Tag Archives: Elementary school

Pottymouth Training, Vol. 2

Uh-oh.

Uh-oh.

I’ll never be able to look at him the same.

Not after yesterday.

Just 44 inches. He loves to tell me how tall he is.

The kindergartener mesmerized by dinosaurs and modern-day reptiles.

By action figures. By animated family films. By his favorite books and television shows.

So sweet at times. So innocent. Not yet scarred by the brutality of gaining life experience.

He couldn’t have said THAT.

Did You Order the Code Red?

At school, my five-year-old son’s kindergarten class has a color-coded system to indicate what kind of behavior the students displayed during the school day.

Green days are good.

Red days are bad.

The day my son exposed his penis to other boys in the bathroom just as a teacher poked her head in to check on them was a red day.

My ex-wife texted me thoughtfully last night to ask about the health of my grandmother who had an old-lady accident with her car. I told her that my grandmother seemed to be okay, and that I appreciated her asking.

She followed with a question.

“What color day did he have in school today?” she said.

“Orange. He was afraid to tell me,” I said.

Orange is the second-worst. Just a step shy of red.

“What did he do?” she said.

“Talking. Not following directions,” I said, because that’s what he told me, and which makes total sense because that’s what he’s always in trouble for, just like I was in grade school.

We exchanged “Have a good weekend”s and ended the conversation.

Maybe a half hour later, the phone rang.

My ex-wife again.

I answered.

“So, his teacher just emailed me. And he apparently said ‘motherfucker’ in school today. Somebody told on him, and he admitted to saying it,” she said.

My son instinctively knew the conversation we were having and buried his face into the couch, and wouldn’t look at me.

This was WAY worse than the times he said “dammit” a bunch in mature and appropriate ways.

And I instinctively panicked because between my ex-wife and I, I am absolutely the one he would have heard that from. I know that I’ve let the F-word slip in front of him before. At least twice.

But I don’t think I’ve dropped a mother-effer in his presence. But, honestly? I don’t know. Not knowing, I think, is bad enough and an indication that I need to be infinitely more conscious of the way I speak.

Then, I did what any sane father would do, and handcuffed my son to a chair in an all-white room and shone a heat lamp on his face.

“Who taught you how to say that word!?!? TELL ME!!! TELL ME NOW!!!”

And I kept waiting for him to yell back: “I learned it from YOU, motherfucker!!!”

But he didn’t. Just like I don’t really have an interrogation room in my house.

But sitting on the couch, and again in bed after our nightly prayers, I asked him several times to help me understand who taught him that word or where he heard it before—which I am convinced he knows the answer to—but he wouldn’t crack.

“No one taught me, dad,” he said over and over and over again.

The mystery remains unsolved.

I’m pretty cavalier with my language. More than I should be, even in the company of like-minded adults. But that word becomes infinitely more vile when you imagine it coming out of your five-year-old’s mouth—and poisoning the ears of other young children.

“I want the truth!” I yelled in my best Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men impersonation.

You can’t handle the truth.

And I’m not sure in this instance, the truth matters. The damage is done. My beautiful child knows how to say really bad words.

Even if he didn’t learn it from me, it’s still my fault.

And as an aside, can we all agree that saying “motherfucker” should totally earn you a red day in kindergarten? Orange? Come on now.

Everything’s Better in the Morning

I’m still reeling a little from the realization that it wasn’t a bad dream.

That my little boy said that.

Goodness. I remember using some language here and there. I remember my mom flipping out a little because she heard one of my friends use the F-word when we were in eighth grade. Her heart would have stopped if she’d been in any of our junior high sports team locker rooms.

But, kindergarten!? Honestly?

Too soon, right?

*deep breath*

He still reminds me how young and sweet he is. He was cute when he woke me up this morning, requesting omelets from Chef Dad.

“Okay, baby boy,” I said. “I’ll make omelets.”

Then I paused. Baby boy.

I still have a bad habit of calling him that.

“Buddy, I’m sorry. Dad shouldn’t call you that. You’re a big boy now,” I said.

“It’s okay, daddy,” he said, patting me on the arm. “You can still call me that.”

Okay, then. Maybe just a little bit longer.

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Grade School Shenanigans

These kids are going to grow up and work in cubicles and pay taxes have bad things happen to them. Go nuts, boys and girls! It's your time!

These kids are going to grow up and work in cubicles and pay taxes and have bad things happen to them. Go nuts, boys and girls! This is your time! Just don’t tell your teachers I said so!

I kept my head down.

My first-grade teacher was really letting me have it in front of the entire class.

Our assignment was simple enough: Punch holes all around the periphery of two pieces of construction paper. Then, we were to sew the two pieces of paper together by weaving a strand of yarn in and out of the punched holes.

