1st Grade: Volunteering – My apology to Davey Crockett.

Seeing as I live in the great state of Tennessee, home of the greatest Volunteer in human history, one David ‘Davey’ Crockett, this post was tough to write. In fact I live about 40 minutes southwest of Rogersville in Hawkins County, where Davey’s father John relocated the family before Davey was born. If you are unfamiliar, here is a little sample of the Ballad of Davey Crockett:

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods so’s he knew ev’ry tree, kilt him a b’ar when he was only three
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!

If you’re not singing that tune in your head right now, you might be a communist.

Anyway, I’m not sure the King of The Wild Frontier would be very pleased with the thrust of this post. As it turns out elementary school has a side effect and it’s called volunteering. And it is, by every known definition, a double edged sword.

We sent the boy to preschool so he could develop socially. I get it. I could teach him anything, except how to be a kid. Although find some people from my past and they might tell you that’s all I could teach him. Regardless, the boy needed to be around other kids, so we shipped him off, at the age of two. I missed him.

I would get to the school about ten minutes before pick up so I could see how he interacted with other kids. It was fascinating. So when he went off to kindergarten and the chance to volunteer a little bit came up I thought, yeah that might be fun. And it was fun.

I was the hit of the Christmas party. My Bingo for Candy Canes game was an instant must play event. Only one kid out of 20 cried when he lost his stack of canes. That’s called success my friends. And he learned a valuable lesson that will serve him well 15 years from now the first time he’s using his kid’s college fund to beat the house in Vegas. I’m an educator. It’s what I do.

Now before Mrs Frank’s Place comes off the top rope with an elbow, I did not volunteer as much as she would have liked. I skipped the field trips. I picked those days to go on my own field trip, to the golf course. But I did one day a month, and I read some, I helped at the end of year party. Put it this way, I was in there a lot more than I ever expected to be. But I admit I was enjoying some 4+ hours of quiet in the house as the girl was gone most of the day as well, having started her first year of preschool.

The faces that killed the quiet and my volunteer spirit.

The faces that killed the quiet… and my volunteer spirit.

Then summer happened and the quiet died. It was assassinated actually. It was assassinated, ground up, and fed to the fishes in the briny deep, if we’re being honest. Then the longing set in. The longing for those bygone days of quiet, warm lunch, and the golf channel. It was a glorious time. It seemed like it would never return.

But then it did. The dog days of summer waned, school lists and schedules were published. The light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t an oncoming train after all. It was the light of fall and the first day of school and back to school night with the boy’s 1st grade teacher. 1st Grade!

I strolled into school armed with the knowledge that volunteering was a thing of the past. I have an inside source, an informant if you will, who I will not name. But she told me after kindergarten there is almost no volunteer time in the class room as there’s really no time for that in 1st grade.

And she was right. There was a nominal list for volunteering, but that amounted to reading to one kid at a time in the hallway for about 30 minutes. There were like a thousand parents in that room. I pulled the old ‘look the other way’ when the volunteer list came and it passed me by; much like the collection plate in church. Someone else will pony up.

So cool, we got the kid off to a good start, he’s riding the bus both ways, buying his lunch, and no need for a volunteer. Awesome.

Then a letter came home. The school library is in need of help. The pitch was, “Set your own schedule. Make it coincide with your child’s schedule so you can see them at school!” Not sure who wrote that, actually I am but I won’t name names. No matter, let’s just say this person is not destined for a career in public relations.

See your kid at school? Should I feel guilty that my first thought was, I see him enough at home, why on earth would I want to see him at school too? I probably should, but I don’t.

I think my laziness has been documented here several times. And I’m just lazy enough to blame those damn kids for beating it out of me over the summer. Yeah I know, I’m a horrible dad. But I just don’t have that volunteer spirit.

I’m the shame of Knox County. Maybe I should move back to Jersey.

Davey, I’m sorry.




1st Grade: Pestilence, parasites, and petri dishes.

