Kindergarten artwork – middle child edition

By the initial Fourth Grade teacher conference you mostly know what you’ve got. In our case, it’s a good student who could be a very good student if he developed discipline or a work ethic. But we who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and since I don’t want to break my own windows or menace our good student with rocks, I’ll let Big Brother skate until I can show him a better example, or learn to revel in my own hypocrisy. Either way would work.

Kindergarten teacher conferences are harder to predict. The little diamonds are still in the rough. It’s too early to know what type of diamond/quartz/shiny shard of glass Buster will turn out to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to critique his Kindergarten artwork.

Let’s not name names.

This piece took my breath away. The sentiment was so sweet. The tear I was about to shed was choked by a revelation. He doesn’t know what “thankful for” means. He thinks it’s an alternate way to say “mad at.” I shook off this terrible notion. Of course he knows what it means. They would have talked about it in class. All the other kids are thankful for appropriate things; so is he. He’s truly thankful for his brother. What a charming boy!

Now there’s only one minor difficulty.

He has two brothers.

Did he mean to make it plural? Probably not. It’s strain enough being thankful for one brother. Being thankful for both is a bridge too far. No child should be held to that standard.

So which one?

We could show it to his brothers separately, like we do when we privately tell each of them, “You’re our favorite. Don’t tell your brothers.”

No. These kids are the worst at keeping secrets when you’re trying to divide and conquer them.

We’ll just pencil in an s at the end of brother before anybody sees it. That way, the only people who will have to wonder are his parents. We won’t puzzle over the mystery of the exalted brother too long. If we had a dog, neither sibling would have made the cut. I’m not sure how they’d fare against a hamster.

Portrait of the artist as a trick-or-treater.

Self-portraits always give good insight into the Kindergartener’s mind. I know this is a self-portrait because the subject is carrying Buster’s Halloween bag. The scabs on the knees offer secondary evidence. The letters may indicate he is covering his knee wounds with International Olympic Committee Toilet Paper and he plans to shav[e] his legs. More likely he is following in the footsteps of Michelangelo, who, as every schoolboy knows, liked to practice making his letters on the peripheries of his paintings.

I wish the top weren’t stuck behind the wall bracket. I like to see how kids depict their own hair. That’s disappointing, but it doesn’t detract from the significance of this masterpiece: whatever this kid’s strengths and weaknesses may turn out to be, he draws a killer jack-o-lantern.

We’ll always have that.

Click here for a flashback to the critique of Big Brother’s Kindergarten artwork.

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Driving lessons from a preschool graduate

With the warm weather, we’ve pulled out the Power Wheels convertible. We bought it second-hand for Big Brother’s birthday, five years ago. He’s wanted to bring it outside since March. It’s cute how much he loves that car. Too bad it’s sad how he won’t accept the reality that he’s too big for it now. His knees stick up over the windshield when he drives it and I think I hear the electric motor gasping for breath.

Once Big Brother gets over his emotional attachment to the car, he’ll realize his bike gives him much more freedom than any rechargeable 12v battery can. It’s just that it may take him another five years to get over his emotional attachment.

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Blast from the Past: Big Brother taking Buster for a spin, circa 2014.

The car needed new battery. New batteries cost more than we paid for the car itself. I’m not sure I would have coughed up the cash to see Big Brother squeeze himself into the driver’s seat one more time. I was thinking more of his little brothers.

While Big Brother was finishing up his last weeks of 3rd grade, Buster and Big Man got in some valuable driving time. Buster has an aptitude for driving the car. He doesn’t over-steer and he understands the principles of a three-point (or nine-point) turn. His little brother isn’t quite there yet, but this does nothing to stop Big Man from demanding his turn behind the wheel.

He gets his turn, because practice makes perfect – perfect, in this case, meaning less likely to run over your father’s foot. Buster slides into the passenger seat and assumes the role of driving instructor.

It’s a comedy on wheels.

Buster’s mentoring is laced with annoyed impatience. He doesn’t understand why Big Man can’t follow his simple instructions, never appreciating that Big Man is not listening to instructions, simple or otherwise. Big Man is enjoying the freedom of the sidewalk, then the lawn, then the sidewalk, then the lawn again, then the sidewalk, then Daddy’s foot, then the lawn, and eventually the sidewalk again. It’s peddle to the metal and damn that buzzing in his ear.

If Buster knew any swear words his little brother would be buried under them. I must try to remember to forget all my best swear words before the boys get behind the wheel of a real car in 8-13 years.

In the end, cooler heads prevail, which means I rescue Buster from apoplexy by informing Big Man his turn is over. With the application of various threats and incentives, Big Man accepts the change and they switch seats. Buster executes a multi-point turn and they embark upon a straight-line cruise down the sidewalk, letting the highway breeze soothe frayed nerves.

The Corvette is passed to a new generation: Buster and Big Man hitting the road in 2017.

