Mother Tongue

(scene opens in bright cluttered kitchen, Carrot enters wearing rain dotted jacket)

Gamma: Cómo estás, mama!

Me: (thinks) Asi asi.

Gamma: No bueno?

Me: Just tired, baby. (hangs up jacket)

Gamma: I want to learn Japanese! Konnichiwa!

Me: Konnichiwa. You can learn Japanese if you want, although that might have to wait until college. I’m sure the local schools aren’t offering.

Gamma: You’ll have to learn it too so you can help me!

Me: (snort) I can’t keep up with the ones I was trying to learn before and now you want me to add Japanese to the mix? Japanese is very difficult.

Gamma: (brightly) Just like me!

Me: (pauses, processes, kisses Gammas forehead) Technically correct.

Gamma: The best kind of correct.

School Days, School Days

(scene opens in chilly mini-van)

Gamma: Mom, how come my school has numbers instead of grades?

Me: (weary sigh) Grade schools like to go with numbers, for some reason. By the time you get to high school, you’ll be back on that whole A, B, C grading system.

Gamma: What’s a GPA?

Me: (tries to remember the words) Grade Point Average. Every letter grade is worth a certain amount of points. As are like 4 and Fs are 0. You add all those points together and divide them by how many classes you took and that’s your average. If you get all As, you have an A average. If you get a mix, you might have only a C average. Its hard to get your grade point up after a certain point because of math.

Gamma: Why do we have GPA?

Me: Well….okay. The way it was taught to me was that you had to get good grades in grade school so you could get into honors classes in high school and get more points on top of your good grades so you had a wicked high GPA so you could apply to colleges and they’d go “Wow! Look at this GPA! I bet they’re really smart!” and they’d let you in so you could get more high grades and put that on your resume and companies would go “Wow! Look at that GPA! They’re really smart, we want them to come work for us!” and that would translate to more money.

(moment of silence)

Me: Which….if you think about it….is really kind of soulless. I want you to get good grades because it means you’re learning and understanding the material. Theoretically. Learn. Learn, learn, learn, never stop learning. Learn to love learning. Read books, watch documentaries, talk to experts. Hell, observe the world and talk to people who’ve sunk thousands of hours into their hobbies. Figure out what you like to do and we’ll go from there and make it work somehow.

(mini van pulls into drop off)

Gamma: I’m going to be a YouTuber.

Me: (disappointed sigh) Maybe something better than a YouTuber.

Gamma: (scathingly) Way to support your own daughter, mom. (Jumps out of van)

Delta: I know what I want to do when I grow up.

Me: Oh yeah?

Delta: Have fun.

Me: Good attitude to have, Delta. Have fun at school.

Delta: And you have the best day of your life, mom.

(Delta exits van, fade to black, cut to car commercial)

Parenting in the Time of Pandemic

Means yelling at your kids at the breakfast table that they’re going to be late for school. Which is in the parlor.

Means waking up your spouse early for IT support on the laptops to make sure the in-house security doesn’t block the 400 different learning platforms required for each child. Making them late for work. Which is in the basement.

Means the dog is pissed off that his walk is delayed because attendance is during his normal walk time. Hiding shoes so he doesn’t chew them to show his displeasure.

Wondering why the schools bothered to send home the Chromebooks for everyone if they didn’t bother to also send the headphones, sending you scrambling for the gaming headsets and hope they fit smaller noggins.

Being told by every school employee that attendance is mandatory by 8 in the posted zoom link. But the zoom link is never posted.

Listening to one of your children bitch they’re at the small table with an uncomfortable chair, but its the only place/arrangement where you can see their screen after finding out too late in 2020 they spent most of the school year in chat rooms playing clicky games.

Also listening to that same child perform for the camera and finding over-sold laughter a trigger for murderous inclinations.

Living with the fact that your kid refuses to brush their hair for the camera, but letting it go because they’re at least wearing their uniform shirt. Pandemic Hair(tm) on a small is weirdly adorable.

Realizing that your back-to-the-gym schedule has been shelved. Again. Wondering if you got your money’s worth in 2021 since you won’t be in 2022.

Coming to terms that you are now chained to the dinning room table as a distance learning room monitor for the duration of this shut down.

