We had our spring parent conference with the boy’s kindergarten teacher last week. The good news is that the boy is doing well academically. As I often tell him, he’s too smart for his own good.
On the citizenship front, he’s not quite the hotshot he is academically. He’s getting better at focusing on his work, but he still has too much of his parents in him to be the most conscientious pupil. Like his mom, he’s a social butterfly, getting lost in chit-chat when he should be working quietly. He is too much like his dad when it comes to being a stubborn contrarian who knows it’s enough to be right – they don’t have to know why you’re right.
Even with the burden of his chatty, mulish genetics, the teacher likes having him in her class, so we ended the conference feeling good. But the most enlightening things were yet to come.
Outside the classroom, the kids’ projects were on display. For St. Patrick’s Day, each child had cut out a pot of gold, with coins labeled as things that were more precious than gold to them. As we walked down the line of these, the recurring words were, Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and the like. It was sweet to see how the children valued their families. At our boy’s pot of gold, we squinted to make out the names on the coins. Don, Mikce, Leo, R-something – who were these people? They weren’t family members. They weren’t even kids in his class.
The teacher was still with us. Noting our confusion, she explained. “That’s Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael. The Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
The way I’m going to spin this is that the boy doesn’t value cartoon turtles more than his parents; he just didn’t want to do the same thing all the other kids were doing. That’s plausible, isn’t it?
Next, we looked at a book called If I Were President. Each child did a page on which they wrote a phrase to complete the sentence, “If I were President, I would . . .” and drew an accompanying picture.
The book was full of compassion. “Help the world,” was the common theme, with variations toward “Make the whole world safe,” or “Help poor people.” The pictures were of the Earth or of a group of presumably poor people.
On my son’s page were drawn fighter jets and soldiers. It said the following: “If I were President, I would control the Air Force.”
As I see it, he’s not limited by the naïve idealism of his classmates. If you want to protect the world, you need to formulate a specific plan for doing so, and that plan had better entail adequate air power.
This boy has as much compassion as any five-year-old, but he understands that caring goes a lot farther at Mach 3. I’m sure Don, Leo, and those other guys who are collectively my son’s favorite people would agree with me.