Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Crunch of Sugar on the Kitchen Floor

I awoke from a nap just moments ago and as I walked into the kitchen, felt and heard the crunch of sugar spilled on the kitchen floor.  Sweetie is spending the afternoon at her mother's.  Katie is sleeping off a cold.  Neither are suspects.  The grandkids live through the back gate, one of them is.

Now, I'd rather those two didn't feel they had free rein in our house; especially when we aren't up or around.  Still, I want them to feel comfortable; as though they belong - which they do.  Megan has a lot of energy and ton's of initiative, she is my most likely suspect.  She's turning seven this month and is a whiz at First Grade.  I wonder how to approach this as they will arrive here to be babysat in a few moments.

I often look at the troubled kids at the Detention Center and ask myself, what happened that turned these children from sweet little kids to the pained hoodlums they've become.  Was it a 'sugar-on-the-kitchen-floor' moment when they were seven?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I'll wager that it all started with a gross over reaction to something.  Soon it became a series of somethings and the divergence between the two roads became wider and wider.

I wonder if a parent, grandparent or baby sitter looked at a pile of spilled sugar and thought only of themselves.  Who thought, "I'm tired.  I have to clean up this unnecessary mess.  What did I do to deserve a kid like this?  I can't take this any more. I....  I..... I...."

What if they'd have thought of Megan.  What if they asked, "What did you have in mind when you pulled out the sugar cannister?  Were you successful at making a batch of Kool-aid?  What flavor did you choose?  How did it taste?  Can I have some?"

I'll bet that during the last course of interrogation an apology for the mess, just might be forth coming.  I'll wager that the reason no attempt to clean it up came as result of being called home before the project was complete.  I can imagine that her intention was to surprise me with something sweet to drink...... (I just checked and was disappointed that the fridge didn't hold such a prize.)

It took me all of a minute to sweep and mop it up.  Shall I blow that all out of proportion and send little Megan down a more difficult road?  When you're seven big ideas don't turn out quite like you expect, shall I condemn her to the closet or the corner and commence building a barrier between us.  Shall I push her away when all she wants is to love and be loved?  Shall I punish her enterprise?  Shall I scold her initiative?

She just walked in the door.  I was glad I'd considered some questions in advance.  As a young father I might have sat her beneath a bare light bulb and used her Mom to play good cop, while I played the bad one.  Regrettably, I doubt I was playing.

Kids are quite capable to understanding the magnitude and appropriate consequences of their various mistakes.  Blown out of proportion, this little incident might have driven a wedge between she and I.  I think I'll let her help me decide how serious her little infraction should be.  Kids deserve at least the treatment citizens get in our courts.  They ought to be considered innocent until proven guilty.  A reasonable period of time might be granted before sentencing.  Careful consideration should be given to ensure the punishment is appropriate to the crime.

After supper we decided to have a trial and Jeff (nearly nine) accepted the responsibility to be Megan's Defense Attorney.

Court was called to order and the accused was asked to stand.  Her charges were explained and when asked she pleaded not guilty.  (Now what do I do?)  I proceeded with the trial and asked the Defense Attorney present evidence of Megan's innocence.  He called himself to the stand and confessed that it was he who had spilled the sugar, so it could not possibly have been Megan.  The case was immediately dismissed and the prisoner released.

Another trial was held with the roles reversed.  Jeff plead guilty and we moved right to the sentencing phase.  Megan suggested Jeff's punishment should be that he be required to put make-up on.  Jeff plead for mercy and suggested a week without video games.  "Commit the crime - Do the time," I said.  "Roll the dice - Pay the price", Jeff replied.

Sentencing guidelines considered both suggested punishments to be excessive.  The condemned was asked if he'd like to explain his actions.  He answered forthrightly.  He was conducting an experiment in the process of dissolving a solid in a liquid.  When asked why sugar was left on the floor he plead, "absent minded professor!"  His plea for mercy and understanding carried the heart of the court.  With an apology and a promise to be more thoughtful next time, the criminal was released on his own recognizance.

Best spent spilled sugar ever!

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