for March 28, 2005
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for today's rant...
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On Starting School...
Reading about the cute things other people's kids and pets do is usually pretty dull, but I'll save the pictures and home movies for another time if you'll allow me a little leeway to let my son star in just one column. My son is 5, but not yet in kindergarten because of some overly fussy state laws. I called for clarification of those laws and got something like this:
"When is his birthday? Oh, that makes him a Libra. Our kindergarten teacher's chart shows this is a bad year for associating with Libras. Yes, that applies to all 200 kindergarten teachers in our system. Call us next year and we'll let you know what our school system palm reader recommends. Yes of course you could send him to private school if you are certain you can afford that and the 30 years of therapy? Welcome to our state!"
And things in this state have only gotten less logical since then, so no kindergarten for him yet. But in anticipating kindergarten next year, I've already identified topics that I'm sure will come up at the first few parent/teacher conferences, and am busy working on excuses.
That takes care of the first four parent/teacher conferences and we're pretty happy with our excuses so far. With that out of the way, I'm pretty sure our invitations to join the PTA and speak at career day will wind up lost in the mail. So maybe it's not such a bad thing...
- Conference 1: Your son has a potty mouth. He asked his teacher where the hell the chalk was yesterday.
Yes, but when he uses those swear words, he's grammatically correct, isn't he? We could try to play dumb here, but it wouldn't get us very far. OK, he's picked up a few words here and there - but not the biggies or anything. I'd love to blame "Sesame Street" but the blame actually lies in any number of sources: Number 1: mom, number 2: dad, number 3: "The Simpsons." So far, as parents, we've avoided getting upset when he swears or explaining the nature of "dirty words" on the theory that knowing they're wrong only makes them more powerful and fun for him to drop - kind of like why college students drink. Instead we've decided to try and replace them with British swear words. He's picked up "bloody" pretty well and the woman he used it on at the grocery store didn't even flinch. We're also trying to get him to use "smeg" which is a made-up swear word from the British TV show "Red Dwarf" and has the added feature of being applicable in several situations - "smeg off" "what the smeg?" and of course "that's a stinking load of smeg." But if his bilingual swear word training doesn't take by next fall, I am confident we'll be sitting in little chairs trying to explain the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of language relativity to a kindergarten teacher who is shaking her head and clucking at us.
- Conference 2: We highly recommend you take your son in for medical care. His fan belt seems to be loose.
I'm pretty sure a doctor couldn't do anything short of removing his vocal chords to fix this problem. In addition to letting our kid swear we've also allowed him to become a "hummer." Actually with this one I think the parent/teacher conference will be easy compared to the talk I'll have to have with his first spouse. He mostly hums when he's concentrating, sounding kind of like a car idling. Actually he started doing that as a baby when he would try to mimic the sound of the car. I'm only glad we didn't own the diesel back then or he might be spluttering on cold mornings and releasing blue smoke too. And it's this really weird nasally hum he does - we haven't met anyone else that can do it. It's weird but unfortunately not weird enough to rent him to a freak show yet. Yet I fear it is the exact pitch and tone to drive a herd of kindergarten teachers up a paper-mache tree.
- Conference 3: We are disturbed that your son has suggested that he spends time with a violent old man.
This one will be a tough one and our excuse will most likely have to be in novel form. Don't worry, there's no Michael Jackson story here. From what I've been told it's not that odd for an only child to have an imaginary friend. At our house that's "Jimmy." At first Jimmy was harmless and mostly enjoyed playing hide and seek, which led to very tongue-tied moments when my son would come running to us asking, "Have you seen Jimmy?" But then shortly after a World War II documentary a few months ago, the kid got obsessed with the year 1946 and that became then year Jimmy was born, George Washington died, and the last time our son took a bath. Jimmy's violent streak didn't kick in until after one Sunday afternoon when TV options were extremely limited and we were suddenly possessed by bad parenting demons that said, "Hey, you can kill a half hour with Battlebots." Jimmy has now taken on the traits of every fighting robot on earth. So I'm sure the teacher will be at least mildly curious about the man born in 1946 that drives buzz saws into our son. Our basic strategy here is to try and move Jimmy in with my parents or get him a job with a traveling show of ventriloquists but so far we can't get either of them to take him.
- Conference 4: We can't get your son to do math problems unless we ask for the "actual retail price."
In trying to undo the damage of the World War II documentary and Battlebots we've encouraged him to watch "The Price is Right" a few days a week. It's math, right? And math is good. He's learning a little math, although from some of the prices he calls out for things I think he must be converting the prices to lira or rubles. But mostly he's learning how to read people, "Why is that teenage boy not happy that he can win a washer and dryer?" Early on he asked why people get more excited about winning cars than grandfather clocks. So naturally I explained, "They get to pay more taxes when they win a car." "Oh, I wish I could pay taxes." So he's picked up a little TPIR vocabulary. That's why he was the creature in the house that got most excited when we announced we were getting the cat spayed. He just couldn't figure out why there wasn't a model delivering a living room set right afterward.
All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.
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