Well it’s inevitable I guess. Believe it or not I’m still a little shell shocked from our bout with the stomach virus last year. It appears I will have to get over that in short order. Yep, school has started. The rise of the microbes is at hand.

Don't be fooled. This is the harbinger of intestinal distress.

Don’t be fooled. This is the harbinger of intestinal distress.

Whoops too late. Week two and the boy is already sick. Week one I put the wrong bus number on his form. I got a call, had to pick him up. Week two, he has a runny nose in the morning, pukes at school after lunch. I get a call, had to pick him up.

When I got there he was in the nurses office. His face actually had a green tint to it. He looked abominable. It looked like he would puke again at any moment. When he saw me he started to cry, the kid was in some serious distress. I wanted to hug and console the boy. I felt so bad for him. But he has the bug. Sorry Frank, engage your self-consoling application. I got no time for the germs you’re obviously harboring.

Once I gather his stuff we head for the door. The nurse says he can’t come back. In my head, at least I hope it was in my head, I’m like all “No shit Sherlock, I’m taking him home.” Outwardly I went with a very passive, “Ok” with a slightly confused quizzical look. “He can’t come back tomorrow because he threw up today.” Really? Hmm. Now it’s all about me. Again completely in my head, I hope.

Damn, there goes tomorrow’s trip to the pool. Hey why didn’t they have these rules when I was in Catholic School back in the day? I got screwed out of some days off. I hope he doesn’t blow chunks in the car. Damn man, I don’t want to get the stomach bug. But maybe I’ll drop a few lbs. Maybe I can drop him in the driveway and go spend a few nights in a hotel.

I was snapped back to reality by my green son who is moving toward the exit with a purpose. I ask after his condition and he grunts out, “I have to puke!” OK boy let’s get outside. There Frank, heave in those bushes, they look like they need a good feeding. Actually got a sideways aggravated look out of him for that one. Two quick dry heaves and then nothing. I set him up with a few Kroger bag type barf receptacles and were off, haulin the mail to the house.

Turns out he was fine by dinner. In fact he was begging for dinner. But no way I’m helping him reload the vomit gun. Nope, a little bread, some apples sauce and you have to fight the hunger till tomorrow my son.

The next day he stays home and his sister goes to school. Guess what she comes home with? Is it any surprise? There is a modicum of cleanliness in elementary school. And I mean modicum with a capital None. In preschool? Ha! It’s germ warfare in there. The likes of which the world has not experienced since the trench fighting of our Dough Boys in WWI. Preschool is where germs take their vacation from elementary school.

Any wonder by that afternoon I was slightly nauseous and dizzy, ears hot and unable to focus? Of course not. I had no chem gear, I had not bio protection. I walked into preschool a free breather, and walked out with any and all manner of parasite. Not even a quick wash down with hand sanitizer in the car before the drive home could  protect me. No puking though, so that’s good.

But hey it’s only the 2nd week of school. Plenty of time to get stomach virus, lice, whopping cough, smallpox. At some point the government will get serious and designate these kids as WMDs (Weapons of Mass Disease). These kids are like little weaponized terror bugs, little pestilence delivery systems, more efficient than any bio weapon created, developed, or being developed. It’s almost enough to make me consider homeschooling.



1st Grade: Wheels on the bus.

We have come a long way from the Car Lobby Pick Up Lane. It was only a year ago this time but it seems like eons. You can read about that little adventure here: First rule of Car Lobby Pick Up Lane. A week into last year I had smashed the van up on the sidewalk at the pick up lane, vowed never to return to Car Lobby Pick Up, and talked/bribed/threatened Frank into riding the bus home at least. Riding it to school seemed a bridge too far at that time.

Well I’m here to say that bridge has come and we have crossed it. I’d love to tell you my powers of persuasion saved the day but that would be a falsehood, a prevarication, a lie even. The kid came to it all on his own. Riding by the bus stop on day 1 of First Grade he says, “Daddy can I ride the bus to school this year?”

