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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To infinity and beyond

Buster is developing a curiosity about infinite loops. The other day he asked me, “If two people were saying goodbye and one said ‘Have a nice day,’ and the next one said ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ and the first one said ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ again, and they kept saying ‘Okay, have a nice day,’ to each other, what would happen?”

“No one would have nice day,” I answered.

It wasn’t what he was looking for, but I’m not good with infinity. I can find the ends of it to wrap my brain around, and that’s disturbing.

Buster thinks these type of thoughts a lot. I don’t know if this means he’s destined to become a great philosopher, an accomplished astronomer, or the next Rain Man. It’s good to indulge in deep thought once in a while, but I’m not sure forever thinking about infinity will end well, or at all.

Buster would rather conduct his own thought experiments than accomplish the usual academic goals like learning to read. Two months in, he’s still not sold on Kindergarten, because, in his words, “They make me do things I don’t like to do.”

I can identify with that. It happens to me all the time at work. Still, he has to go to school and I have to go to work so we don’t both end up in an infinite loop of poverty.

They make you build things out of dominoes in Kindergarten? I had no idea it was that horrible.

The thing to know about these deep thinking philosophers who don’t always want to go to Kindergarten is they can be moody. The moodiness strikes hardest in the morning when it’s time to get ready for school. This morning, the disgruntled whimpering started early.

Sometimes when I ask him what’s bothering him, I get a whiny grunt that means, “If you were the kind of parent who loved his children, you’d know what’s wrong without having to ask.” Today I actually got an answer: “I wanted to sleep in the bed with you and Mommy. And I want you to make a fire.”

I explained that everybody had to get up and asked him if he were cold.

He shrugged. “A little.”

Mommy put on his jacket and we sent him to school.

The desire to climb into bed with us, I understand. It’s his favorite Saturday morning ritual. Making a fire is another story. We haven’t thought about our fireplace since last March and we’ve never built a fire before school.

It’s a good thing he told me the problem instead of giving me the “If you loved me, you’d know,” grunt. My love for him is infinite, but maybe that proves there’s a limit to infinity, because I still would not have loved him enough to know I was supposed to build a cozy fire on a random weekday before school.

It looks like I may have to crank the love up beyond infinity to understand him. I hope infinity + 1 is enough, because that’s the largest number I know.

The reluctant kindergartener

Please welcome back our occasional guest blogger, Buster, aged 5.

I’ve been telling them, ever since the end of preschool, I didn’t want to go to kindergarten. Maybe they thought I was just trying to be cute. Whatever. I don’t have to try to be cute.

See, preschool was fine: three hours a day, then right back home to play.

This kindergarten is a whole new ball of wax. Did you know it goes all day, from like early in the morning until God-Knows-When in the afternoon? I’m not ready to make a commitment to that.

And then there’s all this pressure to learn tons of crazy stuff. I mean, I mostly know it already, but these people are sticklers for the details. A B C D E F G blah blah blah. I got the general gist of it. I don’t know why I have to be weighed down with minutia.

Counting? I can count to 20, give or take. If I leave out a number in the teens, big deal. Where I am is more important than how I got there.

Taking the leap into that great unknown called elementary school.

The worst part is they want you to talk . . . out loud . . . to other people. That’s just not my style. I made it through two years of preschool without having to open my mouth much, and that’s the way I like it. Give me some paper and a bunch of crayons and I’ll whip you up some top-notch art. Most of the coloring will be inside the lines too. But here’s the key part: I must not be disturbed. Don’t come around asking me questions about what I’m making. I’ve got no time for chit-chat; I’m creating.

Man, the teacher’s probably going to call on me and everything this year. What did I ever do to her?

Then there’s the whole lunch thing. They don’t even know what I’m in the mood for. The first day, they had pizza. I was totally ready to mow on some chicken nuggets. The second day, I was like, “All right, I’m down with your pizza.” Was there any pizza in sight? No. They had some kind of waffle thing. Didn’t anybody tell them I don’t like waffles?

Oh, but I had the option of getting the “fun lunch” which is like yogurt and celery or something. Fun lunch? False advertise much? Two hands full of M&Ms – now that would be a fun lunch. Let’s get that on the menu.

I haven’t had homework yet, but I bet they’re going to oppress my civil liberties with that any day now. I’ve seen my brother do homework before and it looks like torture. I’m just going on record right now as somebody who wants no part of that.

The first week is almost over and I’ve survived so far. I guess that’s a testament to my indomitable spirit. Isn’t that what they call it when your parents take you to school and make you stay there all day and you don’t even cry?

In 1975 backpacks were for hikers and all my school supplies fit in my pocket

Elementary school starts on Monday, which means we will be spending the weekend completing the scavenger hunt known as collecting the supplies on the school list. Big Brother is entering 3rd grade. I suppose that makes him an upperclassman in his school. I’m sure this will be reflected in his maturity level going forward.

Big Brother is expected to show up at 3rd grade with a veritable bounty of supplies. I showed up for my 3rd grade with a shirt, pants, and shoes. Everybody was fine with that. Eventually, I acquired a pencil, and after that, an eraser. They need a lot more stuff to write with now. Maybe they’re more furious writers; they probably press down harder on the pencils.

Our supply list consisted of the clothes on our backs and anything useful we could find in the woods. (Image: Lewis Wickes Hine)

Our supply list consisted of the clothes on our backs and anything useful we could find in the woods. (Image: Lewis Wickes Hine)

They need a bunch of sandwich bags too. If sandwich bags hadn’t become a staple school supply I believe the zip-lock people would be out of business. What American eats a sandwich small enough to fit in a sandwich bag anymore?

Buster starts preschool in a couple of weeks. This will be his last year there before Kindergarten. How can I be sure he’ll be ready to move on to Kindergarten next year? Because the public pays for Kindergarten, while I pay for preschool. So if Buster can’t read by this time next year, he’s officially a taxpayer liability.

Big Man will start preschool next fall, which is another reason Buster has to be out of the pipeline by then. Do you think Frank and Jesse James were allowed in the same preschool concurrently? Some things are just too much to ask of society.

I’m not sure Big Man will need two years of preschool, and my wallet tends to agree with me. I never went to preschool and I learned to read and write somewhere along the way. I’m mostly all caught up to the other readers in my age group by now.

My knowledge of letters and numbers was of little concern to my preschool teacher. It was more important that I have soft hands. (Image: Frances Benjamin Johnston)

My knowledge of letters and numbers was of little concern to my preschool teacher. It was more important that I have soft hands. (Image: Frances Benjamin Johnston)

My wife says she wants him to start preschool mostly for socialization reasons. He’s pretty good with other kids already, and sometimes I think she almost agrees he doesn’t need it. But then she takes a good, hard look at his social train wreck of a father and is reaffirmed in her conviction to spare no expense in preventing that tragedy from happening again.

It’s hard to argue with her when uses visual aids to convince me: like a mirror.

Once I get over the adjustments required by the new school year, I will settle down to the knowledge that Buster goes to a very fine preschool and Big Brother’s elementary is equally good.  The tuition and the supply hunting are a small price to pay to cement my children’s futures – though Big Brother is about to find out his future can be cemented just as well with a 24 pack of crayons as with a 64 pack.

There’s nothing you can do with antique fuchsia you can’t do with heliotrope.

This too is an important lesson in his education.