This week we added the Maroon 5 and Counting Crows concert to our usual busy schedule of work, school and musical and athletic activities. The concert didn’t start until 8 p.m., when the boys are usually winding down, so Tuesday afternoon I got them all jacked up on Coke and Mountain Dew so they’d be wide awake for the festivities.
Drew kept his eyes glued on the bass player. Porter dragged Bill all over the amphitheater in order to view the show from every possible angle. Maroon 5 flashed green lasers over the audience from time to time, which drove Porter wild with jealousy, as his latest heart’s desire is a laser pointer that he can use to burn holes in things that he refuses to identify with more specificity.
Finn stayed put, trying to achieve that “I know I appear to be with these parental units and little brothers but I don’t actually know them” look by remaining one foot in front of us at all times and refusing to look me or Bill in the eye when answering our questions.
During the break between bands, Drew, Finn and I went to check out the T-shirts (we decided to find them cheaper on eBay) and on the way back the boys waited while I stood in the line and finally used the bathroom. I saw a girl in Finn’s class and introduced myself before ducking into a stall. Upon hearing this, Finn came undone, and made it clear that my role was to ignore her, not to approach her, smile at her or engage her in conversation so help me God.
Finn and his friend must have talked about me at school the next day. He reported that I “said some highly inappropriate things” while waiting in line for the bathroom. Sure, I was reminiscing about the days before the amphitheater had seats everywhere, and had a large lawn in the back where you could toss a blanket and relax and listen to the music, but I wasn’t talking to a seventh grader about this. I was chatting up the other ladies in line. About nineteen years ago Bill and I had gone with a group of people to a low key concert of the Jimmy Buffet or James Taylor ilk, and we spent the entire concert macking on a blanket under the stars with a live soundtrack below. Occasionally we came up for a sip of beer and a bite of fried chicken but mainly it was lips and tongues and Sweet Baby James.
The other ladies in the bathroom line had similar tales to tell, although they may have been smooching to Randy Travis or Metallica, and I think Finn and his friend are just jealous that they are going to have to drape themselves over hard stadium seats to make out (when that time comes) instead of laying back on the grass, swatting mosquitoes, assuming they notice them, which they won’t.
This week has also been dominated by Algebra, which is Finn’s most challenging class this semester. For a few weeks Bill was in charge of ensuring that Finn was employing appropriate study habits, while I checked up on the duo. However, when Finn brought home a couple of bad grades and was nonchalant about them, Bill freaked out to the Nth degree and I decided that Bill was too personally invested in Finn’s success. We switched kids and he’s now in charge of Drew and Porter’s fourth grade curriculum (and my God, Porter, George Washington Carver did a lot of great things with peanuts but he did NOT write To Kill A Mockingbird, that was Harper Lee, who hung out with Truman Capote, who was sort of a peanut, so I can see how you might get confused).
Finn has a big test today, and I am such a stellar mom that if he asks (and only if) I will write him out a practice test to help him get ready. He has some big things riding on his grade this semester (like an apparatus that rings and dials numbers).
He had a packed afternoon yesterday. He got home from cross country around 4:30 and I dropped him at the high school so he could play drums at the football game at 5:00, and he returned around 8:30. By then I had thirty math questions written out, along with my answer key. All my algebra from the 1980’s has come flooding back, so if you find yourself butting heads with an equation that contains a variable and it needs solving, or maybe graphing on a number line, or you need to apply the distributive property, reduce the numbers down to the least common denominator and solve for X, head back over here because I can help you. My talent is wasted here, though, because algebra never comes up in the law, or at the grocery store, or while doing laundry. I haven’t told Finn that.
Hot tip for the day: Any number to the 0 power is 1. I have no idea why.
Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom:It’s Good News, So Why Am I Crying?
Now that Finn has three weeks of Junior high under his belt and is no longer quite so mesmerized by the bountiful offerings of the lunchroom, he’s had time to make new friends and gauge how the adventure is affecting his old friends. The stress and thrill of it all has already caused some friction.
The Tiny Kingdom has four elementary schools which run from kindergarten through grade six, and the junior high brings the students from all four schools together for grades seven through nine. Our elementary school is the smallest of the four, and Finn says he has several classes in which he’s the only kid from his school. He knows plenty of guys from playing sports, though, and seems to have made new friends quickly.