Considering catching Omicron just for a week in quarantine.

Not liking the way you lumber across your child’s live feed like a dumpy hausfrau sasquatch, knowing that parent sightings are a way of life now. The teacher is just glad you’re trying to take an active part in the proceedings.

Hating Pandemic Homeschool Zoom Gym Class with a passion. Trust me. They run around this house enough to qualify as passing a Presidential Fitness Test.

Wondering if your high schoolers are actually having class or if they’re so short on staff, most of it is just study hall for not having anyone to teach.

Realizing it took five days into the new year to totally trash your vague “Do Something With My Life” New Year’s resolution.

Wondering if reheating the same cup of coffee a dozen times makes it bitter. Or if its just you.

Ending on a High Note

(scene opens in holiday wrecked dinning room, Carrot at table looking frazzled)

Husband: (enters from kitchen)

Me: (tense) We have to take Delta to the planitarium.

Husband: Why?

Delta: (grins) Mommy and I were talking about burn out.

Husband: (stares in WTF)

Me: (closes eyes, sighs) He was asking what “burn out” means and wanted to know why we haven’t invented limitless energy – his words, not mine – and I explained that everything burns out, even the sun which has already existed for millions of years and will burn out millions of years in the future. He’s now asking me astronomical questions I don’t have answers to.

Husband: (stirring tea) Huh.

Me: Y’know – I prepared for endless kid questions by learning why the sky is blue and as of yet, not a single one has asked that. But meanwhile, I’ve had to show them how to use a bookmark and how to work the pull-tab on a can.

Husband: (tries for stoicism, fails, begins to laugh)

Delta: You know, I can hear you mom. Why is the sky blue? (grin turns smug)

Me: (puts head down on desk)

Husband: I’ll put that down as a “Brought it on yourself.”

Scattered Knowledge

(scene opens in dark car, Pandora Radio playing a commercial for Dexter)

Alpha: (derisively) Who names a serial killer Dexter. That’s a ridiculous name.

Me: (absently) Dexter is the opposite of Sinister. Sinister is the left, Dexter is the right, which is why if you can use both hands it’s called ambidextrous. Dexter is a serial killer who only hunts serial killers. He’s on the right side of sinister.

Alpha: (long silence) And where on the internet did you get that?

Me: I didn’t. I came up with it on my own. But I bet someone else on the internet came up with it too.

Alpha: (mockingly) Oh, look I’m making up word meanings.

Me: Do it! Look it up! Look up what dexter means.

(long silence)

Me: Did you find it?

Alpha: No. I decided to believe you.

Me: (shocked) Oh now you decide to start listening to me?

Alpha: Well, you’re the one making things up, seems easier just to let you go on.

Me: You know how you get all this random knowledge? Read. Read a lot. Read tons. Get yourself some accidental knowledge. Then you, too, will also see the deeper hidden meanings of things.

Alpha: Or I could just sit here and laugh over memes showing a pumpkin carved into a troll face. (cut scene to shitty meme on phone)

Me: (gives up) Despair. You make me. I am full.

Time is Meaningless

(scene opens in cluttered dinning room)

Me: (resigned) Okay, smalls, the school has encouraged twenty minutes a day on each of your two learning programs to make sure you’re all caught up for the fall. I don’t want any arguing. You can play video games after your work. Capisce?

Gamma/Delta: (in cheery chorus) Yes mom!

Gamma: Can we have snacks?

Me: Yes, as long as you work.

Gamma/Delta: (wailing) WE’VE BEEN WORKING FOREVER WHY AREN’T WE DONE!

Me: Its twenty minutes of work, not twenty minutes staring and the screen. You’ve done one question! Finish the rest of the questions and you’ll be done!

Gamma/Delta: (moar wailing) THE CLOCK SAYS WE’VE BEEN HERE FOR THIRTY MINUTES WHY WON’T YOU LET US PLAY VIDEO GAMES!?

Me: (trying not to cry) You’ve only done two questions! You have to do all the questions in the practice session!

(dramatic music, fade to black, cut to White Girl Wine Commercial)

Exhibit A

(scene opens in sunny dinning room)

Me: (tiredly gathering up pandemic homeschool supplies)

Beta: (laying on floor in sunbeam with doggo) Mom? Which do you love more, the kids or the dog.

