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  • Why There Are No 1st Graders In The Secret Service

    May 25, 2011

    As he walked towards me, I could see that something wasn’t right.

    That is not to say that I saw anything unusual, but my momtennae went up. There was something about his posture and his expression, something that telegraphed that all was not well.

    His hair was a crazy mess.  Nothing unusual about that.

    He had a red popsicle ring around his mouth which matched the red splotches on the front of his t-shirt, also not so very unusual.

    I took his backpack from him and slung it over my shoulder.

    “Hi dude! How was your day?” I asked as we turned and walked towards the car.

    “Okay,” he said unconvincingly.  I noticed the spring in his step was missing.  He did not run off and play tag with the other kids as he usually does.

    Instead, he heaved a heavy sigh and watched the ground pass under his feet as he walked.

    I decided not to push it and instead wait to see what he would offer.

    He reached up and grabbed my hand as we walked along.

    I looked at his fingers interlacing mine – dirty jagged nails, scraped knuckles, long slender fingers, red and sticky with popsicle and marker and who knows what all else.

    I reflected back to the days when those same hands would reach up for my face as I cradled him and gave him his bottle.  He would gaze into my eyes as though he were trying to figure me out and play with my chin as he slurped and gnawed on the bottle.

    When we got to the car, he confessed.

    “Actually Mom,” he said, “I had a bad day.  A reeeeeallly bad day.”

    “Oh no,” I consoled, “Tell me about it.”

    And he did.

    He told a friend at school a secret, that he liked a certain girl in another class. The so-called friend didn’t keep the secret, but blurted it to everyone instead.

    The bandwagon was a 1956 Chrysler, big and wide, with room for everyone in the 1st grade class, save one little boy named Conor.  There was chanting and teasing.  He said he started crying, so he pulled his sweatshirt up over his face.  He said he cried because he was embarrassed.  I don’t know exactly how it all played out but the teacher sent Sean and Conor for a slow walk around the school while she chatted with the class.

    We sat in the car and talked about what happened for a long time.  As painful as it was for Sean, for me it was a gift – a golden opportunity to talk about trust and compassion and other important things, all wrapped up in a real life experience.

    We talked about the importance of trust, of figuring out who you can trust and the importance of being someone who can be trusted. I told him that at school, at least, if you don’t want everybody to know everything, don’t tell anybody anything.  I told him that first graders are notorious blabbers and that’s why there are no 1st graders in the Secret Service.

    We talked about compassion, about how it felt to be teased and what a good and noble thing it was for Conor to choose not join in the teasing.  I told him Conor’s mom and dad could be very proud of him and that is exactly how I would want him to respond if someone else was being teased or picked on.

    We talked about how sometimes you have to just not care what other people think, that there will always be people who don’t like you or what you are doing and want to make you feel badly about it.  We talked about how you can’t control what others think, you can only control your own response. Although I was quick to admit that that was a hard one, one he might have to work on his whole life if he is anything like his mother.

    Then I told him the true story of how one time when I was in 1st grade, I had to go pee, but I was afraid of the nun and too scared to ask to go to the bathroom, so I just pee’d right there in my seat and it puddled on the floor by my desk and ran clear down the row to the back of the room. When the other kids saw it, there was a mighty uproar as they all laughed and made fun of me.

    “What did you do?” he asked aghast.

    “I cried,” I said as a matter of fact.  “I pulled my shirt up over my head and cried.”

    We both laughed about that just a little, because after 45 years, the humiliation has worn off a little bit and it’s kind of funny.

    He looked me in the eye and squeezed my hand.  His eyes shone softly with compassion.

    “Mom,” he said, “I’m sorry that you pee’d, I mean, you know, that that happened to you.”

    “Yeah, thanks buddy,” I said.  And I squeezed his hand back.

    And I tried not to cry.

    Mother’s Day

    May 6, 2011

    When I picked Sean up from school today he thrust a handful of papers at me along with his backpack and took off up the hill to run and play with his friends.   When we got home, he saw that I was looking at the papers he had handed me. “Mom!” he cried, “Don’t look!”

    “What?” I said, “You HANDED them to me!”

    “Okay, you can look,” he said, “But don’t look at everything.  Just pick the one thing you want.”

    So I agreed to that and chose this lovely portrait of me.  He said he drew me in that one pink fuzzy shirt that I have.  I am quite sure I don’t have a pink fuzzy shirt, but maybe I do.  Please, as you gaze upon this portrait, do not hate me because I am beautiful.



    After I gushed sufficiently over the picture, he asked if maybe I’d like to open just one more thing. No, I said, I think I’d like to wait for Mother’s Day.  No really, he said, just open one more thing.  So I opened the letter which you see below.


    It reads:  My mom is very special. She’s 51 and very beautiful. She does a lot of foatoshop. She loves me and I love her.  She buys suff for me like little models on stands that are real models.

    It is a good thing that I don’t care if people know how old I am or how much I weigh for that matter.  Mental note to self:  Don’t let child see tax returns.

