Yes, yes, we know we’re cutting it a bit fine, but better late than never! Here’s our list of
The Top Ten Things We Learned in 2005
10. Teachers laugh more than engineers. The day Marjie started teaching her sixth graders poetry, the boys all whined, “Why do we have to learn poetry?” Figuring that they weren’t going to go for how poetry expresses the essence of human experience, Marjie tried, “So a girl will know how much you care about her.” One boy asked, “Can’t I just take her to a basketball game?” After Marjie recovered, the girls in class concurred that basketball does not send a clear message. Then, she tried quoting The Dead Poet’s Society, “The only reason to write poetry is to woo women.” Another boy huffed, “I’m not writing any poems to any girls.” Marjie replied, “When you lose your girl to a boy that does write poetry, you’re going to wish you had paid attention in this class.” But she doubled over laughing when the littlest boy politely raised his hand, “If the only reason to write poetry is to woo women, shouldn’t this unit be optional?”
9. Sixth graders have no concept of volume. A boy dragged in early one Monday, “Oh, Ms. DeWilde, I’m so tired! There was a big birthday party yesterday. There were twenty-one of us, and it got kind of loud.” Marjie asked what had happened. “Well,” he replied, “we were all talking and wouldn’t stop. His mom is really mad at us.” A couple years of experience has made Marjie suspicious, “Talking… or yelling?” And with his reply, he defined one of the central problems of teaching sixth grade “Talking, yelling, it’s all the same thing, isn’t it?”
8. Kids let you get away with exactly nothing. David is a good sport and gets up with the girls on Saturdays so Marjie can make up for lost sleep. But apparently, he’s not always in the best mood. One morning during girl talk, the girls reported, “Daddy won’t take his timeouts!” What does he get timeouts for? “We can’t say the words.” When does he use these words? “Sometimes in the morning when you’re sleeping and sometimes when he’s driving. We can’t make him take his timeouts, but you can!” Thanks, for the vote of confidence, girls, but in some areas even Mommy’s powers are limited.
7. Kids can get you in all sorts of trouble. It was hot at Disneyland so we gave three-year-old Anna some leeway when she made a trip to the motel ice machines. But Grandma Barbara should have looked around before asking, “What are you doing running around without a shirt on?” because the lady in the bikini top stalked off with an offended “What’s it to you?”
6. Sometimes you measure growth in weird ways. Yes, we draw lines on the closet door, and we keep outgrown outfits. But a major sign of growing up is… nose wiping. We have been through all of the stages: wiping endless rivers of green mucous, begging them to hold their blow until the tissue is actually under their nose, tackling their wildly waving heads while the snot spreads through our fingers and their hair. We recall it all without a shred of fondness. We knew our youngest had graduated, however, when Anna said, “Grandma, will you get this booger for me? I can’t get a grip on it.”
5. Before launching into an explanation of why two girl Barbie’s might want to get married, remember that Hailey doesn’t have any boy dolls. Enough said.
4. McDonald’s can work miracles. Marjie was exhausted. David was away, and Anna would not sleep. In the wee hours, Marjie, after all these years, resorted to bribes. “Anna, if you go to sleep all by yourself for the rest of the night, Mommy will take you to McDonald’s tomorrow.” It worked! To earn the next trip, Anna had to put herself to sleep and Hailey had to get herself ready for bed for a week. Now both are routine without the rewards. We know McDonald’s is often vilified, but every night we get to bed on time, we wonder if a corporation can be canonized.
3. Kids are different. Over the years, when Hailey put on a growth spurt, Marjie would say, “That’s it. We have to stop feeding you.” Hailey would collapse into tears or shout, “Parents can’t do that!” It was no fun, so Marjie stopped. This year, when Anna shot up overnight, Marjie tried it again. Anna replied with aplomb, “Dat okay. I make my own food.”
2. Some things should not be shared… no matter how long you’ve been married. David asked if he could borrow a sewing machine. All these years and Marjie still hasn’t caught on to those innocuous questions. She came home a few days later to find David surrounded by sailcloth, attacking her machine with a screwdriver. She didn’t know which to respond to first, the news that David’s next project was a sailboat or the standard male response to a faulty tool. She decided to rescue her machine by pointing out that no screwdriver was going to adjust for the fact that he had it threaded wrong. Marjie’s mom always said there were two things you never share, your toothbrush and your sewing machine. Marjie has decided it’s okay to share her toothbrush.
1. If you’re going to keep a diary, it helps to be able to spell. Hailey has wanted a locking diary for some time. We haven’t been able to find one, so we finally solved it by putting a blank book in a locking desk. The fact that we have to operate the key doesn’t seem to bother her at all. She got right to work on her first entry. “Mom, how do you spell ‘miracle’? How do you spell ‘baby’? Does this look right?” She had written, “I am a miracle baby.” It’s true, sweetheart, you are. And we’re glad you put such wonderful thoughts in your very private diary.
We hope your holidays are full of wonderful thoughts, and that if you have to share your toothbrush, it’s with someone truly special. Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year!
David, Marjie, Hailey, Anna, Bentley & Harley