THE ARTIST IN PRISON, THE CHICKEN IN BED

Sage displays his artwork.

Sage displays his artwork.

Yesterday marked a doleful First: the arrival of Sage’s first green slip from school. I’d grown complacent in the absence of these ominous little papers, but now I have official documentation of my son’s delinquency. His transgression wasn’t quite worthy of a trip to the principal, but it was clearly obnoxious; his teacher’s hastily scrawled message noted (twice) that he continued to act “silly and disruptive” despite her warning.

My suspicion of the crime’s magnitude was confirmed when Sage mounted only a feeble defense, a sad little attempt to blame a classmate’s funny faces for making him laugh. It was clearly a lame excuse, even to Sage, and it was especially surprising given his normally politician-like ability to shift all blame for his unworthy actions to other people, animals, and (with unnerving frequency) inanimate objects.

What was I to do? Where was the line between “tough love” and just plain “tough”? I didn’t want to scar him for life (any more than I already have, anyway), yet I didn’t want any innocent forests to perish in the manufacture of Sage’s future green slips.

Fortunately, inspiration struck: I would revoke his Angry Birds privileges for a week. He’s followed his father into a glassy-eyed servitude to this game, so I was pleased with my idea on multiple fronts. Sage’s lack of argument affirmed that he knew he was guilty despite his also-politician-like inability to recall what exactly he’d done wrong.

This incident made me recall another punishment from several months ago. I don’t even remember what exactly Sage had done (which is probably for the best), but since this was in the pre-Angry Bird era, I had to deal with it the old fashioned way, with a Time Out.

I’d returned to his room after five minutes, expecting to find him still weeping and sputtering indignantly. Instead, I’d found him calmly sprawled across his bed arranging magnets. He’d looked up at me and asked, “Do you like it?”

“It’s very nice,” I’d replied, trying desperately to figure out what exactly it was.

He could see from my expression that I was one of the ignorant masses who just couldn’t appreciate fine art, so he’d deigned to tell me what it was. “It’s a chicken,” he’d explained. “See? Here’s the beak.”

And sure enough, it WAS a chicken, and it was surprisingly well-rendered for something made out of toy magnets on a disheveled bed. Art emerges in the unlikeliest places…

Maybe I’ll have a repeat performance. Maybe Sage will be so inspired by his week without Angry Birds that he’ll create some of his own. Maybe this will be his first step on the road to becoming a great artist.

Or maybe he’ll just play his dad’s Wii.

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