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Friday, January 04, 2008

As the sparks fly upwards

Reader-submitted question: What happened with Michael? I am on pins and needles.

Well, what happened is that I am an idiot. An idiot who will believe anything.

I didn't witness what happened. I was in the living room, obsessively checking my site meter. As usual, I had earphones in so I wouldn't miss a second of The Chain. Michael and Daniel were down the hallway in Michael's room.

I didn't hear what happened, but I did hear the door open and close. Michael came into the living room alone and looked out the window. He had an odd look on his face.

"Did Daniel leave?" I asked.


"Why did he leave?"

"I dunno."

I continued to analyze my blog statistics until the phone rang. It was Daniel's mom. She asked what happened, and I said that I didn't know, but that Daniel had left very abruptly without telling us why. That's when I found out that Daniel was claiming that Michael hit him in the face.

I was taken aback. This was not like Michael.

Daniel's mom and I both thought there might have been some mutual play-hitting that got out of hand. I called Michael over to check him for smack marks. There were none.

"What happened with Daniel?"


"Did you hit him?"


"Why do you think he would say you hit him?"

"I don't know."

At this point Steve and I were both fairly sure that there had been an accident that Michael didn't want to admit to. We asked him to describe what he and Daniel had been doing just before he left. Michael explained that they had been playing Spider-Man and that Daniel had been lying on the floor, while he was on all fours. Oh, and there was no hitting.

This sounded like a plausible story. I could imagine him accidentally hitting Daniel in the face by crawling past him. Very likely.

Likely, but not true.

I made Michael call Daniel to say he was sorry. He did this grudgingly. I could hear Daniel saying that he did NOT want to come over, because Michael was smacking him and smacking him and smacking him. Then he hung up.

Michael looked upset. He said he had NO IDEA why Daniel would say such a thing. We pushed a bit more. He insisted that he didn't do anything. Then he flung himself on his bed and began to sob guiltily.

I started to wonder if he had done anything. What if he wasn't crying out of guilt, but because his own parents were accusing him of hurting his friend?

Steve put his foot down. Steve, you see, has training in child psychology. He told Michael that he HAD to take responsibility for whatever he did, and HAD to make things better with Daniel. Michael screamed at us: we did not care about him! (STOMP STOMP STOMP.) He did not remember! He didn't know what Daniel was talking about! He couldn't possibly apologise!

Steve told him that he had 15 minutes to think about what he wanted to do, and after that, we would be taking $1 out of his piggy bank every 15 minutes until the issue was resolved. ("AAAAAAHHH! YOU CAN'T TAKE MY MONEY! YOU ARE THE MEANEST PARENTS EVER!!!")

I am not good in situations like this; I am much too anxious for everything to be better. That's why I almost believed Michael when he told us that Daniel had pulled on his leg and that he had smacked Daniel in the leg. By this time, several hours had gone by, but I remembered that the original complaint was about smacking in the face.

Steve asked Michael to re-enact the situation, like they do on CSI. That's how Michael realised that it could not have happened the way he said it did. It could only have happened the way Daniel said it did.

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I had not wanted to believe that my son was capable of doing such a thing to his best friend.

Michael sobbed and sobbed. He had lied, and lying had NOT made it better. The lies were hurting his chest. He was sorry for lying.

But it wasn't over. The lies were serious. You see, Mommy had passed on the lies to Daniel's mom when she called to find out what happened. He had to apologise to Daniel's mom for lying, and he had to apologise to Daniel for hurting him. ("I'm really sorry about what I did. Can we still be friends?")

Thanks for your question.


Breigh said...

Wow, so what happens now? I don't have children but it doesn't seem good that a child would just start wailing on a friend like that. He sounds really angry..

Megan said...

It was unusual, so I think it was one of those cases where a kid gets overwhelmed with excitement and then gets mildly annoyed and lashes out.

But remember: I am an idiot. So maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.

For the last few days, Daniel's mom and I have been breaking up any physical interaction between them. Everything is back to normal now, but I'm not ready to forget what happened.

Daniel's Mom said...

For what it's worth, before Michael even apologized, Daniel was asking when we would be going to get his birthday gift. They are very much like siblings - they have a disagreement, but they fundamentally love and respect each other, so they find a way to get past the bumps.

Daniel knows he has a good friend in Michael, and he knows that neither one of them is perfect.

Karen said...

For reasons that are never clear, guys hits each other sometimes. They get over it and manage to work it out among themselves.

The bigger issue perhaps, is the lying. Steve's re-enactment idea was brilliant. Kids can lie, but they never quite think it through enough to pass scrutiny on this level. Unless they are sociopaths. So, good news, Michael doesn't have any really big uncurable issues. Yea!

I also like the $1 per 15 minutes idea. Having an actual, tangible cost as a consequence of their actions will get a person's attention every time.

Megan said...

Although several readers have disagreed, it was the lying that bothered me the most.

I have three brothers. I know that little boys get frustrated and hit each other from time to time. It happens in a second and it's over. Plus, they feel terrible about it right away.

The lying, on the other hand, was planned out and repeated over five hours. That's worse than losing your temper.