As soon as he settles himself into the backseat of the car at school pickup —
Charlie: I’ve got some bad news for you.
Cassie: (with dread) What?!
Charlie: I was sent to the principal’s office today.
Cassie: You were? How come?
Charlie: I pants-ed someone.
Cassie: What’s that? A wedgie?
Charlie: No. A wedgie is a wedgie. I pulled a kid’s pants down.
Charlie: It was just a bit. You could only see his underwear a little. Actually, no one saw, except G — and he tattled on me. I don’t even think H— was that offended. G— got a real thrill out of tattling on me. That kid’s a real “minus” in my opinion.
Cassie: Back to the problem at hand here. That was an invasion of personal space…what you did, Charlie.
Charlie: Which is just what the principal said.
Cassie: Was the principal really annoyed?
Cassie: What else did he say?
Charlie: I don’t really want to relive the whole thing.
Cassie: Too bad. Tell me exactly what went down in that principal’s office. Now.
Charlie: (sighing) Alright. When I got there, I had to wait in the outside office area because the principal was on the phone. Then I went into his office. His office is nice. It’s rather spacious…with a lot of windows so he can look out over his kingdom —
Cassie: Forget the office design. What did he say? Exactly.
Charlie: I won’t be able to remember word for word.
Cassie: Give it your best shot.
Charlie: Well, he said here’s what I was told happened…and he told the story of how I pulled the kid’s pants down. Then he said, “Now you tell me what happened from your perspective.”
Cassie: And what did you say?
Charlie: I said that I was just playing a joke on H—. I’ve been pants-ed a hundred times myself, I said. It’s no big deal. I never tell on anybody. I just laugh it off. Because I have a great sense of humor…unlike some people. And then he asked me if I understood why some people might not find it funny. And I said yes. I apologized to the principal and said I would apologize to H — again. H — had already accepted my apology the first time. No one would have known or been upset about anything if G — hadn’t tattled. That kid….
Cassie: Did you cry?
Charlie: Cry? Why would I cry?
Cassie: I don’t know. Because you were embarrassed about having to go to the principal’s office? Because you got in trouble?
Charlie: I was sort of embarrassed, yes. But no, I didn’t cry, Mom.
Cassie: It’s okay if you did. Sometimes I cry if I get embarrassed.
Charlie: Well I don’t. Have you seen me cry when I get in trouble with you and Dad?
Cassie: No, not often. That’s true. But I thought maybe being sent to the principal’s office would have an impact. That’s sort of a big deal.
Charlie: Nop-huh! No crying. Jeesh. I’m just mad that my joke didn’t work and I have a little grudge against G — now….for tattling. But I’m going to let it go so the whole thing doesn’t escalate into some big war at school.
Cassie: Escalate — good word. Well, you’re off the computer for a week.
Charlie: I expected it.
Cassie: And you’ll also have to write a letter of apology to H—.
Cassie: And tell Dad when he gets home.
Charlie: Can’t you tell him?
Cassie: Nop-huh. You can.
Charlie: Great….He’ll probably be all cranky when he hears.
Charlie: I hate it when a joke bombs. I really hate that. And tattlers, who ruin the whole show.
Cassie: This wasn’t a show, Charlie. This was a real kid and you hurt his feelings by pulling down his pants. You humiliated him. Sort of bully behavior when you get right down to it. I know you wouldn’t want to humiliate another person, even if it was supposed to be a joke. That’s just bad.
Charlie: I do have some guilt…that the joke backfired. I really wasn’t being a bully, Mom, and I don’t think I really hurt his feelings at all. We were both laughing after I did it. G—, the other kid, just wanted to get me in trouble. (Pause.) Anyway, this happened at the end of the day, so up until that point my day was great.
Cassie: (sarcastically) Glad to hear it.
Charlie: And also, I got to see what the principal’s office looked like.
Cassie: But you saw it because you got in trouble….it wasn’t for a good reason that you saw his office.
Charlie: It all adds to my experience, Mom. A joke that bombed, learning who the bad tattlers are, and seeing the inside of the principal’s office. These are life lessons I needed to know.
Cassie: And being grounded from the computer all week?
Charlie: That’s a sad consequence of the whole affair…but it’ll be worth it, I think.
Cassie: I’ll remind you of that come Thursday when you’re whining about how much you miss your computer games.
Charlie: Well, comedy and life lessons aren’t always smooth.
Cassie: That’s what you learned from all this? (Pause.) Did you also maybe learn that the best comedy, while it can poke some fun at people, shouldn’t humiliate or hurt anyone?
Charlie: Yes. Okay, I might have learned that. But mostly I learned that some people aren’t as advanced…comically…as I am.
Cassie: (sighing) You really ARE going to be famous some day, aren’t you?
Charlie: I think so.
Cassie: I just hope it’s for all the right reasons, you know?
Charlie: Don’t worry yourself, Mom. It will be. I’m just working out all the kinks during my childhood.