I can't figure out if there's something wrong with my children, or something wrong with me. As summer draws to a close, the Italian and Our Daughter are anxiously awaiting going back to school. The German? Maybe not so much, but he sure doesn't seem to be dreading it the way I used to.
Every school year starting with third grade was like some new classification of slow torture. Even the earlier years were marked by incidents that should have foreshadowed school was not for me.
In kindergarten I missed the class picture because, during the bus ride to school, my nose collided with the back of Tommy Harrison's head and bled for what seemed like hours. It hurt so badly, I honestly recall believing my nose had been knocked clean off.
In first grade I remember running across the school grounds, excited about bringing my so-called portable record player to class. I tripped and received a perfect groin shot from the 15-pound box. The next year, Toni Ann (you know who you are) threw Ajax in my eyes while we were put to manual labor scrubbing our scribblings off the desks.
By third grade, I had had enough. My unbelievably appropriately named third grade teacher, Mrs. Stern, drove any remaining desire to learn anything at all out of me. A long-lived desire to no longer be in the educational system blossomed that year and I divorced myself from the need to be educated.
There were glimmers of hope here and there. By the end of high school I had taken to writing funny little essays about silly topics to amuse my friends. In senior year I joined the humor magazine. Amazingly, I think I was even too dorky for the dorks who ran the humor magazine, and they used only a couple of the things I produced. It could be my writings weren't very well written or funny, but I'd rather keep the whole "I hated school/school hated me" theme going and instead believe they were jealous and chose to ostracize me and my work. It's easier that way.
Somehow, my children seem immune to the oppressive and soul-crushing torments of public education. They have each dealt with bullies, butt-loads of homework, and a few teachers with some really bad attitudes. I see them confronting the same dramas and problems I faced in my childhood but they aren't traumatized by them like I was.
The Italian WANTS to go back to school next week. He's excited about it! The German will admit to being ready to go back, too, if pressed to answer. Our Daughter also is eager to return to the halls of middle school, which for some reason can no longer be called junior high.
Junior high was the worst for me. I started seventh grade short and fat and finished it looking like a five-foot-ten skeleton. There were so many ways I didn't fit in that I ended up like an outcast from the Island of Misfit Toys in the cafeteria, in the classroom, and in the dreaded hallways. I wasn't a jock, a brain, a spoiled rich kid, or any of the other stereotypes John Hughes stocked detention with in "The Breakfast Club." My sole intent in junior high was to blend into the scenery and make it through alive.
So, to my way of thinking, my kids are sick. Wanting to go to school -- wanting summer to end because there's too much time on their hands and too little to keep them entertained -- makes them mentally defective. I have broken children.
At there ages, I used to dream up illnesses and hold the thermometer close to the bedside lamp so I could stay home from school. Do you think my kids are that rational? Oh, no.
Last year, both my sons received perfect attendance for the entire year. The only reason my daughter didn't get perfect attendance, as well, is because she was counted out for the day her dance troupe performed the Nutcracker for children on field trips from the local elementary schools. How can my children love school so much that during an entire academic year they never tried, not once, to play hooky?
I ask you, where have I failed them?
ⓒ 2010 Mark Feggeler