First Day of Boot Camp…er, Kindergarten, that is.

My little boy starts Kindergarten tomorrow, which is odd since he can’t possibly be old enough for this.  Regardless, we attended the “Meet the Teacher” event last week and everything went pretty well.  Hud found his seat, met his new table-mate and located his cubby hole while I unloaded 58lbs of required school supplies and filled out enough paperwork to rival a mortgage.  (One page of this paperwork included a section where I was to list the color, species and name of any household pets.  I like to think the fact that I didn’t list a purple unicorn named Agamemnon is proof that I’m maturing.)  On the way out, I was given a copy of the student handbook, which I promptly tossed in our “pile of stuff we may or may not look at later” when we got home.  After all, it’s elementary school and while I attended Kindergarten during the Carter administration, I was pretty sure I knew the basic rules.

Well, a couple of days later, I decided to skim the book and make sure there wasn’t some sort of “gotcha” form that I needed to sign and return to the school.  It was then I discovered things had changed a bit in the last 35 years.  For instance, in the section labeled ” Student Behavior”, I found this:

“Students will act in a respectful manner toward all teachers, school personnel and volunteers.”

Absolutely…I agree completely.   Next:

“Signs of disrespect include sighing and facial expressions, such as eye-rolling.  Students who exhibit any of these behaviors will sent to the principal’s office for a written disciplinary report.  Three written reports will result in the student’s suspension and/or expulsion from the school.”

If sighing and eye-rolling were felonies, Hudson would be in solitary confinement with a baseball and a glove or mowing ditches with a Southern chain gang.  And he comes by it naturally, as I was an eye-rolling and sighing savant as a kid.  I’m probably not the greatest role model for those particular personality quirks today, either.  <cue the 80’s era “I learned it from watching you!” public service announcement>

Now, I’m not condoning this behavior or saying it should go without correction and/or some sort of punishment.  I realize it’s disrespectful.  But these are 5 year old kids!  If students risk expulsion for three eye-rolls, the Class of 2026 may not make it to middle school.  It’s been a relatively quiet Sunday here at the house and I’ve heard enough heavy sighs to disown the boy if we applied those rules at home.

Hopefully, Hud’s teacher will be reasonable and I won’t be shopping for military schools by the end of the week.  I’d hate for him to bear the stigma of a being labeled an incorrigible sighing eye-roller.  That never looks good on a college application.

Square Peg in a Round Hole

Being the only SAHD in a small, ultra-conservative town means I often get treated quite a bit differently than most other dads around here and some people simply don’t know how to relate to me at all.  When men around here get together, the primary subjects of conversation are hunting, fishing, football, or farming.  Now, I grew up on a farm and I spent my childhood doing all four of those things.  But since we moved here from Dallas five years ago, most people assume I’m just a liberal city boy who knows nothing about those topics.  I can tell it makes some of them very uncomfortable.

A few fathers that I’ve met have said they envy me being able to stay home and raise my kids, but most have said they just don’t have the patience to do what I do.  I was surprised at the number of moms who have been quite negative about our household arrangement.    But there are a few moms who have been very supportive.

One of my favorite stories about this subject comes from an experience I had at a local grocery store shortly after we moved to Crockett.  Hudson was about 18 months old and I took him with me to buy a few things for dinner.  When I had everything we needed, I got in line behind an elderly couple and started putting some of our groceries on the conveyor belt.  The man in front of us noticed Hudson and the following exchange took place:

Man:  “So, you’re babysitting today, huh?”

Me: “Not really.  I stay home with him everyday.”

Man:  “Oh?  You don’t work?”

Before I could speak, the man’s wife, a tiny little lady, turned around, fixed her angry eyes on him and spoke with voice that belied her small stature.

Her:  “John Paul Johnson!*  I can’t believe you just said that!  Do you think I wasn’t working when I raised our boys?  Do you think your momma wasn’t working when she took care of you and your brothers?  How dare you say something like that!

At this point, the whole scene reminded me of an old Western movie where the villain enters the saloon, the piano player stops and all the patrons turn to look at the door.  Everyone stopped moving…customers, cashiers, bag-boys, vendors.  The manager was about 20 feet away and I could tell he was trying to decide if he should say something or just keep his mouth shut and avoid her wrath.  A few seconds later, it was obvious he decided that discretion was the better part of valor.

The woman was still ranting at the top of her lungs when I raised my hand and tried to calm her down.

Me:  “Ma’am, it’s okay.  I know what he meant. I’m not offended.”

Her:  “No, it is NOT okay and I AM offended!  I’m offended and I’m MAD!” <turns back to husband>  “Now, you apologize to that young man and come meet me in the car!” <storms out of the store like only an angry Southern lady can>

The store slowly came back to life as she stomped through the door and the man turned back to me.

Him:  “I’m sorry about that.”

Me:  “Don’t be.  I understand what you were trying to say.  I didn’t mean to get you in trouble.”

Him:  “I haven’t seen her that mad since I quit drinkin’.”

He paid for the groceries and very slowly made his way outside.  Then I heard a chuckle behind me and another elderly gentleman put his hand on my shoulder.

Him:  “I sure hope you enjoy peace and quiet, son.   Once word of this gets out, there won’t be a man in Houston county brave enough to say hello to you.”

Fortunately, he was mistaken and men do say hello to me once in a while.  Most of them still don’t know what to say when I tell them I’m a stay-at-home dad, but that’s fine.

*When a Southern woman addresses a man by his full name, you know an ass-chewin’ is about to commence.