    Aside from all that, I was touched at how he tapped into the raw truth about me in his essay, starting with my beauty.    Beauty of course is in the eye of the beholder and the fact that the beholder in this case gets suff at Walmart is probably irrelevant.

    Random thought:  If there are no ugly babies it stands to reason that there can be no ugly mothers.

    He also noted how much I love him and how much he loves me and how I do a lot of foatoshop.  I’m sure some of the other kids wrote about how their mom’s cook fabulous meals and keep a spotless house or have paying jobs, but Sean’s mom does foatoshop!

    Well since we were on a roll, he decided that I might as well go ahead and open the 3rd thing, so I did and inside was this exquisite brooch, hand-crafted of semi-precious plastic jewels and foam stuff.  Don’t covet it y’all, it wouldn’t be right.  I will wear this with my pink fuzzy shirt. If I actually have one.

    And not because I was so well loved today, but because I just can’t stop myself sometimes when it comes to that boy whose freckles make my heart ooze stupid goofy irrational love, we went to Walmart and I bought him suff like little models on stands that are real models. Just because.


    It’s all true, especially that part about the freckles.

    * * * * *

    Happy Mother’s Day all!  Do me a favor and maybe take some time to look around you and see who might be on the fringes and not feeling the love this weekend.  And be extra kind.

    * * * * *

    BREAKING NEWS:  I was wrong.  It turns out I actually do have a fuzzy pink shirt. I foatoshopped on my brooch so you could get the full visual affect.


    The Machine Kicker

    May 3, 2011

    Not too long ago, Sean was invited to a roller skating birthday party.  It was at a big roller skating rink where several birthday parties were held at the same time making it unclear which kid belonged to which party. It was one big crazy mass of rolling kids all jacked up on icing which makes for good times indeed.

    Much to my dismay, my son does not have the skating mojo.  Skating to me is the equivalent of say, walking or breathing.  It is unthinkable to me that anyone could not automatically know how to skate.  Or swim for that matter.  I understand that mathematicians feel the same way — how can one not know how to do math?  I don’t know but I don’t. My brain don’t bend that-a-way.  So in theory I understand that some people can’t skate.  In practice, I do not.

    Be that as it may.

    Unfortunately, Sean does not understand that he does not have the skating mojo. He imagines that he does.  I think this imagining comes with the Y chromosome package, the delusional tendencies towards overestimation about ones looks and abilities. But I have no scientific research to back that up.  Along with sweeping over-generalizations and invented facts and other bad habits, I digress as well.

    Anyway, Sean wants me to go along side of him and “help” him skate.  What helping means is that he slips and slides and flails and twists and clomps along as he claws at my clothing while I wrench my back trying to “help” him stay upright. This is not fun. For me. It is exhausting is what it is. And after about 5-minutes of this I am somewhat not having fun.

    So at about the 6-minute mark, I go sit down and send his father in as my replacement so that he might partake of the fun as well.

    As I’m sitting there watching the swarm of seven-year-olds circling the rink like a pack of drunken and disorderly bees, I notice that none of them seem to have the skating mojo and I wonder if this because kids today (anytime you use the phrase “kids today” you are automatically OLD) don’t get out and roller skate on the sidewalk like I used to when I was seven.  Probably because of all the newly discovered dangers of CONCRETE and the need of helmets and pads and whatnot.

    But then my attention is turned away from the swarm and towards what sounds like a wrecking ball.  I see a boy about Sean’s age wearing in-line skates standing in front of a video machine of some sort.  The machine has apparently trespassed against this boy and he is kicking the skunk out of it with his skates. Not just a little tap-tap, nudge-nudge, but an all out repeated whacking with the toe of his skate. (Yeah, I know. He might have issues. I shouldn’t judge.  I should give him a hug and help him explore his feelings. Gotcha.)

    Had it been one of Sean’s classmates, I might have hollered, “Hey Dude! KNOCK it off!” But I didn’t know this thug child and I was kind of shocked to see such a fearless display, such a blatant abuse of public property.  I was stunned quite frankly and so I just sort of stared at him and I tried to make sense out of what I was seeing.

    I looked around to see which gal was is his mother, which gal was going to swoop in on her broom and open up a can of Crazy Lady on him.  Because that’s what I woulda done had it been Sean.  That is what any mother I knew would do, so I assumed that Machine Kicker was with one of the other skating parties, not ours.

    But no mother swooped in and he continued his rage against the machine, giving it a proper beating.  I did notice a gal nearby watching him in a disinterested manner as she chatted away on her cell phone.   Perhaps she was calling the authorities.  Perhaps like me, she was stunned and had no idea who this kid was.  Perhaps his mother had dropped him off and he was here by himself, free to express his feelings.  Perhaps.

    Later, as the party is wrapping up, I see my friend who is hosting the party chatting up the woman on the cell phone and standing next to her is Machine Kicker himself, thanking the hostess for a lovely time.  For the second time that day, I was stunned.  I could not believe that Machine Kicker was one of us!

    And that’s just the problem.  All the machine kickers are one us, on some level, and we don’t quite know what to do about it.