When I picked Spense up from preschool I saw a huge rip in his pants. I immediately asked, “What happened to your pants?” I expected maybe he fell or maybe he’d pulled at the little hole that was already there.
His answer surprised me, “Matthew ripped them,” he told me.
“By accident or on purpose?” I asked.
“On purpose,” my son answered, wide eyed and filled with vigor. I’m still not 100% clear that he understands the difference, but in this case I believed him and became furious at the devil child known as Matthew.
“What happened?” I asked, suppressing my rage.
“Well…” he started, gesturing widely. My son has inherited my love of telling a story, “so I was sitting on the rug on a shape after movement and Matthew came over and just ripped my pants.”
“Did you tell him to stop?” I demanded.
“Yes, I said stop Matthew, but he didn’t stop. He laughed and said no.”
My poor baby. My poor bullied baby. “Where were the teachers?” I asked.
“They were in the kitchen,” Spense said.
I conjured an image of my child being terrorized while all the teachers stood in the kitchen chatting and sipping coffee. This was not the preschool I knew and loved. They were never all out of the room. What the hell!!??
The rest of the day I made Spense repeat the story many times, trying to check it for changes and additions. If a story changes too much, it might not be accurate – but this story stuck. I concluded that Matthew had ripped my child’s pants… violated him and I needed this crime to be punished. How was I supposed to ever put nice clothes on my child again knowing the Ripper was loose in pre school?
I couldn’t sleep. I was angry. I was helpless. It’s times like these that make me want to keep him home, never leave his side or move to a farm and have a crazy Little House on The Prairie life.
I arrived at school the next day and saw Matthew’s mother – one of the sweetest, most adorable women ever… I felt sorry for her because I was about to destroy her image of her son. I was about to tell her about his true destructive and pathological character. But I would wait for the teacher. She’d be able to do it with grace, where as I would probably start threatening and cursing. It’s crazy how the protective side of me comes out. Sometimes, I don’t even know myself. I pray I don’t become one of those soccer parents who beats up other parents. Or the murderous Cheerleader mom. I walked into the class and showed the teacher the ripped pants. I explained what had happened the day before, even mentioning the part where Spense said all of the teachers were in the kitchen. “I don’t quite know how to handle this,” I told the teacher, picturing myself giving Matthew an evil stare. “Should I tell Matthew’s mom…”
“I know what to do,” the teacher said calmly. Her eyes scanned the room until she saw Matthew playing with blocks. She beckoned as she called, “Matthew, can I talk to you for a moment?”
Matthew got up from his blocks and headed towards us. I stared at his phony smile and hoped he was squirming as he saw the pants in my hands. This child was the reason I was up all night and now deliriously exhausted. He thought he was going to get away with it. I just wanted to see his expression when he got caught.
Then the teacher called Spense over.
“Matthew,” the teacher began, “Spense says you ripped his pants yesterday. Can you tell me what happened?
Matthew shook his head, “No, I didn’t.”
“He said it happened after movement,” the teacher explained.
Matthew shrugged, “I didn’t do it. I wasn’t even sitting near him.” Big. Fat. LIAR!
“Thank you, Matthew,” she said, excusing Matthew.
Why?? Why was she letting him go? He was lying!
The teacher turned to my son and said, “Matthew says he didn’t rip your pants. Is there something else that could have happened to them?”
I expected S to protest, but instead he looked around the room and then pointed, “It was Ricky. Ricky ripped my pants.”
Oh my God! No. Jesus. My child was the liar. So quickly did he story change! What was happening? My stomach sank.
“OK,” the teacher nodded, “Ricky, could you come her for a moment?” Ricky came over and she asked him if he had ripped Spenser’s pants. Ricky said no, of course.
I watched Spense’s face; his inexperienced lying was fascinating; there was no fear of being caught – only the belief in the moment. He believed in what he was saying.
“You know, Spense, everyone makes mistakes, even adults. And sometimes we all do things that we wish we hadn’t. Has that ever happened to you?”
“Would you like to tell mommy about it?” the Teacher asked.
My 4 year old looked down at my feet as I felt tears well up in my eyes. “Ma, I ripped my pants and I wished I hadn’t done it.”
“That’s OK,” I said, trying to hold it together. “But I wish you would have told me the truth.”
“The truth?” he questioned.
I forget how the simplest concepts are new and foreign to the youngsters. He doesn’t know what lies are yet. Not really. When he said Matthew did it, he probably thought he could rewrite his history. And how had the teacher known what was going on? Why was I so shocked?
“Why didn’t you tell me that you ripped your pants?” I asked.
“Because I thought you’d be angry,” he said.
It was time for the I will never be angry if you tell me the truth talk. That was the rule in my house, growing up. And it worked. It was important. And I’m sure I will have to say it many more times.
These were the cute pants before the ripping incident: