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.

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.

The Birds and the Bees Part 2

So the other day, we were having dinner when Tornado S popped up with some news.

Tornado S: I learned the sign language sign for penis!

Me: Oh? And what is it?

Tornado S made the gesture. It was not the sign for penis. In fact, it was a sign for a sexual act. One so taboo that most people don’t do it often.

Me: That’s not the sign for penis, sweetheart. Where did you learn that?

Right away Tornado S sensed something was wrong and clammed up.

Me: I would like to know where you learned that.

He shook his head.

Me: No dessert then.

Tornado S: Fine.

Me: No video games either.

Tornado S: NO!

Me: Then just tell me where you learned it. No one will get in trouble.

But it was no use.

After a day went by, I realized I had to try a different strategy. But I also needed to move up The Talk by a month because I couldn’t have Tornado S repeating the gesture.

Me: Tornado S, do you know what that sign means?

Tornado S: No. Tell me.

Me: Tell me who showed you.

Tornado S: No.

Me: (sigh) Fine. But I’ll have to contact your teacher, your den leader, and your sensei.

Tornado S: No! Why?!

Me: Because the gesture you used is a grown up gesture that is so taboo that most people don’t use it. Nana has never seen it. Papi has seen it a couple of times. (Though I thought that was weird from a cop.) The adults around you need to know that other children may be using the sign without knowing what it means, and their parents need to know to help teach their kids what it means.

Tornado S: (whispering) I learned it at school.

Me: When?

Tornado S: During the Valentine’s Party.

So it was a while ago.

Me: From who?

He was silent.

Me: Fine. Do you want to know what it means?

Tornado S: Yes.

Me: Well, first we have to talk about puberty and sexual intercourse.

So we had The Talk. When it was time to generically explain the sex act, Tornado E was walking by, so I pulled him to the room and explained what a sex act was and that the gesture was a sex act on a woman. I showed them a diagram of a woman’s sexual organs. Tornado E nodded and left the room.

Tornado S hid under my ultra soft through for twenty minutes refusing to get out or talk.

I took pictures.

 

The Birds and the Bees Part 1

I had my first Talk when I was in fourth grade. I brought home a letter for my parents, stating that in a couple of weeks we would be starting a unit on puberty and reproduction and parents could opt out.

My mother didn’t. Instead she marched me to the library and mortified me by asking me about where books on puberty and sex were kept. She checked out a few, read them, and then gave me The Talk, using the books for aids. God, how embarrassing.

Then it got worse because then we had the unit. In fourth grade. In fifth grade. In sixth grade. In seventh grade. And in eighth grade. Each year the lessons added more detail. Each year my mother would give me The Talk. In eighth grade, they pulled us out of our classes for two days to tell us, “sure, here are other birth controls, but do you know which one works the best? Abstinence!” The percentages of effectiveness were all wrong, but I don’t think another Catholic kid was armed as much as our class was.

Then Tornado E was in fourth grade, and I realized we needed to have The Talk. Over at his dad’s house, he was hanging out with slightly older boys who loved Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. I knew I had to beat the bad influences to the punch.

So one spring Saturday morning, I gave Tornado E The Talk. Without books, because our library didn’t have any. I found it much harder than when I would talk about human sexuality to other people. Hell, I gave The Talk at 18 to another 18 year old, whose parents never gave him The Talk. I stood in front of a class of 35 college students discussing the mating rituals of humans. But this. God, this was hard.

After The Talk, I asked Tornado E if he had any questions. He shook his head. Then he sat there thinking.

Tornado E: That was the most boring and interesting 5 minutes of my life.

Pause. Thinking.

Tornado E: Now I know what all those jokes are about in The Big Bang Theory.

Huh.