I slipped into the busy room, my movements easily concealed by the noise level and another parent who was in the process of collecting her son.
Reaching into Sprite's folder, I felt a pair of arms wrap around my legs from behind as a little face pressed into my right thigh.
I looked down to see her smiling fice. "Hi, babe."
"I love you so much!"
As much as I cherished those words, the eyes behind the smile seemed a little off. Something was up. Looking up, I saw her teacher come closer, with a wary smile on her face.
"I was about to send her to Time Out." Her eyebrows rose as she said this.
"She hit a friend."
Must not have been that close of a friend. "She hit someone?"
"She was standing in line and thought someone was getting a little too close and turned around and slapped her."
"No reason other than standing too close?"
Looking down at the deep brown eyes which gazed back at me with such innocence, I KNEW she was guilty. I looked back to the teacher. "Where's the Time Out spot?"
She shrugged and pointed to the far wall near an easel. "I'm not going to enforce it since you need to leave."
I was running late.
But a lesson was a lesson.
"Sprite, go sit in Time Out. Four minutes."
Shocked, she backed away from me, watching as both I and her teacher pointed to the same spot. Not sure who she should pay attention to, she just stood there.
"Sprite, you did the crime, do the time. Go to Time Out."
Her feet would not move.
"May I?" her teacher asked.
I smiled, giving her full authority to act even though I was standing right there.
I leaned against the closed closet door, watching as Sprite was led to Time Out, her tears beginning in earnest once she realized that Mom, the ruler of her rules universe, was not going to rescue her from certain doom.
I took my time fetching her rest friend from the cubbies and her homework before I made small talk with the same teacher, all while my daughter's shoulders shook with outraged emotion, her small back turned to us as she served her sentence, forced sobs letting us know how betrayed she felt.
Finally, the teacher could take no more. (I could have gone the whole four minutes..) Walking over to my little bully, she released her from solitary and marched her over for a tissue to mop her face with and a long overdue apology for the victim, another little girl who happened to share the same name. If not the same attitude.
Finished with her sentence and community service, Sprite was sent back over to the door where she laid still glittering eyes on me. "I want to go home," she whimpered.
"Okay, let's go," I answered, mouthing a thank you to her teacher.
We walked out, my hand on her back to steer her toward the exit.
"Sprite, who's in charge?"
"And when you're at school, who's in charge?"