I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am trying with all of my might to continue to believe in the public school system in this country—and, more importantly, in my current county—but that recent circumstances are making that harder and harder. I have become That Mother, the one with all of the EMAILING and PHONE CALLING and, um, gray hair.
So on the one hand, we’ve got Monkey’s Situation, the Cliff Notes summary of which is: Gosh, I hope you don’t have a special needs child who gets good grades, because the school is not at all interested in doing jack for you if so. (Me, to Monkey: Your choices are to either un-special yourself or fail the standardized tests next time, do you hear me?) (Monkey, to me: Huh?)
On the other hand, we’ve got Chickadee’s Situation, the Cliff Notes summary of which is: Mystery illness ahoy, with a side of “I hate school” and a garnish of “I hate everything, actually, on account of I am a tween girl.”
And then, of course, there is Chuck Norris.
I seem to remember the whole Chuck Norris Facts thing being big a few years ago, but in case you haven’t heard, middle schoolers have pretty much invented everything worth reading on the Internet. And also—getting back to public school—our tax dollars are hard at work, you know, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when Chickadee came home yesterday smirking and informing her brother that if he had five dollars and Chuck Norris had five dollars, Chuck Norris would have more money. (Monkey, to Chickadee: Huh?)
And lest you think that Chickadee’s pals were merely DISCUSSING Chuck Norris yesterday, oh my NO, let me explain how this came about. You see, last week when Chickadee appeared to be on death’s door, or at the very least, all southern and fainty and whatnot, she missed three consecutive days of school. I called the school on Friday, all worried-like, saying that Hi, my daughter has missed three days of school, could her teachers possibly gather up her missed work so that I could come pick it up and she could catch up over the weekend? Pretty please? And could someone either call or email me to let me know it was ready?
I called at 8:00 in the morning. At 2:30 I was copied on an email from her math teacher to some of the other teachers, stating that I’d called in asking for her work. I immediately mailed that teacher back and said, “Thanks for doing that. By the way, do YOU have any work for Chickadee?” I didn’t get a response until 4:30—which, on a Friday, is after pretty much everyone has left the school—giving me a few assignments she could do in her textbook. Her textbook which was in her locker. At the now-locked-up school. So. I was a little miffed that no one had bothered to actually get back to us in a timely manner, and I was terrified that Monday was going to bring wailing and gnashing of teeth over how much catch-up work she had to do.
This brings us back to Chuck Norris. (No, really.) Apparently Chickadee went to school on Monday and her teachers were all “meh” or “here’s your work” and she finished it in five minutes. And nothing gives a person a warm, fuzzy feeling like knowing that her child’s education is so demanding that she can catch up on three missed days in the space of ten minutes. So even though she was THEORETICALLY “catching up” in social studies, even with that AND whatever “work” (I feel like I have to use quotation marks, now, given the dubious nature of said work) the class was doing, apparently they ended up with ample time to free-Google stuff at the end of the class.
And that turned into a an orgy of Chuck Norris facts. (Also, I was informed—through giggles—a short detour into finding out that you don’t find Chuck Norris, Chuck Norris finds you.)
This was, apparently, the most hilarious thing EVER, and while I wondered what (if anything) the child is actually LEARNING at school, both children commenced swapping Chuck Norris “facts” all afternoon, and well into dinner. At one point Otto—quite befuddled by this new fascination—asked Chickadee if she even knows who Chuck Norris IS.
“Sure,” said Chickadee. “He’s, like, a really old actor or something. He’s like… 40.” (Otto and I exchange A Look across the table. Right before we expired from old age, of course.)
Dinner was understandably quite the raucous affair, what with the constant barrage of “I can eat this whole ear of corn in one minute,” and “Chuck Norris could eat that entire PLATTER of corn in one minute!” and “I can drink my milk in three seconds,” and “Chuck Norris could drink your SPLEEN in three seconds,” and so on and so forth. The children grew louder and louder, and Monkey’s guffaws only served to fuel Chickie’s insistence on coming up with new and more ridiculous things to say to him, and I found myself adding to the fire, too (“Chuck Norris is waiting for you under your bed, Monkey!”), and poor Otto—who probably misses eating meals in silence from his bachelor days—just sat there eating and shaking his head as the declarations flew around.
I began to wait for the point where Otto would have had enough and would call for everyone to settle down and please stop, he’s trying to eat, and everyone needs to get off his lawn. Because I love the guy, but he can be a little curmudgeonly when it comes to mealtime exuberance.
We were close, I knew, when Monkey began actually gasping for air, which of course only made Chickadee gesticulate more wildly and continue on with ridiculous proclamations (“Chuck Norris is in your underwear! Chuck Norris doesn’t laugh hard, he IS humor!”), and finally, hunched over his plate and nearly choking, Monkey sputtered, “STOP IT, CHICKIE. I’m going to shoot corn out of my NOSE!”
Well, that made her stop. We all looked at Monkey, who took a few deep breaths and looked a little less like he was going to require the Heimlich at any moment.
“I would pay good money to see that,” I finally commented, as both children cracked up again, and Otto pushed back from the table and rolled his eyes.
“DON’T ENCOURAGE HER!” he pleaded with me.
“I’m not encouraging HER,” I said. “I’m saying I’d pay good money to HIM to see that.”
“But then she’ll keep egging him on, and then… oh, forget it,” Otto threw his hands up in the air. Silence descended again. The kids and I snuck glances at each other, all of us working at squelching our giggles.
“Besides,” said Otto, picking up his fork again and using it to point at Monkey’s plate, “Chuck Norris could blow the WHOLE EAR of corn out of his nose.”
This is the beauty of my child’s public school education melded with the sanctity of the family dinner, people. Don’t be jealous.