I was at work a couple weeks ago when my phone rang, an unfamiliar number. Usually I let those go to voice mail, but this time I decided to pick it up on a whim.
"Hello, this is the school nurse calling."
"Hello," I answered with mixed feelings. If The Littlest Critic was sick, that would be bad; but if I had to leave work to go get her, that would be good.
"I'm calling because your daughter has been involved in an incident at school."
There's something about certain vague statements that just suck the wind right out of your whole body, leaving you a tremulous husk. What did she mean involved in an incident? A fight? A shooting? An errant light fixture plummeted from the ceiling during gym class?
In my suddenly nervous silence, the nurse went on: "Apparently, she was sitting at lunch with a little boy and the little boy didn't like what she was saying obviously and he grabbed her by the arm and he scratched her arm and her hand and left rather big welts."
Is that all? I thought.
"Did it break the skin?" I asked.
"No, but it was quite red. She was very brave about it, she didn't cry but it looked like she wanted to."
"Oh, hmm. Is she all right now?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, she's fine. We iced her wounds and she went back to class, but I just wanted to call you and let you know that there had been an incident and your daughter is fine now."
"Oh, do you know who the little boy was?" I had my own theories about this, a short list of names.
"Um, no, I don't think," the sound of rustling papers, "I don't think I have that right here."
"So, why did he scratch my daughter?"
"You know, I'm not really sure. She said something and he didn't like it and so he scratched her. And he's been suspended from school. He isn't in the building anymore and he won't be in tomorrow."
Suspended? In kindergarten? For scratching someone? That seemed a little harsh, and this was coming from the man who knocked a three year old to the ground for trying to choke TLC when she was around 14 months.
"Oh. Okay." I didn't quite know how to follow that up, so I asked again, "Do you know who the boy is?"
"Yes, let me see. I think we have it somewhere written down. Let me put you on hold."
Huh. Well, that was odd. I wasn't really bothered by the disconnect. The name would come out tonight.
Cut to later that night, Critical Daddy is home sitting at the dinner table with The Littlest Critic.
"So," I begin, opting for the overly casual tone of a father about to ask leading questions of his child, "tell me what happened at school today. How'd you end up at the nurse's station?"
"I went there," was TLC's answer as she shoveled fruit into her mouth.
"Let me see your arm."
The proffered arm was nearly spotless. I turned her wrist over in my hand, then took her other arm and looked at it. If there was a sign of this assault that got a kid suspended, I sure couldn't see it.
"So tell me why you went there."
"I got scratched." TLC then scooted out of her seat and ran around the dinner table making "kooky noises" and being silly. After much demanding, followed by some pleading, some berating, and lastly some threatening, The Wife and I were able to get her to return to her seat.
"Well, I know that," I continued, picking up where I left off. "Now I want to know the story of what happened."
"I was in lunch and I was talking with Jeremy and Christian and then I did this." TLC flashed me the Peace Sign. "And Christian didn't like that so he got mad and he grabbed my arm and he did this," and she gripped her own arm and ran her fingers down it, not quite scratching herself.
"And that's it?" I asked, surprised. "That's the whole incident?"
"Uh huh. I did this," she flashed the V again, "and he scratched me and I went to the nurse."
"Did it really hurt?" I asked. She nodded with wide eyes.
"It really did, Daddy."
Okay then. I guess the moral of the story here is talking peace with that Christian is just bound to end badly.
Tonight, in the middle of story time, The Littlest Critic calls out from the bed where she and her mother are reading Matilda: "I need a drink."
"Well, since I'm already upstairs, I'll just get you some sink water from the bathroom."
TLC stuck out her tongue. "Yuck, sink water is the grossest. Refrigerator water is the awesome awesome awesome."
"Well, you'll get sink water because I'm upstairs already, because I don't want to go downstairs. If you want cold refrigerator water, you can go downstairs and get it yourself."
"I can't, because I'm too little."
"Well, then you get sink water."
"I don't want sink water."
"Then go downstairs and get cold water yourself."
"I can't. I'm being snuggled by the perfect mama and you're our servant."
I gave up after that. What can you say in the face of such obnoxious cuteness?
Just call me Jeeves.