I am being forced to quit my job as a volunteer at the junior high school, but it's not my fault. I had been told that I could accomplish two things by working one morning a week in the main office: I could relieve the busy secretaries, and -- here was the important part -- I could get to know my son's teachers as they came in and out.
I could, as the volunteer coordinator put it, "take the initiative in establishing a parent-teacher communication leading to a friendly discussion of your child."
Not a bad idea. I agreed; I went; I discussed. But I did not communicate. How could I? The child the teachers talked about is not the same child who comes home to me (or, more precisely, to my refrigerator) each night.
There is a boy by the same name who attends Mr. Franklin's science class. That boy, Mr. Franklin enthused to me, "has a clear grasp of scientific principles. He understands the relationship between cause and effect in even complex experiments."
The boy at my house has never understood that fermentation under the kitchen sink is the direct result of his forgetting to take out the garbage -- again.
The Spanish teacher tells me that the boy by the same name is doing excellent work in advanced conversational Spanish. Good for him. The boy at my house is unable to answer simple questions in English. When I ask, "When was the last time you made your bed?" or, "Why are your soccer cleats in the middle of the dining-room table?" he looks at me as if I were speaking a foreign language.
Mr. Smith in PE says that the boy with the same name has the coordination of a child three years older. Not true of the boy at my house who cannot carry two dishes from the table to the sink without dropping one.
The history teacher confides that this same-name person has a soft time of it in her class because he can so easily memorize numerous important dates. My son can't remember to come home for dinner, even though it is served same time, same place every day.
The music teacher is pleased that Mr. Same-Name has such a fine ear that he can detect one errant clarinet in his section of 15. This can't be the same boy who is deaf to my multipitched hollers for help when a full grocery bag is coming apart in my arms.
The English teacher tells me I am raising a budding author; the imagination he shows in creative writing is a joy. I do not inform Mrs. White that the boy I am raising as my son has never shown any more skill than the following: :Dear Aunt Flora, thank you for the gloves. They are warm. Sorry this is six months late."
Even the guidance counselor has praise for this mysterious perfect pupil. Seems the saintly Mr. Same-Name singlehandedly stopped a fight that had erupted when one boy found another ransacking his locker. The peacemaker made a calm, but eloquent plea about not resorting to violence over material things.
I did not mar the counselor's euphoria by telling him that my son has threatened to permanently reduce his sister's height by six inches if she so much as steps into the sanctity of his room.
If I am confused by all this, the teachers certainly must be. I am sure that when they chat in the teachers' lounge, they ponder aloud as to how such a boy could have such a strange mother. "Have you noticed," I can imagine one saying, "that she looks utterly bewildered when you mention her son, and can only mumble in reply?"
I can see them nodding in agreement. All except for the drama teacher.
"I don't know about that," she must be saying. "When I told her I thought her son was probably the finest student actor I'd seen in years, the woman almost shouted 'I couldn't agree more!'"