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Okay, so maybe it’s my fault, at least in part. After all, it was my idea to name our son after a long line of lawyers and judges from my side of the family. The first, my beloved great uncle Carlos Victor Davila is, in fact a retired Supreme Court judge in Puerto Rico, so I guess it was inevitable that my kid would show lawyerly qualities. In retrospect my husband and I have realized there were signs as early as five years old.

"Dad, can I have a brownie?"

"No Carlos, I told you, not before dinner."

"But Dad, you said no candy before dinner. Brownies aren't candy."

"No cake either, Carlos, can't you see I'm trying to cook here?"

"But Dad, brownies aren't really cake either."

It only gets worse from there. Everything is negotiated with this kid, from television time to how much ice cream he gets for dessert. And God help you if there is any hole in your argument, 'cause he will find it and try to wear you down. But lately his skills are leaning towards the dark side of the force.

One night a few years ago he called me at the office to ask if he could go to a friend's house instead of to his caregivers.

"Well, that depends… how was your day at school?" I inquired.

You see, Carlos is a class clown and seems incapable of restraining himself from making smart comments at inappropriate times (I swear he gets it from his father, but no one seems to believe me). So my husband and I often hear from his teacher about his shenanigans. (God, I never thought I would use that word — I must be getting old.)

"Well, my day was fair…" he says, the words at the end of the sentence rising up in that thin, begging-like, whiny sound which grates through my nerves like teeth on a rusted tin can. "I reaaalllly want to go to Ian's, Mom! The rest of the week will be great, I promise!"

Sigh. "Okay, I would have preferred if you had had a good day, but you damn well better pick it up this week." He gleefully hung up and spent the afternoon playing at his friend's house. I picked him up after work around 5:30, and as is our routine, after dropping his backpack on the floor he made a beeline to the living room to watch inane cartoons, while I retreated to my bedroom to change out of work clothes and check messages. I pressed the play button on the answering machine, and as I was pulling a sweatshirt over my head I heard Carlos' teacher's voice.

"Ann, this is Carol. I have a meeting to go to tonight, but I just wanted to make sure you saw the note I sent home with Carlos, his behavior today was just inexcusable…"

I didn't even hear the rest of the message as the roar of the top of my head blowing off drowned out all other sounds. When I regained the ability to speak I bellowed his name across the house. He appeared almost instantly at the door of my room, out of breath. The bugger knew he was in trouble. I attempted to smile, but I'm afraid I looked more like one of the goblins who menacingly skitter around the walls in the Lord of the Rings.

"Carlos, where is the note the teacher gave you?"


"What note?"

"Don’t try to pull that with me, she left a message, I know there was a note. Give it to me. NOW!"

"I tore it up!"


"I… didn't think it was important!"

I tried to breathe, really, but I was afraid the flames that were pouring out of my nostrils would ignite the tan Berber carpeting below my feet.

"Well then, bring me each and every piece."

He rushed to his backpack and I could hear rustling. He came back and handed me a thin piece of paper. On it was written Carlos had a fair morning and below that there was a torn edge. Again, I tried to breathe.

"Where is the rest of the note?"

"It… it must have fallen out of my backpack on the way home from school!"

I paced up and down the hallway outside his bedroom, ranting and raving at the top of my lungs, "What? Do you think I'm stupid?"

Needless to say, this didn't end well. I finally found out the whole story after much cross-examination and interrogation. Carlos was under house arrest, banished to his room for the evening and only allowed to leave for the bathroom and dinner. No Xbox, no TV; he was lucky I let him breathe.

Now, we recognize that many of these lawyer-like skills that Carlos seems to have been born with will serve him well, or at least make him captain of the debate team. Being able to think on your feet, clearly defend yourself, and negotiate are all talents that he will use, perhaps even in the career that seems to be a family tradition. However, we have to draw the line on shredding evidence; I can’t imagine that that is a skill his illustrious legal forebears would approve of. Though I have trouble envisioning the noble Tío Carlos shredding evidence, it’s hard to know what he did or didn’t do as an eight-year-old to triumph in his own family court.

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About Ann Hagman Cardinal

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