All of my years of volunteering and parenting, all of my years deep breathing in the hall closet while my kids watched Sesame Street, had prepared me for this one moment in time.
The following phone call was left out of my child’s CUM file.
(That’s short for ‘cumulative records’, the master file that follows your child’s school career from kindergarten through graduation and holds their rap sheet.)
But it explains everything.
“Hello?” I said, putting down laundry and happy for the distraction.
“Hello Mrs X, this is Mr A, the school principal.”
“Oh! Hi! Are you calling about the project we’re working on?” Big smile.
“Um, no, not this time. I need to discuss your youngest son with you, if you have a minute.”
“Of course.” I sat down.
“It seems that there’s some trouble. I took a phone call from a parent today who is very upset.”
“She said that her son came home from school today and told her that while he and your son were playing in the sand box during lunch, your son told him he had a knife in his pocket.”
“What?” I said, “My son doesn’t even own one.”
“Well,” continued the principal, “I called your son into the office and asked him about it. He admitted right away that he had told the other boy that, and then reached into his pocket and handed me…nail clippers. He said he was only pretending while they played.”
“Oh. That sounds right.”
“I explained to the mother that your child did not have a pocket-knife, he had little nail clippers. She pointed out that claiming to have a switchblade on campus is unacceptable.”
“If my son had said he was packing a light-saber, would that have been an issue?”
He quickly finished his speech, “The consequences for bringing a weapon to school are a parent/principal conference and an automatic three day suspension.”
“Excuse me?” I said. Perhaps with a little edge to it.
“Mrs X, I was very clear in my discussion with this concerned parent, but she insists that your son be punished for claiming to have a dangerous and threatening item at school.”
Then there was a very pregnant pause.
This was my cue.
Reading between the lines, I saw him caught between a rock and a hard spot.
Now, this most excellent principal knows my entire family and he has my respect in return. He knows, before even talking to my son, that the kid wouldn’t have a clue about bringing a knife to school, and that he couldn’t harm a fly if he had to.
I know that he knows that suspending my kid is ludicrous.
I also know that he knows what that crazy hyper-involved hyper-ventilating helicopter mom will do if I decide to challenge this situation with the righteous wrath of a…crazy hyper-involved hyper-ventilating helicopter mom.
Had she checked her own son’s pockets for imaginary weapons?
Our most excellent principal could see this going south in a very bad way if I were to get all eye-twitchy over it.
“Well,” I finally said, “Mr A, just go ahead and make her happy. Maybe it’s silly what my kid did, but it won’t hurt him to know that even little fibs are a bad idea.”
His relief was palpable over the phone line.
“Oh, Mrs X,” he said, “I have to fill out a suspension form, but I’m going to write very clearly that your son was innocent and exactly why.”
“He can skip school for the next three days, he’ll enjoy the holiday.”
“It has to stay in his permanent school records, I’m afraid.”
“Well, Mr A, then so be it. The kid goes where no sibling has ever gone before him, and that’s a fact. I don’t think his checkered past will affect his chances of becoming a neurosurgeon.”
“Thank you Mrs X.”
“Have a good week. See you on Monday.”