Monday, December 20, 2010

Five Days with the Black Amish

Two "behavior" calls in less than a week from my son's school. Teacher: "He's going thru a stage." Me: "I'm about to put him thru a wall." -- My Twitter response to Jalen's shenanigans.

My six-year-old son Jalen has spent about four months at his new school. It took him a few weeks to adjust, but today he sprints from my car to his classroom when I drop him off in the morning. After Mrs. Bootleg brings him home, he'll call me at work, beaming about the perfect score on his spelling test. And, I'm reasonably certain that Jalen has one of those adorable in-name-only "grade school" girlfriends.

Back in November, Mrs. Bootleg and I attended the first parent/teacher conference of the school year and it
couldn't have went better. Jalen was excelling in the classroom and monopolizing our dinner table conversation with playground tales of tag and soccer; before emptying his shoes of all the sand he unsuspectingly smuggled out of the school's sand box.

On Thursday, December 9, my wife called me at work to let me know she had spoken with Jalen's teacher. It seems Jalen didn't want to do his schoolwork that day. More specifically, Jalen hadn't finished all of his morning work before recess and he wouldn't be allowed outside until he did. In response to this innocuous requirement, Jalen initiated a small-scale academic strike.

I don't mean to trivialize J's inappropriate behavior -- and I'm glad it was brought to our attention -- but, my reaction was mostly mild annoyance. I was sure the situation could be resolved with one of my glares and two days of grounding. So, for the rest of Thursday and all day Friday, Jalen lost his assortment of privileges -- from our father/son baseball website visits to TV and Nintendo Wii.

On Saturday, December 11, Jalen's punishment was lifted. Coincidentally, this was the same day that ESPN premiered its phenomenal documentary
Pony Excess. For those who don't know, it's the story of the 1980s Southern Methodist University football program and their egregious repeat violations of college recruiting standards. SMU was infamously struck down with the "death penalty" -- an NCAA-mandated abolishment of football -- for continuing to break the rules after being caught (and punished) once before.

Just after lunch, on Monday, December 13, Mrs. Bootleg called me at work. Again. She let me know that Jalen's teacher had called. Again. I was already half-past pissed-off since I assumed it was another schoolwork issue. This time, however, the problem was on the playground.

Jalen's team lost at soccer. That was it.

And, Jalen didn't take the loss well.

His overemotional "sore loser" routine has become its own household tradition within the walls of Stately Bootleg Manor. So, imagine my pride when I discovered Jalen had taken his rage on the road. He even kicked it up a notch, as he slammed a gate closed out of frustration. When Mrs. Bootleg first explained the incident, she made it seem like Jalen had slammed the gate closed
on another boy's face. Thankfully, that wasn't the case, but for a few moments, I thought we'd be sued, too.

This time, Jalen lost his privileges through Friday -- which meant me and Mrs. Bootleg "lost" them, too, while Jalen was awake.

Tuesday, December 14 -- Mrs. Bootleg and I exchanged text messages the day before, while contemplating Jalen's punishment. We agreed on a week-long sentence, but between the two of us, we inexplicably failed to give Jalen the message. I mentioned it off-handedly to Jalen just before school and his resultant Lifetime Movie of the Week meltdown could've come straight from the mouth of Meredith Baxter. ("I just want my life back!")

Wednesday, December 15 -- Jalen is taking the loss of television, video games and the internet in stride. In fact, if anything, the removal of all that electronic noise has heightened my son's use of applied knowledge. This evening's lesson was apparently taught by his mother as Jalen proudly showed off his latest school project: age charts for me and Mrs. Bootleg. My chart read "40 years old". Oh, grow up, Jalen. Real mature.

Thursday, December 16 -- The segregation from his privileges continued with the help of basketball practice. Trust me, y'all...I'll be covering "Basketball Jalen" in greater detail, but I have to commend the league for bringing together a group of boys whose style of play is a throwback to those 1989-1990 Detroit Pistons teams that
negatively influenced the NBA for almost a decade. That's not sarcasm. Seriously, I can't wait!

Friday, December 17 -- Mrs. Bootleg was so pleased with Jalen's improved behavior that she's entertaining the idea of stronger restrictions when our son's time-wasting activities are returned. (Jalen -- if you're reading this -- and you learn nothing else from me for the next few years, remember
these five words. Teach them to your mother. Just between us, I really want my post-work beer(s), couch divot and DVR back.)


Other Joe said...

I CAN'T WAIT to read about Basketball Jalen. Baseball Jalen is pretty amusing, so I'm hoping to get a full run down on his team soon. I'm guessing he's got Air Jordans for basketball shoes, Cam? Tell me you didn't saddle him with Starbury's.

I would've gone with BP's CEO for the "I just want my life back" quote. Quite possibly the ballsiest thing I heard anyone say all year.

SHough610 said...

1) " Jalen proudly showed off his latest school project: age charts for me and Mrs. Bootleg. My chart read "40 years old". Oh, grow up, Jalen. Real mature". "you're not too old for me to take over my creaky knee... Oh, wait, yes you are."
2) Why can't you enjoy things while Jalen's grounded? Whenever my parents punished me they didn't restrict themselves, just made sure that I wasn't getting my privileges. Hell, I came to prefer the infrequent spankings or getting a mouthful of liquid soap (for swearing). At least then I didn't miss tv's stars coming out to shine in primetime.

Aaron C. said...

@O. Joe -- Jalen is literally body-checking opponents into the boards while playing "basketball" defense. At the kids' first practice, a fight nearly broke out. They're six and seven year olds! Lovin' it.

@Sam -- The problem is, if we take away TV, Jalen will find a way to be in the room with you when it's on. If I'm watching, say, MLB Network's "Prime 9" series, J will enter the room and say, "Daddy, I need to ask you something..." He will then stare at the baseball goodness on the screen before realizing he forgot to make up some B.S. question to ask me. Rinse. Repeat.

Lorraine said...

Lord almighty, this "phase" must be contagious as Austin just received parole from his week long grounding (no TV, no Legos!). His offense was screwing off in church. You would have loved my parental rant, Aaron. It went something like this: "Really, Austin, really! In the Lord's house. You DO NOT disrespect God ever, my less in his own house. My punishment is momentary. The Lord's justice is forever..." And on and on.

Can't wait for Basketball Jalen and Football Austin to hang out again. Due to my husband's work schedule, Austin got to be my date at the Chargers/KC game. The best quote from the day (after Philip Rivers did a reverse play) "Oh yeah, mommy, I do that all time."

Hopefully when our boys are in the pros (who cares the sport), they'll remember to take care of mom and dad!

Lew B said...

Makes me almost want to have a kid, just so I can mess around and try different "cause & affect" (or is it effect?) type of things

thai said...

my first thought upon reading "initiated a small-scale academic strike" was "operation shutdown"? sorry.