Maybe if you just listened to me

(scene opens along dark suburban sidewalk)

Me: So what do you think of your potential Jr. High? Excited?
Beta: Yes!
Me: So why did you sign up for AVID as an elective? I’m glad you want study skills, but its geared for kids who’ll probably be the first generation of their family into college.
Beta: Exactly.
Me: (considers) …Daddy and I both have college degrees.
Beta: (astounded) You do?!? I didn’t know that!
Me: Clearly I have failed to impress upon you that I might know a thing or two.



(scene opens in rarely clean kitchen)

Me: (sipping coffee) I’ve noticed you’ve been eating in the cafeteria more.
Beta: (proudly) Yes. You’ve been wanting me to try new things. Aren’t you happy?
Me: (pointedly sipping again) I’ve noticed that your willingness to try new foods coincides neatly with you being responsible for making your own lunches.
Beta: (defensively) I’m trying new foods!
Me: I’m happy you’re trying new foods. I’m a little put out this adventure is rooted entirely in laziness.


Inconsistent Application

(scene opens in dim foyer)

Me: Alpha, why are you wearing four shirts under your uniform?
Alpha: Because I might get cold. Dress in layers.
Me: Sweet zombie Jebuz. Your father told you dress in layers for camping, not for when we’re going to be indoors all the time. Take off those extra shirts!
Alpha: (steps behind door to de-layer, returns and hands mother shirts)
Me: Now get on your jackets and go to school.

(boys put on flimsy fleeces, girl puts on puffiest ski coat)

Me: (exhausted by stupidity) Alpha, why – if you’re cold enough to wear four shirts indoors where the heat is on – are you putting on the thinnest jacket you have to brave the cold rain? Don’t you think that – if it is that cold out – you might want a warmer jacket?
Alpha: (sullen) Maybe. (storms off into the freezing rain)
Beta: (conversationally) It is cold out. Maybe if I had the gloves dad took, I could wear those and be warm.
Me: (closes eyes) You mean the gloves you were wearing all day on Saturday when it was warm and sunny and you were complaining of being too hot and dad took them from you because you were being dumb?
Beta: (thinks about it) Yeah. I guess so. (steps out into the freezing rain in too small fleece)


Lingual Angst

(scene opens in cluttered dining room)

Me: (types word into Google translate for correct pronunciation) Okay Gamma, first spelling word: Calabaza.
Gamma: (scribbles it down, shows mother)
Me: ….Couv? Try again (hands back paper) Ca-la-ba-za.
Gamma: (tries again)
Me: …Trqb? (temper rising) No. Try. Again. Ca. La. Ba. Za.
Gamma: (hurriedly marks paper)
Me: CLBZ? Do you not hear vowels?! What’s a vowel?
Gamma: (nervous) Person, place, or thing?
Me: (flips table) Go to your room. I have to write a letter to your teacher.


Big Brother is Mommy’s friend

(scene opens in dim dinning room)

Me: (putting lunch box on the table) I packed your lunch, Gamma. Do you like being able to get milk at the cafeteria?
Gamma: (slurping cereal) Yeah. I get chocolate.
Me: That’s nice. No more rice krispy treats. That account is for milk only.
Gamma: (pauses, stares wide eyed)
Me: I can see online what you’re buying and I have the same problem with your brothers. That food account is for milk and lunches, not treats and chips.
Gamma: That’s creepy.


Reading for Success

(scene opens in crowded middle school cafeteria orientation night)

Alpha: (pushing through milling crowd) Mom! Mom!
Me: (looks up from a signing a million pieces of paperwork) What?
Alpha: I need five dollars (points to bake sale table). I want to get a blunt cake.
Me: (pauses, processes) Blunt. Cake.
Alpha: Yeah! Little round cakes with vanilla frosting!
Me: Oh. Those are bundt cakes. Bun.d.nt. (draws out sounds) Not blunt. Those aren’t legal. Yet.
Alpha: (confused as well as stubborn) Really! They’re blunt cakes. I saw the “L” in there!
Me: Then you’re really not getting one apart from me not having the five dollars.



