Opportunity strikes

(scene opens in tossed dinning room)

Alpha: (thinking himself clever) Mom, if people evolved from monkeys, why do we still have monkeys?
Me: (shock) Did you just seriously ask me that question?
Alpha: (bravado wavers a bit) Yeah.
Me: (anticipatory stretch, cracks knuckles) I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Sit down while I learn you good. Its been a while since I used the Anthro degree. (picks up pencil to sketch out hominid family tree)

(time passes, multiple cut scenes follow, science happens)

Alpha: (whimpers)
Me: There. And that’s why, my little hairless ape, there are both monkeys and human beings. Before you decide this play this trick again, the same goes for dogs and wolves. Unless you’re dumb enough to think that pre-historic saber-toothed Bichon Frise roamed the earth hunting undersized mammoths.
Alpha: (slinks off to kitchen to do dishes)

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Time, Time, Time

(scene opens in dim dinning room)

Alpha: (comes in foyer, shedding snow)
Me: (concerned) What are you doing home? Did they cancel track?
Alpha: No, I have homework.
Me: (appalled) ….you ditched track to do homework? You’ve missed all of last week’s practice already! How much do you have?
Alpha: I have to finish the late worksheet.
Me: That’s it? (temper rises) How long do you think that’s going to take you?
Alpha: (hesitantly) All night?
Me: You actually have no clue how much homework you have on any given night, which is amazing since you never bring homework home.
Alpha: (defensively sullen) I didn’t think I could run if I had homework.
Me: (shakes fists at the sky, shrieking) School. Practice. Homework. Dinner. Bed. There is time for all things under heaven! What kind of life do you think you’re going to live where you can clear your entire calendar for twenty minutes worth of work?
Alpha: (tearfully sullen) A life on the streets.
Me: (collects with difficulty) Even street people have a schedule in an effort to survive. Thank you for making homework a priority.

(Alpha exits, Mother screams silently and tears out hair)

Lingual Conundrum

(scene opens at cluttered dinning table)

Gamma: (falling apart) I don’t know how to write a sentence in Spanish for this word! I don’t know the meaning of this word! (collapses over worksheet)
Me: (temper fraying, goes to Google Translate) Uh….”gitano” means…gypsy? (finches) That can’t be right. (close up on screen repeats definition)
Gamma: What does gypsy mean?!?
Me: (flinches again) Uh…its an ethnic group…
Gamma: (wailing) HOW DO I USE IT IN A SENTENCE!?!?
Me: (closes eyes, steels herself) Can you write “I like gypsy music?”
Gamma: (in tears) WHAT IS GYPSY MUSIC?
Me: (grimaces, calls up Gogol Bordello’s “Start Wearing Purple” on YouTube)
Gamma: (covers ears) THIS IS AWFUL! TURN IT OFF!
Me: (does so)
Gamma: (laboriously writing, speaking aloud) Mi mama me gusto…

To Try Men’s Souls

(scene opens in tossed dining room)

Me: So how was school? Any homework? (sips coffee)
Beta: Yeah, English. I have to find a word that describes me that rhymes with the sound of my name.
Me: (pause, confused) You have to find a descriptive word that rhymes with your name? Or one that starts with the same letter?
Beta: (instantly exasperated) Rhymes with my name!
Me: (pretty sure he’s wrong) There aren’t going to be any descriptive words that sound like your name, honey.
Beta: (falls apart, verge of tears) It has to rhyme with the “L” sound.
Me: (staying calm, grits out) Rhyme is the wrong word. Rhyme is “bat, cat, rat, prat”. Starting with the same letter is completely different. (Points to computer) Get on Thesaurus.com and look up a word.
Beta: (hysterical) But I don’t even know what word I’m looking for yet.
Me: (slams hands on table) Would you just trust my judgement for once and get on the computer!
Beta: (does so, stares at blanks screen for five minutes, quivering with tears)
Me: (sighs deeply, leans over to type)

(close up on screen shows word “argumentative”)

Me: There. (conversationally reads) Belligerent. Combative. Contrary. Litigious. Litigious is a good word. That starts with the letter “L”.
Beta: (bright and cheery) Yeah! It is a good word.
Me: (stares into the blackness that is her coffee)

In Preparation

(Scene opens in dinning room, ridiculous piles of school supplies everywhere, fast sort begins)

Grade School Pile: ALL THE THINGS! YOU MUST STOCK UP FOR THE APOCALYPSE! THERE IS NO HOPE OF EVER FINDING ANOTHER PENCIL PAST THE START OF SCHOOL! IF YOU ARE NOT TRIPLE STOCKED NOW YOU WILL NEVER GRADUATE AND IT WILL GO ON YOUR PERMANENT RECORD! YOU WILL BE JUDGED ON THE TYPE OF CRAYONS YOU GET AND YOUR FOLDERS NEED TO BE SPECIFIC COLORS THAT NO ONE CARRIES! ALSO ANTI-BIOTIC EVERYTHING BECAUSE OF REASONS!

Middle School Pile: Overly organized and oversized binders that you will never use. Start to flirt with college ruled. Adult calculator but your scissors are still safety. More pencils than grade school, half the markers. Do kids not use pens any more?

High School Pile: Got a folder? A pencil? Cool. Here’s your locker combo. Good luck.

Begin the beginning

(scene opens in mostly clean dinning room)

Me: (sets up laptops) Duolingo for everyone!
Kids: (groan)
Me: Come on, you can do this.

