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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The Pull Toy

poetry writing childhood

It is rare to encounter contemporary, rhyming poetry. And especially rare to encounter good contemporary, rhyming poetry. So I was very pleasantly surprised when I found A.E. Stalling’s poem “The Pull Toy” in Five Points Journal.

It is a simple, heartfelt poem, very different from the intentionally weird poetry that many reputable journals seem to prefer nowadays. It is also a carefully crafted piece that hides the many hours of its composition behind its accessible subject matter and language. A feat to be applauded, no doubt.

A. E. Stalling’s is widely known for how she uses her training in the Classics to bring formal elements into her writing. She was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.

 

The Pull Toy

You squeezed its leash in your fist,

It followed where you led:

Tick, tock, tick, tock,

Nodding its wooden head,

 

Wagging a tail on a spring,

Its wheels gearing lackety-clack,

Dogging your heels the length of the house,

Though you seldom glanced back.

 

It didn’t mind being dragged

When it toppled on its side

Scraping its coat of primary colors:

Love has no pride.

 

But now that you run and climb

And leap, it has no hope

Of keeping up, so it sits, hunched

At the end of its short rope

 

And dreams of a rummage sale

Where it’s snapped up for a song,

And of somebody—somebody just like you—

Stringing it along.

Photo of a Moo-Moo Cow Toy from the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the world’s largest children museum.