Thursday, April 20, 2017

Zoe vs. Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment

Zoe's middle name is the same as my maiden name, Ryan. But I'm thinking of changing hers to Raskolnikov, after the main character from Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. She won't even need to throw away all her monogrammed towels!
The reason I may re-name my child after a murderer from a nineteenth-century Russian novel is that lately Zoe has been filled with guilt and a need to confess her crimes. When I pick her up from after school, she'll often greet me with a stricken look followed by a glance at the aides, before waving me closer.
She'll then whisper to me: "Mommy, I did something bad."
Then comes the pulling teeth to find out what great crime she committed. Usually it's that she was too loud or joined in the group roughhousing and got in trouble. But her gravitas and the depths of her guilt would make anyone think the police were about to find the body she'd stashed beneath her floorboards.
But that's Poe, and we're quoting Dostoyevsky today. An equally cheery soul.

Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment

Side note: I once read historical fiction that took place in 1800's Russia, and it was one of those books where the fictional characters mingle with real people. In one scene, our heroine meets Fyodor D. at a party and charms him so much that: "Dostoyevsky's eyes twinkled." I've always loved that line because it amuses me to think of the author of such light fare as The Idiot, Notes from the Underground, and, of course, Crime and Punishment, as a guy whose eyes can "twinkle." Maybe what the character mistook for a twinkle was actually a passing memory of time spent in a Siberian prison camp. Or maybe while she chattered oppressively he was reminded of his crushing gambling debts. Or perhaps that glimmer in his eye was the harbinger of one of his seizures.
Anyway, on with famous lines by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, behavior by Zoe.

"Right or wrong, it's very pleasant to break something from time to time."
Zoe used to enjoy breaking things. This was before things like consequences occurred to her. The other day, when she knocked down a little boy's Lego structure and had to sit in timeout, she saved up her angst and drama until pickup. And a scene unfolded similar to what I outlined above. I'm pretty sure she still enjoyed the actual breaking and destroying part though.

"The soul is healed being with children."
But maybe not the furniture. Or another child's prized possession.
For instance, Just last night, when I picked her up, she greeted me with: "I have to tell you something that happened today."
She continued: "I was grabbing a bit today. But I was only an inch or so involved. And, do you know the game monkey in the middle? And I was trying to help, and the doll broke, and I got a little in trouble, just an inch, because they didn't know I was helping."
Did you follow that? Do you feel healed?

"Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself . . . comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him."
Though sometimes Zoe seems to bask in her guilt, simultaneously, she tries to weasel her way out of it. Classic Raskolnikov, right?
Yes, I pushed him, she'll say, but the second time was an accident.
I wanted to tell her her story would probably make more sense if the first time was the accident. The second time you push someone it's more likely to be intentional. And makes a person think that first time was on purpose too.
Just don't push people, I say, then look around for my parenting medal.

"Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately, in love with suffering."
Last week Zoe was on spring break and she stayed with her grandmother a few days. During that time I had one main rule for her I repeated over and over. She was to stay by her grandmother's side on the street or in stores. No running ahead. Because Grandma would not be running after her. And I did not want my mother to have to chase after her in Rite Aid.
Guess what Grandma had to do?
Now, Grandma being Grandma, she was not going to narc on her only grandchild, but I could tell something was amiss when I got to my mother's house that evening. Zoe had the look of impending doom on her face. She beckoned me upstairs, where I got the usual nervous preamble.
Eyes welling, she eventually admitted that she'd run ahead of Grandma in the drugstore and Grandma got excited because she couldn't find her. Then came the flood of tears.
I said, Well, you shouldn't have done that. But I was glad she told me, and not to do it again. After her confession Zoe seemed only slightly mollified. She sulked all through dinner, some furtive guilt eating away at her as if she'd killed a Russian pawnbroker who maybe kind of deserved it, but even so, murder was impolite.

"It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently."
That something is deviousness. For sometimes all the tears mask an ulterior motive. 
As she went to bed that night it was time for more confessing. Same crime but a new angle. "I feel bad that I was bad today."
And you'll probably be bad again in the not-so-distant future, I thought but didn't say. After all, I didn't want to derail her train of remorse.
My silence was rewarded.
And there it was.

"I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea [Legos]."
You see, I'd promised her that if she was good for Grandma, she'd get a new Lego set. Barring really awful behavior, and to have an activity to keep her occupied and save my own sanity, I'd already decided to get her the Legos. But yes, I should've known a big part of her "suffering" was about possibly being denied a gift.
I reassured her that the truth had set her free and, as long as she behaved going forward, she would get the Legos.
"It's okay, sweetheart," I said. "There's nothing you can do that Mommy will be that mad at you." Which might've been true though perhaps I should've held that sentiment in reserve till we were closer to the end of her break. But as Fyodor said:
"You can be sincere and still be stupid."

Zoe: 161; Universe: 0

If you enjoyed this post, you may like Zoe vs. 11 Famous Novels, well-known titles, with a twist.

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

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