I saw the sign as we scurried in the front door of the elementary school: “Tuesday March 2 Dress As Your Favorite Dr. Seuss Character.” It was Tuesday, March 2. Zachary was not dressed as his favorite Dr. Seuss character. Or his second favorite Dr. Seuss character. Or any Dr. Seuss character whatsoever.
The notice had gone home as an email through Virtual Backpack, but since no one had told us about Virtual Backpack when we moved here, I had no idea such a service existed. The notice had been on the door Monday morning, but my husband had dropped Zach at school. Perhaps J had been so focused on his upcoming business trip that he hadn’t noticed. Perhaps someone had held the door for him. I’ll never know.
All I know is that Zachary showed up without a costume. And every other kid had one.
As I walked him into his room, I didn’t say anything, hoping he wouldn’t notice. Which was moronic, because Zachary always notices. He does not like being the odd man out, and when he is, we all know whose fault it is. No matter that Daddy had missed the sign. This was Mommy’s fault.
I peeked into the room and saw him, storm clouds over his face as he watched Things 1 and 2 comparing their costumes with a very cute Grinch.
See, he’d made a Cat in the Hat headdress at the Y just the day before, but it was at home. And he was at school. Without it.
“I’ll go home and get your hat,” I told him. “I’ll be back in ten minutes.” Much as I do not condone running home and getting the shit your kids forget to bring to school, this one was not his fault.
What I did not know and would not find out till that afternoon was that there is some subtle teasing going on. It’s not bullying (yet), but these kids are just learning about jockeying for social position. One of the kids who is emerging as an alpha turned to Zach and told him, “You’re dressed as Nothing.”
Hell, that would send a couple of rain clouds over my face, too.
Zachary is tiny, the youngest in the class, new to town, and hyper-aware of social groupings. That could be a very, very ugly little recipe. Thus far, he’s defending himself alright, and his response to the kid with the snide comment was to stick out his tongue. Sounds like a proportionate response to me. Nonetheless, he was awfully relieved to see me ten minutes later, hat in hand.
My son is a big fan of Fitting In.
He has started to make friends with some very nice children, and by the end of the morning, he was much happier. He ran out of the school, face alight, and said, “Mommy, it’s Dr. Seuss’s birthday and we’re supposed to read twenty books and you can read them to us or we can read them ourselves and some kids are making posters for a contest with your favorite Dr. Seuss book and you have to write ‘Dr. Seuss’ on it.” Who needs Virtual Backpack? I have Run-on Sentence Man.
Zachary likes academics. He likes challenges. The concrete nature of schoolwork takes his mind of the endlessly confusing labyrinth of social nuances that make no sense to the new kid in class. He’s starting to read, learning to measure, and coming home with interesting factoids about various endangered animals.
So, when we got home, he wanted to get started reading Dr. Seuss right away. Unfortunately, his mother had her priorities screwed up. “Dude, I can’t read to you right now. I have to give your sister and brother lunch.” Mothers are always saying stupid things like that.
I went into the kitchen and started pulling out the fixings for peanut butter and jelly. Lilah had her first peanut butter two weeks ago, and now she thinks I’m some sort of asshole for hiding the stuff for so long. She wants it every single day. I sliced bread, stirred peanut butter, spread jam, and five minutes later came out to the dining room holding a couple of sandwiches, much to the delight of the pair who were banging their fists on the table.
As I shoved the plates in front of my younger two, the racket died down, and I looked at Zachary. And, I’ll be damned if the child hadn’t walked over to the shelf, gotten down The Cat in the Hat, and read the first twelve pages.
Since we’ve not read that book in quite a long time, I knew he hadn’t just memorized it, especially as he halted to figure out some words. No, there was only one conclusion to draw: the child knows how to read, but he hadn’t seen fit to share that information with his parents. The ability to read was apparently some sort of big fucking secret, and he had no intention of spilling the beans. Until, of course, he had the proper motivation, in the form of a reading challenge.
In the last three days, I have read a total of twelve Dr. Seuss books, and Zachary has read a book each day. To himself. And, while it’s all well and good that he is developing cognitively, I must say there is a much, much larger benefit. When Zach is reading, he does not fight with his brother. For the length of the entire book. In fact, Benjamin sits next to him, listening to the story, completely fascinated by this bizarre ability to decipher stories from those weird little markings on the page.
Plus – and this goes without saying – the greatest benefit is that now Zachary can be responsible for reading the damned signs on the schoolhouse doors.