Book Smarts

Today was the first day of classes and after teaching five college classes in one day, I am absolutely exhausted, so I am sharing an old story from 2000 when Elder would have been four years old . . .

I have been reading a book in which the author states that after each disciplinary action, you should discuss with the child his misbehavior and your response.  Common sense, right?  I had actually already made a habit of such talks, although I decided I could probably do better.  So, the other day, Elder misbehaved – I can’t even remember what – and I had to scold him.  It wasn’t anything of any major importance – he didn’t even get sent to his room.  But I thought I should follow the verbal reprimand with an explanation.  Right?  So, I finished my scold with, “And do you want to know why?” only actually pausing for a breath, not an answer.  But before I could continue, Elder, who had patiently listened to the reprimand, barely glanced in my direction, and in a voice of absolute indifference, said, “No,” and walked away, leaving me staring then blinking and deflating slowly.

I guess I need to read the book to Elder?

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Listen and Learn

Today, I am in the midst of grading final essays, which does not always positively impact my humor. So, I thought I would share an old story from 2000, when even at four years old, Elder knew one of life’s simple truths . . .

Last Wednesday, Dad dropped Mom off at the office, so she was with me when I picked the boys up from the babysitter.  On the short drive home, Elder was explaining something to his Mama — I didn’t even know what it was at the time.  But whatever it was, he apparently didn’t believe he was receiving the attention the matter warranted because he told her, very firmly, “Listen, Mama.  If you don’t listen, then you’ll never learn.”

. . . And of course, Elder has always believed we should be listening to him to do our learning.

What is painful is when he is right.

Y Chromosomes

Yesterday, as I was working diligently in the kitchen, I requested Younger help brown the hamburger.

“Are you asking because you need help? Or because you want me to learn?” he asked suspiciously.

Rolling my eyes, I latched the can opener onto another can. “I would appreciate the help, and you should appreciate the learning.”

“We are listening to my comedians,” he told me, as he reluctantly straightened from his slouch on the sofa and onto his feet.

“Why do you and your father believe you need either incentives or rewards for participating in the cooking of your own dinner?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged then offered, “Y chromosome?”

“I don’t know why chromosomes, either,” I replied, dryly.

“See, Mom,” he responded, shuffling into the room. “We all have two chromosomes –”

“I understand about the Y and X chromosome, Younger,” I interrupted, now with an edge.  Then I pointed over my shoulder at the pan on the stove behind me. “Brown the hamburger.”

“Well, Mom, some of the kids at school don’t know about chromosomes, and they just learned about it. It would have been a long time ago for you.”

So, Younger was the only one of my three males who didn’t feel it necessary to explain everything to me.

And, apparently, I’m old.

It was a rough day.

 

 

Suspect Behavior

Younger has been waiting for one particular book for about two years. For the last six months or so, the author has released three chapters each Tuesday. This Tuesday, the entire book (with at least one thousand pages) was released.

Somehow, Younger got strep throat on Monday.

He couldn’t return to school for twenty-four hours, long enough for the antibiotic to work.

So, yes, that’s right, he was home on Tuesday to read a thousand-page book he has been waiting on for two years.

I suspect foul play.

I can’t prove it.

But I suspect it.

Not Even Close

For the last year or so, Younger has been serious in his search for scholarships. Today, as we were driving to school, he told me, “I found one, Mom.” He flashed his phone in my direction. “It has a 1500 to 2500 word essay. The topic — what should you do in a disaster?”

I glanced at him, raising my eyebrows in question.

He looked back at me, shrugging his shoulders in answer.

“I don’t know . . . Stand sideways and reduce your surface area?” he mused. “Probably should bend your knees a little.”

For those of you who are wondering . . .

That’s not even close to 1500 words.

 

Barbecue Sauce with Compliments

Last night, I prepared roast beef with potatoes and carrots for dinner for probably only about the third or fourth time in my life. Then I remembered why I rarely made the dish.

Younger is not a dedicated fan of roast beef.

“I don’t hate it, Mom,” he assured me with a shrug. “I just don’t really like it.”

But then, later, as I worked on my computer, engrossed in writing a Christmas play, Younger wandered into the living room. “Mom, the reason I don’t really care for roast beef is because I feel like you chew it and chew it then finally just have to give up and swallow,” he told me. “But –”

And with the upturn in his voice, I was totally preparing myself for him to tell me my roast beef was chewable, a compliment of sorts, one I would have accepted, as I have no illusions of myself as a cook.

I straightened my shoulders a little.

I started to smile.

“But,” he continued, “if you put a little barbecue sauce on it, it just slides right down.”

Some sons brag on their mommas’ cooking.

Mine, they apparently suggest barbecue sauce to help it all go down.

That’s lovely.

Just absolutely, perfectly, fine-and-dandy lovely.

The Puddle of Nihilism

Every semester, for the first essay in Composition 1, following the design of the class, I ask each student to share an experience and analyze the impact the experience had on his or her life. And, of course, the experiences vary wildly from graduation or a senior trip to a grandmother dying to divorce and addictions to even child prostitution.

And, while I appreciate and respect every single student’s particular trust and courage in sharing his or her story with me, I admit that I am sometimes overwhelmed with serious, dark topics and the sometimes inevitable conclusion of “And I learned not to take life for granted.”

This semester, Younger is taking the same class in high school, receiving dual credit. He wrote, expressively in my opinion, of the experience that taught him intelligence actually requires work and study to be fully realized.

Apparently, his teacher offered the students in Younger’s class the opportunity to share their stories with the class in exchange for extra credit. And Younger thought he might like the extra credit.

“But then the first person read his essay, Mom,” Younger told me, his eyes wide.

“Did grandma die?” I asked.

“Every essay, Mom. Death, depression, and suicide. I couldn’t follow those essays with mine, Mom. I spent an entire paragraph on the weight of a duffel bag.”

“You might have — ”

“No, no,” he interrupted me. “The guy next to me wrote on a camp he went to. He had fun. When the other students started reading their essays, his face just –” Younger swiped a hand in front of his face, starting high at his forehead and ending below his chin, his facial muscles following the downward movement. “His face just fell. He didn’t read his essay, either, Mom.  I mean, some essays were good, but all of them were sad.  And,” he continued, “I started to feel sorry for my teacher.”

“You don’t feel sorry for me. I read those every semester, too. I have had to interrupt a student’s narrative describing grandma’s last days to explain the use of a comma splice. Which makes me feel like a genuine grammar Nazi — ‘so sorry grandma died, tough stuff, but you can’t use a comma this way.’ ”

“But, Mom, Mr. English was right there, right then. And I felt sorry for him.  And the other students were like, ‘Ooooh, that’s so deep.’ ” He dropped his voice a bit to quote one student, ” ‘And I was like a bird flying high above my problems.’ And then the others were like, ‘Ooooh, that’s so deep.’ And I’m like, no, no, you’re delusional and procrastinating.”

“Younger –”

“People mistake dark for deep, Mom. Nihilism can be a puddle.”

Well.

Perhaps I should consider using Younger’s words of wisdom next semester when I once again introduce this essay to a new gathering of students —

People mistake dark for deep. Nihilism can be a puddle.

Or maybe I’ll just try harder to get Younger to feel sorry for me.

That might have actual entertainment value.