(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)
(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.
Me: Get back to work.
(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.
(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!
(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)
(scene opens in destroyed dining room)
Me: Alpha, I have something to talk to you about.
Me: Remember the hard time you used to have in school? The yelling, the running out of the classroom?
Alpha: You’re going to tell me that Gamma is doing the same thing?
Me: Yeah. For the same reasons. She’s got some kids picking on her. I thought that maybe you could talk to her and give her some advice on how it feels and how it’ll get better and how we’re trying to help.
Alpha: Okay. (leaves)
(short time passes)
Me: (heading downstairs to cluttered basement, finds Alpha) You’re playing Xbox?
Alpha: Yeah. Where else would I be?
Me: I thought you were talking with your sister and trying to help her out by sharing some of your hard earned wisdom.
Alpha: I have to do that now?
(scene opens in gloomy foyer)
Me: What took you so long?
Beta: I had to put my shoes on.
Me: Well, Gamma left without you.
Beta: (sounds of outrage and distress)
Me: You’ve been mean and rude to her all morning, she’s convinced you don’t like her, and now you’re going to be upset that she walked to school without you?
Beta: (Distress intensifies as he fights with his jacket)
Me: What did you think would happen? No one is going to waste time trying to be friends with someone who’s mean to them. And now you’re on your own. Have a nice day at school.
(scene opens in gloomy foyer)
Me: You have everything?
Alpha: Yes. (shrugs on backpack)
Me: What are you going to do today?
Alpha: Turn in all my math homework! (picks up violin case)
Me: Good jo…
Alpha: Then conquer Asia!
Me: It’s good to have goals.
Alpha: (strides out the front door)
(scene opens at dinning room table)
Gamma: Is today a school day?
Me: No. It’s Sunday. You have school tomorrow.
Gamma: Tomorrow is a school day?
Me: Yes. (Pulls up calendar on laptop) See? You have school tomorrow, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and for some reason there’s no school on Friday.
Gamma: Is Friday a holiday?
Me: Not that I know of. But the school is closed on Friday.
Gamma: It must be King Julian Day.
(scene opens in school nurse’s office)
Nurse: Thank you for coming so quickly
Me: I’m a block away, so the hardest part is gearing up (points to Delta grinning on her back). Just a fever?
Nurse: Yes. No signs of anything else, but let us know if she gets worse. (Hands Gamma over after taking parental signature)
Me: (takes Gamma’s hand and starts the chilly walk home)
Gamma: (after a long silence) I made my goal today. I was quiet in class. It was very easy because I was sleeping.
Me: You have to be quiet in class all the time.
Gamma: It’s harder when I’m awake.
(scene opens in dark cluttered dining room)
Beta: (long detailed, meandering, never ending talk about his friends getting hoverboards for Christmas and his overly-detailed plans for making a hover chair)
Me: You should go to engineering school and build one.
Beta: By the time I get to college, they’ll have invented one already.
Me: But you could make it better. The future is built with engineers. Who knows, you could invent the anti-gravs to make them float.
Beta: (frowns, hesitates) Uh…don’t they already float?
Me: No. Current hoverboards are just motorized two wheeled skateboards.
Beta: (much denial and a trip to Google to prove it) That’s so stupid! What’s the point of a hoverboard that doesn’t hover?!?
Me: Finish your breakfast, learn science, go to engineering school.
(scene opens in snowy school yard)
Me: (waits for flood of kids to be released to waiting parents)
Teacher: Please come inside.
Me: That’s never good. (swims up stream of fleeing children)
Gamma: (grinning, wearing snow boots, new winter hat, new snow gloves sewn up that morning from yet another destructive daughter moment, no winter coat)
Teacher: (begins highly repetitive, condescending lecture on sending daughter to school with appropriate jacket as if new to parenting)
Me: (sighs) Gamma, how’d you manage that? (takes off 9 ft long Dr. Who scarf, winds it around her, waving off sketchy loaner jacket) We live a block away, she’ll be fine.
Teacher: (re-loops highly repetitive lecture.)
Me: Bye! See you tomorrow! (leaves)