Monday, December 24, 2012

The Education of Dylan and Grady

There are really only two things I remember about kindergarten: older kids spitting on us through the playground fence and someone breaking his leg on the Playground Spinning Thing.  Since 1976, the kindergarten classroom is the same, but the fence has been removed -- it was too tempting to spit through -- and the courts ordered the dangerous playground equipment removed.  I have no memory of pre-school, but I'm told I went for one semester and killed the class's pet hamster (I petted it, and petted it, and it just died).  In light of that, I really had no expectations for my children's kindergarten and pre-school educations.

Bonnie and Clyde in their Pacer (all outlaws drive these, right?)
Grady is just a pre-school interloper.  He goes two days a week and is done by noon.  But he really knows how to milk the attention in those few hours.  I started noticing it when I took him in in the mornings.  He's always greeted like Norm in Cheers, except it's from all the girls in the class.  Then, they instantly start trying to help.  "Grady, let me get your coat," and, "Here's your name tag, I found it for you."  It's better service than the Four Seasons.  The teachers have noticed, too, and have put a stop to it.  It's better for Grady's education if he does the assigned tasks himself, rather than pawning them off to cute girls.  But, it's not a bad gig either, and I figure, either way, he's learning something.

I should have known kindergarten was going to be a whole new world the day Dylan got off the bus and said, "Dad, Joe called me a ... pause, sound it out ... fuck."  Before the "k" sound left her mouth, I was headed for the truck, ready to go find Joe, or his parents, when I realized that Joe is probably six-years old and was just showing off a forbidden word he'd heard at home.  I steadied my pulse, took a breath, and told Dylan, "Don't sit near Joe anymore."

The other part about kindergarten that Regina and I didn't expect was that Dylan has spent nearly as much time in the principal's office in ONE semester as I did in seven years at that school.  Granted, I was a goody-two shoes and my offenses were a lot more on the delinquent side (which contradicts the goody-two shoes, I know), but, a kindergartner spending that much time in trouble?  We worry.

So, now we have a Responsibility Chart, and we preach the gospel of Standing Up For Those Who Are Getting Picked On, and Making Good Choices.  These are talks I'd imagined us having five years down the road, but sometimes the art of raising kids is no art at all.  It's improv, which is sloppy, at best.

Is it working?  We'll see.  Grady loves going to school and, for the most part, quit letting the girls do everything for him.  He's learning and loves to learn, so we're excited for his progress.  Dylan's learning too.  She's learned that she gets along great with both the principal and the school secretary.  But she's also learning to be her own person.  And, maybe the valuable lesson she's learned, is that sometimes it's better for her father's constitution to sit very near the bus driver than to sit next to little jerkwads named Joe.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Perfect Place

For most, Thanksgiving means piles of food, getting together with family, and drunk uncles.  As fun as it is to sit around a TV with relatives and pretend to be interested in the Detroit Lions, we usually opt for a low-keyed Baja holiday.  This year we headed back to Cabo.

Cabo, of course, didn't disappoint.  Regina got the sunshine she'd been missing, Dylan found the last remaining seashells on the beach, Grady had a kiddy pool, and I had Pacifico and lime.  We were all happy.

Well, mostly happy.  The Dia de los Muertos was nearly a month past, but most shops were still selling the skeleton dolls to tourists.  The first time Grady saw one, he was riding along on my shoulders and came face to face with a pair of 4 foot tall skeletons dressed in wedding clothes.  He clamped down on my neck like a bull rider and steered my head away from the danger.  I couldn't blame him though, those souvenirs got to be a little too much after a while.  Soon, Grady was skittish of every doll, Senor Frog statue, and lacquered puffer fish we saw.

What did make Grady happy was the pool and the chicks around the pool.  He's a constant flirt, so whenever any female passed by, he's stick out his skinny chest and coyly say hi.  "Ohh, what a cutie," or, "Que guapo," they'd reply and I'd pat him on the back.  "Thata boy, here comes another one, get ready."

Dylan was content to swim in the pool or play on the beach, but she also had a few pesos to burn, so trips in our rental turned into opportunities to shop.  When we could hear each other talk between the blaring Pitbull songs at the grocery store, she'd try to buy every item she saw.  I had to keep reminding her that pretty much all of things there were also available at home.  She finally bought a little turtle in a shop in Todo Santos.  "This is what you want?" we asked skeptically.  It was and, of course, as soon as she got back to the room she broke off its head.

We've always known this, but on vacation it becomes amplified: Dylan talks non-stop.  At the pool, it's just chatter and it's fun.  Downtown, we're often concerned that she'll offend (at one point I thought she was counting Mexicans, but she informed me that she was counting coconut trees).  And in the car, she just talks.  And talks.  We learned that some words do, in fact, rhyme with orange (but they only make sense to Dylan), and basketball court, and beach, and ocean, and whatever else she happened to see from her window.

For the adults, Cabo is about as easy a vacation as you can find.  Tired of the pool?  Go to the beach.  Too much sand?  Go get a taco.  Full?  Take a nap.  Awake?  Drink a Pacifico.  And, of course, we took full advantage of that cycle.  We did miss the chaos of a Hanna family Thanksgiving, but the sound of the waves, the laughter of kids by the pool, and, somewhere faint and far off, from a television at the bar, the sound of the Lions losing on Thanksgiving made it feel like we were in the perfect place.