I love playing school with my son. I’m good at it. After all, I learned how to be a good student at the hands of my niece. When Alyssa was three or four years old, she’d grab my hand the very second I walked in her front door and she’d lead me down the hall to her bedroom. Once there she’d tell me where to sit and what to do, and so for the most part, playing school involved nothing more than sitting and listening. Occasionally I’d have to trouble myself to raise my hand to ask permission to use the bathroom, and once in a rare while Alyssa would line the class up — the class being me and about a dozen invisible classmates — and she would march us down the hallway, single file, on a field trip to the kitchen. There was this one kid, his name was Grumpy Boy, who was always in trouble for one thing or another. Stepping out of line, not raising his hand, not taking turns, etc… He was sent to the principal’s office quite often. Me? Well, I was the teacher’s pet.
Eventually Alyssa started school for real, and somewhere between Kindergarten and 1st grade she lost interest in playing school. I guess the reality of attending school on a daily basis diminished her desire to think about it on the weekends. Probably not unlike my unwillingness to drive downtown to visit the museums on weekends. I work in the city so choosing to go all the way back there on a Saturday or Sunday seems unwise, almost like I never left the office at all.
But now that my son has half a year of real Kindergarten under his belt, he’s taken a sudden interest in playing school at home. I admit that I absolutely love this. Not only is this a game I understand, but it means that for once, the kid is not talking about Star Wars! My husband isn’t as enchanted by this game as I am. But that is probably because it’s obvious that once again, I am the teacher’s pet. And for whatever reason, my husband is the real life version of my niece’s Grumpy Boy.
“That’s it,” Snags, ahem, Mr. Scott, says, “I am flipping your card.”
“For what?” My husband asks, incredulous. “I didn’t do anything!”
“Well, now you have to go to the principal’s office for back talking me. Actually, you’re expelled,” says Mr. Scott. “Leave. Leave now,” he insists as he points the way.
And then Mr. Scott sits down next to me and says very quietly, “Belle, you are being very good today. Thank you for being such a good listener.” And I just smile and sit there. That’s all I have to do. It’s the easiest game in the world, just sitting. The only game that might be better is dead fish, where you lie on the floor and remain as still as possible. That’s great because you get to lay down, and if I’m lucky and lie still long enough, someone is bound to fall asleep. And naps are good for everyone.
A minute later Mr. Scott is calling my husband back to school. His expulsion is over. His card is flipped back to green. He gets another chance.
The good will doesn’t last long, however. Once Mr. Scott starts reading the lunch menu and we place our orders, my husband is in trouble yet again. Even though Mr. Scott says we are in night school (because we are tired children who like to sleep during the day), we still have lunch (because, naturally, we are asleep when real lunch time would roll around). I choose fried steak and macaroni and cheese from the menu because the sardine sandwich on white bread makes me gag just thinking about it. My husband chooses the steak too, but that gets him in trouble.
“You can’t order the same food as Belle,” Mr. Scott says.
“Why not?” My husband asks, beginning to sound defensive because he knows where this is going.
“Because, I talked to your parents and they said you do this all the time. They asked me not to let you do that so you have to order something else.”
And sure enough, my husband is expelled again.