Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ahh The Brisk Smell Of Pencil Shavings

( gave me the picture. Isn't it creepy how the Cleaver boys resemble my kids? Thankfully, my Wally doesn't have a creepy spray on tan and my Theodore is about a foot and a half taller)

I was chided yesterday for almost making Beav late to school. "Mom, we need to leave earlier because I didn't get to class until just before the last bell." I hope I didn't give him the WTF look I was feeling at that moment because that would have been rude. So I asked myself for about the 5000th time: who is this child? And where did this genetic drive to achieve come from? Not me, because all I want to do is hang out and sort of let life happen to me; and we all know it didn't come from his slacktastic asshat father! Somewhere across town there is a couple who are...I don't know...lets say they are a heart surgeon and a judge...wringing their hands and hanging their heads in frustration because their child is not like them: over achieving, motivated and an academic star. This kid across town has the Rasta-man approach to life. "When da' boat comes mahn, theen I do mah homework, don sweat it mahn, I get it done." I just hope the hospital doesn't realize their mistake. Even though this go round with high school is a big gear change for me; (picture slowly backing up and suddenly slamming the car into drive while jamming the gas pedal to the floor) it's not a bad feeling to have a kid who wants to be in his seat and ready for class when the final bell rings because his brother (and his mother)were thrilled if they were sliding into their seat as the final bell sounded. The Beav even had homework the first week of school! Wally didn't have homework until the last three or four weeks of the semester when he realized he was in danger of failing and decided it was time to do the work his teachers would assign all those last minute projects because that's how those teachers roll. (sure they do, honey. Everyone wants to grade a twenty page project the last day grades are due!) Do I really look that stupid? Do these pants make me look that stupid? Because my kids think I'm as dumb as a rock. I suppose I am as dumb as a small rock because when Beav announced he was doing homework last Wednesday, I was a little bitched up and commented: "You have homework on the second day of school? Isn't that a bit much? Your brother never had homework during the first week of school!" The look of utter disgust with the accompanying eye roll was almost warranted in this case. His brother--God love him, I know I do--wasn't an honor student. Even if he had worked really really REALLY hard he wouldn't have been an honor student. So he didn't bother to work at all and then suddenly in the home stretch he would make an effort and end up with a C. It. Drove. Me. Out. Of. My. Mind.

So now I guess I have to act like an Honor Student's mother. I'll need to practice saying things like: "full ride" and "financial package" and "Vida" and "admissions essay" and "loans" and "dorm assignments". I'll also need to work on my sniff and sympathetic smile after I breathlessly and thoughtlessly ask after Snively or Bratleigh (the IEP kids) when I'm quietly told Snively hates school and Bratleigh can't wait to start community college. What I won't do is make a judgemental remark about their parenting abilities or the effects of divorce on young children to our other friends when Snively and Bratleigh's mother is out of earshot. (Does high school ever really end?)

My only other experience parenting a high schooler was being the mother of a kid who had yearly IEP (Individual Educational Plan) conferences. What hell this was for Wally. One teacher, a guidance counselor, the psychologist and his parents gathered around a table to tell him the fourteen ways he was a great kid and the fourteen ways he sucked. No wonder he hated high school. He was the kid in the separate classrooms just down the hall from the big classrooms and he did horribly in them because he hated it so much. All he wanted to do was blend in with the rest of the kids. Of course this is what he wanted and it was completely appropriate. Only after he was mainstreamed in an honors history class (the honors part was a misplacement) did he excel. The teacher adored him and let him stay in the class and Wally even earned an A. You would have thought the kid brought home a letter announcing he was a Rhodes Scholar. I wept over that grade. Not because it was an A but because of what it meant to Wally's self esteem. Wally learned at a young age what it's like to work hard for something and fall just short. Wally also knows what it's like to work hard for something and succeed. This is what gives Wally his heart. The Beav on the other hand, is sort of set up to be a dilettante. He can do school with his eyes shut and his hands tied behind his back. This sort of ease doesn't teach the lesson of what it means to throw yourself into something mind/body/soul. If he decides he doesn't want to attend one of the academies and settles for a state college it will be because he doesn't want to make the supreme effort. But if he really wants to go to one of the military academies, it will be necessary for him to actually apply himself and not just do the bare minimium for an A but the extra steps it takes to make an A+. Even though he is rocket scientist smart he is not Einstein/Oppenheimer smart. You see, Beav made the mistake of confessing to me he didn't really work as hard as he could in middle school and now I know his dirty little secret and I have an excuse to ride his ass.

In some ways, It's back to school for me, too. After next Monday, Wally becomes a maggoty maggot on the shoe of a big mean drill sergeant and Beav returns to Alexis' show house, I will have two glorious full days of absolutely no commuting, no meal prep, no driving to Parkour or cross country or patient care or supervising anything besides my own projects. My writing project has taken a life of it's own and I was given a flash or insight via a dream Sunday night so I begged to take call Monday for the explicit purpose of writing. (I didn't tell them this) This absolute drive to write something down that minute is a new sensation. (my wish was granted, I was at home on call and I worked on the hot mess of a novel and my efforst were fabulous if I do say so myself) I get all bliss-out just thinking about next Tuesday and Wednesday.

When I was a wife and living in the Fabulous House In The Suburbs, one of the neighbors was renowned for having a gathering on the first day of school. Cocktails commenced at 0900. The idea of such a party amused me (cocktails at 0900 repulsed me). But I'm such a pragmatist and in many ways so close to my roots of Quaker farmer; I always "celebrated" by doing chores I had been putting off all summer and sorting out the boys' clothes. This year wasn't any different. I cleaned out Beav's closet and sorted clothing.

Yee Haw, Party on June!

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