I was immediately ecstatic. Then I was a little more analytical and insulted. He said that like I had been keeping him from riding the bus last year when in fact I was begging him. But Frank’s supplication, “Daddy, can I ride the bus to school this year?” fell somewhere between Oliver asking for more lunch at the orphanage and the Roman solider asking Jesus to cure his dying kid from long distance. I was getting a little salty about his tone I don’t mind saying. Then I snapped back to reality. The kid wants to ride the bus. Victory at last. At least it seems that way.

A boy and his stop. A dad one step closer to all day pajamas.

A boy and his stop. A dad one step closer to all day pajamas.

I mean I don’t have to drive him to school, which ultimately means I don’t have to get dressed. I can just about roll out of bed, get him dressed, jam a pop-tart in his pie hole, make his lunch and walk him to the bust stop. The only negative to the whole thing is the time I have to get him up. It’s a little crazy, the time of morning he has to get out of bed.

I know the political crazies in this country rail and wail about the US becoming more like Europe. But let me tell you something folks, those people do society right in a lot of ways. In this case they are dead on about school. In most European countries the younger the kid, the later in the day they start school. Here it’s the other way around. In most European countries Frank would be starting school around 8:45. Here I’m dragging him from the bed between 6:30 – 6:45am so he can make his 7:05 bus that takes him 1.8 miles to school. He’s 6 years old. This seems out of whack to me.

Ok, I’m done with that rant lest this become a political site. And God help us we don’t want that. Next thing you know Trump will buy me out so he can build a casino and Hillary will be wiping my server. With a cloth people, with a cloth.

The was one small incident with the bus. And it was entirely my fault. He took the bus home for the whole of kindergarten, save that apocalyptic first week. But this year he was taking the bus home from the jump so I drilled his bus number into his memory. It was a different number for some reason but on the ride to school his first day I made him repeat it so much he had it down pat in no time.

The problem, I made him memorize the wrong number. I even wrote the wrong number on his bus form. So, my phone started ringing almost the exact moment when the doors to Frank’s bus closed, drove away, and I had no Frank to walk home with.

His new teacher called to say she had Frank. His bus number didn’t match to any bus in the fleet. Several kids recognized Frank and told her what his real bus number was. His real bus number was the same as last year. Don’t know what I was looking at. Rightly being skeptical and not wanting to go on the word of other first graders, she walked him to the bus but the driver didn’t remember him or his neighborhood. So using her better judgement she kept him and called me. I like this lady already.

When I got there she explained the deal with the driver. I said his driver last year was a crotchety old guy who might actually be the long lost cousin of Moses from the Ten Commandments. She didn’t blink but responded quickly with, “Yeah that’s him.” I do like this lady. No idea why he didn’t remember Frank or the neighborhood. But minor crisis averted. New/old bus number memorized and we’re back on track.

The walk to the bus stop has become a lot of fun. The neighbors may not think so. The moment we step from the garage on our two block walk we are talking. And by we I mean him, and by talk I mean non-stop narration of everything he sees along the way. He was born here, he has grown up on this street. Nothing he sees is new to him. But for some reason in the early morning hour he feels the need to loudly describe and point out sprinklers, cars, trashcans, birds, etc… It is fun though. We eventually get to talking about stuff.

He has made three new friends in school. All girls. They take turns helping him open various lunch items he buys, like his juice or chips. I decided I had heard enough and stopped asking questions on the walk to the bus stop. On the third trip to the bus stop he asked me one. Again it was more a desperate request than a question. “Daddy can I buy my lunch at school?” Yet again he says this like I’ve been depriving him of it instead of begging him to do it. But I decided to be the bigger person, look past that and realize the victory.

No more making lunches. Awesome! Added bonus, by not taking a lunch his back pack just became light enough for me to lift it. In the end it was all two small steps for Frank and his independence and one giant leap for me and my goal of a responsibility free day.

It only gets less busy as they get older?