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)

I need an adultier adult.

(scene opens at cluttered dinning room table, Pandemic Homeschool in Progress)

Me: (too through) Okay, next project. Remember the book the teacher read to you this morning in Zoom? Here you have to draw a picture about what makes you “you” and record it.

Delta: (anxious) I don’t know what makes me “me”!

Me: (striving for patience) It can be anything. Anything you like about yourself.

Delta: (thinks) My skin!

Me: (begins to tremble) …..maybe something different?

Delta: If it weren’t for skin, we wouldn’t be human!

Me: (closes eyes, hangs head, submits to the will of the gods) You are technically correct.

Delta: (hums to himself as he beings to draw) Look mommy! I drew my skin! (camera cuts to computer screen showing a flesh colored blob)

Me: (faintly) Great job. Remember to use the microphone to explain what you drew and why it makes you “you”.

Delta: (leans toward lap top, hisses) ….mmmmmyyyyy ssskkkkkiiinnnnnn. (normal voice) Goodbye! (digitally submits assignment) All done mommy! Time for a brain break.

Me: (stares at her coffee) Yes. Quite.

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.

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)

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.

I feel seen

(scene opens in early morning kitchen)

Me: (muttering to self, running around first floor) Keys. Keys. Where are my keys? Wallet?

Husband: (from kitchen) THE BEST OF US!

Me: (finds keys, enters kitchen) What?

Husband: (sitting on stool, zipping up Delta’s jacket) Tell mom what you just said, Delta.

Delta: (bundled up, ready for school) You do the most work in the house.

Me: (surprised, serious) Yes. Thank you for noticing. Let’s get in the car.

Husband: Have a good day at school, Delta!

Future Engineer

(scene opens in pandemic homeschool)

Beta: Mom, check my eyes? The question says “look at the slide on page eleven and describe a negative feed back loop”. But the slide that talks about negative feed backs is on page ten.

Me: And?

Beta: What should I do?

Me: Ignore page number and answer the question. The question is about negative feedback loop. Do you see the slide that talks about feedback?

Beta: Yes.

Me: Then talk about negative feedback.

Beta: (thinks a moment) I’m going to tell the teacher its on the wrong page.

Me: (sigh) Okay. But also answer the question about the negative feedback loop and don’t wait for her to say “Okay, look on page ten for the information”.

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.

Life is a dark room

(scene opens in apocalypse homeschool)

Me: (at kid table with Chromebook) Okay, this assignment is “Draw a picture about what you liked about the story and record talking about it.” Like the last four hundred videos we watched.

Delta: I don’t like anything.

Me: I know. But you have to stop submitting blank pages, the teacher doesn’t like it. Could you pretend? For mommy?

Delta: (fills in the page with a single color) It’s all black. I like black. (hits submit button)

Me: (sighs) That’s fine. Let me get some more coffee before the teacher emails me again.

Bard From Another Timeline

(scene opens in cluttered dinning room)

Alpha: (stares angrily into space)

Me: (notices this, takes off headphones) What can I help you with?

Alpha: (frustrated) I’m supposed to read these short stories and write something about culture and how it defines us. You can’t help me.

Me: (sips coffee) Tell me about one of the stories. Maybe I can help you break down some thoughts.

Alpha: You can’t!

Me: Try me.

Alpha: Well, one is about this girl who’s embarrassed to stand in front of a 14 year old man and her dad burps when he eats fish. See? You can’t help me.

Me: (sips more coffee) By any chance is the 14 yr old boy the son of the pastor? A boy she has a crush on? When they come over for dinner, she’s totally embarrassed by the way her Chinese family is eating, and about dies when her dad offers her fish cheeks as the best part of the meal?

Alpha: (stares)

Me: So, yeah, that story is called “Fish Cheeks” and I read it when I was in school. A hundred years ago.

Alpha: (stares louder)

Me: (slurps coffee) Wanna tell me about the other two?

Alpha: (pouts, gets up, collects headphones) I’m going to join the Zoom classroom and ask questions.

You Had Options

(scene opens in pandemic living room, kids strewn about for reading hour)

Husband: (comes in looks around)

Me: (takes off head phones) Reading hour ends at 2.

Beta: (looks up) Maybe picking a book about a fast spreading virus was a bad choice.

Me: (no pity) Hey, I gave you one about aliens and horses and you didn’t like it. This is all on you.

They know a thing, too.

(scene opens at cluttered table)

Alpha: I need help finding references on how alcohol affects the body.

Me: Look up Betty Ford Clinic.

Alpha: Says page is denied.

Me: The school laptop won’t let you look up Betty Ford Clinic? That’s absurd. You can look it up on my computer and use it as a reference.

Alpha: But she’ll think I’m making it up if we can’t pull it up on a school computer.

Me: Trust me, the teachers will know what the clinic is and who Betty Ford is.