My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Shut Up and Eat Yer Coney Island!


One interesting thing about parenting (and by “interesting” I mean “frustrating”) is the disconnect that often happens between how you know you should act and how you actually do act in certain circumstances. How easy it is to fall back on unthinkingly saying and doing things your own parents said and did to you that drove you nuts when you were a kid. Because they just didn’t understand! Nobody understands!

I’m having issues with homework. Dusty’s homework. Specifically, Dusty’s refusal to do it. This hasn’t always been the case and it’s not like she’s had years of experience with it, but last night her homework was to read “poems” in her poetry folder. When I first heard about this, I was thinking these were going to be poems Dusty had written, which would have been very cool. But no, these are nursery rhymes, Bo-Peep and Humpty Dumpty. You know, stuff she’s had memorized since she was a zygote. So, on the one hand, I can understand why she’s less than enthusiastic about having to read them out loud five times and mark it off on her tally sheet.

But Dusty’s main problem isn't the stupid rhymes, it’s one of reading out loud. You may remember that last summer I signed her up for a Reading to Dogs program. Because I am World’s Biggest Moron, I thought this would build her confidence as a reader and, hey, Dusty likes a nice gentle dog as much as the next person (except, maybe me). As the weeks went on, Dusty became more and more reluctant to actually read aloud to the dog. By the end of the summer, it was all I could do to get her whisper as much as a single line to Sprite, our shaggy friend. Dusty looked forward to seeing Sprite but when push came to shove, Dusty wouldn’t push. Maybe it was the presence of Sprite’s handler that threw her off? Who knows.

She claims to be shy. Which, I understand. I’ve always been shy. Still am. But what I don’t get is why she’s suddenly shy. Why she won’t even read out loud to me or her father. And whether she’s using this as an excuse to not read. What’s really at the root of the problem, here? Is it really a problem?

She’s always bargaining with us: she’ll read the story if nobody within a 10-mile radius looks at her or can hear her. She’ll do it if she can whisper the words to the second grey squirrel that knocks on the door. I just don’t get it. Is this normal? Is she hitting some serious self-conscious stage? I can’t figure out what’s really behind this change and I can’t find the right way to ask questions that she might understand. I don’t want to ask questions that may lead her to give me an answer she thinks I want to hear. Because she may not even know the reasons herself or be able to voice the problem.

If it’s really a problem. It’s a problem in terms of her teacher not being able to fully assess her ability to read. My husband and I have talked to Dusty, when she moans about how everything she does at school is stuff she’s done before, about the fact that if she shows her teacher what she knows, she may get to do more interesting stuff, learn things she doesn’t already know. There’s also the fact that this is only week six. The teacher is probably doing a lot of assessment with 18 different children – do they know the basics, can they recognize words and letters? Boring for Dusty because she doesn’t remember a time when she couldn’t count to 20 backwards and forwards in her sleep.

We’re meeting next week with the teacher and the reading specialist to discuss Dusty and her reading and the fact that she won’t read out loud to her teacher. I’m going to be bringing in a book Dusty made this week. She has written a sentence on each page: Me at the Beach. Me Meeting a Prince. Me and a Turtle. Then she has done fabulous illustrations for each page. I want them to understand that we’re dealing with a smart and creative child who has inherited my stubborn gene. I want to build on her strengths, not damp down her natural enthusiasm for school.

But getting back to the first paragraph. Last night, I found myself very close to threatening Dusty with a variety of penalties for not cooperating and just reading the goddamn stupid rhymes because it was her homework. She finally whispered them to my husband during his bedtime turn. He wrote a note to the teacher that began, “Mrs. White, Dusty completed this assignment under duress….I imagine we’ll be talking about this when we meet next week.”

I mean, a huge part of me just wants to say, “You know what? This is a bullshit assignment. Dusty, you’re better than this. This is a waste of both our times. Let’s just skip it, what do you say?”

But, that’s not very responsible of me is it? It sets her on a slippery slope of just saying “fuck it” to assignments she doesn’t want to do – for whatever reason – down the road. I don’t want to be a mindless hardass who expects everything to be done just because the grownups say so, but I also don’t want her to take school less than seriously. I think we’ve got to find a happy medium here and I’m hoping her teacher can provide Dusty with more challenging assignments. Otherwise, she’s going to check out.

Hell, I’m going to check out. And it’s only October.


And, since Violet is on the edge of her seat: Saladgate ended amicably. The offended party eventually apologized for her shitty behavior and all is peace and harmony here in Peyton’s Office Space.

Tune in next week for Lunch Decision 2006: Applebys or Cracker Barrel? Who Will Survive The Salad Bar’s E Coli Special?


11:18 a.m. ::
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