They were lined up in an almost orderly fashion, parents milling about, everyone excited for the 1st grade thanksgiving feast. Arriving late Leo hugs Steve and I and shows me his woven construction paper placemat. Then he heads to wash his hands. I think it is because of the smile, but his classmates part like the red sea to allow him to wash his hands first.
I elbow Steve and hiss “Did you see him cut the line?”
I wait for the natural consequence, a protest from the group, and exclamation of inequity. Nothing comes. The second grade has been invited to the buffet first so we are probably 10 minutes out from eating. We chat with classmates, compare stuffing, plan our pickings- the chef brought the stuffing I want- I calculate the diners between me and the stuffing and expect it will work out. Not everyone knows he is a chef. There are 5 stuffings that come earlier in the line. Circumstances look favorable.
Leo is introducing us to friends and then he is gone.
“Where did he go?” I ask Steve.
I know though, and I look up and his plate is heaping. He comes to me with a full plate and an empty plate- hands me the empty plate and says “just go up there and get your food.”
I tell him I am going to wait in line for food. “Why?” He asks. “Why do you think I might choose to wait?” I counter. “Because that is what is fair.” He answers in a matter of fact tone.
“Well I’m going to go eat.” Off he goes with his ill gotten gains. I join him 12 minutes later as he is finishing dessert. Steve doesn’t even get a seat at the table.
The stuffing is really good. Just as I am digging in I hear him say. “I’m going to get more turkey.” “Has everyone had some?” I ask him. “I don’t know.” He is off with his plate.
He is back with turkey. He carefully shares a piece with Mollie. SO generous. SO thoughtful.
There are worse offenses than cutting. Although maybe not in first grade. I have chosen not to intervene, hoping that the teachable moment will be an experiential one. It doesn’t seem to be though. He got three rounds of food in the time that it took the rest of us to get one. He was smiled at by classmates and (other) parents. We are going to have to talk about buffets, and what is polite. The problem is, it isn’t information that is missing. He knows what is fair and polite and has calculated (in this case correctly) that the benefit of cutting outweighs the cost.
Late that night he is Skyping and playing Minecraft with 5 other kids. These are friends only online- they go by names like monkey and butter, and everyone calls him Oliver because in early days the boys shared a Minecraft account ‘Oliver_Leo’. The banter is partly fun, but it shifts. They are bashing him. Calling him seven and stupid.
I drift into the room to reread the chat.
“Hi Mama” he sing songs, not yet worried about what these boys will think. “How’s it going in here?” I ask, quickly scanning the chat for harsh words. The content seems to be limited to game strategy via text. The taunting is just verbal. I linger waiting to hear more.
Again unsure about the proper level of intervention, erring on the side of do nothing say nothing whenever I am confused. I hear him yell at the group about some sort of teleporting mishap. He really sounds like an ass. I wait for them to drop him off of the call. It doesn’t happen.
During book time I ask about the kids online. “How do you guys get along?” “Great!” he tells me. “We play together and play around together.” I don’t see the value in teaching him that he is the butt of their jokes. I consider asking about cutting the line, where he is the perpetrator rather than the victim. He knows the polite way to behave and chose not to. I vow that next time we are planning on attending a party we will consider leaving him behind because he hasn’t demonstrated best practices in buffet etiquette. Maybe he can skip the party and get yelled at by his Minecraft friends.
What do I really want to know? Is he going to grow up to be thoughtless? A pyschopath? What is the correlation between line cutting and cutting the heads off of frogs? I’m guessing low, but I don’t know.
At least I know that he will help himself if he ever ends up in a food shortage situation.