Our Peanut had an upsetting Wednesday this week.
At dismissal time, her teacher reminds kids who are in chess club to go to that, while everyone else gets lined up for buses or to be signed out by their grown-up. Yesterday the class had a substitute teacher who didn't mention chess club. The Peanut being the Peanut, and also being 6, forgot that it was Wednesday, and got on the bus to go home. Settling into their seats, another kid asked her, "Hey, where's the Bean?" The Peanut suddenly remembered she was supposed to be at chess club with her sister, got off the bus and came back inside, very upset at almost having let the bus take her away. The Bean found her crying in the hallway, and they both came to the library, where, by happy coincidence, I volunteer on Wednesday afternoons. ("Do you have any books on cobras/war/knock-knock jokes/Yoda/President Taft?" Yes. Yes, we do.)
Once the sobbing calmed down some (you're OK, you're OK...) we went over what to do if she hadn't realized her mistake until the bus had left school. We practiced some what-ifs and recited all the phone numbers she needs to know, and the places she knows she will be safe, and that if she ever finds herself somewhere that I don't think she is, she is to call me right away, etc. Phew.
Later, the Bean and I are making dinner and suddenly the Peanut is in the kitchen in tears again: "Another thing? That happened at school? is that I told Avery that you let me have a sip of your wine! and he said you could be ARRESTED FOR THAT!" Poor kid clung to me as if the cops were at the door.
It's true -- the other day I'd poured myself a glass of wine, and, feeling intensely observed by two pairs of little-girl eyes, offered the offspring a sip. Bean declined -- she'd tasted wine before and didn't care to again (it didn't seem to matter that what she'd tried was a Cabernet and this was a Zinfandel). The Peanut accepted, took a wee sip, and rejected it as "too spicy." That was that, and dinner continued.
Evidently she mentioned it at school the next day and her classmate was horrified. Fortunately he's mistaken. Sure it's against the law to buy alcohol for kids or sell it to them, but a parent is allowed to give her Peanut the occasional sip of a full-bodied red so she can see what it is.
We got into a discussion of why there are laws about alcoholic drinks, what "drunk" means, and that they are never, ever to drive if they've been drinking or to go in a car with anyone who has. No matter where they are, when it is, or if they've been doing something they know was wrong, we will come and get them, and we'll (try to) postpone expressing anger about any wrongdoing.
Seems kind of silly talking to them about this when they're almost 10 years from their learner's permits, but hey. Time goes fast, and I'll never have their ears more completely than I do now. Also there may be fewer of those years than we think. I got loopy on beer at 14 -- a silly one-time thing that didn't become a habit, but still, it happened. At about that same time (though not the same night), I started driving my parents' car around when they went out for the evening. Point being, parents sometimes have less time than we think to have these conversations. We will certainly be repeating a lot of them, but I think it's not too soon to start, if the subject naturally comes up - and even if the primary take-home message is that nobody is going to arrest Mommy.
In the meantime I might also explain, as long as it naturally came up, that the wine was not, in fact "spicy," but had a woodsy and pomegranate-inflected nose, balanced with traces of vanilla, complex red fruit, sandy soil, and cigar wrapper on the palate, with a trace of mineral on the elongated finish. Or something. See what Avery makes of that, kid.