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Pearls of Wisdom

Whereas on Tuesday Simon was too tired at the end of the day to chat on the ride home (he takes the bus in the a.m., but I pick him up from school in the afternoon), yesterday he was a real chatterbox. Some of what he had to say was pretty funny, and he had two bits that sounded preternaturally insightful for a five-year-old.

Let’s start with the funny bit. Brandeis has a color-coded system for charting behavior: you can be on green (no issues), yellow (some issues), or red (many issues). Mr. Sowder handles this by giving each child a stack of fake money. You hand over a dollar for each infraction, and as your stack diminishes you move from green to red. At red, you go to the office and the teacher and counselor call your parents. The first day, Simon’s class-mate “J” had to hand over a dollar for talking. Yesterday it was little “M” who fell afoul of the rules, having to hand over two dollars. Simon is keeping track and is somewhat enthralled.

I explained to him that many of his class-mates haven’t been in a school like this before, so rules about talking are new to them. I went on to explain that lots of kids are just really, really social and have a hard time not talking. That was me, of course. I was a mostly straight-B student in conduct*, and it was always about my chatting. Here was Simon’s response:

“Guess what Mommy? If you talk too much tomorrow, you go on yellow. And if you talk too much or break another rule the next day, you go on red and we have to call Bubbie!”

Yup, Simon wants to bring the rules home, and he’s not afraid to get my mom on the phone if I talk too much in a store or on the phone. It would appear that rules and rule enforcement is my son’s favorite part of school. I know I should be pleased that he’s so conscientious, but I can’t help but think these are the kids who reported their parents to the Stasi decades ago during darker times.

And now, the insightful bit. At some point, our conversation turned to hunger and after-school snacking.

“Of course you are ready for a snack, Simon. You know what I always did when I got home from school? I’d go straight to the pantry and refrigerator and make up for my no breakfast and little or no lunch.”

“Why didn’t you eat breakfast or lunch, Mommy?”

“Well, that was in high school. I didn’t like to eat breakfast back then, I guess because my mom hardly ate breakfast. And someone probably convinced me that eating a big lunch wasn’t cool.” (Sadly, I’m guessing it was only uncool for girls to eat lunch. Sigh.)

“Oh Mommy, that’s silly! When someone tries to tell you something crazy like that, you don’t do it just because they are cool. You say, Ptthhghhhtppttth! And then you eat your lunch.”

Where was he in 1987 when I needed him? And will he still feel this way in 2018 when I need him to?

Finally, our conversation turned to friends. I’ve talked to at least three kids who already have new “BFFs”, and I was curious to learn who Simon’s new best buddies are.

“So Simon, tell me. Who are you playing with? Who are your new best friends?”

“Right now I’m kind of playing with everyone. It takes a while to make a friend like Baron or Braylon. That doesn’t just happen right away.”

Oh wow. I know that, of course. But I didn’t know if it was true for five-year-olds, and even it was, I didn’t know that he’d know that. I can’t helpĀ  but feel that this knowledge indicates some lost innocence at a very tender age.

*I got straight Bs in conduct except for Orville Williams, the idiot high school history teacher who hated me and gave me a D once. I would have been upset, except I was too busy hating him right back and looking for ways to annoy him within the confines of school rules. Amusingly, I had two hard-ass teachers advising me in this quest: I guess they thought he was an idiot, too. In all my years of school, and there were 23 of them, he and Mrs. Israel T. Naomani (I wrote about her under an assumed name once before; this time it’s the real deal) are the only two I still harbor ill will towards. And I do: I’ll forgive a lot, but viciousness (Naomani) and injustice (Williams) stick with me forever.

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