Summer begins!

(scene opens at school pick up line, smalls climbing into mini-van)

Me: (brightly) Hey guys! Last day of school! Are you ready for summer?

Gamma: (too through) I guess. My teacher gave me a bag of candy.

Me: I can tell by the chocolate on your face. What about you, Delta?

Delta: (perky) My teacher gave us all sunglasses!

Me: (pulls away from curb) Perfect for summer!

Delta: Mom, how many more days until second grade?

Me: (frowns) Uh…thirty days in June, thirty one in July, subtract one for today. Add ten for August and you have seventy days of Summer.

Delta: (incredulous) Seventy days!?

Me: Yup.

Delta: I can’t wait seventy days to ride the bus. Can’t I go back earlier?

Me: (sighs) Tragically, no.

Delta: (disgruntled) This is so unfair.

Please hold, your call is important to us.

(scene opens in cluttered dining room Beta sitting next to Carrot at the table)

Me: The reason you’re failing is that you’re not turning in your work. That’s it. You’re passing all your tests. Just turn in the goddamn work.

(Husband approaches the table)

Husband: (in calm receptionist voice) Thank you for calling Parent Phone. Press 1 if you want to be yelled at by Dad. Press 2 if you want to be yelled at by mom. Press 3 if you want a vague sense of parental disappointment.

(pause)

Beta: What does four….

Husband: (yelling) I TOLD YOU IF YOU WANTED TO BE YELLED AT BY DAD YOU PRESS 1! DO YOU EVEN LISTEN?

Carrot: (puts head down and laughs)

Beta: What’s wrong with you?

Carrot: (crying) I’m blogging that and you can’t stop me.

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)

Life Advice, Not Beer Commercial

(scene opens in frosty min-van)

Gamma: Mom, what’s 6th grade like?

Me: Oh. Well, my 6th grade was part of the Jr. High building and so we’d swap classrooms with 7th and 8th graders for different classes. Like for science or math…

Gamma: (interrupting) No, I mean the social part. Like popular kids and stuff.

Me: I hate to break it to you, but I wasn’t a popular kid.

Gamma: That much was obvious.

Me: Ouch, that hurts. (thinks) Okay, well, what’s the point of being popular?

Gamma: To have a lot of friends.

Me: Fair. But sometimes people are friends with you only because you’re popular. By whatever metric they’re using to scale that. If you stop being popular, they’ll find someone else to be friends with.

Gamma: Oh.

Me: In 7th grade, I realized I would never be the prettiest, or the smartest, or the tallest, strongest, fastest, most talented at anything. There would always be someone who was any or all of those things better than me. So I decided then and there to be the most interesting. If I was the most interesting person in the room, people would want to hang out with me. So. Read a lot of books. Listen to a lot of music –

Gamma: (interrupts) Got that covered.

Me: Learn a wide variety of strange and random skills that serve no real purpose save that you want to learn how to do it. Constantly make people amazed at your unexpected know-how on something. Trust me, it is way more fun to be interesting than it is to be popular. Popularity is fleeting. Interesting is forever.

(mini van pulls into drop off)

Me: Okay kids! (starts to sing) Have the best day ever!

Gamma: Please don’t.

Band Nerds Unite

(scene opens in dark mini van)

Me: So what time do I have to pick you up?

Beta: The game should be over by 8. Did you know some kids just hang out after school until the game starts? That’s over three hours of hanging out! That’s gotta be so boring!

Me: Not really. Not if you have all your friends there too. My old high school had activity busses running until 6:30 every night, so I just hung out with my friends every day until last call.

Beta: I suppose. Hey remember T, our old neighbor? Who was a percussionist? They used to hang out in the band room every day.

Me: Legit.

Beta: They used to get into so much trouble.

Me: Also legit.

Beta: They used to have a microwave in there. Not since they put a shoe in it.

(car pulls up to curb)

Me: Yeah, Band Kids are terrible. (Beta gets out of the car) Theater kids are the worst. (Beta pauses, looks back over his shoulder) I was both.

Beta: That explain so much.

Me: Get out. I’ll see you in two hours.

The importance of literature.

(scene opens in bitterly cold min-van, conversation in progress)

Gamma: And then my teacher said Slytherin was the best house. When she asked me to hold open the door, I said she had to make Gryffindor just as good as Slytherin. And then I held it open. Gryffindor is the Hero House

Me: (considers that, sighs) Okay. So. As much as I enjoyed the books, the idea that one house is all good and one house is all bad is very simplistic writing. The real world isn’t like that.

Gamma: But Draco is Slytherin and Slytherin is evil.

Me: Draco is not evil and neither is Slytherin. Draco was taught hate and bigotry by his parents, that’s why it persists over generations. Slytherin isn’t evil either. Ambition, while not exactly a virtue, isn’t an evil thing. Its good to be ambitious, to want to be the best at something. To excel.

Gamma: Like Hermoine!

Me: Yes, Hermoine is a very ambitious woman. Where ambition goes wrong is when winning is all that matters and comes at the expense of the safety and well-being of others. Ambition without empathy. As for the Hero House, being brave is all well and good, but sometimes being brave is following the rules. How many times did Harry and crew break the rules?

Gamma: All the time!