(ten minutes of failure noises from the computers)

Gamma: I don’t know anything!
Beta: This program is stupid, it doesn’t know anything.
Alpha: Why can’t I figure this out?
Me: (goes to check each computer screen, obviously struggling with calm) Okay. Somehow I failed to give you the explicit instruction to start on “Basic”. You realize you’re trying to do the levels that already assume a level of fluency?
Alpha: (defensively) There were less lessons at that level!
Me: But you don’t speak German!
Beta: But if there were only three exercises, how hard could it be? There are fourteen on the first level! That’s a lot harder!
Me: (facepalms) You need to learn how to say hello before you can recite poetry, guys.
Gamma: Hola, mama!
Beta: (snarls) That’s not German!
Me: (Throws up hands) SHE’S LEARNING SPANISH!

Do you even music?

(scene opens in the dining room)

Me: Okay, Beta, welcome to Tiger Mom Summer school. Time to practice scales! Remember, when you see these two signatures these two notes (points them out, clearly marked as #) are always sharp.
Beta: (slumped in chair, cradling baritone horn) How do you play a sharp?
Me: (looking scale sheet) It has the fingerings right there.
Beta: I don’t think I’ve ever played a sharp.
Me: (deep breathing) You’ve been in band two years. How have you not played a sharp?
Beta: (turning red, tears starting) I don’t know!
Me: Clearly your band teacher has not been putting you through your paces and I have failed you as Nightmare Tiger Mom. We’ll begin with your first scale and it looks like I’m learning Bass Clef with you.
Beta: (begins to weep, plays soggy scale, waits for death)
Me: (finds center, remains calm) It might be an embouchure problem. You’ll have to do lip-ups. Every day you’ll need to lay face down and pick yourself up with only your lips.
Beta: (laughs through his tears)
Me: Okay. Good. Now, again.

Power of Fashion

(scene opens in mini-van)

Me: Thank you for coming with me to pick out a graduation outfit.
Alpha: (simmering) Why can’t I just wear a nice shirt and my black pants?
Me: (tiredly) Because this is a graduation. It is a formal event. You need something better than the black polo grandma got you for the party.
Alpha: But no one ever wears a suit!
Me: (hotly) They do! You just ignore them in favor of pointing out all the kids who are going to show up in their jeans and Jordans. Tell you what – if you want to wear a black suit and a black tie, you can do that. It doesn’t have to be goofy colors.
Alpha: (softens) Like John Wick?
Me: (hopeful) Exactly like John Wick.
Alpha: (mulling) That sounds good.
Me: (performs mental Victorious Picard)

Too Much Creativity

(scene opens in tossed parlor)

Gamma: (fresh from school) Mom! I have to make a machine for school tomorrow!
Me: Wha..? Why?
Gamma: I…(self aware pause) I didn’t finish it in class. Maybe draw it?
Me: Do you have to make or draw?
Gamma: (mental processing) …both? I need a machine that makes my life easier with snacks.
Me: (can’t even) With what? Snacks?
Gamma: Whatever we have in the house. Its a machine about snacks.

(scene cuts to cluttered dinning room)

Me: There. You have styrofoam cups, bendy straws, tape, scissors, and this aluminum tray you brought home from school. Have at.
Gamma: Whee!(proceeds to cut everything into confetti)
Me: Uh, what are you making?
Gamma: I’m just cutting.
Me: What about your snack machine?!?
Gamma: (surveys carnage) Oh. I forgot.

This again?

(scene opens in cluttered parlor)

Alpha: (sawing his way through Dona Nobis Pacem)
Me: No, you need to hold that note longer.
Alpha: (scowls, saws through it again)
Me: What’s the key signature?
Alpha: One sharp. That’s F#?
Me: Yes. Sounds like you’re playing all of them sharp.
Alpha: No I’m not! You don’t know how this song goes!
Me: Seriously. (Sings Dona Nobis Pacem perfect Catholic School acapella) Why do you think you’re ever going to win a music fight with me? I’m not even anywhere near the moderately competent musician my school ever released into the wild.
Alpha: (says nothing, goes back to sawing, only half the notes sharp)

Not a Rickroll

(scene opens at dinner table)

Beta: My music teacher told me that I needed to watch 4:33.
Me: (processing) What?
Beta: 4:33. Both he and the orchestra teacher were laughing about it. It’s a music video.
Me: Oh! Yes. (starts laughing) Of course we can watch it. (calls up the orchestral version of John Cage’s 4’33)

(minute goes by)

Gamma: When are they going to start playing?
Beta: For real. They’re just sitting there.

(second minute goes by)

Beta: I don’t get it. Why is this funny?
Gamma: They’re not playing.

(third minute goes by)

Gamma: This is boring! Where’s the music?!
Beta: (extreme suffering) I don’t get it! Tell me why this is so funny!
Me: (calls up the sheet music for 4’33)
Beta: (incredulous) Rests. The whole thing is rests. Why the hell would anyone write a piece of just rests!? And why wouldn’t anyone think that’s funny?
Me: (starts giggling)

Basic Math

(scene opens in afternoon dining room, argument in progress)

Me: (exasperated) You’re racking up a list of missing assignments! Where are they? Are you eating them?!
Alpha: (sullen, stomps out of the room, comes back with piles of papers) Here they are!
Me: (shocked) You had them this whole time? Why didn’t you turn them in?!
Alpha: (darkly) I couldn’t figure out these problems. (points to various problems on different pages)
Me: (trouble processing) So…you couldn’t figure out a single problem out of twelve and so you didn’t turn it in?
Alpha: (defensive) Yeah.
Me: (voice from the grave) So, instead of getting five 80% homework assignments turned in, you opted for five zeros.

(long pause)

Alpha: Yeah. I’m doing them all right now, aren’t I?
Me: (resigned) Honestly, I don’t care if you do them or not, but you’re turning in all these worksheets in tomorrow and you’ll be lucky to get 30% on them for being late. But better than zeros. Goddamnit, Alpha, some is better than none when talking about grades and money.