Me: (sighs) Well, the dog doesn’t argue with me about every. single. thing. I. say. so maybe I love the dog best.

Beta: Except when he’s pulling on the leash or not sitting when you tell him or chewing on things he’s not supposed to…

Me: Hey Beta? You’re kinda proving my point.

Beta: …..damnit.

Helping the Revolution

(scene opens in cluttered dining room, Pandemic Homeschool in progress)

Carrot: Okay after you draw your picture, we have to write sentences.

Delta: (scribbles out a snowman) Done!

Carrot: Write “My snowman has long hair”

(twenty minute montage of this being attempted)

Delta: Done!

Carrot: (slightly frazzled) Okay, is your snowman a boy or girl? A he or she? Or is your snowman a they?

Delta: (thinks) My snowman is a they. Because snowmen can be boys or girls.

Carrot: Awesome. Write “They have long arms”.

(another twenty minute montage as Carrot sinks deeper into her coffee)

Delta: Mommy, this is my last one. Teacher says I only have to do two sentences, not three.

Carrot: (sigh) Honey, I am your teacher.

Distance Learning: K Edition

(scene opens at cluttered table)

Me: (bent over stale coffee gritting teeth) Again, Delta. Makes the “N” sound? List or Note?

Delta: (wailing) But I don’t know!

Me: Delta. What starts with the letter “N”? List or Note?

Delta: I don’t know!

Me: (surrenders, picks up toddler, tucks under arm, heads for stairs) Well, I guess you’re too tired to do your work. Nap time.

Delta: NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

Me: (stops) What letter does “No” start with?

Delta: THE LETTER N!

Me: (drops child) Is it the same sound as List or Note?

Delta: NOTE!

Me: (points to laptop) Go over there and push the right button so we can finish this level and move to the next one.

How to talk to them

(scene opens in early cluttered dining room)

Delta: (suddenly alarmed) Where’s Narbles?!

Gamma: (in kitchen) Over here! (camera cuts to squishmallow purple narwhal on the counter)

Me: Thank you, for finding her…. Hey, is Narbles a boy or a girl?

Delta: Um…Narbles is from the sea and a sea creature, so both.

Me: Oh. What do you call someone who’s both?

Gamma: (comes out of kitchen) A helicopter.

Me: You don’t call them a helicopter! That’s silly.

Gamma: (seriously) No, they’re helicopters. (holds up hands at 90 degrees) Helicopters have the blades on top and blades on the back. See? Both!

Me: That’s pretty good logic, but you can just say “they” if you don’t know or they say they’re non-binary.

Gamma: What’s binary?

Me: Binary is when you only have two choices. Non-binary would be a third option.

Gamma: Cool. Can I have Nutella for breakfast?

Me: (sigh) And that concludes the lesson. Sure, share with Delta.

(two kids throw up their hands cheering and run off screen)

Peasant Revolt

(scene open in cluttered parlor)

Me: (frazzled) It is three in the afternoon. Is everyone finally done with their school work?!

Beta: (staunchly) Yes. (puts on his shoes)

Me: What are you doing?

Beta: I’m going to take the smalls outside for a sword fight. Get them out of your hair.

Gamma: Yay! Sword fight! (throws down toys, runs for shoes) I want two swords!

Delta: I will use a peasant weapon because I am a peasant.

Husband: (hears this, puts on shoes)

Me: Where are you going?

Husband: Be right back. Have to teach a spear class.

Bro, do you even school?

(scene opens in dinning room)

Me: Guys, I’m getting emails from teachers updating me on your assignments. Who’s teacher is Ms. W? Who has Ms. D? Anyone have Mr. G?

Kids: (collectively) Uh, I don’t recognize those names.

Me: Okay, they’re either Alpha or Beta’s ’cause I know Gamma and Delta’s.

Bigs: I dunno.

Me: (slogs through school web page directories) Okay Beta, you have Ms. W and Ms. D. Alpha – you have Mr. G.

Beta: Oh yeah, Ms. W is the English teacher. I forgot.

Alpha: Who is Mr. G? I don’t know a Mr. G.

Me: IT IS APRIL HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THE NAMES OF YOUR TEACHERS?!?