Yurelli’s Buddy

Sally has reached that age where she will not reveal what she did at school today. Even under extreme pressure from mastermind interrogation techniques (Mom singing the songs from Barbie and The Diamond Castle), she deflects the conversation to her latest drawing of a unipegicorn and, on a weak day, she’ll only confess that “Serenity is my best friend and Emma H. is a little mean.”

But last week she was positively loquacious on the subject of what she would be missing if we were late. (I don’t know where she gets this compulsion to be on time for things).

If we were late, she’d miss DOL and weather and calendar and jobs. Jobs is especially important, because everyone has a job to do to make the classroom work, and it changes every day.

What kind of jobs? I asked (because I’m an interested parent).  Sally said the jobs are like messenger, eraser, line leader, Yurelli’s Buddy, librarian, lunch count. I asked which was her favorite (because I’m also an involved parent). And then I said, Wait. What’s Yurelli’s Buddy?

Well, she said, Yurelli doesn’t speak English, so if you’re her buddy then you sit by her all day and explain everything to her and if you get your work done early, you can take her around the classroom and point things out to her. Miss Thompson put labels on the “door” and “cabinet” and “rug,” and you can teach Yurelli how to say those things.

But you don’t speak Spanish, I said. How do you explain things to her if you don’t speak Spanish and she doesn’t speak English?

Sally couldn’t really explain how this language exchange works, and apparently Yurelli is still struggling with English, but the kids in the class like getting the Yurelli’s Buddy assignment, and Sally likes it when Eurelli plays with her posse on the playground.

Probably the whole class should be learning Spanish (and German and French and Chinese). And maybe Yurelli should be in a special bilingual program that celebrates her unique heritage, blah blah blah, but I think it’s kind of cool that Yurelli gets a new buddy every day and that the kids enjoy touring around the classroom with her.

If we ever move to Italy or Argentina or Tasmania, I imagine there would be tons of kids lining up to be Sally’s Buddy, if only so she can teach them how to draw a pegicornasus.

Jane

Your kisses don’t make it better anymore; only a bandaid makes it all better.

Usually I like to think that I’m exaggerating when I talk about a fault of mine. No one could be THAT bad a mom or a wife or a school chauffeur-er, but lately I’ve realized that I really am THAT bad, and I can no longer point out that things COULD BE WORSE by pretending that I feel bad that I’m much worse than I really know I am not.

Last week, when school had been in session for approximately ten seconds, the Parents or Guardian of Sally got a very formal letter from the school expressing concern over her numerous tardies and absences. Two weeks of school and she’s already missed too much = A new personal best at Chez Dick and Jane!!

But really, even though Sally is well above-average, a little part of me still worries that if she doesn’t get in the habit of going to school now, she might want to stay home and talk to me when she is thirteen, and then she’ll never have the character-building experience of being asked to return her half of a BE FRI – ST ENDS necklace.

Which is why I thought it would be good for my girls to play with their Princess-Barbie-loving cousins yesterday. That and the fact that Dick had a late meeting and my sister has a backyard, and a fence, and a lock on the sliding glass door to the backyard.

Since Marcy is just getting used to her new apres-marriage house, we slept over. There’s nothing like extra junk and people sleeping in your basement to make a house feel like home. After we got the kids down, I helped Marcy christen the new house with a ritual viewing of the Keira Knightley/Matthew MacFadyen Pride and Prejudice. It was late; mostly we just fast-forwarded to our favorite Lady Catherine lines like “If I had ever learned, I should have a been a great proficient.”

This morning Sally was thirty minutes late to school, which I didn’t think was too bad, considering we had to drive 49 minutes from the wild bachelorette house to get there. And I even made her a sandwich for lunch, though I had to use ranch dressing with the turkey, because Marcy had no idea where her mayonnaise was.

So basically I was feeling pretty swell today, confident in my good mothering skills. I read a bunch of books to Susan and Spot before naptime, including Fanny’s Dream, which proves that even the most excellent of books become slightly less compelling after being forced to nod and smile encouragingly about the “a hat” and the “a dog” on every single page.

