One was kindly sent to me by HarperCollins, and the other I bought out of the back of Phoebe's car. (I would have bought it from the bookstore, but they had only two copies remaining. Both of those were in the graphic novels section. They were in excellent company there, but I felt at least one of them should be shelved in biography/memoir, so I carried one over and put it there. Faced out. Blocking Sarah Palin's book. Oh, like you wouldn't have done the same.)
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I met Phoebe last week after an event she'd done at a bookstore not far from here. I didn't make it to her reading, but I did drive out to have coffee with her the next morning. I recognized her instantly. I could describe her and try to tell you exactly how clever, down-to-earth, and warm she is, or I could simply tell you that she looks just like her picture:
(Apply as needed. For external use only.)
If I had known there was a Phoebe Potts in the world when I was going through infertility treatment, I would have...I don't know, magically made her my best friend somehow. Told her all my troubles. Written her a long series of non-creepy absolutely-not-stalky fan letters. Slipped a note in her locker reading, "Do you like me? Circle one: YES NO" and then prayed she wouldn't write in, "Maybe." Or at least bought her book. Because she gets it. And friends like her are rare, and I wish I had just one of her locally. I hope you do.
Kindergarten is rough going. Charlie is engaged and excited, but also, I think, heavily stressed by the whole experience; his behavior, both at school and at home, has deteriorated since the beginning of the year. He's more prone to outbursts when he's angry, and I think he's quicker to anger. He seems incapable of sitting still, unless he's deeply engrossed in a book; although I'm not sure the behavior is new, it hasn't been particularly relevant until now. He's quite good at using words to discuss his feelings -- ohhhhhh, is he ever -- but too often he does it loudly, in a voice so weighted with emotion that it disrupts the class. And so on.
Yesterday's parent/teacher conference was kind of awful, in fact. A lot of that is all me: I get defensive, not on Charlie's behalf but on my own. I hate being spoken to as if I, too, were in kindergarten. (I understand the importance of making sure parents understand the language used in class with the children, but do I really need to see my kid's relative progress classified as "WOW," "almost there," or "practicing"? Educators, take note: I can handle "needs improvement.")
Not all of it is me, though. Throw off the euphemistic trappings and the situation is the same: Charlie is having a hard time with kindergarten. Or kindergarten is having a hard time with him. Whichever -- I doubt the distinction matters, when the upshot is that he comes home two or three times a week having had to go to the Pillow Space, or sit in the Think-About-It chair, or Not Having Met His Personal Goal. (In my day, it was called...the Punishment Stool. Think-About-That, kindergarten teachers of today.) We've known this has been going on, of course; Charlie readily talks about it when he gets home from school. But I hadn't had a sense of where he falls on the continuum, of whether an experienced teacher would classify his behavior as Slightly Short of Perfect or merely Ever-So-Slightly. So I asked.
I don't know, I thought his teacher would say, "Well, it's normal for kids his age to have trouble adjusting; it's taking him longer than some, but they all have things to work on." I thought she might be able to give us a general declaration, not a specific architectural evaluation of every crystalline arm of our special snowflake. I wanted to hear that he's right on track. Something bland and reassuring: Your kid is a scosh below average, just like every other kid. Whatever else I thought she might say, I didn't think she'd make a note on her clipboard, nod, and say, "That's a good question. That's something we can bring up with the school behavioral therapist."
And, "The standard classroom seems to be meeting his needs for now."
...For now. ...Huh.
So that's where we are now. I could go into this long wanky fugue about respecting our children's privacy online and being anxious about what I can share here beyond Charlie's kids-say-the-darnedest-es, and, oh! am I betraying my son by discussing him in a way that might someday upset him? Or I could just square my shoulders and say that this is what's been going on, this is what I need to talk about right now, without turning it into the kind of anguished hand-wringing that gives mommyblogging simultaneously more importance than it deserves, and less.
So that is what's been going on, and that's what I needed to say.
To cheer myself up a bit, this. We were going somewhere in the car last week and Ben was losing his two-year-old mind. Trying to referee from the front while driving, I asked him what was wrong. "Charlie looking at my water bottle," he howled.
"Charlie's not looking at your water bottle," I said, attempting to soothe him while rolling my eyes and thinking, Oh, for God's sake, kid, no one gives a shit about your Kleen Kanteen.
So then from the back seat Charlie said, in a conversational tone, "Actually, I was looking at it."
Oh, hey, thanks, George Washington, for those stirring words about the goddamn cherry tree. And what came out of my mouth then was the stupidest sentence I have ever yet uttered: "Charlie, stop looking at your brother's water bottle."
And then Charlie scowled and muttered, Ben cried some more at his brother's remorseless perfidy, I drove the car into an embankment in a spasm of exasperation, and we all learned the sacred importance of telling the truth at all times, no matter what, the end.