It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Emily does ‘naughty’. Kinda.

Emily, at four, doesn’t nap every day. She’s a child who needs a fair amount of sleep, so she often does, but not every day. After the others have been settled down for their naps, Emily has a “quiet time” on the couch. She’s to lie there for 20 minutes, quietly. If she doesn’t fall asleep within that time, she can get up. (She has to lie quietly, mind you. If she spends the entire time twitching and flopping and fidgeting, she gets another 20 minutes (and another, and another…) She’s a quick study, Emily. It didn’t take her long to realize it was best just to lie still.)

Yesterday was a no-nap day. That’s fine. Emily understands that nap time is Mary’s work time. If I’m working at house-keeping, she can keep me company, and we chat together, but when I sit at my computer, she is not to talk at me. She’s very good about that.

Pretty much a model child, is our Emily.

Emily generally opts to do crafts during this time. These are not adult-organized crafts. These are let-the-kid-loose-with-the-supplies, free-form crafts. She chooses the bits and pieces she wants to work with, I get her whatever she can’t reach, and she can spend an hour, easily, creating at the dining room table.

(I did say she was a model child, correct?)

After we had been busy at our respective tasks for a good half-hour, I popped upstairs, and when I returned a moment or three later, Emily was veeeeeeery surreptitiously returning something to my sewing box. Her head twisted toward me, her eyes wide, frozen in alarm. Very suspicious. The model child has been Up To No Good.

In her hand is a ball of glossy red ribbon. On the table are several snippets of ribbon. Emily’s stare grows ever more alarmed, her eyes wider by the second.

“Emily. Did you go into my sewing box?” My voice is slow, low, and very serious. Not angry, just serious. My sewing box is, of course, strictly forbidden territory. Normally is it kept far from the children; it was accessible right now only because the less-trustworthy, orally-fixated children were safely tucked away in bed.
“Yes.” Her voice is very, very small.
“You knew you shouldn’t do that.”
“Yeees.” Now there’s a quaver in the voice.
“And now you are trying to sneak that ribbon back in there, so I wouldn’t notice.”
“Yeeeeeees.” The enormous eyes begin to glimmer.
I pause a bit, letting the tension grow. (No, you don’t leap in to save them from the discomfort of the moment. You let them experience it. This is a learning opportunity.)

Now, if this were a different, more impervious child, there would now be a Consequence. Time on the Quiet Stair, or removal of craft time, or some such. Emily is waiting, tearful and fearful, for the consequence of her naughtiness. Only this child is REMORSEFUL. She’s not just sad because she’s about to get in trouble. If that were all it was, the consequence would still be necessary. Emily is also sad because she was “bad” (her word, not mine) and she knows it. She’s absolutely radiating chagrin, shame, remorse. (Way out of proportion to the offense, really — but I’m not telling her that! A conscience is a Good Thing.) But in this instance, with a child who understands the offense and is truly remorseful? I think we’ve done enough.

“I’m not going to punish you, Emily, because I can see you know it was the wrong thing to do.” She nods, somber. “It was wrong to take it without asking, and it was really wrong to be sneaky about it. I think you understand that.” More nodding, more enormous eyes. “You understand it was wrong, and” — here my voice warms considerably — “I’m sure you won’t take my things without asking again.”

“I won’t.”

“Okay, then. Now, you need to say ‘Sorry’ for stealing my ribbon and being sneaky about it.”

“I’m sorry I took the ribbon and was suh-suh-suh-snea-uh-ky.” She’s keeping it together, barely.

“Thank you. It’s okay. Come here, sweetie. I think you need a hug.”

And we do. And we’re done. And THAT is how a model child does “bad”. Heh.

June 4, 2010 Posted by | Emily, individuality, Mischief, socializing | , | 11 Comments