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What Arnold Schwarzenegger and I Have in Common

scene from Kindergarten Copphoto from:  cineplex.com

scene from Kindergarten Cop
photo from: cineplex.com

I used to be scared of Kindergarteners.  I teach gifted students, so this means I have students in K-5 at various times during the week.  But I started my teaching career with 5th graders for 8 years.  Once I began my current position several years ago, I hummed right along – until January rolled around and I started testing Kindergartners for the program.  That is when I realized that my piddly experience with mouthy pre-teens with raging hormones was simple compared to spending an hour with a bunch of 5-year-olds who haven’t quite gotten the handle on their bodily functions yet.  

Over the years, I have grown to accept that absolutely nothing goes the way I planned with my Kinders.  Instead of fighting their unpredictable divergences from my lesson plans, I’ve started joining in on their wild rides, and I’m finding it to be a whole lot of fun.

This year, I have a group of five Kinders, and their conversations are just as entertaining as last year’s batch.  I usually start the class with “Share Time”, so they can get their news out of their system.  They are dying to tell me about their father’s uncle’s nephew’s birthday or the tooth they lost, or the tooth they’re going to lose even though it’s not even loose yet.  But there’s one student who always likes to deliver a different kind of news:

“Okay, who has something to share today?”  5 hands go up.

“So, let’s start with Richard, and we’ll go around the table.”

“I have a soccer game tonight!”

“I do, too,” says Jacob.

“Is that what you wanted to share, Jacob?”  Jacob nods.

“Well, I hope you both have great games!  What about you, Lauren?”

“I have a wiggly tooth.  And I love to draw.”

“Fabulous!  Marie?”

“I went to my father’s cousin’s birthday party yesterday.”

“Oh?  What did you do at the party?”

“Well, we found a cockroach in the garbage can.”

“Hmm, you guys sure do play different games than I did when I was a kid.  Alex, what did you want to share?”

“Wel-l-l-l,” he draws it out with great emphasis,  “I learned that there’s one good thing about cancer.”  Big pause.  Deep breath.  “It’s not contagious.”

Silence.  The soccer players stare at Alex with slightly open mouths, and I try to think of an appropriate response.

“Gosh, Alex.  I never thought about it that way.  That is a silver lining, for sure.  Thanks for pointing that out.”

This is the way it always goes with Alex.  So far, we’ve learned that brains stop growing when you are in your teens, ladybugs chew from side to side instead of up and down, and that leprechauns used to live but now they are extinct.  (We may need to have a small talk about reliable sources on the internet.)  I’m a bit worried about Alex.  Actually, I’m a bit worried about me.  I’m probably going to be teaching this student for the next 5 years and, other than the internet source thing, I think I’ve already maxed out on the actual knowledge I’m going to be able to impart to him.

Yep – teaching 28 5th graders was a whole lot easier.

I Have Failed as a Mother

My daughter will be going to middle school (6th-8th grades) for the first time next year.  In our area, there are several options for middle schools.  We could sell our kidneys, and send her to one of the private schools, or send her to one of three middle schools which are free.  One of them is our “home” school, and the other two are magnet schools to which she would need to apply.

I’ve broached the topic of the magnet schools with Dimples several times.  Her response has always been that she wants to go to the same school as her friends.  When I point out that the magnet schools specialize in topics that interest her, and that she is always complaining that school is boring, she re-asserts the vital necessity of attending the same school as her friends. When I told her the heart-breaking story about a boy who begged his mother to send him to one of the private schools where he could have a more challenging curriculum, promising to give up Christmas gifts until he was 18… guess what?  Yeah, blah blah blah friends.

I worried that maybe I had somehow instilled in Dimples too deep a value of friendship, that by my own comments over the years I had given it a higher priority than things like academic achievement – or doing what your mother says is good for you.

The other day, the magnet schools presented to Dimples’ 5th grade class.  Later in the day, I talked to one of the 5th grade teachers, and confided Dimples’ deep desire to remain with her friends.

“Oh, you know what the magnet school guy said to the kids about that?” she said.  “Ask your parents how many of their middle school friends they actually still keep in touch with.”

“Oh, that’s great!” I said.  I don’t even keep up with my high school friends, so I could use that ploy again in 3 more years!

That afternoon, I prepared myself for the magnet school conversation, armed with Mr. Presenter’s clever rejoinder.  I asked Dimples if she had enjoyed the presentation.

“Oh, it was great!” she said.  “But I could never go there.”

“Why?” I innocently prodded, ready for my cue.

“Because they wear uniforms, Mom, and they are so not fashionable.  They have to wear khaki pants with yellow shirts!  Yellow and khaki, can you believe it?”