Me: And it always worked out for them in the end, which is also nothing like real life. Rules sometimes exist for a reason. The flip side of brave is reckless. Breaking rules just because you think rules don’t apply to you is extremely selfish and somewhat dangerous.

Gamma: Dumbledore gave them extra points when they broke rules so they’d win the house cup.

Me: Which was poor form. It might as well be cheating and abusing a position of authority. Now, as for Hufflepuff, the flip side of Loyalty is giving your loyalty to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Gamma: Like Crabbe and Goyle! They were very loyal. Why weren’t they in Hufflepuff and not Slytherin?

Me: I don’t know. Maybe their parents were in Slytherin and they wanted to be just like them. Sometimes kids will do whatever their parents say – like Draco – or try to be just like them because they think if they don’t, their parents won’t like them any more. That’s how you perpetuate generational hate. They’re being hateful to other people to win their parent’s love and approval. Anyway, being a loyal friend isn’t supporting them 100% of the time. Sometimes being a loyal friend is standing up to them when they’re about to do something dumb or hurtful or dangerous.

(car pulls into school parking lot)

Gamma: What about Ravenclaw?

Me: The flip side of Intelligence is believing your own hype. You get to the point where you have so much faith in your own smarts, you can’t possibly think that anyone is as smart or smarter than you. So you refuse to listen to experts in their own field. No one is an expert on everything. There will always be an expert that knows more about a subject than you do, and you should listen and learn what they have to teach.

(stops car)

Me: Now. Go to school, learn new things, stay warm, I’ll see you later.

Gamma: Bye! (hops out of car runs off)

Me: (drives the circle to Delta’s building)

Delta: You talk a lot, mom.

Me: Thank you for listening.

Delta: You’re welcome. (hops out of car, runs off)

Silence, my old friend…

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

Me: (brittle) Delta. Read. It. Out. Loud.

Delta: (weeping) I’m reading it in my mind! (guesses the last half of mit – ten as mit-tul)

Laptop: BUZZ!

Delta: (falls out of chair weeping)

Me: Read. It. Out. Loud. So. You. Can. Hear. The. Word.

Delta: (picks himself up, sits before laptop, repeats process.)

Laptop: BUZZ!

(montage of weeping, but completely silent Delta, failing the entire assignment)

Me: (coping skill failing, checks watch) Okay, time’s up. Take a brain break and we’ll do the next one in fifteen minutes.

(cue fifteen minutes of Edward’s never ending no inner monologue narration interspersed with ridiculous questions)

Me:

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.

One Day More

(scene opens in cold dinning room)

Husband: (shuffles in) Listen up, I want you all to go check your school stuff and get ready for tomorrow. Fresh pens, clean clothes, Chromebooks charged. Go.

(children scatter, Carrot at laptop, become progressively more morose)

Gamma: (singing to herself, pounds down stairs) I’m going to see my friends tomorrow! I can hardly wait so see my friends! I missed them so much! I can hardly wait to go to school!

Me: You’re not.

Gamma: (stunned) What?

Me: You’re not. Just got an email from the school. Too many hot cases, so they’re going to be doing distance learning for a couple of weeks.

Gamma: (wails) But I want to go back to school!

Me: Trust me, baby, I want you to go back to school too.

What Are You Even

(scene opens in dim foyar)

Gamma: (skipping downstairs) Mom! I lost a tooth!

Me: (frazzled) Well, give it to me so I can put it in the Tooth Fairy Box.

Gamma: (stops, startled) I don’t know where it is.

Me: What do you mean? Go back upstairs and get it.

Gamma: I woke up without it.

Me: You lost it in your sleep?

Gamma: Yeah, I think I swallowed it.

Me: Seriously. (suspicious) Did you go to bed with the tooth and wake up without it?

Gamma: (confused) No, I didn’t have it before bed last night. Maybe it’s down here.

Me: (headache starts) So, you wiggled it and it fell out last night before you went to bed. Do you remember where you were when it fell out?

Gamma: I might have been at school.

Me: Why do you only loose teeth at school? Did you drop it? Did you leave it in your desk?

Gamma: (vacantly) I don’t know. I think it just fell out.

Me: (flatly) It just fell out. It fell out of your mouth without you noticing.

Gamma: Maybe?

Me: Or was there suddenly this weird thing in your mouth and you just swallowed it?

Gamma: (disinterested) I might have done that.

Carrot’s Inner Voice: Child, I am seriously starting to doubt your intellectual capacity.

Me: (out loud) Well, I can’t help you then. Get your shoes on and let’s get to school.

Gamma: (recovered) I can just write a note to the Tooth Fairy explaining.

Me: You write a lot of notes to the Tooth Fairy.

Never That Easy

(scene opens in mini van)

Me: Alright Delta! It’s a Friday! Still liking school?

Delta: (morose) Not really.

Me: Why not?

Delta: (melancholy sigh) Well…it’s just….it’s just that I know everything already.

Me: Really. Huh.

(prolonged silence)

Me: So, what you need to do is do really well on all your tests and they’ll move you up a grade.

Delta: Move me?

Me: Yeah, if you show them how smart you are, instead of going second grade next year, you go to third. You can skip one.

Delta: (with wonder) Really? I think I will do that! That is a great idea! Thanks mom!

Me: