About 10 years ago I was a newlywed, a mother of a 10 year old boy, and a teacher fresh out of college looking for a job. The market was tight here in Michigan, so when NYC schools came to Detroit to interview prospective employees, I applied and I got a job.
That summer, we moved to Long Island, and I started working in Brooklyn as an 8th grade math teacher. Meanwhile, my son was not adjusting well. We had taken him away from his friends and his family, everything he knew.
My son was getting in trouble, A LOT of trouble. He was testing the limits of the school’s no tolerance policies on just about everything.
Apparently, you can’t talk about starting a food fight without getting suspended…
you also can’t pull on the locks on the lockers…
or throw rocks at girls at the bus stop…
you can’t pull your friend’s pants down when they are in the locker room…
and you can’t get into a fight with your best friend on the way home from school.
He even got suspended for flicking an eraser off of his desk during a State Exam.
One day, early in May, I was talking about all of my son’s experiences with a fellow colleague. My son had been recently detained by the police a few blocks from our home, he said he was walking with a group of kids that had vandalized a car in our neighborhood, but he wasn’t with the kids when they did it… things were getting serious.
I was concerned, how was I going to stop this behavior? What could I do? His father, whom he really looked up to and listened to, was miles away in Michigan. We were in New York which didn’t provide much leverage.
The solution was simple, my colleague explained. From one mother to another, she said I needed to nip this in the bud before he got too big. I needed to spank him.
She spoke with firmness, confidence, she was sure this would help. I was worried and desperate.
I thought to myself, Okay, l’ll try it.
I am going to put my foot down,
show him who is the boss.
He’s going to follow the rules.
About two days later he came home from school. My son emptied his backpack onto the kitchen table and I saw it. There was an envelope with my name on it.
“What’s that? Is that a letter from your teacher?” I asked.
“No” he said.
“No, it has my name on it, give it to me.”
“No Mom,” he tried to explain.
“Give it to me now” I said with the firmest voice I had inside me.
Then he stepped away from the table…with the letter in his hand.
The chase began.
He ran behind the couch and around the coffee table, I ran after him.
“GIVE ME THE LETTER”
I dove after him like an outfielder trying to catch a long hit that was just out of reach. I landed on my stomach and managed to grab his leg and pulled him down with a thud.
“But mom” he said, holding the letter high over his head away from me…
“It’s your Mother’s Day Gift”