Parent Pathways

Gala: Um, I probably shouldn’t have said that

June 24, 2013 

Now that fourth grade is nearly over and we’re close to track out, I think I can finally confess this story.

Do you ever, when parenting, accidentally retrieve information from the school-kid part of your brain when you mean to pull from your parent repertoire?

Occasionally, for a split second, the two blend and, before I know it, something terrible has popped out of my mouth.

It happened a few months back and, even now, I’m not sure how to fix it.

First, a little background: My kid hates to be the focus of attention. By first grade, he dreaded his birthday because he didn’t want the class to sing to him.

Reading aloud? Torture.

Presentations cause him to go in duck-and-deny mode.

We’re working on it. Lord knows he doesn’t get it from me.

That leads us to an activity at school where kids are assigned a part of a play or book and essentially act it out, or at least read it aloud.

“Do I have to go to school tomorrow?” my son asked me one night while I was tucking him in. “I always get picked.”

I reasoned with him that if he was picked recently he likely wouldn’t be picked the next day, thinking the teacher had a rotation of names she relied on. That was the parent part of my brain talking.

But the next day as we walked Madge, our 65-pound, six-month-old beast of a dog, he informed me sullenly, “You were wrong. I got picked again, and it was awful.”

After more moaning on his part and me telling him it builds character and isn’t-it-fun and all kinds of parental things, I got frustrated and blurted out, “Geez, next time just put a blank piece of paper in the bowl, and you definitely won’t get picked.”

That, friends, was the school-kid part of my brain talking.

I wanted to slap my hand over my mouth as soon as I said it. Immediately I started back-pedaling, but there were no backsies.

Oh, the deviousness I saw in his eyes. The wonder. I had handed him a perfect solution to his problem.

“That is a great idea!” he shouted. “Thank you, thank you!”

Of course I cautioned him not to do it and said it was wrong, but the idea was already planted. So I waited. Actually, I forgot about it.

But the next week when I was tucking him in, he looked at me and announced he’d had the dreaded activity that day. When I asked him if he got picked, he smiled sneakily and said, “No. I used your trick.”

“It is not MY trick,” I insisted. “You can’t be doing that all the time, and for God’s sake don’t tell anyone about it.”


I guess that is the difference between using the trick in high school and using it in elementary school.

I could almost see the message light on my phone blinking from the future call I would receive from the teacher who drew blank slip after blank slip during her class.

What to do?

I settled on telling him to use this “trick” very sparingly. I know, teachers. I’m so sorry. I am not making your job any easier.

This is the kind of stuff I used to do all the time when I was a kid. Very devious and manipulative, huh?

The other night, my son had a confession of his own. The teacher apparently pulled his blank sheet of paper from the basket and wagged it around the room, wanting to know who had done it and warning she would find out.

That was enough to shut my boy down. For now.

So back in his name went, and he got to be the director this time. The boss of the whole thing, and I gather the experience was not so horrible.

In a few weeks, when we’re shopping for school supplies, I think I’ll just pick up a roll of duct tape for my mouth, and we should be all set for fifth grade and beyond.

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