This is the Principal Calling . . .
What mom doesn't cringe when the school's phone number pops up on the caller ID. MomSpeaker Stacy Heenan Biscardi has been seeing her Kindergartener's school digits quite a bit over the past few weeks. Here's how she responded, in many guises, to a particularly vexing call.
When you're a mom, sometimes you're simply a secretary. And for the past month, my phone has been ringing off the hook. Teachers, school counselors, even the vice principal, and, low and behold, the principal. The phone rings and rings. Almost daily.
It starts with a simple dilemma:
"Ah, Mrs. Biscardi, I'm standing here with your son and he doesn't want to . . . (fill in the blank: "come in from recess, join the class, do the art project . . . ")
"Ok, let me speak to him."
"Um . . . He won't pick up the phone."
"PUT ME ON SPEAKER." Then I get right into the role of hostage negotiator because truthfully, my 5-year-old is holding these dedicated educators hostage with his civil disobedience.
When my words, suggestions, and threats over the phone are not convincing, I fly into crisis management mode. I transform into a race car driver next. I stomp on the gas pedal all the way to school, smoke pouring from my engine and my ears. All the while, I'm trying to keep my almost 3-year-old from snoozing in the backseat.
"My brudder is not being a good listena," he tells me. He's assessing the situation while sucking his thumb and fluffing his favorite tuft of hair.
As I rush to the school playground to end the hostage crisis, I see my 5-year-old in a silent standoff with the vice principal and the school counselor. Nobody is moving, speaking, smiling. They all turn towards me. I'm sweating bullets, schlepping my sleeping 3-year-old angel on my shoulder. (Obviously, I'm at a disadvantage.)
"Let's go NOW," I hiss at El Diablo from 20 feet away. He is the only kid left on the playground.
"Recess ended 30 minutes ago," the counselor says, defeated.
"LET'S GO!" I repeat.
"I'll turn my day around!" my son yells, desperately. He starts a slow zig-zag jog.
"It's too late. I'm walking to the car and you're coming RIGHT NOW." Now I'm the clinical psychologist, two months before defending her dissertation.
I nod to the teachers to walk with me, ignoring my son. We get about 100 yards away, watching him, watching us. I feel like a zookeeper.
All of a sudden, he darts in the opposite direction. At this juncture, I become an attorney, making split-second decisions about custody arrangements.
"Here, hold him!" I toss my sleeping toddler to the school counselor. Things are about to go down. I need all of my faculties and extremities free.
I am wearing my running sneakers, thank God, and I morph into an Ethiopian sprinter, chasing my Kindergartener down. When I am inches away, he pivots and heads back for the playground. He scales the jungle gym.
I become a superhero, scaling the jungle gym. He slides down the fireman's pole. I slide down the pole. He climbs the steps, two at a time. I climb the steps, four at a time. Finally, I close in on him.
Now, just call me prison warden, because there's no escaping, no negotiating, no funny business. We are walking. Walking, not dragging. Walking. Straight to the car. Walking.
We are attempting to look like a typical mother and son, just walking past the school counselor, who is sitting having a lovely conversation with my 3-year-old.
When we get to the car, my prisoner attempts one last desperate escape. I become a prison guard. I grab his wrist, causing his water bottle attached to his backpack to fling around, ricocheting off of his front teeth. Now he's bleeding.
"I'm bleeding! I'm bleeding! I need a bandage!" He's freaking out.
I become Nurse Ratched.
"Get in the car! Buckle your seat belt!" Surely, I'm about to get arrested. DHS is on its way.
Should I become a compassionate nurse? A comforting mom?
No way. Not in this moment.
Blood is trickling down his mouth. I can see it in my rear view mirror.
"GET YOUR SEAT BELT ON!!!!"
The school counselor approaches my car with my toddler. I explain to her that the water bottle hit him and not my fist and that is why he is bleeding and crying and altogether hysterical.
I'm not sure who I become on the car ride home. It's a louder, angrier version of myself.
Everyone is calm upon our arrival home. I'm the clear-headed judge. "You broke the rules, here are the consequences. You will service a sentence of 30 minutes in bedroom arrest, you will clean up your room and forfeit all electronic devices for the week. You make your own choices, good or bad, and you live with the consequences."
He serves his sentence with no further incident. He asks to eat dinner. It's only 3:30pm, but he will suffer the fate of an Early Bed Special tonight.
Next, I become a mediator, helping him to reflect on his poor behavior and right his wrongs with school staff. He writes three apology notes. I help him spell words.
He takes a shower and is back in his room for the night by 5:30. Tonight, he has no other options, privileges or hope for earning things back.
I can't believe my eyes when I see him sound asleep at 5:45pm. I'm wondering if it's really him or if it's a dummy that he fabricated before he slipped out the window (like escape from Alcatraz). I kiss his cheek and yes, it's him. And, I'm back to being the mom that I was on the morning that he was born five and a half years ago. I'm in awe of his beauty, his peace and even his innocence in this moment.
The calls are done, emails are quiet. I check the mirror and make sure the person looking back at me isn't some sort of dummy that he's created. Nope, not quite. Just me, with a few more gray hairs. I decide to eat an Early Bird Special too. I'm in bed by 9pm. because tomorrow is a new day, which will require new energy, new perspective and, most likely, some new superhero powers.
Stacy Heenan Biscardi is a freelance writer and attorney from Bryn Mawr, PA. She has written for The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News, Chic Mom Magazine and several other publications. She is a former writer/producer for NBC and CBS. Stacy lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and two young sons. This post was adapted from her blog, Wifty & Shifty.