Asking Personal Questions

Tornado E: Mama, I need to interview you for homework.

Me: Ok, kiddo. What do you want to ask me?

Tornado E: (reading) Who was the most important person to influence you?

Me: As a child? As an adult? As a teacher or writer?

Tornado E: (in that exasperated teenage sigh and voice) Who is the most important person in your life?

Me: Well, the most important people in my life are my boys because I have made them my first thought with every choice I have made in the last 12 years. Ever since you were born, I have had to question and strengthen my beliefs, I have worked to become a better person and role model. For my boys.

Tornado E: That’s a stupid question and a stupid answer. Let’s begin again.

Me: Hey! That was a great answer!

Tornado E: All parents say that.

Yeah, no. And those who say it, do they do it?

Me: Well, what else do you want to know?

Tornado E: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done.

Crap.

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Willing Teacher’s Assistant

Tornado A: Mama, can I go to school with you?

Several years ago, when I worked at a charter school, Fridays were only an optional day for students, who could only come during the morning. Friday afternoons were for faculty meetings. And one Friday, I didn’t have anyone to watch Tornado A.

I got permission from my principal. And I brought Tornado A to my school. I brought movies, books, coloring books, toys, snacks, the works.

As luck would have it, I didn’t have any students who needed my help, so I was able to hide in the computer room, grading; while, Tornado A watched movies. He charmed the students. He charmed the teachers. He loved that day. And has been looking for a way to return.

I work at a normal public high school, and Tornado A is a second grader with classes every day. Yet he still asks.

Tornado A: Mama, may I go to school with you?

Me: I’m sorry, baby. You have to go to school. And you would be so bored in my classroom.

Tornado A: I wouldn’t be bored.

Me: I teach the exact same thing 5 times.

Tornado A: I could help!

Me: I’m sure you could. You could teach them how to read a clock.

Tornado A: They don’t know how to do that yet!

Me: Sadly, no. Many of them missed that class.

Tornado A: Mama, may I go to school with you? I can teach them to read a clock.

What have I done?

Tornado S and the Concerts

Every one of Tornado S’s concerts has this running commentary, either in my head or whispered to my mom: Is he? Is he lip syncing? He’s lip syncing. That kid is lip syncing. Tornado S. When I get my hands on you….. You have music class. Jesus. Does anyone else notice? Nope. He’s that good. Talent. But still. I swear, kid. He better not do that for the next song. Yes, yes, he is. That kid. He better not do it with the recorders. Are you kidding me? What does he do in music class? Sit in the back? Hide like a ninja? Wrong note, kid. At least, practice pretending to play your recorder.

Every after concert lecture goes like this: Tornado S. What were you thinking? Why didn’t you sing? Yes, I could tell. How about the recorder? Yes, I could tell. What do you do in music class? Honestly, kid, the world needs your voice. God gave it to you, and He wants to hear you sing, no matter what you think of your voice. Come here. Kid, what am I going to do with you?

Last Friday Tornado S had another concert. Because it had been spitting all evening, they moved the concert from outside to underneath the roof of the outside hallway, drastically reducing the seats. Of course, Tornado S didn’t know when he had to be there, so I assumed a quarter till. Um, no? Maybe. Doesn’t matter because the place was already packed with standing room only.

I was annoyed by all the grandparents for a moment until I remembered my own parents were on their way with the other two boys. My father regularly checks the calendars of the boys’ schools and Boy Scout Troop; while, I monitor the newsletters. Between the two of us, we manage to get everyone where they need to be. Note to self: check teachers’ blogs.

The principal offered the picnic tables behind the children out under the cloudy sky. A couple of parents and I shrugged and walked through the crowd of seats and passed the band and singers to the picnic tables. We pulled them out, wiped them off, and sat in the light sprinkles. My family joined us along with a teacher and a few other families.

It was a lovely concert.

Best of all, I have no idea if Tornado S sang or not.

Pig Vegan

Back in Novemeber, Tornado S declared himself pig vegan. Which is to say, he decided to stop eating all meat from pig.

Bacon?

Tornado S: No.

Ham?

Tornado S: No.

Pork chops.

Tornado S: No.

Sausage?

Tornado S: No.

Bacon?

Tornado S: I already said no.

We tempted him. We tried to bribe him. We scolded him. We teased him. We tried to trick him.

On New Year’s dinner, I told him if he didn’t eat the ham, he had to eat everything else, including the beans. And Grandma’s Beans are gross. So very, very gross.

And the kid ate them.

Then I remembered when I was a little older than Tornado S I learned that that dolphins were getting caught in tuna nets. So I gave up canned tuna. I tried to get my classmates to boycott tuna noddle casserole lunch day. It didn’t go over well. The bullies had a field day. But my mom never made me eat another bite of tuna.

So I stopped pestering Tornado S. I gave him real alternative choices to pig meat. He is proud to be pig vegan. And I explain to everyone what it means. Everything has been fine.

Until he tried to ban pepperoni pizza.

Whoa. Whoa. Little man. We respect your believes and allow you to get cheese pizza. Respect our beliefs to eat pepperoni pizza. The one, true pizza.

 

Early Bloomer

Tornado E: Mama? Remember in third grade when the kids didn’t get my jokes?

Yes. Like when your teacher came up to me to tell me how bright you were and how advanced your humor was, that your classmates didn’t understand your jokes or sarcasm. Like when I started sending school notes with corny kid jokes to expand your humor to something closer to your peers. Like when you wanted to give your best friend a My Little Pony Pinkie Pie for her birthday because she had a nightmare about it and that would be hilarious.

You’re right. It would’ve been. If you were older. Like teenagers. In college. Adults. Not third grade.

Third grade when I had to explain it was ok to tease someone but when that person is hurt or offended, you apologize and never make that joke again. It’s ok to make a mistake and cross a boundary you didn’t know was there. But it was never ok to keep hurting a person like that. Sometimes people won’t be able to tell you they are hurt, so you have to watch for physical cues, and then you back off when you hurt someone. Always.

Me: Yes.

Tornado E: They get my jokes now. They think I’m funny. They try to copy my jokes. They like insulting each other now. They’re trying to be sarcastic. It’s kind of funny.

So it only took them three years to start catching up to Tornado E. I’d pitch him against any of my freshmen any day of the week.

Mama

I went from Mommy to Mama. As Tornado E gets closer to 12, I’m waiting for the day I’ll no longer be Mama but Mom. Or worse yet, Mother. Whether it’s the simpering formality of mother or the way I say it like a cuss word at my own mother, but I do not like Mother. I will truly miss Mama.

So the other night at dinner, I was relating a story of what happened in class.

Me: And then I said Tornado E said “Mama.” Before I could get any further in the story, one of the boys said “Mama?” Another kid asked if I was Mama. Another girl asked if my kids called me Mama. And another girl thought it was cute. And then-

Tornado E: Why? Why were they confused? They have mamas.

Me: They do, but they don’t see me as a mama but as Miss. They probably call all their moms Mom. When you get older, you’ll probably call me Mom. (I swear I didn’t sigh or put any guilt in that.)

Tornado E: No, Mama. I’ll always call you Mama because you’re Mama.

Me: Thanks, kid.

Collections

On our way to the second-run movie theater last weekend, Tornado E tried to spark conversation.

Tornado E: If you could collect whatever you want, what would it be?

Tornado S: Money.

Say what you will about Tornado S, that kid is smart.