August 22, 2010: Confession

Confession is good for the soul…so the saying goes. People of faith hold fast to this concept, and indeed, if you’ve ever confessed a wrong that is weighing you down, you know that there is a shift within your heart, however small, when you admit what you’ve done out loud to another. In Law & Order, we watch forced confessions, which inevitably complicate the process of administering justice by slowing the search for the true guilty one.

Forced confessions don’t work on tv and they shouldn’t. A confession is something that must spring from within one’s own soul, or the confession at best confuses the issue and at worst, mocks the entire accusation.

When Chase was in kindergarten, his teacher was, in my opinion, the last woman who should have been teaching kindergarten. She was thin to the point of looking like her very body was composed of sharp angles. Her voice was perpetually condescending and when (easily) provoked, took on a shrill quality that made you want to provoke her all the more. She had ridiculously high expectations for her band of 5 year olds including a list of rules posted in front and center in the room that took up two full flip charts;  this for children who were not yet reading.

Still. Chase seemed to like kindergarten. He knew the names of all his classmates within a week. He knew most of the names and professions of all of his classmate’s parents within a month. He was on the fast-track to be class president by sixth grade, when he would at last be eligible.

Until he committed the unforgiveable sin.

As in most kindergarten classes, his class had pets. A bunny, I think. And a bird, in a cage. One of the rules was NOT to enter a circle on the floor immediately under the bird’s cage. To enter the circle, was to risk bumping the cage, which would frighten the bird.

One day, Chase and his friend Tyler were rough-housing. As Chase told the story, Tyler pushed Chase into the circle, causing Chase to bump the bird cage, which was unfortunate since the cage was open and the parakeet…in her birdly terror, flew OUT in a non-gentle way.

The teacher was incensed. She scolded the two boys. She stopped class and reviewed the rules.  I think she even made them stay in for recess.  AND, she insisted the guilty confess their sin and apologize to the ENTIRE class.

Chase wouldn’t do it.   He wouldn’t do it in part because he didn’t think he was guilty.  It was a forced confession!  Tyler had ‘pushed him.’  He hadn’t MEANT to enter the circle.  He hadn’t OPENED the cage.

Ultimately, we were called in to be informed of the crime of our budding juvenile delinquent.  She emphatically emphasized to us her concern that Chase had an “inability to take responsibility for his own behavior.”  She encouraged us to be “good parents” and get  him to “admit his guilt,” AND apologize to the class.

While we thought her request was somewhat extreme (public speaking being one of the most popular fears of all people, including kindergarteners I presume), we told Chase he did in fact, break the rule and that he may as well apologize to the class so the issue would go away. We told him we would be there when he confessed to help him have courage.

We sat in the back of the room in little wooden chairs feeling ridiculous but focused on communicating strength to our boy.   The teacher, in her pinched “I-have-won-this-round” voice, had the children sit on the floor and announced smugly that Chase had something he wanted to say to the class.

Chase stood up, lumbered his way to the front, threw back his shoulders, put his hands on hips, cleared his throat, and with the poise of a pro, and a confident voice I can still hear today, began his forced confession…

“I’ve done a lot of BAAAAAAAAD in My Life…”

I’m not sure having the class, and his parents, dissolve into fits of laughter was the response she was going for…