(scene opens in moderately organized kitchen)

Alpha: So where are we going?
Me: St. Louis. We’re spending the night and on Monday we’re going to see the eclipse! (with great enthusiasm)
Alpha: (dismayed) But we have school on Monday.
Me: I’m taking you out of school. Once in a lifetime chance! Non-academic learning potential!
Alpha: (wilting further) We’re getting gym locker combinations on Monday.
Me: Solar. Eclipse. In. Totality.
Alpha: (Sagging completely) It’s just….just that…its less time I can hang out with my friend.
Me: Holy god. It’ll be another 99 years before this happens again. Could you just try to enjoy the fact that your nerdly space-obsessed mother finds a 3 minute event to be more important than sitting at a desk for six hours?


Musical Mishaps

(scene opens in toy strewn parlor, summer school work in progress)

Me: Okay, twenty minutes of baritone. Let’s do some scale work.
Beta: I only know four notes.
Me: (pause for mini-stroke) A year of band and you only know four notes? (flips through book, finds scale) Here – start at G and play the octave.
Beta: (obligatory suffering, starts playing)
Me: (listens to the audio equivalent of a bucket of legos dumped out) What the hell was that?
Beta: (defensively) I’m playing the scale.
Me: (takes baritone, runs the scale) The notes go in order, lowest tone to highest then you go back down. Not a grab bag of sounds. What day were you not paying attention where you missed this part of music theory? How is the sound of it not audible common sense?
Beta: (cue more suffering)


Work Smarter

(scene opens in tossed dining room)

Alpha: (suffering) Why are we doing this!? We’re the only kids in the whole neighborhood doing summer work.
Me: Because I want you to be smarter than you are now.
Alpha: I don’t want to be smarter, I want to be like everyone else.
Me: (dies a little)
Beta: “The lowest point in the US is in California. What is the name of this point?” Duh, California.
Me: Death Valley.
Boys: (stare)
Me: Get back to work.


Optimism at its finest

(scene opens in dawn-tinged bedroom)

Gamma: (comes running in)
Me: (opens eyes right before impact)
Gamma: I graduated! Today I go to first grade.
Me: (in amused pity) No, honey, the graduation ceremony was early. You have two more days of kindergarten.
Gamma: (face falls in shocked disappointment) But I’m a first grader now!
Me: (gently) You don’t go to first grade until August. You have two more days of kindergarten.
Gamma: (crushed) I was robbed. (slumps out of the room)
Husband: (mumbled into pillow) For someone who had such a hard year, that was a resolute show of spirit.
Me: Now she has all summer to get even more excited.


Threefold rule

(scene opens in crowded foyer, conversation in progress)

Gamma: I don’t want my toys to become voodoo!
Beta: No, your toys aren’t voodoo, there are dolls called voodoo dolls.
Gamma: But that’s scary! I don’t want voodoo dolls.
Beta: Your dolls don’t become voodoo dolls, they’re something totally different.
Gamma: But they hurt people! If you punch them don’t I get hurt?
Beta: I don’t know how it works actually.
Me: (rubbing forehead) It’s time to go, guys. Let me get my jacket on and I’ll explain sympathetic magic to you on the way to school, okay?
Gamma: Yay! Mommy is teaching us magic!


Literary Skills

(scene opens in cluttered dining room)

Beta: Mom what are these?
Me: (already through) What do they look like?
Beta: Star Wars books. But what are they for?
Me: Read the whole cover. (watches his eyes skip from the logo to the fine print at the bottom)
Beta: They’re for first grade.
Me: Beta, read the whole thing.
Beta – (long silence) OH! This one is for reading and this is writing. And math.
Me – Can you tell me why the last thing you read on this page was the big white letters, easily taking up 3/5ths of the page? Instead of maybe starting at the top and reading your way down?
Beta – Uh….I don’t know.
Me – (thinking about how much money she’s going to save on not sending kids to college)