Because you asked so nicely, and because each of you were willing to tear Vida's walloper limb from limb, I will now go into more detail about The Punching Incident. So, let's see:
As I mentioned previously, I rounded a corner and saw Vida crying. Her friends quickly filled me in on what happened. "Where is he?" I said. They told me he'd walked into his classroom and that was, indeed, where I found him. He was sitting with his teacher—a woman I've never spoken to before—who was giving him some after-school tutoring.
This is when I was at my worst, really. When I'm exceptionally angry with someone who isn't a member of my immediate family, I speak slowly because it helps to disguise the fact that my voice is shaky. I apologized for interrupting and then I said, "C, did you just punch my daughter?" Blank stare, angelic face. He's a gorgeous kid, actually. I took a step towards him and tilted my head. "Did you just punch my daughter?"
"No. No. I was in here and she's out there." I looked at him with a you-lying-little-punk-I-am-so-going-to-kick-your-ass expression on my face. He then went through several more lies: he didn't do anything, he didn't THINK he'd done anything, he didn't MEAN to do anything, he wasn't TRYING to do anything, he was just running by and bumped her, etc. etc. It was clear that his teacher wasn't buying any of it, but she was also completely useless, as she didn't see it happen and we don't know each other. I'm sure that from her point of view I was just a weird, aggressive, vaguely menacing parent. She said something about telling C's mother, at which point I apologized again for the interruption and left in search of our principal.
My girls were waiting outside. "Let's go guys," I said.
"Where are we going?"
"I want to talk to the principal."
"Oh, no, Mom! No!" said Vida. "This is soooooooo embarrassing."
"I don't care if you're embarrassed, Vi."
Eventually we found the principal, and she sat Vida on her knee and talked quietly with her for about 20 minutes while Vida alternately cried and nodded yes or no. I really couldn't have asked for more. That night, though, the principal sent me an e-mail saying that unfortunately C had a different story than Vida, so she couldn't suspend him. I almost bit my tongue off. Instead of typing a missive in which I pointed out that Vida has no history of lying or junior-style assault, and the kid in question DOES, I wrote some bullshit about how I'm sure she had both Vida's and C's best interests in mind, and that that was as it should be blah de blah de freaking blah.
Then I stewed. In the end, C's consequence turned out to be having to spend one day's 20-minute recess and 1-hour lunch in the school office.
On Friday, in an unprompted bid for forgiveness, C apologized to Vida after school. Then he walked about twenty yards over to me and said, "I'm sorry."
I said, "What are you sorry for?"
"For hurting Vida's feelings."
"Oh really. And what else?"
"For hitting Vida."
At this point I should have called the principal over to witness the confession, but I didn't. Instead, I just stared at him for a few seconds. And I didn't see some horrible, lying, punching, future criminal. I just saw a kid who, despite a colorful history of making shitty decisions, is no better or worse than my kids. I said, "Don't do it again. Don't do it to ANYBODY."
"Okay. Thanks for coming over here, C. I appreciate that."
And then he ran off and Vida beat him in three straight games of tetherball.
I was telling this story to my cousin-in-law yesterday, and he couldn't get past what he felt was my too-tame reaction. He works with at-risk kids in the San Francisco public schools, and as we talked, I started to think maybe he was right. But then I realized: he doesn't have his own kids yet. The longer I'm a parent, the less black/white there seems to be in the world; it's mostly gray. C is a kid with some problems, but he isn't someone whose heart is all twisted up in his chest (yet). So I guess in the end, I treated him with...I don't know...compassionate disapproval? Basically, I did what I hope his mother would have done if our roles had been reversed.
And now I'm all confused again. But I'm thinking this post was rather well-suited to the MLK holiday.
Speaking of the MLK holiday, we tried to follow our President-elect's directions today by performing a little trash picking-up "service" at the girls' school. It was just the four of us, but we did our best, even clawing around under the lunch tables to grab errant ketchup packets, nasty alcohol cans (teenagers tend to party on the campus over the weekend; their drink of choice is something called "Joose"), straw wrappers, and whatnot.
Is there any point in trying to remain cool about tomorrow's inauguration? No there is not! I dance my way everywhere, I say "sure!" to random milkshake requests, I burst into happy tears at the smallest provocation. Giddy. That's what I am.