January 28, 2011
The Boys Are Alright
The phone rings, and I run to it, dripping wet from the shower I snuck upstairs to take. I know without even looking at the caller ID who will be on the other end of the line, and so I dramatically begin my mental preparations to stave off my impending despair. I press “talk”, and sadly I am validated, as it is indeed our Sunday morning therapist calling to cancel. She has an extremely valid excuse, and of course, being the magnanimous person that I am, I’ve already forgiven her before we’ve even severed our connection. I am conscious however that this change of plans will slightly derail our day, and that Justin will regret not having his weekly session with her, may actually “protest” her defection. I’ve been filling in occasionally for his other therapist who’s currently on maternity leave, and since he’s missed so much school lately due to the fact we seem to have acquired New England’s weather system, I know I should run a session with him today so he doesn’t lose mastered skills. I sigh, thinking of the glorious hour I would have had while Zach played with his father and I wrote inane witticisms on Facebook, then dry and dress myself and walk downstairs.
All is fairly calm in the kingdom at the moment, and as Jeff guesses who our mystery caller was I tell him I’ll tutor Justin myself, and that he should maneuver Zach upstairs. I know that Justin will be fine with his substitute teacher, although he prefers the novelty of a fresh face, and I’m confident we can get through at least the majority of his most crucial goals without a meltdown. I move through the kitchen to get the boys’ snacks ready, and as I do so I casually mention to Zach that he will be going upstairs to play with Daddy so Mommy can teach Justin. He screams, plants his feet firmly in what I like to call his “no way” stance, and says “No! I want to go to school too, and I want Daddy to teach me!” Jeff and I both burst out laughing, and I know we are recalling the last time Jeff tried to instruct one of our children (it ended with Justin strapped into his chair “watching football”, my husband insisting upon my return home that it was an educational opportunity, since he was teaching him colors, letters and numbers from our big screen). Patience, and instructing small children, are not my husband’s forte.
Once we can both breathe again I look at my spouse and say, “Sure, why not, at least it will be entertaining”, and I turn to Zach and tell him he can go to mommy’s school with Justin as long as he’s a good boy. Tears immediately arrest on his face, and he runs over to the art/therapy table and promptly takes Justin’s seat. I know this won’t fly with my eldest, so I cajole Zach over to the empty chair next to him, and deposit the snacks on the floor. I call Justin over to join us, and he quickly runs to the table once he sees his favorite popcorn lying in wait for him, then stops dead in his tracks as he registers Zachary’s presence. He’s usually pretty great where his little brother is concerned (unless they’re fighting over the attentions of our attractive teen-aged babysitter), and fortunately this time he remains true to form. I see the flash of white teeth as his grin spreads across his face, and he slides into his seat happily, grabbing my shoulders and pulling me toward him to bestow a big kiss on my forehead.
Yes, my child is thanking me for making him learn something. This is why I (sometimes) forego reality tv shows for plotting how to make his life better. He’s just that sweet.
I ready my materials as Jeff comes around the corner and slides his 6’4” frame awkwardly into the remaining plastic chair, and decide to handle spelling first, as this is something Zach can participate in as well. I fan the letters out in an asymmetrical array before us, and just for kicks, as this noun is well beneath my son’s word repertoire, I ask him to spell “cat”. Zach pipes up “I’ll do it!”, and promptly adheres the letters “z”, “b”, “d”, and “t” to the waiting Velcro strip lying bare before us. Jeff raises his eyebrows at me (I’m thinking it’s time to put a little extra effort into phonics with the younger one), and I tell him “good try”, making tiger mothers everywhere shudder with contempt. My eldest indicates his mastery over such simplicity rapidly and with an air of boredom, and I know I’ve got to ramp things up a bit or I’ll lose my students’ attention. We attempt “boat” next in my thinly veiled attempt to go to a more fun place, and Justin quickly nails it. I barely have time to return the embrace he seeks for reward along with his coveted kernels when Zach turns toward me, sticks his feet up on the table and says, “Are we done yet?”
Guess this is why I never won “teacher of the year”.
Now that I’ve bored him to death (after all, he has legos waiting for him upstairs, spelling is so “yesterday”), Jeff walks him upstairs, and Justin and I are able to resume our interrupted lesson. I hear the slamming of doors and screams of glee as my husband chases Zach around our second floor, and I am grateful once again that the sensory diversion of sound no longer upsets my eldest. We weave our way through the lesson, bickering occasionally over how many pieces of popcorn are commensurate with a correct response, but all in all, our session is smooth sailing. Justin is learning. Zachary is happy.
The boys are alright.