PunishmentSo here we are again, and it ain’t déjà vu. I got off the phone this evening with Mrs. Harris, an administrator at Girl Child’s school, who chuckled after I asked her when report cards were coming home.

“They were distributed on Friday. At the parent-teacher conferences.”

I didn’t even try to hide my disgust. “Ugh. Skylar didn’t tell me about any parent-teacher conferences. And she certainly didn’t tell me that report cards came out.”

“Of course she didn’t,” Mrs. Harris laughed. Because after being a student at the same school for the past four years, even the staff has gotten to know my kid pretty well. And though she’s sweet and bubbly and bright, she’s also got a calculating little lying streak that compels her to hide information from me, like report cards and mid-term progress notices. 

It’s not like I don’t find out so I can’t figure out why she keeps doing it if she hasn’t, not even one time, been successful in staving off the fallout from bad grades by trying to keep me from seeing them. I feel an old school throwback spirit when I light into her with: “There is nothing new under the sun, my dear, and what you did is no exception. Do you think I didn’t try to pull the same tricks when I was your age? Puh-lease.”

Now that? That right there is a déjà vu moment. My mother used to tell me the exact same thing.

I got the lecture in middle school, just like Madame Skylar, except I tried to put my mama’s signature on a rancid progress report in algebra. No need to bother her with all of the melodramatics of me getting a D, I reasoned. I’d seen Mommy sign her name thousands of times, so after several practice runs on scrap paper, I finalized it on the pink carbon copy that had been sent home.

When it got flagged by Ms. Hines for being fraudulent, I got flogged at home for being dishonest. And, apparently, a not-so-good forger.

Now the circle of life has recycled those fine, memorable moments and multiplied them times two because my child gets in hot water a heck of a lot more than I ever did. After confronting her along with one of her teachers when I picked her up from school, I discovered not only has she backslid into the kind of bad habits that make her suck academically — after getting her school year off to the best start in recent memory, mind you — she’s talking in class and flitting around in the hallways.

Since homegirl wants to be a social butterfly, I thought about making her stand out in the street and tell passersby that she is not only ruining her chances of getting into the two high-profile high schools she claims to want to attend (and just shadow visited), but she’s wasting the money that her single mother hustles up to pay in tuition so she can attend a decent school now.

Then I thought about condensing that into a snarky saying on a pin that would read something like “Ask me about my grades” or “Let me tell you about my behavior.”

I also considered going with her to school for a week to 1) embarrass the hell out of her and 2) show her that the way she behaves when I’m sitting in the desk next to her is the way she needs to behave every single day.

We’ve done the whole no TV, no laptop, no phone thing more times than I have fingers to count them on. We’ve done the whole regressive, now-you-need-a-homework-journal-and-it-has-to-be-signed-by-your-teachers thing. We’ve done pep talks and lectures and motivational speeches by everyone from yours truly to folks she respects at church. We’ve done the whole volunteerism thing because I thought she needed to know that the world is so much bigger than her and her gaggle of corny little girlfriends.

But here we are again, in need of a punishment to fit the crime and, preferably, a learning experience behind it.

I’m open to all suggestions.

What’s been the most effective punishment for your child so far?


Image via ansik/Flickr