A few minutes after Spot fell asleep, I got a call from my mom. Sally’s school had called her, because I forgot to pick up Sally, and I didn’t answer my phone when they tried to call me. The phone that I WAS answering, obviously, otherwise how would I be talking to my mom about the fact that I was thirty minutes late for early-release Friday?

Dick pretended he wasn’t disappointed that I had once again forsaken my oldest daughter for the fleeting pleasures of the internet. He even tried to cheer me up by saying he figured the 30 minutes late for drop-off and 30 minutes late for pick-up should cancel each other out. Good point. Oh, public school. How fickle you are! You’re upset when she’s not there and then upset when she is. Make up your mind, already.

You know what they say: raising children is all about being consistent.

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Dear Sally, Grandma thinks you’re autistic and she can’t stop talking about it

{Back to HELP WANTED.}

Sometimes I think about homeschooling. This thinking usually peaks around May and plummets in July. The timing is handy, making me look forward to both summer vacation and to school starting again. And even though I know it’s a cycle, I can’t avoid it because let’s face it: two universal truths are competing here.

1) Kids are annoying. (Yes? You disagree? How about “high-energy” or “best-enjoyed-after-long-stretches-away-from-home”?)

2) Public school policy can be moronic.

I think I’m pretty rational (if liberal) about school attendance, so imagine my surprise when Sally’s school started sending home truancy notices last year. As if their attendance policies were somehow more significant than mine. Wait — Who gave birth to this kid? That’s what I thought.

When I reported to the school secretary, she advised getting doctors’ notes in future, as illnesses are excused. I asked, “How about I just tell you she’s sick. Because I don’t take her to the doctor for every cold or stomach bug, and I assume you don’t want green snot and vomit everywhere.” And the secretary kindly told me I could bring Sally in for them to determine that she is sick. As if I need anyone else to tell me my kid’s sick or to dispense a heavenly benediction upon my decision to keep my kid home from school. Just when, exactly, did public school import Principal Mao?

So. There’s a lot to be said for homeschooling, namely: freedom from dimwit public “officials” with unimaginable thirsts for power.

Then again (it’s July, after all), there’s much to be said for saying adios every morning at 8:30 and feeling genuinely excited to pick up the kids at 3. Love you again!!

I admit. This seems pretty unbalanced on the side of arranging things for mom’s benefit. Sure, Sally gets interaction and learns stuff at school. But I could set up playdates and fieldtrips and such. And now that she can read (after agonizing about her not reading by five, she read Harry Potter 1-4 last week), I am ultra-plus confident that she can and will learn whatever she wants to.

So why are we gazing longingly at the bins of Elmer’s glue and plastic pencil keepers? The stacks of freshly-cut paper and the Barbie backpacks?

The truth is, Sally needs other adults to love/emulate/admire. The longer she’s at home all day with me, the more needy she gets. I was teaching her Sunday school class at church until recently, and she always wanted to sit right by me, kissing my arm and distracting everyone.

Last June, Dick came home from a business trip on the last day of school. I picked him up at the airport and then we went to Sally’s school. I thought she would be ecstatic over seeing her beloved, fun, tolerant father. But she barely looked at him. She was inconsolable for a couple hours because she wouldn’t be seeing her teacher anymore: Mrs. Machol had announced that she was switching schools next year.

We reminded Sally that we were hoping to move too before the next year, and that she would be in second grade anyway. “But I won’t see her ever again,” she wailed.

Honestly? I was a bit miffed. Wasn’t she excited to see Daddy? Wasn’t she delighted about getting to be with Mom all the time? I promised to take her to the library (like kid crack) and swimming lessons (more kid crack) and Grandma’s house (ultimate kid crack), and, nothing.

Of course she bounced back, and this summer has been pretty good. But I want you to know that I am buying school supplies tomorrow, and next week I’ll call the school to see who she gets for second grade.

As long as her teachers are like Mrs. Machol and not Principal Mao, public school is best. For mom AND for Sally.

Don’t forget to go share your Things That Must Go. The LLBean Tote Bag giveaway ends tonight at midnight.

p.s. I don’t think Sally’s autistic. For one thing, she’s very affectionate and, for another, Grandma, despite all her other perfections, is not a trained psychologist. I’m sorry Sally was so crazy at the Little Women musical, Mom, but I don’t think autism was the problem.