They are friends again, for as long as Big Man refrains from any terrible notions of it getting to be his turn to drive again.

I have nearly eight years before the real fun with cars begins. I should spend some of that time practicing keeping my feet out of the way of tires.

The affection police are coming to hug you away

Some things from your youth flow into becoming part of the family culture you build with your children. From earliest childhood I was taught to stay out of the way. Doctors have their “first do no harm” principle and farm kids have their “first get out of the way” maxim. You don’t have to be doing the most important chore so long as you aren’t hindering the person who is. My boys aren’t farm kids, but I try to stress this awareness. I can’t teach staying out of the way as well as an 800 pound bull can, but I try.

Other parts of your upbringing you reconsider with your own children. I grew up in a non-huggy, non-kissy environment. My wife, who has far fewer Germans in her lineage, is all hugs all the time. While I am still not a confident hugger of adult people, I’ve adopted her system with our children.

I can’t imagine not hugging and kissing our children every day; it’s become so routine now for me to do it. Also, our children will not suffer themselves to be robbed of their rightful hugs and kisses. Mommy’s warm blood seems to have conquered my aloof genetics within them.

They are the affection police.

At bedtime I have to give three hugs and three kisses to make the world right for sleeping. Big Man’s kiss is actually a carefully choreographed series of kisses. He takes my head firmly between his hands and stamps my lips upon his face as he turns his head side to side. If I pull away before the process is complete, we have to start over. The same goes for Mommy.

This old picture of them kissing each other is more appealing than a new picture of them kissing their crusty old dad.

At 3 a.m. one morning I awoke to a boy standing beside my bed. I expected to hear the sad tale of a bad dream. Instead I heard mournful reality. “You didn’t hug me when I went to bed,” Buster lamented. That is, I didn’t hug him to his satisfaction. The midnight raid was just so I understand who is privileged to interpret the law.

Going to work is another ripe occasion for hugs and kisses. There is a program for this as well. Big Brother gets his at the table where does his reading. The little boys go to the door. Big Man is very particular about where he gets his hug and kiss. He will position me at the threshold if I am lax in my staging.

Mommy is last to get her kiss. Once, when I gave her only a quick peck, Big Man stepped forward, giving me a stern glance. “And a hug,” he demanded. I gave Mommy a proper hug and was allowed on my way.

Big Man isn’t always pro-hug. If I hug Mommy too long when neither of us is going away, he steps in to break it up. He doesn’t know where it might lead, but as reigning baby of the family, instinct tells him it could be dangerous.

We got game – family style

Big Brother just finished his second season of playing organized basketball. He seems to have found a sport he loves. He’s pretty good at it, much better than at soccer. This is not surprising since he seems to have good hand-eye coordination but is not a natural athlete. Soccer limited the use of his best asset; at least he was allowed to use his eyes.

We have a hoop in our driveway and he often wants me to play with him. Sometimes I do, but sometimes, like in February, it’s too cold for old folks to be shooting hoops outside. And sometimes there’s a good basketball game on TV, where we old men play most of our sports. These days, my best athletic moves involve transforming from the upright to the reclining position.

Meanwhile, the boy has received, as gifts, at least three small, indoor hoops that hook onto the top of doors. Mommy shudders every time he gets one, because he always wants to hang them from the door of his bedroom. This ignites the age-old conflict between moms and playing ball in the house. For my part, I see Mommy’s point, but I also remember how fun playing ball in the house could be, so I have mixed emotions.

As a compromise, Big Brother was allowed to hang a hoop over a door at the bottom of the basement steps. When he has a friend over, they can often be found playing basketball in the basement. This is doubly good, because not only does it keep the big kids from in front of any game I might be watching on TV, it encourages the little boys to go downstairs and play in the toy room there.

I’ve grown accustomed to hearing talk of slam dunks from the bottom of the stairs, but last weekend I heard something new. After the friends had gone, there was still the noise of kids playing basketball in the basement. Big Brother was sharing the sport he loves with his little brothers. “Is this a three pointer?” I heard Buster ask. Big Brother explained the rules; he was actually teaching them.

I love this on lots of levels: first, I love that no one was fighting – that’s always a plus in our Itchy & Scratchy household. I love that the little boys are developing an interest in basketball. I love that admiration for their big brother is the cause of this. I love that Big Brother wants to share one of his favorite things with them.

I called the boys to come upstairs for dessert. Big Brother and Buster came up, but Big Man kept practicing. He needs to stand on the second stair to get the ball near the hoop. I asked him what he wanted for dessert. “Nothing,” he replied, “I’m paying bassetbaw.”

There he stayed, practicing his second-stair shot. I’ll remember this day when he’s swishing three-pointers. I hope Big Brother does too, so we can be proud together.

 

"Paying bassetbaw."

“Paying bassetbaw.”

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With a two-step handicap.

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Is better than cookies.