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?

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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.

Grocery Shopping

I picked up the boys early from their father’s because Tornado S had a doctor’s appointment. I brought worksheets, books, and tablets. But worksheets first. And they groaned.

Then they started acting like brothers, getting on each other’s nerves with sounds, touches, and whatever. In a tiny examination room.

The doctor and I had a long conversation about Tornado S. He just has all these weird little problems that feel like they should add up to something. He hates making eye-contact, but he loves giving hugs. He gets frustrated easily. He can’t tell that his shoes are on the wrong feet; he hates wearing shoes; he’ll kick off his shoes and walk on the back of them. He loses focus easily, but then he’ll really concentrate on math. He chews on his shirt when he’s stress. He’s behind in his fine motor skills. He has brilliant insights. His output is delayed. And a bunch more.

She said as long as he was being helped and making progress, then a diagnosis wasn’t needed, but she did put in a referral for a neuro-psych eval.

After the appointment, we headed to the grocery store to get a few things. The boys messed with each other in the car and in the parking lot and in the store. As I waited at the meat counter, I started looking for things to occupy them.

Tornado S: Why are we here, Mama?

Me: We need to get a pound of salmon.

Tornado S: Oh.

And back he went to antagonizing his brothers, who gave as good as they got.

Me: Tornado E, find me the deli turkey on sale please and bring me some. Tornado S, could you please find out how much blueberries are? Tornado A, hold my hand.

Tornado E and Tornado S ran off to do their errands and ran back.

Tornado S: (beaming) Two for four dollars!

Ok. Then the butcher was ready to help.

Butcher: Where are the boys? Oh, there you are. Little man, what can I get you?

Tornado S: Salmon!

Butcher: All right! I love that. How much?

Tornado S: One pound!

Butcher: Perfect! I’ll get that. Are you learning how to cook? Everyone needs to know how to cook. Good! I knew I would like you guys because you’re Star Wars fans.

Tornado S and Tornado A: ME TOO!

Butcher: I could tell! I saw your shirts! Is that good, ma’am? It’s a little over.

Me: That’s fine. Thank you.

Butcher: Now you boys are going to cook this, right? My son is a little older than you, and he makes the best salsa. You have to start early to cook well. Here, you go, ma’am. Anything else I can get you?

Me: Thank you. No, thank you. Just the salmon. Have a good day.

Butcher: You too, ma’am.

And for ten minutes, the boys were helpful, carrying my groceries to the register, waiting in line, going to the car. And then they started up again. Parenting.

 

The Argument

Wonder Woman is out this weekend. I wasn’t a big Wonder Woman fan as a kid; I felt her forced onto girls. I found other superhero girls to love. Red Sonja, She-Ra, Jean Grey. But in recent years, I’ve come to appreciate her much more, especially since I’ve been getting gifts with Wonder Woman on them.

And then I saw Batman v Superman, and I was like I want to see more Wonder Woman. I’ve been waiting months for this movie.

And so have the boys.

Since the first trailer, they’ve been begging to go see it. My MO has always been to watch the movie first and then let them see it. But opening weekend is on my weekend with the boys.

Please, Mama, we love superhero movies!

Please, Mama, it looks really good!

Please, Mama, we want to go with you!

Please, Mama, it looks really fun!

Please, Mama, we’ve seen all the Iron Man movies and Thor movies and Avengers movies.

Please, Mama, Daddy let us see The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings movies.

Please, Mama, it has a woman superhero, and don’t you want us to see movies with strong women in the lead and support gender equality. (Tornado E, everybody; that kid is too damn smart.)

And it didn’t help that my dad turned on Batman v Superman in the middle of the movie to get my goat because I hate starting movies in the middle, and I really hate when we start movies in the middle for the boys. But my dad started it right before Wonder Woman jumped on the screen to kick butt in the final battle scene. I called for the boys, and we watched it together.

Then the boys got me a Wonder Woman picture for Mother’s Day.

Please, Mama!

Fine! Fine! We’ll go. I’ll take you. I won’t sneak off without you to see it.

Rituals

Rituals are important. They say that rituals hold societies together. From Thanksgiving dinner to watching the Superbowl to church on Sundays to fireworks on the 4th of July. Ask any Catholic in the English-speaking world, and he or she will tell you we all say the same prayer before dinner. The same damn prayer.

