SOAP BOMBS AND SHE-DEVILS
Walking to the truck from school yesterday afternoon, hand in hand with the monsters, gabbing about their day.
I mentioned casually that I'd overheard the announcement by the principal that there was an "incident" in the girls' bathroom with soap and toilet paper that was causing some concern, and had either of them heard anything about it.
Chago was being his typical oblivious self, skipping across the crosswalk, waving at friends, just happy to be him and released from the schooljail.
Saia, on the other hand, piped up immediately, which isn't all that surprising, really, as she tends to be our little Meddling Mary -- keenly observant, insists her Mommy -- but "nosy" is pretty much the gist of it.
So, yes, she explains excitedly that one day last week she'd gone into the bathroom and saw two little girls, let's call them A and B, where A = spawnofthedevil, and B is a relative unknown, throwing "soap bombs" at the walls and mirrors.
"Soap bombs?" I ask. "What are those?" And so it begins.
THE TRUTH COMES OUT...EVENTUALLY
"Well," she says, "it's when you take a whole bunch of toilet paper and put it under the water for a little bit and then add a lot of soap."
"And then you throw it," she finished, suddenly realizing she's probably said too much.
"I see. And you know this because..."
"Well," she wades in timidly, "because A showed me how to do it."
"And you threw one?" which was really more of a statement than a question.
"Well," she dips a toe, "yes, but then I cleaned it right up."
"So, let me just get this straight," I recap. "You walked into the bathroom. You saw what A & B were doing. You thought it looked fun. You threw one yourself. But then...you cleaned it up right there in front of them and then returned to class and told no one?"
She nodded. No words. Always a sign that we haven't quite gotten to the whole truth yet.
"You didn't actually clean it up, did you, babe?"
She shakes her head slowly and drops her eyes.
"Should we start over?"
The short of it is that after she threw the soap bomb, she felt bad and just left. Left the mess. Left the girls. And left the scene of the crime. The big problem came when A apparently continued to influence and recruit other curious girls on campus for about a week and a half. The single custodian was up to his ears in soap bombs, and the principal was about to blow a gasket unless someone came forward with information.
"So, you know you need to come clean, right, baby?" I tell her, in a surprisingly calm voice. "And you'll need to make this right."
"What do you mean?" she said with wide eyes and raised eyebrows.
"What do you think I mean, mama?"
"That I have to tell," she said, and the tears began to well up.
"And I have to apologize to Mr. R," she continued.
"And I have to be punished," and her entire face went red, and the tears began to flow.
"Well," I stopped her, "let's not focus on the punishment right now, ok? Let's focus on the fact that you told me the truth. The whole truth. Even though you were afraid. Even though you knew it was wrong and that you would get into big trouble for it. There is something inside of you, that part of you that tells you you are a good girl, even when you make mistakes, that part of you that understands the difference between right and wrong, even though you may blur the lines sometimes, that part of you that knew you had to tell the whole truth, and your part in that truth, eventually. And that, my love, is not an easy thing to do. For anyone. At any age."
"I feel really bad about it, Mama," she mumbled through her tears.
"I know, Saia. I can see that. Which is all the more reason for you to take care of this. Not just because Mrs. G needs the information so that she can put a stop to this before someone gets into real trouble or, worse, gets hurt, and Mr. R deserves an apology, but for you, baby. You need to tell the truth for you. If you keep it, it'll eat you up inside."
"Have you ever had to tell something that you did, Mama?"
"Oh, baby, I wish so much that I could tell you no, but yes, my love. We all make bad choices, make unintended mistakes, have impaired judgment from time to time. Nobody's perfect, baby. Nobody does the right thing every second of every day. But it's how you handle those situations, how you make amends, how you learn from those things, that's what's most important, and that's what'll make you the best you that you can be."
"But, Mama, I don't wanna tell Mrs. G about this," she says. "It hurts my stomach."
"I know, sweetheart, but that feeling...those knots, that lump in your throat..."
She nods. "That tells you that it's absolutely the right thing to do."
THE RESOLUTION AND THE RIGHTING
So, we talked about what her other options could have been to handle that situation. What she could've done or said in the moment. What she would do the next time. That she should've told a teacher or a parent right away. How that's different from tattling and why. The differences between being a leader and a follower. And that prolonging the telling of a lie or a half-truth or an omission only compounds it and lessens the value of the truth telling.
And then I told her she had to talk to her Mommy before we could talk to Mrs. G, which she did. And her Mommy echoed and supported everything we'd already talked about. Praised her for being strong and telling the truth, relayed a few of her own stories, and encouraged her to be brave and set a good example when she apologized and rectified the situation.
So, this morning, she did. And it was just painful and heartbreaking to watch. She was sick to her stomach, all tied up in nerves and tears and gasps. She's only 7, for crissakes. And she's still my baby. And there was that big part of me that just wanted nothing more than to sweep her up into my arms and race her home, away from all of this. But I held her and told her I was proud of her and promised her that no matter what, we loved her and it would all turn out okay in the end. So, she sat there and looked her principal in the eye, told her the whole truth, apologized, and offered to make amends.
And I just don't know that I'll ever have a prouder moment as her mother.