Today is the first day of school in NYC. For me, that means getting back to my day job of working to become a paid writer. It also means receiving hundreds of emails from teachers, PTA committees and fellow parents. For my two kids it means new teachers whose style of teaching may or may not mesh neatly with my children’s styles of learning and a new group of classmates one of whom will probably be an asshole. There is at least one in every single class, I guarantee it. If you’re a parent, and you don’t believe it, it’s very possible that the asshole is your kid. I hear some kids grow out of it but all those grown-up assholes had to start somewhere.
For my oldest son, the asshole(s) used to cause tears of frustration and the ever burning question of why? There was a boy he had known since pre-school in his class and he was a manipulative little so and so—nice and friendly one day and the next, completely ignoring his “friends”. I witnessed it myself on the playground and was flabbergasted. My son came back to me, confused and hurt, why was he being this way? I had to tell him the truth, he’s not your friend. I asked him to list the people he thought of as his friends and if those kids had ever treated him so poorly. My son is very shy so the list was short, only four or five kids, but they are quality kids. “No,” he said. “No, they don’t do that.” Your friends don’t make you feel invisible and purposfully hurt you. That was two or three years ago. Now his strategy is to ignore the assholes and stick with the friends he knows are good people. His next challenge will be giving new people a chance to be his friend.
My youngest wants to be friends with everyone and will work to make that happen so when he runs up against an asshole, he tends to give them more chances than they may deserve. I think he’s learning how to be friendly without expecting everyone to return his level of friendliness or interest in a friendship. We’ll see how first grade goes.
I tend to take my oldest son’s approach to assholes and avoid them at all costs. If I have to interact with them, I am usually overly polite to counter my urge to throttle them with my bare hands.
I am in awe of teachers that deal with kids that are just straight-up jerks, day in and day out, for an entire year without losing their minds. When I chaperone school field trips I marvel at their grit and determination. Yes, they will occasionally lose it and yell but they aren’t snatching kids up by their collars and, as comedian Aziz Ansari witnessed as a young student, threatening to “end” them if they didn’t stop acting up.
After going on several field trips in the last few years I have realized that I don’t like children. I like a select few, including my own, but on the whole—no thanks. They don’t listen and they don’t know how the world works and their varying degrees of knowledge of the rules of civilized society and their inability to listen when in a large group is terrifying. They will walk tortoise speed across a street chatting about Minecraft while cars are barreling down the street at them and completely ignore the adults urging them to pick up the pace so that they won’t die a gruesome death or be maimed. They will screech in delight at carriage horses even after you tell them that horses don’t always react well to sudden high-pitched noises and then be surprised when the horse rears up and kicks them in the head. Thankfully that never happened but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. (On field trip days, I rush home and immediately put the kettle on!) And the thing is, all of this is happening when the kids are out having fun on a field trip. I can’t imagine adding into this madness of perfectly normal child behavior, trying to teach them in the fifty million different ways that they learn. It seems impossible to the layperson but I guess that’s why teachers get paid the big bucks, oh wait….
With the school year stretched out before us, I hope my boys have fun, make new, quality friends and have teachers that are not afraid of a challenge, determined and happy to be doing what they are doing despite being under appreciated by society at large. As my friend’s late father would say, hope you (us) luck!