And, for that I had no answer.  Because I certainly can’t torture my daughter by forcing her to wear unfashionable clothes.

At least now I know that she has her priorities straight.

It would look so much better with a Star Trek emblem embroidered on the left.

It would look so much better with a Star Trek emblem embroidered on the left.

A Guide to Being a Goddess While Simultaneously Driving Your Mother Crazy

*Sigh* Mattresses.  Yep.  Again.  In addition to the Boomerang Mattress in our master bedroom, we also bought two new ones for two full-sized, antique beds in the guest bedroom.  Mattresses wholeheartedly approved by my husband, Cap’n Firepants.  ALL of our mattresses this summer have been approved by Cap’n “Goldilocks” Firepants.  I am hereby BANNING Cap’n Firepants from any more mattress approving.

Last night, Dimples (9) had a friend over.  They slept in the guest bedroom so they could each have a bed.  I think you know where this is going…

11 PM:

Dimples:  Mom, can we do what we used to do in the old days (one month ago) when I have friends over?  You know, sleep in my room, and pull out the twin-sized mattress under my bed?

Me:  What’s wrong with the brand new mattresses we just had delivered? With the bedding that I just washed and put on?  And the beds that are side by side so you can talk to each other and not worry about stepping on someone’s face in the middle of the night?

Dimples:  Those mattresses are not comfortable.  They are way too hard.

Would you forgive me, Loyal Readers, if I launched into a tirade about these mattresses that her father chose (and she also, at one point approved), about 9-year-olds and 40-year-olds being too darn picky, and about my plans to go live with Grandma at the Independent/Assisted Living home where I could have my own twin bed and mattress, 3 meals a day that I don’t have to prepare, and I won’t have to face the same 2 mattress delivery men when they are called to our house for the 5th time this summer?!!!!!

ARGGGHHHHH!!!!!

Dimples and her friend. Laying on the floor. With towels over their eyes. They are trying to “make their eyes brighter” according to instructions in The Girls’ Book of Glamour, A Guide to Being a Goddess.

Where are Your Manners?

I can’t remember if I’ve told this story – which means that I’ve been blogging too long, I suppose.

Today, I was trying to think of a time when I laughed really long and hard.  It seems like it has been far too long.   And I remembered a time from when my daughter, Dimples was about 5 years old.

We were eating dinner at my in-laws’.  They lived out of town at the time (or we lived out of town- depending on your perspective), so we did not eat there too frequently.  In the middle of dinner, Dimples hopped out of her seat, and said, “I’ve gotta go to the bathroom.”

Embarrassed by our daughter’s lack of manners, I quietly prompted, “Say, ‘May I please be excused?'”

“Huh?”

A bit louder, “Say, ‘May I please be excused?'”

“Huh?”  She looked at me quizzically.

Preparing myself for a Battle of the Wills that I really did not want to fight in front of the in-laws, but, more importantly, did not want to lose in front of the in-laws, I loudly and firmly said, “Say, ‘May I please be excused?'”

Dimples, a bit upset at my insistence,  cocked her head, and said defiantly, “Why?  I didn’t pass gas.”

My father-in-law burst into a guffaw as I dropped my fork, and my husband grinned.  My mother-in-law smiled.  Poor Dimples had no idea why we were laughing so hard.

Good times.

We dress like this for every meal. And set the table with empty wine glasses just to make it look classy.
photo credit: http://www.themorningbulletin.com.au/

Wanted: 6-Year-Old Language Tutor

Clearly Google Discriminates Against People Who Speak Kindergarten

I don’t speak Kindergarten.

I have been testing and teaching Gifted and Talented students in elementary school for 13 years.  Every January, when Kinder testing rolls around, I try a new communication strategy. And every year, I fail miserably.

My first couple of years, after I had been teaching 5th grade for 8 years, I cut myself some slack.  Even after one little girl burst into tears after I asked them to write their names on their papers.  Even after one little boy silently peed in his pants during the test because he somehow missed my request for anyone who needed a bathroom break.

I figured it would take me a little time to learn the Kindergarten dialect.

Last year, one of the parents told me that her child thought the entire time I was testing her that I was testing her for Speech.  Another parent mentioned that her child thought I was the Principal.

So, this year, I thought I would try to do a better job of explaining what I do and why I’ve taken them from their class for a little while.

I told them that I teach the Gifted and Talented class. I asked them if they knew what that meant.  They didn’t even move their heads, just stared at me bug-eyed, waiting for me to pull out some comical sock puppets like the counselor or to break out into a song from Dora the Explorer like – well, I don’t really know who would do that, but they seemed to expect some kind of entertainment.

