I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share this little story with all you readers, but then I decided that if the point of this column is to be candid about parenting, I might as well let it all hang out… pun intended.
My phone starts vibrating in the middle of a workday, signaling a that I have a phone call. Phone calls during the day are never good because all my friends and family know I’m working, so it’s usually either SPAM or my 4-year-old’s school.
I flip the phone over and see the number on the screen. It’s the latter. Wonderful.
I sigh and answer the phone, and am greeted with the familiar voice of the administrator for the pre-kindergarten classes.
“Hello, Mrs. Crocco. It’s not an emergency, but I do have something to discuss with you.”
Now, during the height of the pandemic, whenever I got a call from school there would be a moment when I was waiting to hear it if was injury, sickness, behavior or – gulp – a need to quarantine.
Honestly, I was usually hoping for injury. I mean, at least if he needed stitches, that was something he could get taken care of right away and be back to school the next day — instead of the whole family having to spend 10 days at home.
Anyway, with those days behind us, I’m left wondering if it’s injury, sickness or behavior, and with her opening statement I’m thinking its behavior.
“Let’s hear it,” I tell the administrator, thinking maybe Mikey threw a toy, hit a classmate, had a meltdown, or in some other way acted like a nudge.
“Well, today while Mikey and two friends were putting away their lunch boxes, he pulled down his pants and underwear and exposed his private area.”
… Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting that.
I think I gasped, then maybe attempted to start a few questions or statements but came up with no intelligent response.
She continued to tell me that when the teacher asked him why he did it, he said “my pee needed air.”
… I’ve still got nothing.
“This isn’t necessarily concerning behavior or even entirely all that uncommon, but it is something that needs to be addressed.”
Having regained some of my sanity I finally respond. I tell her I completely understand the severity of the situation, that he’s never done this before, and that my husband and I will certainly talk with Mikey and try to make sure it never happens again.
On the way home from work I call my husband to fill him in on his son’s behavior, and he has much the same response I did. Shock, frustration, concern, and then there is a pause and I swear I hear a chuckle.
“It’s not funny,” I say, trying to keep my own composure.
“It’s a little funny,” Mike says.
I sigh. “It is a little funny.”
We get our laughs out on the phone and vow not to let Mikey see us laugh about it because, despite our apparent immaturity, we do understand that it’s not cool for him to act that way and it puts the teacher in an awkward position, and the school has to address it because in this day and age if a student were to later bring up that they saw Mikey’s private and no one knew about the situation, all hell could break loose.
However, we decide that before we go straight to punishment, we are going to casually talk to him and see if we can extract exactly WHY he would do this.
Was it to get a laugh? I can’t really think of any other reason.
I wait in the parking lot at his school for a few moments before getting up the nerve to do the walk of shame into the building and pick up my little exhibitionist. When I do get him, he is happy as usual and the teacher is gracious enough to make me feel like the situation doesn’t indicate that we have a future serial killer on our hands.
Well, at least there’s that.
I wait until my husband gets home before bringing up “the incident” and, just as the administrator had said, Mikey was steadfast in his defense that “my pee-pee needed air.”
“What does that mean, bud?” Mike asks him. “Was it hot? Did you maybe leave drips on it when you went to the potty? Or did you really just think you were being funny? Because that’s not funny.”
“No. It just needed air.”
“But, why did it need air?” I ask. “Did it hurt? Did it get squished at some point?”
“Um, no. It just needed air.”
After a few more minutes of trying to extract a logical explanation from our 4-year-old my husband sits down on the couch next to him and says, “OK, Mikey, listen. Next time your pee-pee needs air, just go into the bathroom and air it out. Alright?”
“Yep!” Mikey chirps and hops off the couch and goes off to play.
I give my husband the “are you kidding me?” look but I don’t even have to say the words because he puts his hands up in defense and asks, “Did you have a better response?”
No. No I didn’t.
BTW I found out who the two children were who witnessed my son’s “exposure” and reached out to their parents, and they were both very understanding about the whole thing and assured me their children are not traumatized.
Nothing prepared me for being a boy mom.
Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and mother of a 4-year-old. She can be reached at email@example.com.