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.

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