Don't let that face fool you.
Seymour and I are having an interesting week, if you define "interesting" as "so stressful that physical symptoms manifest." It takes a lot for our kids to blow the top off our OMG meter at the moment, but that Mali, she always comes through.
Today, while picking her up from school in my savior Jennyalice's car (as mine died 45 minutes before I needed to pick up five different children from five different locations), the principal came over and put her head in the car window.
I jumped. She smiled, tightly, and said, "You know that disciplinary letter I sent home last week, the one you never got?"
"Yes, but we talked about what happened, correct? Or has there been another incident?"
"Well," said the Directora, "I actually found the form. I guess Mali didn't want you to see it, because she forged your name and turned it back into us."
Mali forged my name. My six-year-old forged my name.
I told the principal we'd talk the next day, and drove away as my dropped jaw was stopping traffic.
"Mali," I said when I could actually talk again, "did you know that it's illegal to sign someone's else's name for them on an official document? It's called forgery. People go to jail if they're convicted of forgery. It's a big deal."
Her eyes became huge. "I didn't know about forgery! I just didn't want you to see that I was in trouble!"
"I know. But this is serious. And we're going to talk about it with Daddy when he gets home."
And we did. And Seymour used the jail metaphor as well, once again proving there's a reason we're together.
Much as we try to be a preemptively positive-behavior-shaping family, this time we're using consequences: No screen time for a week. It's going to suck for everyone. But this kid, she's not going to thrive in a wishy-washy household; she's going to take it over and make us all into her minions. That's not healthy. That way lies clinical narcissism, or at least a tendency to manipulate first and ask questions later.
I'm not happy about any part of this scenario, and while I intellectually get the laugh factor in a six-year-old who is wily enough to -- as far as she knows -- invent forgery, I am not even remotely amused.
Later on, as I sat on the living room couch posting today's entry in the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism Parent/Self-Advocate Dialogues (between Zoe at Illusion of Competence, Robert Rummel-Hudson of Schuyler's Monster, and ASAN President and co-founder Ari Ne'eman, heady, provocative, necessary stuff that you must check out), a shoe descended from the second story, tied to a string, with a note rolled up inside. It landed on my laptop desk. The note read, "Do you still love me?"
Of course I do, I told her, that is a question you never have to ask. But that's different from approving of your actions. I love who you are, I don't like what you did.
She still seemed unsure. I feel very rocked by this incident, by the sneakiness and defiance it represents. Or maybe it's just boundary pushing? I have no idea. Iz and Leo never did anything like this.
After all, this is the same thoughtful girl who kept asking me about autism all morning, wanting to hear more about Lindsey, whom she now thinks of as a beautiful musical autistic princess with a handsome meteorologist prince, and who has a brother with the kind of autism that means it's hard for him to communicate, just like her brother -- the same girl wanted to know more about what autism means, how for people like one of her beloved adult friends it can bring cool things like superhero hearing, but also sensory overloads that hit faster than in a person without autism and can lead to physical shutdowns. The same girl who then talked the same-aged cousin who is staying with us for a few days into building "yogurt obelisks."
She's amazing. She's frightening. And sometimes I worry that, as a parent who may not have the energy level necessary to properly guide a kid of her intensity and latent criminal tendencies, I'm not the best person for the job.
But yes, I do love her, silly question or not.