The night before he went back to school after Christmas vacation, just as my daughter and I were leaving to do some errands, With-a-Why announced to me that he needed a book. The book in question was some kind of junior high biography of Charles Dickens.
With-a-Why: I need it for school.
Me: But you haven't been in school for almost two weeks.
With-a-Why: I have a test on it.
With-a-Why: Yeah. Or maybe the next day.
Daughter: Why would you have a test the day after vacation?
With-a-Why: Because we had a snow day right before vacation and that mixed things up.
Me: So you were supposed to have a test on the book two weeks ago?
Me: And you haven't read the book yet?
With-a-Why: Um. Not exactly. (He shrugged and looked down at the book he was reading, a science fiction novel.)
Me: And you don't have the book yet? You are just telling me right now that you need it?
With-a-Why: They gave us copies of the book. But I lost mine.
Me: You lost it?
Me: Shouldn't we look for it?
With-a-Why: No, I lost it at school.
Me: And that was more than two weeks ago?
Daughter: (laughing) He's sooo the baby of the family.
Usually, I try not to bail my kids out of these kinds of situations, with the idea that they should accept the consequences of their behavior, but since my daughter and I were in a bookstore that evening, we did look for the book. The bookstore didn't have it. I reported this news to With-a-Why. He didn't seem overly concerned.
Me: I couldn't get a copy of the book.
With-a-Why: The other kids said it wasn't very good anyhow.
Me: So you don't really want to read it?
Me: Maybe you should talk to the teacher about it.
With-a-Why: (shrugged and looked back down at the book he was reading)
Boy in Black: We should order a copy of the book online.
Me: Why? That would never come in time.
Boy in Black: But he will need to give the school back a copy of the book whether he's read it or not.
Me: Oh, right.
During the last week, With-a-Why has been steadily reading the science fiction books he got for Christmas. He reads books far beyond the seventh grade level, so I wasn't overly concerned about him missing out on the assigned book, which didn't seem to be any great work of literature. I wondered how he'd feel about getting a low grade on a test, though, since he's used to getting the highest grades in the class. The next day after school, he was sitting cosily by the fire with one of his new Christmas books when I thought to ask him again about the missing book.
Me: Hey, did you talk to your teacher about losing the book?
Me: (surprised that my shy child actually talked to the teacher) Oh, good for you. What did you tell her?
With-a-Why: I asked her if I could have another copy of the book.
Me: What did she say?
Me: Oh, well. That's probably her official policy.
With-a-Why: She said the test was multiple choice.
With-a-Why: (looking back down at his book) I can wing it.
Film Guy: (laughing) I used to do that all the time.
I'd forgotten the whole incident until With-a-Why mentioned it over the weekend. As usual, a bunch of us were gathered by the fire, with books and laptop computers. With-a-Why looked up from his book and said to his oldest brother, "Hey, I don't need that book we ordered."
Me: What? Did you find the book?
With-a-Why: No. The teacher collected all the books yesterday.
Daughter: And you didn't have one.
With-a-Why: But she had a list of numbers that were on the books when she gave them to us. The girl next to me had my book.
Me: What? How did she get it?
With-a-Why: (shrugged and looked back down at his book)
Boy in Black: (laughing) Niiiiice.
The last conversation about the book took place again when we were all gathered by the fire.
With-a-Why: Hey, you know the test on that book?
Me: The one you didn't read?
Me: How did you do?
With-a-Why: I got a 90.
He smirked and went back to reading his book.