Clair McFarland: "Please Discuss Your Son’s Behavior With Him"

Clair McFarland writes: "My Middleborn son is teaching me about the wonderful world of lunch detention."

Clair McFarland

May 19, 20245 min read

Clair headshot 12 31 22
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

I never really appreciated lunch detention.

To me, it seemed like a death sentence. I wasn’t a perfect kid, but I’d burst with shame when faced with formal discipline so (usually) I tried to avoid it.

But my Middleborn son is teaching me about the wonderful world of lunch detention.

“Please discuss your son’s behavior with him,” reads an email Middleborn’s school sent last week.

I blanched. My mind raced faster than my eyes could read.

“Discuss what behavior with him?” I squawked. But my vision went all weird. I forcibly uncrossed my eyes, slowed my breathing and smoothed my hair down (in case it shot up in spikes like that of a shocked cartoon character).

“This detention is the result of throwing apples at the school building during recess,” the email added.

I was mortified.

Middleborn sauntered out to my car at school pick-up time that afternoon as if nothing had happened.

“Wha-wuh-ya-FRAUN-APPOS?” I bellowed, drunk on vicarious shame.

“Now, Mom —" began Middleborn.

“Why?” I demanded.

A fatal recollection hit Middleborn and diffused his face. Apples are sacred to his mother. They’re my favorite food. A vitamin-laced succulence bound in a ruby planetary crust. Adam’s downfall, Newton’s epiphany, my temptation.

I could see it in his eyes: He should have thrown oranges.

“Well, the lunch ladies, you see — “

I inhaled Wyoming’s entire oxygen supply.

“They have this discard box of, like, super OLD, super WRINKLY, really MUSHY apples —"

I exhaled fire.

“— which NO one ever wants. They just go bad. So I figured, it would be WRONG to let them end up in the garbage.”

I softened. Slightly. At that moment I realized I was pushing my car’s gas pedal but we weren’t moving because we were still in park.  

“So-me-and-my-buddy-threw-them-at-the-wall-outside-to-see-who-could-make-the-biggest-splat,” Middleborn spewed.

OK, so he got himself acquitted on the charge of wasting apples.

Honestly, I was jealous. I wondered how big of a splat I could make if I threw a mushy apple at a wall. Probably a bigger splat than any of the sixth graders. Maybe I could beat some of the seventh graders too, I thought with pride.

“But what about you disrespecting the building?” I asked. “Did you at least clean it up?”

Middleborn widened both eyes, hunched his shoulders in a don’t-ask-dumb-questions shrug, and gestured to the world outside my window.

It was raining. Sideways. Onto the building’s brick walls.

“That’s still not OK, Bud,” I said. “That’s not your building.”

He nodded. I hoped he understood.

“So you got lunch detention, huh?”

This time, he didn’t hang his head and nod. He brightened.

“I know! It was the best.”

I frowned. Then I had to slap my forehead to ward off the frown lines; then I leaned forward into Middleborn’s space with my glowing fuchsia forehead, hoping to hex him with it.

“THAT IS NOT THE BEST,” I volleyed. “You were publicly SHAMED. You were CONFINED. You were made to — to — “

“I got to sit and read!” Middleborn piped.

“DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA — Wait, what?” I narrowed my eyes.

Middleborn wiggled his bottom deeper into the front passenger seat of my car as he plunged his pale peachy hand into his backpack for something.

I wondered what it was. A fake ID? A pack of cigarettes?

He pulled a black sheen corner of something out of the zippered pouch, then let it drop so he could unzip the pouch more, then plunged his hand back into the backpack to unearth … a book. It was “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins.

Even I would go to lunch detention to read that.

“See, outside was all rain and hurricanes,” said Middleborn.

And he’s right. That was the week hurricane-force winds vacuumed all the Californians out of Wyoming. I looked left and I looked right, but even then I did not see a single Californian in the intersection. I turned left toward home.

“I decided it would be OK if I got caught, because then I could get out of this STORM,” Middleborn shuddered.


I still had to give him a consequence (no video games for a week), especially since he didn’t consider lunch detention to be one. But in the nether tendrils of my mind that grasp new ideas only when challenged, my envy toward this boy deepened.

He’s got something I don’t.

Could I ever turn my shames to my advantage, my shortfalls into comforts?

I have doubts about that. My self-excoriating perfectionism has a grip like a weird kid in a sixth-grade thumb war.

But maybe, if I let myself look up from the crises, emails and worries of the day once in a while to take mental photographs of Middleborn — doubling his chin to peer down at “The Hunger Games” as he splays it across his half-open, foot-smelling backpack; safe in my car from the storm’s fury and still dazzled by a dozen apple supernovas — then maybe I’ll come to know the value of a lunch detention.  

Clair McFarland can be reached at

Share this article



Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter