Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spit, Spat, Spot

Last spring, during our disastrous experiment with Apathy Elementary School, Major Havoc became fast friends with Loogie, a kindergarten student and class loner who continually challenged his teacher with his less-than-cooperative behavior. Loogie’s favorite classroom pastime was spitting. Major Havoc, making a genuine effort to be friendly, cooperative, and sociable, mastered the art of spitting. On the floor. And on the carpet. Just about anywhere Loogie spat, Major Havoc spat, too. It became their favorite form of civil disobedience against counting to five, mastering the color purple and learning the letter “Y.” It was an activity that he brought home. It was also a talent that we thought we had successfully discouraged him from demonstrating.

Then came last week.

Major Havoc spent the entire day in the backyard playing a week ago Monday. He came into the house, ignored my directive to clean up before dinner, ate, put on his Gi, and left with his mother for Karate class. In the heat of the battle, when I was helping General Mayhem complete his schoolwork, cook and serve dinner, and push the martial artists out the door in time for class, I failed to check on the boy’s cleanliness. He was filthy. He was filthy and a member of the Major’s class had the misfortune of mentioning it. The Major turned around and spat on him.

I suppose that’s one way of replying.

Rest assured, we spent the last week teaching our expectorating seven-year-old that sharing his saliva with the world as a form of editorial feedback was not acceptable. To that end, he did approach his fellow student and apologize last Monday night. The poor kid didn’t know whether to duck or run when he saw the Major approaching. So far, Sensei hasn’t taught a defense move for phlegm.

Then came yesterday. I left the boys at home while I drove Captain Chaos to preschool. When I returned, Major Havoc was standing in the living room, waiting. He had a silly grin on his face, that smile that highlights his one dimple.

“Hi,” I said, entering the house.

He sighed. “Hi, dad.”

“What did you do?” I asked. I have three kids. Sometimes, you just know.

“General Mayhem is sitting on the couch and he had all the pillows and the blanket and he wouldn’t share when I asked him if I could have some pillows and watch TV with him. So I spit on the top of his head.”

“I’m sorry,” he added.

We had a brief conversation about apologizing, appropriate consequences, and the reasons why he should not spit, and I sent him to his room while I spoke with the General.

General Mayhem was indeed in our basement family room watching a history documentary. He was spread out across one of our two sofa sections and he did in fact have all forty couch pillows behind or underneath him. He and the pillows were completely covered by one blanket, so that the only part of his body that I could see was his bobble head.

“Is the Major telling the truth?” I asked him. “Do you really have all of the couch pillows underneath that blanket, and did you refuse to share with him when he asked?”

General Mayhem stared at me with a look of complete teenaged contempt and deadpanned one word.


Folks, I’ve had my fill of my oldest son’s mean spiritedness towards his younger brother. I realize that this is a phase. I realize that his behavior is pubescent testosterone driven moodiness. I realize the vast majority of the time his behavior is decent with a sprinkling of visible love and affection thrown in for brownie points when mom and dad are looking, but at that moment I had had my fill of his jerky behavior.

“I don’t blame him for spitting on you,” I told the General. I started to walk away. Then I added, “I have half a mind to spit on you, myself!”

Honestly, I didn’t pursue any discipline with the Major after he apologized to his older brother. I don’t remember if I made the General apologize to his younger brother. I probably did, but the memory is lost between the yellow pages of the phone book after I started searching for Gypsies.

I have a teenager for sale.


Khourt said...

Oh dear! you have more patience than me.. Spitting is one thing I just dont tolerate.

Kathleen said...

You know, I think I recall telling you I follow your tales about the teenager with rapt interest since mine are inevitably headed that way. But now I must say I'm not sure. I'm just discouraged now. They are supposed to stop doing mean things like that to each other once they are older and wiser. Please inform the General (if you haven't sold him yet) that one of your readers is counting on him for hope. Thank you.

TobyBo said...

Well, I have enough teens of my own that I am not shopping. But I do want to say that this post has Made My Day Better. I do *not* have a spitter.

Anonymous said...


I just read the majority of this post to my roommate, too.


[TobyBo's daughter]

Teacher Mommy said...

There have been a number of times when spitting is the least I would like to do to certain students of mine. Those teens. I tell you.

However, I just about choked on my coffee when I read "So far, Sensei hasn’t taught a defense move for phlegm." ROFL!

Twisted said...

I dealt with a spitter by wiping it up with his face. Might not have been the best response at the time, but it sure got the message across. You are doing a great job raising those two - keep it up and keep sharing. It helps the rest of us realize our kids are just as normal as yours.

Oklahoma Granny said...

Spitting is one of the two things I have never been able to tolerate. The other is lying. Both of your boys told the truth.

Arby said...

O.G. I complimented the Major on telling me the truth without prompting. It was one of the reasons I went easy on him with punishment, but adding that didn’t fit into the flow of the story. The General’s “truth,” while good, wasn’t one that deserved notice. He was busted. He knew it. He was sitting on the evidence.

Brownie said...

I don't know what I would have done. I really might have spit myself.

Blondie will soon be 13 - I looking forward to wonderful, delightful times. I remember being 13... I hope she's better than I was.

jedijson said...

I'll trade you a nine-year-old with an 18-year-old attitude (and smart mouth to match) for your teenager. Even trade.

The Pirate Mom said...

I have a teenager, so I'm sorry, but I can't take yours. Dirty Harry is not a spitter, but he is a hitter, and I have said almost the exact same thing to Bonny Annie a few times...that I totally get why he slugged her. I figure if we make it out of this stage with nothing more than a bruise, we're doing well.


Liz Ditz said...

I came on over after reading your comment chez Storkdok (on the blogger with the unfortunate lapse of either Grace or manners or both).

My boys are now 32 and 30, admirable men and fathers themselves, but, back in the day.....

Anyway, this post made me laugh out loud several times.

Anonymous said...

We are not in the market either, having effectively launched one and holding our own with the one that will 'teen' for 3 more years. We took a lot of hope in the predictions that we would be a lot smarter once the child ticked into their third decade. The predictions were true. CollegeSon has transcended 'teen'. I also think it gets better mid-way since Younger Teen is showing progress, too.

I'm sympathetic, but if you have lived on a sub for 2 years and one year in Antarctica, I suspect you are up for this Dad-to-teen gig.

Teen does not equal adult - as much as our culture would like us to believe that. My best comparison developmentally is that teen is most similar to two-years-old. You would not have taken your oldest's attitude so personally had he been 3-years-old - would you? I'm betting you would have given him a lecture on sharing.

A few of those lectures might be the trick for the teen to avoid the mean spirited behavior.

It has helped us to think of them as younger than they really are. Best, Barbara

Arby said...

"It has helped us to think of them as younger than they really are."

That's excellent advice!

tsinclair said...

Teen does not = adult. Great advice!

This is something we tend to do too often.

Anonymous said...

Came back with this:
Puberty makes you stupid. (their title)

monica @ educating magpies said...

hmmmm. it's a trend. my girlie spit pancakes at her brother this morn. let me have that number when you find it, okay?