Second things second: My son came home from school on Monday with his spelling test. Which he scored 100% on. Every week, they color in their spelling tests and hang them on display in the classroom. This week, the test was a coloring sheet that had the face of a woman on it, and he'd drawn a wart on her nose, spots on her teeth and Frankenstein scars on her neck. He used three tones of crayon and some nice shading techniques and it actually looked pretty good in the end, for a 9 year old.
Stapled to the back of it was a note that said the teacher had a discussion with my son about appropriateness and pride of work and respect and that I should continue this discussion at home, sign the sheet and return it the next day. He handed it to me and said that I HAD to sign it or he'd be in trouble. I read it, I looked at the sheet, I re-read it, I re-looked at the sheet. I had no clue what either one meant, other than that he got 10/10 on his spelling test.
Which is awesome.
So I asked him what this *talk* he had with his teacher was about and he said that is was about him having to get that paper signed or he'd be in trouble. I asked him if they talked about "appropriateness" or "pride in work" and he said no. Then I got mad. The sheet said they did, and he tends to lie, and I didn't feel like doing the '83 degrees of separation from the truth' talk I usually have to with him. And then he started to cry.
Which is not awesome.
I had him tell me everything and the long & short is that he had a substitute, and she had the students color in their spelling tests after they were graded so they could be hung in the room. There was no direction other than Color Them In. So he did. He drew what he saw and what he saw was a crazy old witch with rotten teeth and a scar on her neck.
What. The fuck. Ever.
Apparently, 10 other kids or so also took the creepy old woman route and they all got pulled aside on Monday when the teacher returned and were given these notes to bring home. Because elementary school teachers have nothing better to do than to censor the harmless scribblings of goofball 8 and 9 year old.
So my kid who has struggled all year to merely stay on one task, who has to battle with himself to complete anything in school, my kid who has come from starting the year getting looked at for ADHD and is now wrapping up the year getting 100%'s and finishing all of his work and has finally made some friends, he's crying and I'm kind of pissed because really, this is who he is and it wasn't wrong or dangerous or even disconcerting, just different and I have a very low tolerance for teachers who try to stifle my kid anyways.
So I did what any good parent would do; I told him his teacher was full of shit.
Not entirely true. We sat on the curb outside while the neighborhood kids played and he snuggled into me and I explained Expectations to him. I explained to him that so far, he's had *this* tier of expectations from his teacher, and that now he's nine, he's almost done third grade, he's maturing and now he apparently has a whole new, sub-tier of expectations to meet. Now, it's not just enough that he does the coloring he's asked to do; he needs to know that his teacher expects that coloring to be shiny and happy. Just like it's not enough now that he just washes his laundry; I now expect him to sort colors before he washes them. Just like it's not enough that I take the trash out of the car when daddy says, "Dude, clean your car out already" but that he really means "Dude, get the old milk out, vacuum it, windex the windows already and scrape the motherfucking rotten peach out of the trunk before you grow a penicillin colony back there." And that maybe I won't realize this the first time, but the next time he has to "gently remind me" he'll make sure I know what he means.
I explained to him that sometimes, people create those new sub-tiers of expectations on the fly, and that it's our job to try to recognize those as quickly as we can and work with them as well as we can. Like when 3of3 is wrestling with him and he decides he's done, but she has no idea that suddenly no actually means no. He still expects her to stop, even if it takes her a minute to figure that out.
I explained to him that sometimes it can be really confusing when people, especially people in authority like a teacher or a mom or a spouse or a boss, spring these new sub-tiers on you, but that you have two choices in life....let it get to you or realize that sometimes, people are just dumb and sometimes, the only thing you can do is to nod and smile and waaaaaay back, in the back of your brain where no one else can see it, hidden in a thought bubble, you just have to say, "Whatever, dude" and get on with your day.
And he giggled. Which is awesome.
The next morning we were packing his bag for school and I showed him what I'd written in reply to his teacher. I said, "I had a long talk with 2of3 about expectations and he assures me that he will meet yours in the future." He looked up at me, smiled and said, "You just said whatever in your thought bubble, didn't you?"
I did, indeed son. I sure did.