I told them that I teach kids who like to do extra thinking.  I said that we sometimes do thinking games in my class and we learn different ways to use our brains.

“Gifted and Talented means that you like to try to solve problems and that when something is hard you try to figure it out.  Gifted and Talented is a class for students who like to think of new ideas.  I like teaching Gifted and Talented because we get to do different types of puzzles and games.  Sometimes, we invent things, too.  I’ve been teaching Gifted and Talented for 13 years, and I love it.”

Silence.  Well, not exactly.  One child was busy trying to roll his pencil off of the desk and catch it.  Another was obsessed with the fact that his shoelace wasn’t tied, and mumbling progressively louder to try to get my attention.  One of the girls was digging inside her empty, borrowed desk looking for her pencil, which was on the floor beneath her chair.

“So, who remembers what I teach?”

Five hands went up.  I nodded at one of the boys who seemed to be paying close attention during my speech.

“Kids.  You teach kids.”

Yeah.  I try.

January’s Dead Rubber Post

Well, I think that this is the longest I have lasted, People.  I tried to hold out for at least a week past the start of the month, and I have succeeded.  

For any newbies or highly forgetful readers, please allow me to explain.  I have a monthly “Dead Rubber” post, which is, basically, one into which I have put less effort than usual.  “Dead Rubber” is, apparently, slang for “boring.”  I forget my source for that little gem.  Maybe I made it up.  I am sure some of you can think of more colorful definitions, and you are welcome to them, as the entertainment is completely up to you today, I am afraid.

“No tag backs,” one of my students yelled as he tagged another at recess.

“No tag backs,” the next student yelled as he tagged the closest victim.

This went on for fifteen minutes.

I don’t know if this is regional or generational, but when I was a kid we had no such proclamations when we played tag.  It was just understood you couldn’t simply tap the person who had tapped you half a second before.

So, I asked, “Hey guys, why do you have to keep saying that?  Can’t it just be the rule you establish at the beginning of the game?  For example, ‘Hey everyone – during this game of tag, there will be no tagging of the person who just tagged you.’ ”

They looked at me open-mouthed.  Not the open-mouthed in awe kind of way.  The open-mouthed, what the heck is this crazy lady saying kind of way.  For some reason, my idea is not considered good.  In fact, it’s not even considered.  It’s immediately dismissed as another wildly impossible request from their somewhat unbalanced teacher, and everything is back to normal the next recess.

During which I start thinking about the implications of a generation of “No Tag Backs” kids growing into adulthood and attempting to lead our nation some day in the future.  What if we could just invade a country and say, “Sorry, no tag backs.  You’ll just have to find someone else to pillage and plunder instead.”

And, if someone attacks us, and forgets to say those three vital words, we can pummel the heck out them, and then yell, “No tag backs!” as we retreat.

By the way, Infinity No Tag Backs to anyone who wants to try this game with me.  Now I’m covered.  I can strike with no fear of retaliation.  I should run for President.

courtesy of silverrrose at deviantart.com

The Reduce, Reuse, Recyle Truce

Grandma, Cap’n Firepants’ mother, tried to give us a box the other day with a dead gecko inside.  She tried to justify its value by bringing up that her mother had lived in the country and – I interrupted her.  “We are not bringing home a dead gecko in a box,” I said.  “We’ve got plenty of them in the backyard and we don’t need anything to remember them by.”

Just to keep things fair, here, let me tell you that my side of the family has its quirks, too.  I don’t have problems throwing things away; I just have problems throwing them away right away.  I tend to collect, then purge.

When I was a kid, a few times a year, my mother would get fed up with the Wipe-Out obstacle course that my room had become and would threaten to throw everything away that was on the floor if I didn’t clean it up within some minuscule time-frame that she sprang on me at the last minute.

Sometimes, she just came in and threw it away without any warning.  I lost a few precious objects that way, but I never got any better.

So, based on our family history, our daughter is cursed.  It was no surprise to me when I opened a drawer one day and an avalanche of Dove wrappers cascaded to the floor.

Apparently, Dimples was experimenting with how many pieces of decorated aluminum foil her drawer could hold. (source: peggyanndesign.com)

“What are you keeping all of these for?” I asked.

She shrugged.  “I just don’t think they should be thrown away.”

“But, what are you going to do with them?”

“Keep them in that drawer.”

“Kid, they’re already escaping from that drawer.  I think you need a new plan.”

I finally convinced her to throw them away.

She is much better than I was about keeping her room fairly straightened up, but, with her genes, it is inevitable that objects slowly begin to accumulate, so at least twice a year we have to do a purge.

