With both my kids, I just try and constantly teach them and give them information they will need in life. You send them out into the world and hope that they remember those lessons when you're not there. I'm happy to report that most of the time my kids respect those lessons. Sometimes they falter, but Chloe proved this week that even though she makes mistakes she redeems herself and those lessons come right back into play.
On Thursday, the day before school let out for summer break, I picked up Chloe as I normally do. We walked back to the car and before we even got there she confessed she did something at school she felt really bad about. She quickly informed me that some girls had been in the bathroom, wetting toilet paper and throwing it up to the ceiling. She told me she tried it once too, even though she knows she shouldn't have. She hadn't gotten caught doing it, that's not why she was telling me. She told me because she was ridden with guilt over it. I told her we would talk about it more at home. We talked for almost an hour. She said as soon as she did it she felt terrible. She said she asked one of the girls who also did it if she felt terrible too. Apparently the girl told the teacher what she herself had done but the next day when I asked she was didn't know anything about it. When I informed her we were going to talk to the principal, she asked, "Oh, Chloe knows who did it?" I whispered, "No, Chloe is the one who did it." Of course there were several other girls who participated, but we weren't going to rat them out!
I had told Chloe that I was very proud of her for telling the truth but what she had done was called vandalism. I even looked it up for her and showed her the definition. Then I read her the California Penal Code, Section 594. It talks about the fines and jail times associated with vandalism. She was pretty convinced she was going to jail. I assured her it wouldn't be jail, just juvenile hall. She was sobbing pretty hard. Harsh right? But I really wanted her to know the real world punishment for her actions. I also thought it was really important for her to know that someone, probably the school janitor had to clean it up and she just made his job harder. I was concerned that she did something even though she knew it was wrong and gave her plenty of examples of how this could happen when she's older. I presented situations of girls smoking in the bathroom, or drinking and driving. In those situations one mistake can equal a lifetime of pain. We decided the best thing to do would be to write a letter to her principal. I sent her to her room to write it and this is the letter she returned with:
Dear Mrs. ___________,She drew a picture of herself on a ladder in the bathroom cleaning the ceiling with a speech bubble that says, "It's what I deserve."
Today when I was in the bathroom I saw people getting toilet paper and putting water on it and throwing it at the ceiling. I did it once and I felt guilty and bad. I started crying when I got home and I told my mom. Then I knew I was breaking the law. I felt even worse. If you want me to do anything I will do it. I will clean the ceiling and pay ANYTHING. I feel like I am a horrible person. I am very, very sorry. I learned from my mistake and I promise it will never, EVER happen again in 10,000,000,000 years. I truly am sorry.
We delivered the letter the next day right after school, which happened to be the last day of school. As the principal read the letter she seemed to groan with sadness, I thought she was going to cry, because both Chloe and I had tears in our eyes. The principal simply gave Chloe a giant hug and thanked her for her honesty. She made her promise she would go home and be a good girl for her mom. She then went on to tell me what a great mom I was (something I never get tired of hearing). She said most parents would have never done that, they would just brush it off, or reward them by taking them to Disneyland. Her words.
Even though I hate punishing her for it, she is grounded from the computer (her favorite thing) for two weeks. I continue to praise her for coming to me and for her honesty. I hope she continues to confide in me and trust me. I have a very special relationship with both kids and I never take that for granted.