What a bunch of stupid bullshit, six-year-old me thought, though it was probably closer to: Golly gee, all this sure seems silly!

So, I started to skip a hole here and there.

This is so much faster!

Once I figured out how much more efficient the shortcuts were, I went nuts and started skipping entire corners.

All the other kids’ yarn was perfectly sewn in and out of each hole like they were supposed to.

Mine was a hot freaking mess vying to be among the shittiest child artwork anyone had ever seen.

The teacher was PISSED. Excessively so, I think. And she was making an example of me—the newest kid in the class.

I braved a glance away from the floor. There, peering through a window into the classroom, were two girls watching me get scolded.

I made eye contact with one of them. We held each other’s gaze for a moment.

Then I grinned at her.

Hi, Girl I Don’t Know. We can’t be good all the time!

We’ve been friends ever since.

Oh, Shit. Now I’m the Parent

My five-year-old son started kindergarten less than two weeks ago.

The first week, he was “caught being good”—something that awarded him praise in front of his classmates and a special trip to the principal’s office for recognition and a small prize.

I thought it was adorable. I was really proud of him and told a handful of people about it.

Then this week happened.

He’s had not one, but TWO, notes sent home this week by his teacher because of poor behavior.

“I’m writing to let you know that your child has been making poor choices this week. He talks excessively to other kids and sometimes has trouble keeping his hands to himself,” the note said.

I bought him a new toy after picking him up Tuesday. He had told me he’d been good all day.

A fib, it turns out.

So, I had to take his new toy away. He was pretty upset. Which is the desired effect when you want to teach your children there are consequences to being little shitbags in school and then lying about it.

He earned his toy back by being good in school yesterday.

I enjoy positive reinforcement much more than making him sad.

I wrote his teacher back Tuesday night, so she knew where I stood:

I made it clear that both my ex-wife and I were on the same page as far as reinforcing following directions and respecting the rules of the classroom, and that we would do everything we could to support her efforts. But I did mention that our son is still trying to adjust to a new life without both of his parents at the same place at the same time, which I don’t think she knew about.

I don’t want to make excuses for him. But I also think this has adversely affected him—even more than I’d originally feared. And it’s still pretty fresh.

He has some anger now. Anger previously unseen. Which is why I spend as much time laughing with him as I possibly can.

She ‘Nose’

My friends and I liked to laugh. We liked to have fun. And I don’t regret even one second of that.

There was this one kid who came to our school in fifth grade and moved after eighth grade. But during those four years he was at our school, he was one of my best friends.

He had a massive crush on the girl who was universally considered the most attractive in our class.

One day, we heard a rumor that she knew about his crush on her.

“She KNOWS,” we’d say dramatically, before laughing hysterically.

If we couldn’t speak because class was in session, we’d just mouth the words: “She knows,” while pointing to our noses for effect.

For almost an entire semester, he or I would write the word “NOSE” on the blackboard before class started every day. Sometimes our teacher would erase it. Sometimes he wouldn’t.

That always made me laugh.

I don’t think that I’ve ever been bad.

But I’ve always been mischievous. And I don’t intend to stop.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do?

I try to set a decent example for my son. I do.

But I don’t know how to shut myself off sometimes. I’m kind of a clown. My ability to display maturity as a 34-year-old has been questioned on several occasions—both at home and at work.

Here’s what I tell my son:

  1. Listen to your teachers. They’re in charge. Use your ears. Following directions is important.
  2. Be nice to other kids. You can’t have too many friends.
  3. It’s important to learn. That’s how you make money so you can buy food and toys.

I expect him to have good manners, treat people kindly and respect his teachers.

But just between you and me? Do I really care that he’s inclined to share private jokes with friends and build those social bonds—some of which may last a lifetime—even when the teacher wishes he wouldn’t?

Not particularly.

In fact, I kind of like it.

Because that note from his teacher? That could have been written about me.

And, while I have plenty of things wrong with me, I’m not unhappy with the person I am today.

As his father, I can’t stand by silently if he’s blatantly disrespectful and insubordinate.

But if this life has taught me anything, it’s that there may be no resource more precious than friends.

I’d be nothing without them. As an only child, my friends WERE my family.

And now I’m looking at my young son. A little me. A child of divorce. And at exactly the same age. He’s also an only child.

I have a better sense today of what’s important than I’ve ever had.

And while my son will never hear me encourage him to goof off or be disruptive in class, it is my belief that the most-important life skills we learn in grade school are socialization and how to make friends.

And near as I can tell, he is off to a pretty good start.

Go get ’em, little man.

We can’t be good all the time.

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