Ryan, my first grader, has had a bit of a rough time this year.
There was that initial phase of adjustment that he went through, when he realized that school was indeed an all-day affair, and wasn't sure if he liked it.
Then there have been a couple of <minor> behavioral issues.
He's a smart kid. He's just a little immature at times, and what I consider normal seven-year-old behavior, little quirks I'll put up with, are not necessarily what his teacher considers normal seven-year-old behavior. Since she has more kids to deal with, I have to usually side with her. (**I have to add, because she says this herself, while she is experienced at teaching--11 yrs at the kindie level, this is her first year at 1st grade--she has no kids of her own.**)
Crying. Hiding under the table because he didn't want to try apple pie. Moving about in a way that she described as "Ryan didn't exercise good body control today. He was flinging himself around, throwing himself on the ground." <nearly missing other students> (I asked her about the situation, and she said they were playing music. My son loves to dance. His form of dance, however, is sometimes better suited to a mosh pit--which is not something you usually would find in a first-grade classroom. We talked to him about this. He stopped.)
There was the time that she said he was speaking out of turn, which I believe, was related to the time he was speaking too loud in the 'hallway'.
The time he shouted out an answer to the spelling test. (So she says, he says he was asking a question or something like that. Whatever, he got in trouble for it.)
Even if I don't totally agree, and even if I get irritated when it seems that Ryan isn't always with the program, I support her judgement. I don't want to start a parent-teacher pissing match over something minor. She has rules for her classroom, and I understand that.
Besides, I'm biding my time for the real battle, because I know that one will come eventually, by the way things have been going thus far.
We remind Ryan to be on his best behavior. I make sure he sleeps, and eats, so that he can put forth his best effort. That's all I can do. I mean, he knows the standard of behavior that we expect from him. But he's still little, and his interpretation of this is understandably (admittedly) loose at times.
Everyday, when I pick him up, I ask him about his day.
Not because I'm interested in the finer points of counting to one hundred, or what was for lunch that day.
No, I ask because I dread him handing me the dreaded pink "Think Sheet." The "Think Sheet" is a bright hot pink piece of paper, listing his "Level 2" transgression of the moment.
Yesterday, he waited until we were home before handing me his latest one.
Hmm. What did he do this time?
"After two very friendly warnings yesterday about burping loud in class, Ryan did it again today."
Are you kidding me? He's in trouble....for burping?
When did that become an offense that warrants a note?
<Excuse me while I go fetch my executioner's mask>
All this year, our principal has been sending home notes in our newsletter going on about "instructional time" and how she would like our support in not disrupting "instructional time" (i.e., bringing that forgotten lunch to the office, instead of to the classroom first; not sending them late to school; having the kids line up and go to their classrooms by themselves, etc.) I had to wonder, was it worth "instructional time" to write me a note that my son is burping-- too loudly?
Granted, Ryan is our champion burper in the house. Upon discovering his talent to burp on command as a toddler, his brothers cultivated and encouraged it, to the point where I had to beg them to stop. But even so, he always says "excuse me." And he rarely will do it on purpose anymore.
"Tell me what happened," Mr W asked him. <I had to ask Mr W to do this, because, frankly, I couldn't keep a straight face. No one can be considered seriously reprimanded if you can't keep a straight face while doing it.>
"I was burping yesterday, and she did talk to me about it. So guess what? Today, I just really had to burp and before I could even say "excuse me" she got mad and wrote me a think sheet. I said "excuse --" and that was all I could get out..."
I've turned my back at this point and am laughing as silently as possible into my forearm.
We let him go, because in the chaos that is afterschool around here, someone spilled a drink in my room. Cleanup, aisle five. (Nothing happens around these parts without an interruption of some sort.)
I overheard Mr W later, talking to Ryan. "Okay, son, try and do better next time. Behave yourself. That means no hiding under tables. No talking out of turn. No burping. Oh, and it might be a good idea not to fart in class, either..." Ever helpful, I pipe up from the kitchen, "You know, mijo, breathing might be something you may want to leave out, too, just to be safe..."
Our eyes meet as Ryan leaves the room. We shake our heads in disbelief. "Burping? Come on !" I hold up the sheet, and tell him, "I can't wait to show this one to Remo." (Who, as those of you who read him know, has been in trouble, at work no less, for gaseous expressions of his own. Hey, is there a VIVI for that ? :p)
I forgot the think sheet last night on the way to aikido. So I whispered it into Remo's ear, because I didn't want Ryan to a) hear me discussing his issue, you know how kids get sensitive about these things; and b) didn't want Ryan to hear the tone in my voice--a dead giveaway--he'd know that I thought it was a bit, well, ridiculous.
I wasn't even back to my seat when I heard a full-on burped sentence. Totally articulated and understandable, I'm not kidding. And another soon after.
Remo, I should never forget, is a man of many talents. I'd expected he'd commiserate with Ryan in that he's been in a similar situation, and I knew he'd say something to him that might make Ryan laugh. But I didn't expect that.
I can't remember what he 'said'. On the one level, there's the urge to say "eeewww." On another, you really have to just appreciate that kind of ability; I mean, it was as impressive as it was potentially gross. And then there's the level of 'boy-am-I-glad-to-be-sitting-upwind' for which to be grateful.
Boy, was Ryan pleased. (Shyah, Remo, encourage the kid...lol.)
The other half to the "think sheet" is a section you are supposed to complete with your child, "What can I do better next time?" --something like that--
This morning, I pull Ryan aside in the kitchen, so he can do his part. Usually, he dictates it and I write it in for him, before signing the form and sending it back in. For his permanent record, I'm sure. (Some day, my boy will be running for some office somewhere, and the media will get hold of this scandalous black mark from his past, ruining his chances for political success. "LIVE at 5...our report on the belching qualities of our frontrunning candidate for the mayoral election--do you want him running your city? --cuts to photo of Ryan, with burping sounds in background...)
"Okay, what do you think you can do better next time?" I asked him.
"I will not burp so loudly." I dutifully write it in, but still feel I should say something to him, because, really, I don't agree this time, and I don't think he should dwell on it for too long.
"Um, Sugar, you do realize, that this is a bit... a bit... ahm...." I am circling my hands around each other, searching for the right word.
"Weird?" he offers.
I wanted to hug him on the spot. Because he gets it.
"Yes. But son, that's between us. Don't be going off and telling everyone how odd this is, just move on and take it one day at a time."
And I couldn't resist adding: "Remember how funny it was when Remo burped out that sentence last night...?"
He cuts me off.
With a feeble attempt (because he was giggling) at a burped "Yes."
"Go put this in your backpack," I shooed him out of the kitchen with his paper.
He left just in time.
It's not a good idea to get caught smiling when you are trying to be the responsible adult.
(Before I forget, let me point out the graphic in my 'All about me' that Chantal made me. Fantastico! :D)