I just had a feeling about that kid from the moment she came in the house last Saturday. Just a little bit bratty. And have you ever observed that when your child is hanging out with a less civilized playmate, her behavior begins to match her friend's? Yeah. At a couple different points in the evening, I pulled Laura aside for little one-on-one reality checks about her 'tude. Nothing major.
At a reasonable hour, the girls said they were going to stay in their room for the night. When Laura has a friend over, they sleep in Hank's room because he has more space, and he bunks with us. Laura has her twin bed she's always had, but somehow Hank is living large with a queen-sized bed and a sofa in his room. He could host the hospitality suite for a mid-sized trade convention. So I supposed the girls were tucked away for the night, and I went to bed.
Matt keeps late hours, and as he sat in the office, he heard strange noises overhead. With the psychic powers that come with parenthood, he thought, "I bet those kids are climbing out the window." He went upstairs to investigate and THAT'S EXACTLY what they were doing. They'd pushed the screen out of one of Hank's windows--doing none too delicate a job of it, as one of the little tabs broke off--and were climbing out onto the little sloping roof underneath.
Now, as harrowing as it sounds, this would actually be the best escape route from the upstairs in the event of a fire. Our house is on a hill, and Hank's room is on the uphill side. If I had to get out of the upstairs in an emergency, I'd climb out of his window, shimmy my legs down over the edge and drop down onto the grass.
So, not a probably fatal thing to be doing, but do we want Laura and her friend to be going out there in the dark? NOPE. Matt scolded them and told them it was dangerous and under no circumstances were they to do it again. Then, as he told me later, he was going to let it go, because it was definite mischief and bad kid judgment, but you know, once they thought of it, it probably seemed very tempting. And kids don't have good judgment because of something to do with the amygdala, it's why they need us. He thought, "I never actually told the kids not to climb out the window before." So he made himself clear and it was done. Anyway.
Fast forward to the next morning. Matt was still asleep and I knew nothing of any nocturnal defenestrations. It was daylight, so the foster children had come over and were jumping on the trampoline with Hank. I was engaging in some much needed coffee-sipping and Country Living perusal. The little kids came running in, bubbling over with words. They acted like they had the scoop of the century. "Laura's on the roof!" I was like, "wha?" They said, "Laura's on the roof by Hank's room!"
I went upstairs promptly and sure enough, the window was open, the screen was out, and Laura looked like the most busted child to ever know she was busted. Like any good Southern mother, I hollered at them to get their butts inside right that minute. Then I was kind of low-key about it, probably for all the reasons Matt had been. I told them it was a very bad idea and showed poor judgment. Then I told them to fix the screen and I left the room. I couldn't quite figure out why Laura looked like someone standing in a tumbril, being driven to the guillotine.
Still, I decided that she and her playmate had had enough time together, so I did something I've never done. I texted the other mom and told her that her daughter was ready for a pick-up. I told her that Laura was in trouble for climbing out the window and that all the fun had to cease. She replied, "Gotcha."
Then Matt got up and the full scope of her error became clear. We were both in disbelief that, having been told not to climb out the window, she CLIMBED OUT THE DAMN WINDOW. We took turns. I reached back into my parents' parenting playbook and gave her the speech about how in the not-too-distant future, she would want to go places and have freedoms, but to do those things she would have to show she could be trusted with small things. Etcetera. She was contrite. She also did some blame shifting onto her friend. We weren't having any of that.
And yet. And yet, I do think this particular friend might be someone with whom she has a hard time making good decisions. You know what I mean? I don't want to be one of those mothers who says, "Oh my angel child could never conceive of such mischief," but the defying Matt and going out the window again? That's not like her at all. I think that this friend, because of her home circumstances, gets to be her own boss a lot. Her mother seems beleaguered. She is a really nice lady, and when I went to pick Laura up from the one previous playdate they had together, I was surprised to see that their house--in Fancy Land, no less--was almost hoarder-level cluttered. Just a different kind of clutter from what we have over here at the end of the day. The one detail that stuck out to me was that she was shelving books between the spindles of her staircase, as it went up from the living room. Pathways blocked and things used for other than their intended purposes are both clutter warning signs, according to the doctorate in psychology I earned watching that show on A&E. Anyway, so the mom, bless her, obviously has her hands full. I digress.
So Matt told Laura she was grounded. No screen time, no friends, no pleasure, just hair shirts and ashes and homework and swimming. We've done one week of that and I think he's imagining another week to really get her attention.
Do you believe what delinquents both of my kids are this week? And people tell me I should write a book about parenting. Oh ho!
But you know, we have had a lovely week. She comes home and with no distractions, we talk at length about her day, we spend a long time with her work, we just have more time together. Yesterday she read to me for a long time as I cooked supper. She is really the sweetest girl in the world. I am hoping this experience will teach her to exit the house only by approved methods of egress.