When she was a toddler, I would do The Purge when she was out of the house.  As she got older, I started having her participate in The Purge.  Mindful of my mother’s random trash tirades, I wanted Dimples to feel like she had a say in what got to stay and what had to go.

In Dimples’ opinion, however, nothing has to go.  To her, the Purges are joyful discoveries of long forgotten clothes and toys that must now be given more attention.  Never mind that the clothes no longer fit and the toys no longer entertain.  They CANNOT be thrown away.

I’m firm, but reasonable – making compromises and deals, justifying and rationalizing why things needed to be tossed or given away.  I describe happy little children in shelters and hospitals who would be ecstatic to play with her gently used Lite Brite or wear her little pink tutu that barely fits on her wrist now.  And we  finally end up with a couple of bags of things that are permitted to leave her room.  But, it is exhausting.

One of my friends recommended that I just do what I used to do – clean it out when she wasn’t at home, and she would never know the difference.  But I just didn’t feel right doing that.  It seems like a betrayal, and I never want Dimples to feel like she can’t trust her own mother.

The last time we did The Purge, Dimples continued to be difficult, arguing over which pile each small item belonged in.  As we discussed a half-used coloring book that I was ready to put in the trash pile, Dimples suddenly blurted, “Can’t I just give it to you and pretend you’re just going to save it in your room, and you can throw it away without telling me?”

Wow.  Wish I’d thought of that.

So, now that I’ve been given permission by my child to honestly participate in her dishonesty to herself, The Purge goes a bit quicker.  Now the big problem is that I keep finding things in my closet and I can’t remember if they were part of The Purge That I Pretended to Keep and Forgot To Throw Away, or part of the Surge of Things I Save to Give to my Friends’ Younger Children.

I guess I better keep it just in case.

 

Why Can’t You Play Soccer Like Everyone Else?

It all started because Dimples does not like to sweat.

As the typical helicopter-missing-a-blade parent, I have been trying to guide Dimples through various extracurricular activities in the hopes she would find her niche.  For awhile, I thought we had hit on the right combo with dance and gymnastics.  As I mentioned before, the kid has ungenetically enhanced rhythm.  She also has weirdly fluid flexibility.

But when we were getting ready to sign up for a new season, Dimples announced from the back seat of the car (her usual spot for stunning proclamations) that she guessed she didn’t really want to do gymnastics again.  The same kid who does cartwheels and handstands all over the house declared that she no longer wanted to do them. In the one place it was actually encouraged and there were spotters and a big foam pit.

“Uh, you don’t want to do gymnastics?” To me, this was like Wonderbutt suddenly declaring that he would rather not eat the piece of cheese that had miraculously fallen to the floor during the preparation of dinner.

“It makes me sweat too much.”

My bipolar brain started duking it out immediately.  One side was thrilled because we would save money and have more time.  The other side was bummed because we thought we had found her “passion” in gymnastics.

Ignoring the inner battle, I felt obligated to ask, “So, is there something else you would rather do?”

“Swimming” was the surprising answer.

Why was this surprising? Because she spent the first two summers of swimming lessons avoiding putting her head under the water.  She was over that now, but I never would have guessed as I begged her to please, please just put her face in and blow some bubbles years ago that she would one day decide that swimming was her all-time favorite sport.

It was also surprising because, once she had overcome her H2O fears, she had taken every lesson available at our pool.  The only thing left to do was swim team, and she didn’t want to compete in swim team because, along with her strong opposition to sweat, she apparently has a strong opposition to opposition.

For a couple of days after her condemnation of the sweaty sport of gymnastics, I despaired of finding any kind of suitable replacement.  There seemed no point in swimming more laps if she wasn’t actually going to do anything with it.  Then I remembered reading an article about a local team. A synchronized swimming team.

A sport that combines gymnastics and swimming.  A sport that has fun music and costumes.  A sport that does not involve sweat.

After I ineptly attempted to explain all of this to Dimples, she gamely decided to try it out.

So, one night, Dimples joined the team at a practice while I talked to one of the board members about the requirements.  As I listened to explanations about the financial commitment, the required fundraising, and the mandatory volunteer hours, I started realizing my mistake.

As I was realizing my mistake, Dimples was quickly getting used to this no-sweat activity.  By the time I had concluded that it was time to ditch this idea and try sky-diving instead, Dimples had concluded this was her new passion.

So now we are rolling into Year 2.   Dimples gets to do her dance and gymnastics without sweating, and I get to sweat how I’m going to pay for it.

courtesy of uwdigicollec on Flickr

 

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