Like all families, we have our own rituals. Like that same damn Catholic prayer. Or like kisses before I leave for work, kisses before bedtime, notes in lunch boxes. That sort of thing. Only the boys are making them complicated.

Tornado S has to be the first to great me with a hug and kiss or all is lost for the known world. All. Is. Lost.

Tornado S and Tornado A have to wave me goodbye in the morning. They get their kisses and then follow me outside, where I remind them to stay in the front yard, not the driveway. Then I pull out, with windows down, saying “Goodbye. I love you; do your best; I’ll see you later.” Then I make my left turn, and because we live in a corner house, the boys stand in the front yard until I make my next turn. They wave until they can’t see me any more. I wave until I can’t see them any more. Like the end credits to “The Beverly Hill-Billies.” It’s only annoying in the winter.

Bedtime has also become overly complicated. At least, the bedtime kiss has become overly complicated. I kiss each boy goodnight and tuck them into bed. Then we say our goodnight prayer about guardian angels because I hate that creepy Protestant bedtime prayer. Then I turn out the lights before turning on the nightlight. Then Tornado A has to kiss me goodnight.

He kisses me on the lips. Then the forehead. Then each cheek. Then my chin. (?) Then my nose. (I hate that; I wipe it off, but I’ve been doing that since I was little.) Then he has to rub noses. Then he has to give me butterfly kisses on each cheek. He does this, holding my head firmly so I can’t get away. I’m caught between thinking it’s cute and creepy. Halfway through the ritual, I get annoyed because it takes so long. I mean, dude, can’t you procrastinate by asking for water like a normal kid.

I worry about the next ritual.

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.

A post about nothing in particular

There’s not much to say.  I’ve been buried in school work.  My last 5-week class had a huge amount of reading and writing every week.  This class promised to be less.  Except I went away for four glorious days without the kids.  I figured I would enjoy myself more if I didn’t have to worry about work that needs to be done and finding the time to do it and borrowing someone else computer and pray that the internet connection would hold up.  So I pushed myself and got it all done early.  Then I saw last weeks pile of work.  The two largest chapters in the book, a 90 page booklet, a 30 minute web video, 2 papers, and of course the online discussion, which started Thursday, meaning all the reading was “suppose to be” done by then.

My father gave a rousing speech about how ridiculous it was to have assignments due on Thanksgiving weekend.  It was beautiful.  It was one of those moments where a huge American flag drops down behind them and “America the Beautiful” starts playing in the background.  I wanted to give him a standing ovation.  Instead I said, “That’s all well and good, Dad, but their excuse is that I could have done the work early if I didn’t want to do it over the weekend.  This is the price I pay for an accelerated program.”  God, I tried explaining to him about holiday day pay and temporary or part-time retail workers, and he just couldn’t wrap his head around the idea people have to put up with a lot of sh*t to get a job.  Ah, city employees, sometimes their jobs are pretty sweet.

My mom maintains that the reason I’m doing so well in school is because I’m older and taking it more seriously.  Mom, you have me confused with my brother.  You know your child that took 8 years to get his bachelors.  I’m the one who made Dean’s List all semesters but one, who graduated with almost a full year’s worth of credits over what I needed, who was invited to be on the English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta.  (To be young and an STD)  No, I’m doing well because I didn’t bite off more than I could chew in classes.  (I totally bit off more than I can chew in life, but you know, that’s life.)

This week I have ONE chapter to read and ONE paper and just ONE discussion question.  I’m thrilled by all that free time.  I can blog!  I can read blogs!  (Seriously, people are going to think I don’t like them any more.)  I can email my friends!  (See, last aside.)  I can call and text my friends!  (Um, again, the aside before the aside.)  I can study history!  I can start on next week’s project!  I can start on Christmas gifts!  I can shop online!  I can do chores!

I’m obviously getting a little overexcited about the “free” time and the exclamation points.  But those are a nickle a dozen.  In reality, I’ll catch up with what needs to be done and not feel like something is breathing down my neck.  If I was smart, I would be home finishing this up and starting the phone calls that HAVE TO BE DONE, and that I think I’m avoiding.  Instead, I’m at my parents’ house because Tornado A was so damn cute asking to be with my mom and my mom invited me to lunch, which didn’t happen, but hell, at least I can blog.