Guys, I messed up. A few weeks ago, I had a little carpool drama between the older boys I transport after school. Of course, it was my last week of the year to do carpool duty and just when I thought I had a smooth trip this year…I didn’t stop questionable behavior out of the fear of disciplining someone else’s child.
If your parents were anything like mine, growing up and while under the care of others, parents made it clear that the supervising adult had free range to correct bad behavior. Is it safe to say that a lot of Mexican parents did this? I remember hearing my mother tell my teachers to pull our ears if we misbehaved! Our kindergarten teacher would slap our hands with a ruler if we even thought about fooling around!! PARENTS WERE OKAY WITH THIS!!
How does it work now? Well, I had to figure it out on my own. Some of my old middle school students will tell you that although there was no hand slapping or ear pulling in my class, I did have high expectations made clear in the beginning of the year. This is mistake number 1 I committed when I started my carpool. I should have set some rules back in September.
So this is what happened: It was obvious from the minute the two 3rd grade boys entered the car that they had been arguing. What was normal is that they like to disagree on a number of topics (the kidergarteners and I like to just listen). What was different this time was that I could sense that one of the arguing boys was a little more tense than usual. Mistake number 2 on my part: Although, I asked them both to change the conversation, I should have been more assertive with my request.
This went on for about 8-10 minutes. I had an internal struggle about how long to let them keep going. I did say the usual of, “Guys. Ok. Change the conversation.” It wasn’t enough. As we pulled closer to the first child’s house, he became mean and was putting the other down. It was phrases like, “Admit that you were wrong.” and “You made a big mistake”. I knew the other boy had enough of the arguing and became quiet. The aggressor saw this as a weakness and continued to argue. I finally and firmly said, “X, you are home. Please go.” But I know I was too late.
The argument was about homework delivery. The more aggressive child had been out sick the night before. The other child had his homework, but it never reached the sick child. They were arguing about whose mother made the mistake of not following through with the homework delivery. Perhaps the topic of the argument made me uncomfortable to get involved. They were talking about their mothers and my initial reaction was to mind my own business. I give the kids their “privacy” and I don’t participate in their conversation, although I’m always listening. This one in particular escalated so fast and before I knew it, one of the boys ended up close to tears and with his feelings really hurt. I felt horrible. I failed him and I asked him if he was okay. I told him that I knew he was a good friend and that he didn’t do anything wrong. The rest of the car ride was silent. The thoughts in my head were not quiet.
I wasn’t even home when the mother of the sad child called me to find out what happened. I had made up my mind to call her so I was glad to hear from her. I explained what happened and apologized for what I felt I should have done but didn’t. She was great and understood my crazy explanations. By then it was out of my hands and the two families settled it all.
Everyone was fine for the rest of week. It all got worked out. I asked other mothers for advice, “What if this happened again? What if it was worse next time??” Luckily, that was the end of my carpool duty for the year, but it really made me think about the whole topic of disciplining other people’s children. I would want someone to be assertive with my boys if they were behaving badly and I was not there. But I know it stings a little bit to have someone set your child straight (even without the ear-pulling or ruler to the hand). No one wants to do it. From now on I vow to 1) set my carpool rules at the beginning of the year and 2) I’m not going to worry about giving the kids privacy. I’m going to get involved in questionable discussions. Better yet, I’ll just say: 3) Everybody just stop talking or we are not moving and I’m calling your mom to come pick you up. Just like my mother would say.
Has this type of situation ever happened to you??