Column: Whatever you do, don’t ask her about school

By JASON RECKER
Herald Enterprise Editor

So far as I can ascertain, my daughter attends school.

She has, for instance, learned to read, which leads me to believe she has her own desk and everything. But for all I know, she learned to read by sitting in the snack aisle across the road at Kmart. The details of her life as a kindergarten student, at least those that she readily makes available to her parents, are scarce. Evidently, elementary school is like Las Vegas; what happens at Holy Family stays at Holy Family. I am convinced that her classroom is like “Fight Club”; the first rule of Room 10 is you don’t talk about Room 10.

Almost every day, I meet young Whitney eager to learn about the seven-plus hours she has spent independent of my care. It is a scavenger hunt stuck in neutral. I know I am not alone in this quest. Other parents have told me their children keep school day secrets, too. Our options — beat answers out of them or (gulp) trust them — are limited.

That does not prevent my repeated attempts to crack the safe.

For asking a simple question — “How was your day?” — I am greeted with a variety of simple answers. Rarely does any involve more than three syllables.

I don’t know. OK. Huh? Uh. Uhhhhhh. Quiet. Be quiet. Stop. Stop it. Leave me alone. You know.
In my house, “you know” is the universal reply to hundreds of questions each day. It implies, I guess, that the answer being sought is quite obvious. But I am not clear.

“No, Whitney, I don’t know. Though I was at one time enrolled in kindergarten, I did not attend the same school in which you currently attend classes nor was I educated by the same teacher from whom you now receive instruction. So, in fact, I have only a vague idea of what encompasses your day. So any elaboration would not only be appreciated but is required. So let’s try this again. ”˜How was your day?’”

“Just be quiet.”

It is said with such disdain, as if I’ve asked a teenage girl to tell a priest all the details of her first love.

I’d like to know what words she learned, what book she checked out of the library, if art class was fun. But hell, I’ll settle for the down-low about lunch.

“How was the cheese omelet?”

“Good.”

“You eat it all?”

“What?”

“The omelet. Did you eat it all?”

“OK.”

“What do you mean OK? I asked the question.”

“Do you have any gum?”

“Yes, sure. But for the love of God, answer the question. Did you eat the stinking omelet?”

“Just be quiet.”

We have been presented with direct evidence that she does actually attend class. For instance, she has a binder with her name on it. We have also received report cards and permission slips. Plus, my wife and I went to a parent-teacher conference once and saw a locker with our daughter’s name on it.

Sometimes, we are able to rupture the seal and we hear all about how St. Patrick was once a slave or that time when she asked to read to her sister’s preschool class. That’s circumstantial evidence, though. It’s possible she spends all day hiding in the lost and found.

It’s just so weird that from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. is now — and perhaps forever shall be — a chasm of unknown. We send children to day care but the unfamiliarity there is softened by the broad and common agenda: play, eat, nap. When you dump children at the front door of school, they need to get serious about important stuff. Math doesn’t just happen. Reading ain’t easy. Responsibility and maturity are, sooner or later, required. Sure, they get guidance, but it’s their job to absorb all possible knowledge. It breaks your heart and scares your pants off. So when I can’t even figure out if my kid ate the damn omelet, I’m a little indignant.

“So you can’t remember if you ate lunch or you just don’t care to tell me?”

“Stop.”

“Listen, if you aren’t learning anything at school, we can stop sending you. Because it costs money and we can just find you a job.”

“Stop it.”

“Then tell me about your day.”

“At recess, we took the chalk and drew a big bug on the parking lot.”

“Oh yeah? That sounds fun.”

“It was. Some boys helped.”

“Oh yeah? Boys. Really?”

“Yeah. Boys are fun.”

“You’re 6. Boys are gross. Stay away from them until further notice.”

“I am going to marry one.”

“Maybe some day. Way far away.”

“If we get married, we will hold hands.”

“Stop.”

“And we might kiss.”

“Stop it.”

“And he might put his arm around me.”

“We are not talking about school anymore. Forget I asked. Leave me alone.”

“Don’t you want to know about recess?”

“Just be quiet.”

Jason Recker is the enterprise editor at The Herald. He likes omelets. His email is jrecker@dcherald.com.




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