Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Some of the women who teach the rooster have known me a long time. One has known me through my FOUR -- count 'em -- last names. (Don't ask.) We have had lunches together, gone to inservices together, attended meetings together. I really like these women, and it feels awkward to know that I have the child who sends them home completely spent each day. On the other hand, I know that they care about the rooster in a way that they wouldn't -- couldn't -- without the connection I share with them.

Even though the classroom has a one-way viewing window, I don't hover much. I pass that window on my way to do legitimate stuff, and I don't always stop to look for the rooster inside. Of course I do sometimes. But usually I know what I will see -- 21 kids behaving, one rooster bouncing around like the pinball in the machine that just got a good flick. I'm not too masochistic - I rarely like to watch myself bleed.

When I see the teachers in the hall or lunch room, though, I often feel compelled to ask, "How is the day?"

Almost always, the answer is "bumpy." I can't tell you how many times I've considered the kindness of this word. It's so much more generous and descriptive than the word I use when people ask me how my days are with the kids. "Awful." "Impossible." "Long."

Today was bumpier, I think, because daddy drove the kids in, which usually never happens, but I had a breakfast meeting and needed to leave the house around 6:20 a.m. This, of course, played through my guilty-mother-mind when I'd crossed paths with a teacher by 10 and found out about his bumpy morning. But with bumpy, there are ups and downs, and the word itself has a playful, innocuous sound, and so, knowing that my only other choice meant worry and self-flagellation over something I could not have changed or done differently, I decided to let it go, and tell myself tomorrow would be another day.

After school, the daycare teacher we all adore let me know that the rooster is nearly out of his beloved snack -- grapes -- and we all know that could spell disaster for tomorrow. So, on the way home from the endless day, I took the kids with me to a health food store to buy more. The store is tiny, with carts to match, and both kids begged to sit in one of the single-seater mini carts -- a physical impossibility for me while navigating seven or eight tiny aisles alone. I encouraged, begged, tricked, urged, and prodded the rooster to walk, and I grabbed grapes and some gfcf snacks as quickly as I could, at last plopping him briefly in a cart at the end as we stood and contemplated the health food store's version of the impulse buy rack near the registers. From there, we encountered a darling 7-year-old who wanted to chat despite the rooster's failure to live up to her conversational expectations, a bizarre and surly customer who clearly resented our existence, and a cashier who left mid checkout for more than five minutes without so much as a word to us in order to take a phone call.

I thought about writing about our grocery store trip tonight, and I felt tempted to describe it as a long and awful trip for grapes, but why put anyone reading this through that? Really, we just had a bumpy time at the grocery store.

What I need is some good shock absorbers.

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