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.)