Just as we were leaving his school for the day, The Mayor purposefully walked up to his best friend Caleb and smacked him hard enough to knock the cupcake he had been holding to the floor. "I didn't. It wasn't my fault. I didn't do it on purpose," he said.
Caleb burst into tears and, as he wailed, his open mouth and the surrounding ring of blue cupcake icing formed two, perfectly concentric circles.
The cupcake lay upside down on the floor and The Mayor's hand was a guilty blur of icing.
Minutes before, The Mayor and I had been sitting and talking with other kids and their parents.
I was incredulous.
"Why did you do that?" I asked, wiping blue icing from his hand and coat.
"I didn't. It wasn't my fault. I didn't do it on purpose," he said.
"Caleb's Dad was standing right there, Mayor. He saw you. So why did you do that?"Now The Mayor burst into tears.
"There are going to be consequences for your behavior." I told him.
"What consequences?" he sobbed.
"I'm not sure yet. I'll have to discuss it with your dad."
The Mayor started crying harder until he arrived at full throttle wailing.
He balled all the way home and, even when we got there, he was inconsolable.
"We should do this sooner rather than later," K said. "What consequences should we enforce?"We decided on a punishment and then went to talk to The Mayor about it together.
"There are going to be several consequences for this," K said.
[Harsh, I know, but The Rooster had just suffered the same punishment for extremely rude behavior towards a friend.]
"First, you're going to have to sleep with out your blankie tonight."
"Secondly, you're going to have to call Caleb tonight and apologize to him and his father."
"Finally, you're going to have take money from your bank, buy Caleb a new cupcake and bring it to him at school."The Mayor, who had calmed himself enough to listen to his fate, began sobbing anew.
K and I went to the kitchen to start on dinner.
I'm used to The Mayor being alone in his room screaming and throwing tantrums, but this seemed different.
When my kids were babies, other mothers kept telling me that I would learn to distinguish their cries, that I would soon understand the difference between the tired cry and the hungry cry.
I remember thinking they were crazy -- every time The Baby Mayor opened his mouth to cry it all sounded the same to me.
[Oh, how I routinely fail as a mother and a woman!!]
Of course, over time, I did learn the difference between his cries and this cry was different.
I'm pretty sure The Mayor surprised himself.
I don't think he was proud of what he did, in fact, I think he felt terrible.
Also, being four, he probably doesn't have enough self-awareness or experience to recognize -- or even name -- jealousy.
I asked K to finish cooking dinner and went into The Mayor's room.
I sat on the bed with him while he sobbed and rubbed his back.
"Why are you here? Why are you doing that?" he shouted at me.
"I'm waiting for you to calm down," I said. "I want to talk with you."
"Why do I have to do everything," he choked, "and Caleb doesn't have to do anything?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I have to have all the consequences and he doesn't have any!"
"Caleb didn't do anything to deserve any consequences, Mayor. You hit him and knocked his cupcake to the floor."
"But I didn't do it on purpose!" he moaned.
"It doesn't matter if you did it on purpose or if it was an accident. When we ruin or break something that belongs to someone else, we offer to replace it. We make things right. That's what we do."[We had to go over this particular concept many, many times.]
Still, no amount of talking seemed to calm The Mayor down.
Finally, I suggested we count out enough money to buy a new cupcake from his bank and set it aside for our trip to the market.
He agreed, but sobbed as we dumped all his coins out on the bed.
I helped him count out 10 dimes.
"Is that all the dimes I have?" he cried.
"No, there are a lot more dimes. See?"He counted the remaining dimes.
"This pile of dimes equals one dollar and it's what you'll need to buy a cupcake. We can put the rest of the coins back in your bank."
"I can keep the rest?" he asked, shocked.
"Yes, Mayor. We can buy a cupcake with only these ten dimes."Things were looking up! Cupcakes weren't as expensive as The Mayor feared.
When he finally calmed down, we called Caleb's house.
"I'm sorry I hit you, Caleb," he said. "I'm going to buy you a new cupcake."There was a pause.
"You're my best friend."
"Okay," Caleb said.The Mayor apologized to Caleb's father too.
Later, at the market, The Mayor picked out a cupcake for his friend and paid for it himself, handing ten of his own dimes to the cashier.
There's a pastry box sitting in our refrigerator waiting to go to school with him tomorrow.
Best of all, I think The Mayor had his first opportunity to learn that even when we make what feels like a terrible mess of our best relationships, we can find a way to make things right again.
I'm feeling awfully proud of him.