12. Nothing to report.

I mentioned yesterday that my son had given us two day’s notice about the clothes he needed for his Mother’s Day concert, and it seemed to strike a chord. I only have one son, so I can’t say whether this sort of thing is universal, but judging from some of the comments I got, I suspect it might be.

I also suspect that I might be harbouring the world champion. Here’s how the conversation goes when I pick up my daughter;

Me: “Hello”

D: “Hello”

Me: “How are you?”

D: “Good”

Me: “What did you get up to today?”

D: “I went to play in the sandpit with Katie because she was my friend today but Nolwazi said that we couldn’t use her spade so we weren’t friends with her and Ogama bumped his head on the swing and had to go to the office to get an ice-lolly. And theeen….

Me: “Breathe”

D: “…. my teacher said that we must bring some things for the theme table so that our class can win the prize of the year and I ate all of my sandwiches and drank all of my juice so teacher said I could take the dishes back to the kitchen so I got a sausage. And theeen….

Me: “Breathe”

I've taken the liberty of making a few notes. Shall we begin?

I’ve taken the liberty of making a few notes. Shall we begin?

And so on. And the boy?

Me: “Hello.”

B: “Hello.”

Me “How are you?”

B: “Fine.”

Me: “What did you get up to today?”

B: “Nothing.”

C'mon guys! We need to find some kind of story or we'll never make it onto the news.

C’mon guys! We need to find some kind of story or we’ll never make it onto the news.

We have had this same conversation since his first day at school. With no variations. This can have some rather surprising outcomes. A couple of years ago, his teacher greeted me with a warm smile as I dropped him off one morning. “We were all so proud of your son yesterday! He was such a little star.” I smiled back, apparently a little too hesitantly, because she added “At the concert?”

It turns out that the previous day, my son had been loaded into the school bus and driven to the school around the block for a dress rehearsal of his upcoming concert. He had been dressed up as the scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz”, in full makeup. He had walked out on stage in front of several hundred older children he had never met before, where he had received a standing ovation for his solo. Which seems like rather a lot to cover with the word “Nothing.”

Same old same old.

Same old same old.

Parenting is an arms race. Slowly but surely, we have worked out how to piece together what is going on in his life. An offhand comment here, a slipped detail there, and we could just about keep up. There was balance.

And then, a few weeks ago, I upset that balance. I got into the car and said casually “So why were you in so much trouble today?” I have no idea why I said it. I was just fishing. And I caught a big one;

He looked at me with wide-eyed shock. “I thought we were just playing. Yukuzi was chasing us and throwing his shoes at us, but he doesn’t speak English so I thought it was a game. The grade three teachers said they were very disappointed, and sent us to see Mrs Goodchild, who gave us a demerit for bullying. How did you know?” I scowled and shook my head.

Which was very hard to do. Because I had pulled ahead in the arms race. I was winning. Ha! I still have absolutely no idea what the little bugger actually did. I have no doubt he meant no harm, and if it had been bad, the school would have called. But he thought I knew. That I had some source of inside info. And that was enough.

I should know better. No one wins an arms race. Things just escalate. The boy slipped into a thoughtful silence. Life went on as normal. And then, last Wednesday, he unveiled his new weapon. Misinformation. He needed, he said, something from the house that was “older than twenty”. He had to show it to the class. And give a one minute speech about it. On Friday.

We leapt into action. We chose a silver antique. We printed out silver hallmarks and stuck them up on display boards. We filled his head with stories of pirates and conquistadors. And we sent him off on Friday, bright eyed and ready to take on the world.

Fifteen minutes later, we got a call from the school. Where, they wanted to know, was our son’s permission slip for the school day-trip to the bird park? I give up.

This will not end well.

This will not end well.

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26 thoughts on “12. Nothing to report.

  1. […] suck. The numbers of views doesn’t change according to subject or category. I’ve written about my children, art, Bob Marley and naked Winston Churchill. My most successful post was about Land […]

  2. Interesting and valuable information,

  3. terrytrekker says:

    Very interesting post and you hit the nail on the head. We sometimes forget our own boyhood days! 🙂

  4. soul3ck says:

    Hi, thanks for liking my post, Smacking Kids! I knew boys were more of the one-word reply kind, but I had no idea it starts early. 🙂 Great post.

