Seriously, you guys, if I had a nickel for every time someone said, “Mrs. Judy, I need to have a word with you about Kai,” and then sat me down to gravely list the series of horrible things my son did during camp/school/whatever I’d be like
Science camp started out great.
Kai was excited. He’d put on his favorite dinosaur shirt.
“Are you ready?” I asked him.
“I was born ready,” he replied, which was probably true.
When we opened the door, the first thing we saw was about 6 kids building with Legos. Kai drifted over there, but the leader, a guy whose nametag read, “Graviton Greg” called him back.
“You can go over there,” Graviton Greg said, “but first you need a nametag.”
Graviton Greg wrote Kai’s name on a name tag sticker and handed it to Kai, who tried to find a creative place to put it.
“Kai,” Graviton Greg said, “I’m going to need you to put that sticker on your shirt so I can see it when I look at you.”
Kai eventually put it on his shin.
“You’re going to have lots of chances to be different today,” Graviton Greg said, and I knew we’d achieved some level of understanding all around.
Ryan, on the other hand, was murderous.
“How come Kai gets to go to that camp and I don’t?” Fat tears began to run down her cheeks.
“Because you’re not having a hard time at camp,” I replied.
“I hate my camp,” she said. “One of the Olivias pinched me on my arm and it really hurt.”
I squeezed her hand.
That, however, is a therapist’s bill for another day.
So Monday was fine, but on Tuesday, Graviton Greg needed to speak with me.
He was gentle and kind, but his complaints about Kai were numerous. Kai had pulled his pants down in front of the whole class. He had punched and shoved some kids much smaller than he is. He took a 25 minute bowel movement that made the other kids anxious. He was obsessed with toilets.
Not one of these behaviors is new, so I waited for Graviton Greg to finish. He seemed so patient and nice, but gravely serious as well.
“I’m worried about the safety of the other kids, and having to explain why they saw another kid pull down his pants,” he said, almost apologetically.
“I understand,” I said.
“And I know there’s a lot going on, a lot of things he’s going through, a lot of electricity.”
They’d been working on circuits that day.
“Was he inappropriate with electricity?” I asked.
“No, literally there was a lot of electricity. He was holding a wire and made a lightbulb light up without touching it to a power source.”
“Wait, what?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he went on, “I made him repeat it a few times to make sure. He has so much electricity going on that he just made lit that bulb up on his own.”
The amount I know about circuits couldn’t fill a thimble, but this seemed like a big deal.
Gravitron Greg went on. “So I’m looking for help here. What should we do?”
“So, like, Kai lights things up with his body?”
“I just need to keep everyone here safe, and I can’t have Kai pushing smaller kids. I want to be fair to Kai but I also don’t want to have to explain a bruise to another parent.”
It wasn't that I didn't take Greg seriously, but you guys!
“Is that unusual? Lighting up a lightbulb with your own electricity?”
I told Graviton Greg that I would take care of things with Kai that evening. I told him about the magic 1-2-3 count that works when he needs Kai to cease and desist immediately. I told him that I was sorry.
And I gathered Kai and we left.
When we got in the car I laid into him.
“Do you hate science camp?” I asked.
“No,” he replied.
“Because you’re acting like you want to get kicked out.”
He didn’t reply.
“And this cost me THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS.” I said, the rage building.
“Did you put it on your credit card?” Kai asked.
“Kai,” I said, “We are DONE with the pants thing. There is never a moment, not one time, where it’s okay to take your pants off in public. Not. One. Time.”
He gave a little twittering laugh. “But, I was so surprised by the experiment that my pants just slipped off!”
“KAI,” I said, hurling his name like a knife. “You are done. There is never, not one time, ever, that you are EVER to take your pants off in public again.”
“Let’s have a little quiz,” I said. “Is it okay for me to take off my pants right now?”
Kai let out a moan.
“Well?” I asked.
Later on, Kai asked me to buy an episode of Minecraft Story Mode for him. Don’t worry, you don’t have to know what that is. I sure don’t.
But Kai sure knows what it is, and as a result, I had a nice, fat carrot to dangle in front of him.
“I will download that for you if I get a good report at camp.”
“Okay,” he said brightly.
“In fact, I explained to him. “here’s how this is all going to go down. You are going to go to science camp tomorrow. You are going to keep your pants on. If you need to poop, you’re going to limit yourself to 5 minutes and then be done with it. You are going to use your words instead of pushing or hitting other kids. If you can do all that, you will get the next episode of Minecraft Story Mode.”
“Okay,” he said again.
“And the next time I find out you’ve pulled your pants down in an inappropriate place, there will be no iPad, computer or TV for two weeks.”
“Okay,” he said.
“And not just at camp. And not just tomorrow. But everywhere, and every day for the rest of your life.”
“Was he good?” I asked Graviton Greg the next day at pickup.
“He was so good! We were like, ‘What did she say to him last night?’”
I smiled and nodded. “I hope the rest of the week goes as well.”
I gathered up Kai’s many projects and we got into the car.
“Can I have it now?” he asked.
I turned to look at him. “When is it a good time to take off your pants?”
“When you’re in your own room or in the bathroom.”
“Yes,” I said. “You can have the next Minecraft Story Mode episode.”
We drove away, both of us satisfied with what we had accomplished.
And while rewarding a fourth-grader for passing the low, low, low bar of keeping his pants on for 6 hours might seem extreme, I’ll shell out some pretty big bucks for him to finally internalize the idea that taking ones pants off in public almost never ends well.
I mean, “I was so surprised that my pants just slipped off,” is sort of cute when a little boy says it, but becomes progressively less cute as the years wear on.