I sat Finn down for a frank talk before school started. I felt like he’s mature enough to recognize the social maneuverings that inevitably go at this age, and he’d be better equipped to deal with them if he was given a heads up about their existence. He’s never lacked self-confidence, and I wanted him to be prepared to stand up for his friends if they were ostracized, and to defend himself if his self-worth was attacked.
I told him that when I was in junior high, I saw people change. Some people decided that sports were the only thing that mattered. Others sought popularity at all costs. People who had been friends for years split up because one decided the other wasn’t athletic enough, pretty enough, or cool enough. Others drifted apart because they matured at different rates, their interests changed, or they found they had different values.
I even got down to the nitty-gritty and talked about girls and the way they can act at this age. I felt qualified to give this talk because I have a vagina and survived junior high. ( You know, there’s a reason we all loved The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink and those other movies that showed the cliques that form and the cruelty kids can inflict on one another. It’s because they’re true.)
I told him that he might see girls dropping friends in order to join a “more popular” group. He might see a couple of girls accorded special power, just because of their perceived status. What was important for him to remember was to be there for his friends, especially the girls, because they’re in for a rough few years.
We talked about first impressions being important. Teachers and peers form opinions of you quickly, and once formed, they’re hard to change. On the other hand, you should try not to make the same mistake. Don’t judge someone as a loser because he or she looks different.
It’s a difficult assignment – we make snap judgments about people all the time. As an example, I reminded him of my irrational prejudice against double first names, which are extremely common in the South. My first reaction is to conclude that the parents are either indecisive or snooty. I have absolutely no evidence to back up either of these determinations, and I must often remind myself that in fact I have many close friends whose kids have two first names. They are just as entitled to believe that mothers who name their children after Scandinavian countries are ditzy, to say the least. See? We’re all different. Our quirks plus a Coke make the world go round.
Bill overheard part of our conversation and thought it was unnecessary. Neither his parents nor mine ever had such a discussion with us. But when I look at Finn, I see a whole lot of me, and I would have appreciated a warning about what lay ahead.
We had our talk about a month ago. I’ve already heard through the grapevine that there are girls jostling for position, turning their backs on friends they’ve had since first grade, in order to be accepted by the “in” group. Social climbing never stops, and I surely can’t prevent it. I can only hope that Finn can see the bigger picture and be there for his friends, no matter how many first names they have.
I have a post up at Deep South Moms. Check it out!
Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Not A Normal Day
Finn’s still pumped up about the advantages of the junior high over the elementary school. It must be that the lunchroom ladies at the elementary school were ferocious ogres, or maybe those at the junior high moonlight as Playboy centerfolds. Whatever the reason, Finn is even more impressed with them than he is the huge selection of beverages in the lunchroom.
“I mean, last year those ladies were so mean. They’d just slap food on your plates and God forbid if you asked them a question.”
“What happens if you ask them a question?” Porter asked. He eats everything and would never think to ask questions about his food.
“They’d be all like, Every time you come through this line you ask me if there’s cheese on that sandwich. I don’t know if there is or not. Now take it or leave it and go sit down.”
“What are your lunch ladies like?” Drew asked.
“Well, they’re much prettier, and I bet if you asked them that, they’d say, Oh, let me put on my plastic gloves so I keep everything extremely sanitary and then they’d lift up the corner of the sandwich and check it out and say, well honey, I see some cheese and it appears to be provolone, and would you care for this sandwich today?”
Finn sat back, reveling in the marvelousness of this, the junior high.
Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: And In The Morning, We’re Making Waffles! (bonus points to those of you who get the movie reference in the title and the text of this post)
Now that Finn has made the exhilarating move from elementary school to the junior high, he comes home thrilled with the perks of his new school. He spends most of dinner taunting his brothers with the vast improvements in his living conditions while they listen, stunned that such scenes are actually possible and await them in just three years.
“Man, the lunchroom is beast,” he said while we were eating Bowties With Prosciutto last night. “When you go in there are these three cooler things like you see in a mini-mart and they’re filled with different drinks. One has water and the next one has juices, like apple juice and orange juice, and they’re in these awesome containers, not those tiny cartons like at the elementary school.”
“We have apple juice instead of orange juice this year,” Drew said. “But it’s frozen.”
“That figures,” Finn said. “Anyway, the third cooler is the best, and it has all this, like, Vitamin Water and other cool drinks in it.”
“Did you try one?” Bill asked.
“No way. I got a plain water in case the Vitamin Water is all sissy and stuff. But I think I’m going to try every single kind of drink they have until I settle on my beverage of choice.”
Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Virtual Book Club Meeting #3