  5. Lyn says:

    Priceless!! 🙂

  6. Kevin says:

    Good post! Our older son was the one that always was getting into trouble and never talking about his day. We always found out the bad stuff from other parents. The good news is the other two kids are talkers and won’t stop talking. I’m often accused of “not paying attention” to their detailed stories. Sure, I’m guilty but at least they are talking.

  7. Your daughter may yet morph. I was the master of the prattle yet never managed to share the important stuff.

    Another fantastic post.

  8. I have one of each and this says it perfectly. While my daughter gives me a running commentary all the way home, Aidan is monosyllabic. But I now have a new trick that he finds fun (he’s only 5). He’s given me code names for his days (based on various animals – rhino, tiger and elephant – go figure…). If it’s elephant I know to be extra sympathetic because his day’s been a disaster. We’ve been doing the same thing for months now, but the novelty has yet to wear off… Clearly I’ll do anything to get him to talk:)

  9. narf77 says:

    Yeah…that’s pretty bad…my son had a habit of coming home and saying “I need a costume for tomorrow”…every…single…time he needed one which seemed to be on a weekly basis. You would have thought that I would assemble a few “costumes” in advance but that wouldn’t work because they were always incredibly specific “I need a model of the empire state building with people falling out of it and I need to be Godzilla in the middle of the building”…”sorry?!!!”. Have you ever seen what happens to a woman at 3.30am with a large packing box, a sharpie, a pair of scissors, 25 Ken and Barbie dolls in various states of undress attempting to assemble a “Godzilla” costume out of ceral boxes, school tracksuits and then hitting rock bottom at 4am and realising that she has NO IDEA how to make the head? Forget tears… blind panic…egg cartons sir…use egg cartons for Mr Godzilla’s head. Just a bit of sanity from one parent to the next…I have created my greatest moments at 3am. I finalised a “Jake the Peg” costume that my daughter ended up being dragged from class to class because her costume was “so novel”…I made myself a fuzzy dice when I was 8 months pregnant…needs must Mr 23 Thorns and there is NOTHING as fearsome as an 8 months pregnant, type A, perfectionist mother at 3am trying to sew (when she can’t sew) a morticia Adams costume and an Igor costume (complete with glow in the dark flies) because her children “NEED IT FOR TOMORROW”…been there…done that…triumphed the rear end out of it and now I can sit back and enjoy other people’s children from a distance…cheers for sharing your trials and tribulations…I might just read them again with another cup of tea… don’t you just adore schadenfreude? 😉

  10. Jocelyn Hers says:

    I hate to tell you, it doesn’t improve. Later it comes with the Look -” You’re too old to understand even if I told you”.

  11. ioniamartin says:

    excellent photo choices lol especially the bottom one

  12. Kim Harms says:

    I’ve got two sons who are oh so similar to yours, and one who actually sits on the couch and sings songs (his own tune and lyrics) about his day. Not sure where that one came from but he is incredibly entertaining. 😉

  13. 🙂
    It’s not just boys who are reluctant to talk about the school day. My daughter, from the age of about 6 or 7 always answered ‘Fine’ and ‘Nothing’ to the questions ‘How was school today?’ and ‘What did you do at school today?’. On the plus side, I don’t think we missed any letters, or important events, so I suppose I should be happy about that. 😉

  14. Buzzwordz says:

    I must admit that 4 children later (including 8 year old twins who are simultaneously dealing with stomach flu as I type this) I find this post to be utterly accurate in its account! Maybe one day your can write about the homework that is magically taken between the school and home. “But I put it in my bag, someone must have taken it!”

  15. Lotusdrifter says:

    My son is a first year journ student at Rhodes and we are now having these conversations over the phone… “So… how are things going, Dan?”
    “Fine”
    “Lectures going alright?”
    “Ja”
    “Assignments?”
    “Fine”

    And so it goes…

    I know that I will not get information this way, but I can’t help myself. The only way to find out what is going on is to prepare a slap-up meal and invite all his favourite people (my much cooler brother, for example). Then Dan-the-Raconteur emerges and dominates with amusing stories from his everyday life. I nod and smile and pretend that it isn’t all a complete surprise to me.

  16. Okay. Multiply that times six. And subtract one, for the one child who sometimes gave us a heads up.

    Fantastic reporting sir.

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