Nope, Never Ok, Not Ever.

“Nazis. I hate these guys.”

This year Nazis keep coming up, and it annoys the crap out of me.

Earlier in the fall in two separate class, on two separate days, two different boys gave the Nazi salute. It may help to tell you that I work in a high school that is over 90% Hispanic. And yes, both boys were Hispanic. But no matter the race, my reaction would have been the same.

You! Outside NOW!

Me: (in my mother voice) What did you do? Do you think that was respectful? Do you think that was appropriate? For my classroom? For public? Do you even know what that sign means?

Boy: (finally saying something instead of shaking his head, in a whisper voice looking at his feet) It’s just the Nazi salute Miss.

Me: (in my mother voice) “Just the Nazi salute?” Do you know what the Nazis stood for? The one pure race. Which they believed would be white. They believed all others inferior and preferred them dead. They would want you dead. And by doing that sign, you are saying you agree. With. Them.

Boy: (snaps up head to finally look me in the eye) But it was just an old German thing.

Me: No. They are Nazis still very much alive and active and everywhere. (At this point, the boy’s eyes go round.) And you are saying you’re a race traitor.

Boy: I’m… I’m sorry, Miss.

Me: And I (The Voice) Don’t ever want to see THAT sign in my class A. GAIN. (Normal teacher voice) Am I clear?

Boy: Yes, Miss. I’m sorry, Miss. I won’t do it again.

And after the second time, it hasn’t happened since.

While I hesitate to mention my work on my Mommy Blog, it brings me to what has been happening in Tornado E’s grade. With 6th graders. In a school across town with a 70% white majority. With a middle class background.

Tornado E has been coming home with some interesting stories.

Mama, the boys are talking about the Nazis. They think they’re cool. I don’t think they’re cool. I don’t like this, Mama.

So and so thinks Hitler was funny. I told him Hitler was evil, not funny. I don’t think he believed me.

Mama, so and so drew a swastika, and all the boys laughed. No, Mama, he erased it before the teacher saw.

Mama, so and so put a finger under his noise and said he was Hitler. The boys laughed. I keep telling them it’s not funny.

Mama, one of the boys said “Heil, Hitler” to one of the boys. No, Mama, the teacher didn’t hear. I don’t like this, Mama.

So the boys and I have had talks about race and privileged. We’ve talked about what to do when we are in a group of people who are saying bad things. We’ve talked about how to confront our friends.  And I decided this had to stop.

Only I dropped the ball, being a busy mom and teacher. Until I was at a 6th grade field trip, eating alone, recharging my batteries, sitting in a corner, watching the dynamics, listening.

Mumble, mumble, Nazi, mumble, weapons. Laughter. Mumble, Nazis, mumble, mumble. Laughter. Nazis, mumble, mumble. Mumble, mumble, Nazi weapons.

With the first Nazi that reached my ear, I locked on to the group of boys who were sitting far enough away from me that I couldn’t hear every word and further still from every adult, especially the teachers. So I watched them, listening. I watched them laugh and have a good time. The inflection was not what you want boys to be using when speaking of Nazis. I had enough.

So I went to the teachers and told them all about what I heard through the year so far and that Tornado E was being put into a rough spot, having to moniter his peers. I told them how I had handled it and learned that many of the kids had no idea how serious this conversation was and suggested that it be dealt as a class issue. The teachers agreed and thanked me.

Two weeks went by.

Mama, one of the boys dared another boy to do the Nazi salute. So he did. And then a bunch of them did it behind a teacher’s back.

Oh for Christ sake.

I immediately sat down and wrote the teacher about the incident.

I got a reply from the teacher a few hours later apologizing for not talking to the social studies teacher, promising it will be addressed with all the classes.

I haven’t heard of an incident since. But I swear if I do, I will march into that principal’s office first thing and demand that this nonsense end.

Man, I hate Nazis.

As an English teacher and mother…

Tornado S earned another D on a grammar assignment. I was beyond piss. I sat him down and made him redo it. In the midst of my lecture, Tornado E walked in and listened. When I was done, I looked over at Tornado E.

Tornado E: Mama, are you angry at Tornado S for getting a D or are you angry at him for getting a D in grammar?

My child is too smart for his own good.

The Bad Guy Dilemma

Read up on Tornado S, and you learn that he loves bad guys. Like that’s his thing. Star Wars bad guys. Darth Vader, The Emperor, any Sith. And as he gets older, I get more worried.

