it’s because I love you so much that I give you consequences, so you can learn to do the right thing.”
“Oh,” he said. He sat on the steps and looked thoughtful.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?” I asked.
“I guess,” he said. “But sometimes it would be easier if you loved me just a bit less.”