I got a call at work last week that our favorite neighbor, Natalie, was a tad bit pissed. She, apparently, had innocently used her stair rail in her house to aid in going downstairs and plunked her had in a wad of almost freshly chewed gum.
I got a call from Mickey, my daughters' nanny, that the girls were not allowed to play with her daughter until someone came forward with the truth.
Natalie had obviously ruled out her husband, myself, and the dog Roxy as the culprit.
When I got home I sat the girls down at the table and turned on the bare light bulb - trying to get to the truth the old fashioned way. Both Maya and Sophie denied that it was them. I pointed out that Sophie had just scored a pack of Hubba Bubba Watermelon and I still had my suspicions.
"I give you 24 hours to come forward with the truth," I said. "And Hubba Bubba Watermelon definitely has a destinctive color. Tomorrow after work I will call Natalie and ask her what color the gum was. Then I will know for sure."
Still, the denial.
The next morning at approximately 10:00 am I got a phone call at work. It was Sophie. It went a little something like this...
"Hi Mom? Um, I was just remembering that maybe when Grace and I were playing? And she was downstairs and I was upstairs? That I might have been laughing and the gum maybe fell out of my mouth? It possibly could be my gum?"
When I got home Sophie and I talked. I told her that she knew whether or not gum fell out of her mouth and it was better just to own it than to dance around the subject. And I must say that in her seven-year-old way she got around to owning it.
Because she beat the deadline I told her that she was not getting any punishment from me - but we did need to go to Natalie's to admit to the wrong-doing. This had the desired effect and mild hysteria set in.
Sophie loves Natalie and her husband Mistah (his nickname given to him by Sophie) so much. I think she likes hanging out with them more than she likes to play with their daughter Grace. The thought of facing up to this was almost too much to bear.
I let her stew on it awhile and sneaked away to my bedroom to call Natalie. She, too, had her suspicions - so it wasn't a huge shock. And she is a big softie. After the stickiness of the gum wore off she was feeling quite a bit better about things. I encouraged her to put on her "Bad Ass Mom" hat and help me through this learning experience.
Natalie is one of those parents that is a great communicator. She probably never would have given her child the "Dead Man Walking Deadline" as I had. I knew that she would handle it very well.
The walk to their house was agony. Sophie wanted me to hold her hand - which I wouldn't. I just told her that I was going to be there, but this was her responsibility to own up to her mistakes and offer to make it right.
The face-to-face meeting with Natalie happened in her kitchen only moments later. Sophie did well with eye contact, but started sobbing and wanted desperately to be let off the hook.
Natalie was much nicer than I and offered a place for Sophie to sit down, eventually offering her lap. Not only that, but she said things like, "Do you really think there is something that you could do that would make me not be your friend?" and "I will love you no matter what and we will work through this together." Finally, Sophie was able to whisper the bad thing into Natalie's ear - and then fell against her sobbing and shaking.
Then, in the best communicator way she has, Natalie said, "Wow! You have really grown! Not on the outside, but boy! You have grown a whole lot on the inside. I can even see it - it's that important."
How great is she?
Sophie was so relieved that she offered to clean their bathroom. (Which she truly excels at, I can attest to that.) After the crying jag she was back to her old self - stopping the singing and dancing in the living room to hug Natalie every few minutes.
And honestly, I have to admit that Natalie and I had to make an excuse to go out to the deck because we both were crying by the end of it. I think Natalie cried because it had been made into something much bigger than it really was - and Sophie was so truly sorry. I cried because I was proud that she really was that truly sorry. It surprised me a little.
I remember the first time I had to admit a bad mistake. It was awful. I will tell that story soon, but I can tell you it involved a kindergarten me flipping off my sister and then deciding I would live in the back of my Dad's shop forever instead of facing my Mom....
Do you remember the your first big admission of guilt?