"I s this Mrs. Katz?”

“Yes, it is,” I answered in my best Hebrew.

“The principal would like to schedule an appointment with you.”

I gulped. Really, it was no surprise. Yesterday my seven-year-old had come home with a note written in an angry Hebrew scrawl: “Yossi broke Srulik Braverman’s tooth today.”

“You did what?” I’d exploded.

My seven-year-old macho man gave a little shrug and stuck out his chin. A bit defiant, a bit perplexed, he recounted the day’s events. “We were fighting a little, you know… and then Srulik bent down behind the desk, and I didn’t really realize, and I kicked him, but he was bending down, so I kicked his tooth. And then he was screaming that his tooth was broken…. And my rebbi gave me this note and said he’s telling the principal.” Another shrug. “He was hurting me too! All the kids hurt each other! Can I have something to eat? I’m hungry.”

This was too big and bad for me to digest all at once. How had I produced such a monster? What kind of kid goes around smashing people’s teeth?

I know that little boys don’t sit playing with dolls and tea sets during recess. Squabbles happen and scratches do ensue. But teeth aren’t replaceable! This was real damage!

Throughout the bath and supper routine I kept envisioning my wayward son going through life, wantonly destroying and maiming, ruining his reputation and the family name.

The extent of my misbehavior during my school years had been a reprimand for calling out the answers too eagerly. Where had this kid landed from? What kind of sense of humor did Hashem have, giving a model citizen like me a child with uncontrolled aggression issues?

That night, with my hand shaking, I dialed Srulik’s mother. In my best Hebrew, I apologized profusely for my violent son’s horrific deed and inquired after the broken tooth.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Who is this?” she asked politely yet warmly. Apparently Srulik’s family was a bit bigger than ours. While my household was virtually soundless save for the soft breathing of sleeping children, Mrs. Braverman was speaking against a background of spirited cacophony.

“I’m Chani Katz. Yossi’s mother. You know, the one who broke your Srulik’s tooth.” Gulp.

“Oh, right. So what is it you wanted to ask?”

“I wanted to tell you how sorry I am that this happened,” I repeated my prepared speech. “I really can’t understand how he did such a terrible thing.”

“Oh, it’s okay, that’s what kids are like,” she assured me, with any number of children squabbling, singing, and chattering in the background. “This isn’t the first time one of my boys has come home from school with some ‘interior design work’ done to his face, and believe me, I’m sure it won’t be the last.”

“I want to pay you for the dental work,” I plunged ahead.

“Oh, don’t worry!” she laughed. “It’s just a baby tooth. By the time he makes it to the chuppah, he’ll have all his teeth.”

“No, really, please let me know how much the dentist charges to examine him.”

“I’m pretty sure the school has insurance for these types of accidents,” she chuckled. I could almost visualize the neatly knotted flowered kerchief and twinkly smile. “I think I remember using it once, for a different son of mine. I’ll call them tomorrow just to make sure.”

“But what about the buses? The taxis?”

“Listen, I’ll be in touch with you if we encounter any unexpected expenses with the tooth. And don’t worry,” she reassured me one last time. “They grow up.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 582)