What I Learned in Junior K

Other than deep respect for carpool done well, I owe Junior K a hard-won lesson: don’t ask the teacher about your kid.

My kid is an obviously hyper, rebellious, willfully foul-mouthed five-year-old boy. I have no business asking his teacher how the day went, particularly when I barely made the after-care cut-off. Seriously: what do I expect? I should expect no different than my husband can when he walks in the door, glowing after a mid-week trip: how were the kids? Um, how? He should never again ever in his life ask that fu*king question.

Twenty kids in a room for eight hours will be, on average, horrible. Why ask the teacher for confirmation?

And confirmation will indeed be given, along with, if you really, really want to know, a daily progress report. The grading system will consist of sad or happy faces. There is no flat-mouthed emoji face in Junior K. Notes will be minimal, but, if provided, will say things like: “jumping off tables,””bathroom words,” “throwing dirt.” It will sound really, really serious. And, after weeks of no iPad, no Pokemon, no American Ninja Warrior, even no Paul Newman Oreos, the JrK daily news will not change.

Then you begin wondering about the teachers. Maybe it’s not their vocation. Do they love, love kids? Annoyance is, after all, so unprofessional. What does a kindergarten teacher expect?

Finally, just in time for summer break, I realized: what else could teachers possibly say? How were the kids? Um, how? The answer is simple: your son jumped off tables, threw mulch, said –

diepoopkillfartstupiddeaddiarrheafacepipibuttpants.

And he did this every single day, every chance he got.

Now, to my diarrhea-face surprise, my son is getting glowing marks in summer camp. Disruptive and disobedient transformed into funny and energetic in the setting of sunscreen and soccer balls. The lesson though, works both ways — in sickness or in health. Now that the reviews are happy face exclamations, I don’t get to ask the teacher about the day. Good reviews, in the end, are just as bas as, well, bad ones.

Because, I shouldn’t care. My job as a mom, other than keeping my kid fed, clean, rested and on a sidewalk, is to think he is cool, just the way he is. Banning ice cream will not change his behavior. His essence loves to jump and say poop. I have no business punishing him out of him. I will fail. He will say poop. And we won’t be friends.

I want to be his friend. You see, he is really cool.

 

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Un-adult-ered

   

I recently began reading my first parenting book and it’s blowing my mind. Granted this one is more of a spiritual guide, and what sold me is that its introduction is by the Dalai Lama. 

The book is called “The Conscious Parent,” written by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. Its basic philosophy is summarized above and in the passages below. 

We are not here to carve our children into superior molds of ourselves, much less to elbow out a place for them in society. Rather, they arrive to teach us how to be better at life, at listening, at accepting. 

For me it’s been a great relief to find this book because something felt wrong about consistently fighting with my energetic two-year-old. Now that I’ve relaxed, so has he. Sure he misbehaves but, as long as he’s not hurting anyone or himself, I watch him be. And he is nothing if not pure, as yet unADULTered, joy. 

   

A Poem for Women Who Don’t Want Children

Poet Chanel Brenner

I come across all sorts of poems in my continuous hunt for literary journals that might house the verses I wrestle to write. Recently, I came across a jewel. A simple, stunning jewel.

The poem was a finalist for Rattle Poetry’s 2013 Contest and was written by Los Angeles-based poet Chanel Brenner, pictured above. To read more poems by Ms. Brenner, click here.

Below is the poem that left me stunned.

 

A POEM FOR WOMEN WHO DON’T WANT CHILDREN

I won’t preach about the rewards of motherhood.
I won’t say it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
I won’t say it’s the best job I’ve ever had.
I won’t say you’ll regret not having a child.
I won’t say you’ll forget what life was like before.
I won’t say it makes life worth living.
What I will say
is my son died.
What I will say
is I would still do it again.

Photo Credit: Blog of Madeleine Sharples

This post was originally published in Zeteo Journal’s Zeteo is Reading section. 

If Only, the Hippogriff

Hippogriff Lit LiteratureIt’s the rainy season in Bogotá, Colombia, where I live. This can mean cold rain and overhanging black clouds for three months straight.

But today the sun is out, and I am taking my baby to the park. So in honor of this critical event, I am posting a poem by playful children’s poet X. J. Kennedy.

Hippogriff
To look at this fictitious steed
You’d think some mixed-up farmer
Had crossed an eagle with a horse.
It carries knights in armor
Through cloud fields at terrific speed.
I wish the Hippogriff
Would take me for a ride. Of course
It’s not real.
                     But oh, if . . .!

 

Before publishing children’s poetry, Kennedy built a solid reputation writing “serious” poetry, putting together textbooks and even running a literary magazine with his wife. It wasn’t until 1975, when Kennedy was close to fifty, that he began publishing volumes of children’s poetry.

Some of his more notable books include “Elympics,” dedicated to an elephant Olympics; “The Beasts of Bethlehem,” about the animals present during the birth of baby Jesus; and the self-explanatory “Brats, Fresh Brats and Drat these Brats!”

What I really love about children’s poetry is that, when it’s good, it is joyful, clever and refreshing fun.