Though he does seem to like Rey a lot…..

Any ways. It’s a problem. I mean, probably not a real problem. The kid isn’t torturing small animals. Just his little brother. The kid cries during nature documentaries when the herbivore is attacked and eaten by the carnivores. So, yeah, he’s a big, mean Sith Lord.

This last fall, there were cracks in the glass. My dad and I were watching a lot of World War II documentaries. The boys would run through the room, slow down, and then sit for a while. Tornado S was drawn the most.

Tornado S has already been forbidden from real bad guys. He also has the best grasp on symbolism. His analysis on Kubo and the Two Strings was brilliant. Where Lucas hinted at Nazis in the Star Wars series, Abrams made it obvious in The Force Awakens.

Tornado S: So the Nazis were the bad guys?

Me: Yes. Real bad guys. They killed a lot of people. They tried to take of the world.

Tornado S: Like the galaxy?

Me: (Thinking) Yes. If they could, they would’ve.

Tornado S: Did they have an emperor?

Me: No. A Chancellor. But he had ultimate power.

Tornado S: Like the Emperor?

Me: Yes, like the Emperor.

Tornado S: So Hitler was like the Emperor.

Me: In a lot of ways.

Tornado S: Hitler killed a lot of people. He wanted to kill all the Jews.

Me: Yes.

Tornado S: (pause and contemplation)

In this moral dilemma, I struck. I showed the boys Batman: The Animated Series cartoons. Every single one. Because seriously, who isn’t as cool as Batman? He’s the Dark Knight. Cool gadgets, cool one-liners, dark and brooding good guys. Everything to bring a young Sith Lord to the light.

And it’s working. But Tornado S does have a fondness for Joker. As in oh-for-Christ’s-sake-that-psycho!

We also started watching the Marvel movies, moving slowly through them on weekends that I desperately need a few hours to grade. Tonight we started watching the X-Men cartoons. I’m hoping Tornado S will gravitate towards Iron Man (though according to Tornado S, Batman would beat Iron Man) and Wolverine.

Then last night. As we were leaving Cub Scouts.

Tornado S: You know, Mama. I really like Red Skull.

Kid, I think you’re doing this to mess with me.

This weekend we’re either watching Captain America: Winter Soldier or World War II documentaries.

An Explorer

While camping, we took the boys on a short kid-friendly hike. If you don’t know, Cub Scouts is very parent hands-on. So all parents were there, and some of the fathers decided to keep going and find other trails. Since we were desert camping (God, I hate desert camping so much), it was easy to track all the kids, those who were hiking with their adventurous dads and those who were climbing on their own.

I watched my ungraceful, uncoordinated middle child, scale a rock, one that I would’ve assumed he was too nervous to try.

Tornado E: (from behind me, yards away) Mama! Mama! Tornado A’s scaring me.

As the years go by, Tornado E has become extremely cautious and averse to risk of any kind. I blame it on the divorce. I’m sure that Tornado A was testing Tornado E’s limits, not his own.

Another mom: (from just behind me) Um, that’s your son, right?

I turned to see Tornado A balancing precariously on a rock outcrop. Damn.

Me: (Sigh) Yup. He belongs to me.

I walk over to where Tornado E was pleading for his brother to sit down. I put my hand on his shoulder, making him turn and look at me. I smiled.

Me: Thank you, Tornado E. But I’ll take over from here. It’s my job to protect and watch over you. Go explore.

Tornado E: (Looked over at his brother and then back at me) Ok. Mama.

He ran off.

Me: Ok, little man. Time to get down. You’re making everyone nervous.

He rocked and caught his balance. On my side, it would be a bit of a fall. On the other side, the side he rocked to, it would be a very bad fall.

Tornado A: No, Mama. I’m an explorer. I take risks.

Uh-huh. I pulled out my phone.

Me: Ok, Explorer. Why don’t I take your picture and then you get down?

Tornado A: Ok!

He moved out further on the ledge and rocked. I snapped a few quick shots. I slid my phone in my pocket. I walked down the hill next to the outcrop. I took his hand.

Me: Time to come down.

I planned just to walk him back.

Tornado A: Ok, Mama.

He jumped into my arms. I caught him.

Me: You know. Explorers take calculated risks. They measure the risk to survival and reward and do only the risks where they have minimal consequences like less chances of getting hurt.

Tornado A: I’m an explorer! I take risks!

Me: Well, from now on, Explorer, you’ll take calculated risks.

Tornado A: I take risks!

Right.

I’m going to have to watch over you more.

A Tent

The boys are in Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts. And camping is a thing. A required thing. And the boys hate it. And I. I dislike building the tent.

It’s not like it’s hard. It’s just. Well, the stress and the monologue that goes with it.

Me: Ok. Tornado S, build that pole. Tornado E. Build that one. No, no, not like that. Like this. No. Don’t. Tornado A, no. Now thread it… no, not like that. Don’t do that! Drop the pole. Drop the pole. Like this. Ok. Like this. Good job, Tornado E. Tornado A, that’s not helping. Tornado S, get back here! Next one. No, don’t do that. Don’t do that. Drop it. Ok. Good. Good. Oh Christ. No. Now everyone take a pole. Tornado S. Tornado S! Tornado S! Over! There! No. No. Just like this! Lift. Not like that! Not like that! Tornado E! Stop! Like this, Tornado S. Oh for the love of God! Like this!….

The last several camp outs, somewhere in the monologue, a father took pity on me and helped me out. As the leader of the Tigers, I’m embarrassed that my boys don’t help and listen more.

Then my dad decided to get a new tent.

Technology is amazing!

Two minutes! Easier than an Easy-Up. It was amazing. The hardest part was keeping it staked down in the sand with large gusts of wind. But we managed.

Once we were done, I sent my boys to help the other Tiger families. Once they were done, I sent my boys and Tigers off to help other families. With the other Tiger dads and I following our boys and helping were we could.

I think my boys are coming around to camping.

My Weird Morning Larks

Because I get to take the boys to sunrise mass for Easter every year, regardless of whose holiday it is, I convinced the Ex to let me take the boys Saturday night. By coincidence, Saturday was also Tornado A’s birthday, so I asked to take the boys to dinner because the non-custodial parent of the day gets the boys for a couple of hours on a birthday.

I put the boys to bed early because 5am is awfully early. I didn’t mention that this was in direct result of getting up for sunrise mass. I assumed that the boys had heard the plans throughout the week and put two and two together.

Me: Goodnight, sweethearts!

Tornado E: So, Mama, if we’re going to bed early, can we get up early?

Me: Um, yeah.

Tornado E: So, we could get up at 5:30?

House rules are no one up before 6. There’s good reasons for that rule. I’m sad to have it, and I hate enforcing it because that means I’m up before 6.

Me: Sure. You know what. You can get up at 5 if you want.

The room erupted in cheers.

Who are these kids? How did I birth morning people?

My bet is they’re changelings.

The Birds and the Bees Part 3

So Tornado S eventually came out of his blanket caccoon yet still refused to name the boys who told him. I warned the teacher, who asked if I could investigate without pushing. Life went on as usual.

Then one day we were returning home from running a few errands, and as I jammed to music, I listened to the conversation in the back seat.

Tornado S: Tornado A, where do you think babies come from?

Me: Tornado S.

Tornado A: (Pause) Well, they come from mommies’ wombs…. And God makes us…. So God makes the baby and gives it to Jesus, who kisses the baby and puts it into the mommy’s womb.

You could here the pride in his voice as he figured out the solution to Tornado S’s question.

Tornado S: Not even close.

Me: Tornado S!

Tornado A: Tell me!

Tornado S: I can’t. You’re too young. It’s a secret.

Me: Tornado S.

Tornado A: Tell me! I’m not too young!

Thankfully, we had just pulled into the driver.

Me: It’s not Tornado’s responsibility to tell you. That’s my job. Tornado S, out of the car and into my room. Now.

So I marched Tornado S back to my room and started the part of the lecture series in “So Help Me God, Child.”

Me: You do realize that Tornado E was explained sexual reproduction at your age. Did he ever tell you? (No.) That’s right because he was mature enough to know that this is a conversation between a child and a mother, not brother to brother. It is my job to talk to Tornado A about this, not yours. I will tell him when he’s ready, not when you want to show off your knowledge. Do you understand? (Nod.) You will not talk to your brother about this. (Pause) You will not tell your friends about this (Pause) until you’re in high school. And you will only talk about the facts as you have learned them from me. And if you do tell your little brother, the consequences will be severe. Video games disappearing severe.

Sure, that’ll work.

At least, Tornado A still doesn’t know where babies come from.