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08/07/2009

I'm too scared to ask what plan C is

This morning before preschool — much to my relief, a recent grant received by his day care facility means I can call it that instead of Stalag 4½ — Charlie asked for paper and pencil.  He wanted some drawing time, he said.

Armed with newsprint, graphite, and a rare creative zeal, he sat at his little table in the kitchen and worked for a good five minutes.  Then he asked me to write Henry, the name of his best friend, so he could copy it.

I did and he did, laboring over the construction of each letter.  While he can produce creditable facsimiles of each letter, he's not yet familiar with the conventional sequence of strokes; I spend a lot of time drawing tiny arrows, making little red dots marking the start of a segment, and painstakingly making dashed letters for him to trace.  (I know, there are fonts for that.  There are fonts for just about anything.)  But his H∃Nʁ√ looked pretty good, and I was proud.  "Is that drawing for Henry?" I asked.  Because I'm swift like that.

"Yes," he told me.  "I drew my plan."

"Great," I said, beaming fondly.  "What's your plan?"

"Well!" he said, in a tone of thought-you'd-never-ask.  "We are going to dig a hole..."

I gave him an encouraging maternal nod, imagining a small-scale organic gardening collective, or, wait, maybe the footings for a windmill to provide clean electrical power, which they will then provide at no cost to old people.  No, I know!  A well.  A well bubbling up with plenty of pure, sweet water, thoughtfully dug in the service of those who live without clean water.

Or maybe they want to give some poor decomposing creature a decent Christian burial, which isn't quite as awesome, but that would sti—

"...And then when D. [one of his teachers] comes by..."

[Slower, less encouraging maternal nod, smile faltering.]

"...She will fall!  In the hole!  And Henry and I will run awaaaaaaayyyy!"

Ahem.

Clearly it was time for a capital-T talk about kindness.  Tough to do when my sinuses felt like they were going to explode from suppressed laughter, but I managed; disappointment and distress were the moods I worked to convey as I sat on a tiny chair beside him, knees up around my chin, speaking gravely about the importance of other people's feelings, and my hope that he'll always consider how his behavior might affect others, and how kindness uplifts not only the recipient but the giver, and what faith I have in him to make good decisions about how he treats others, and, oh, I forget what all.  Probably something about how I'll chain him to the goddamn radiator if he ever digs a hole and lures a teacher into it — patiently, and with understanding, but for weeks.

"I didn't do anything," he insisted.  "It was just a plan."

"But it's a mean idea," I said.  "Maybe when you have a mean idea about someone, you should try to think instead of something you like about that person."  (For your edification, I will illustrate.  Sarah Palin sure has...uh, she certainly is...my, she's trim, isn't she?  Why, with her neat little figure, you'd hardly know she feasts on all those endangered bald eagles.  Stuffed with spotted owls.  Processed into Lunchables.)

"I don't like anything about D.," he said darkly, and reluctantly handed over his plan, which I pretended to destroy but actually surreptitiously saved.  One day it will be a nice companion piece alongside his inevitable manifesto, and the media will be darned glad to get it.  You betcha.

The whole thing made me laugh, but it also made me somewhat uneasy.  It's a big damn deal, this responsibility to civilize these horrible little savages we call children.  Our obligation to serve as good examples of kindness, moderation, empathy, charity, mercy, and not-luring-unsuspecting-others-into-pits-of-earthen-doom.  Speaking of obligation, I considered whether I should warn D. that she's a marked man, but since Charlie's carefully drawn plan seemed to depict neither knots of vipers nor ravening tigers nor any of those wicked-ass sharpened bamboo stakes, and since the only shovel Charlie has access to is a tiny garden trowel more suitable for burying crocus bulbs than unwitting humans, I figured she's probably safe.

Probably.  This afternoon I asked Charlie how his day had been, and he was a little bit stormy.  "We didn't do my plan," he said grouchily.  "Henry didn't want to."

And of course I was relieved.  If I couldn't count on the better judgment of my son, at least I could fall back on the more highly developed morals of someone else's.  Thank you, better parents!  It takes a village indeed.  I said, "It wasn't a good plan anyway."

"No," he said, and paused. 

And sighed. 

"...So instead we'll get a box..."

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