On an ordinary Friday afternoon in early November last year, my two youngest boys, just home from school and charged for the weekend, burst into the kitchen from the back door. As they shed their jackets and backpacks, I heard Robby bragging to Luke: “I get to do anything I want at school.”
Luke pitched him a doubtful look.
“Wait a minute!” I interrupted. “Jackets and backpacks do not belong on the floor.” I tried to sound loving yet threatening. Their eyes focused on me momentarily, as if hanging up jackets and backpacks was a foreign concept. But their cognitive awareness kicked in and they dutifully hung up the offending items.
“Do the other kids get to do whatever they want, too?” Luke wanted to know.
“No, they have to do their work.”
“You mean you don’t have to do any work?” Luke was incredulous.
“No-o-o, I do, I just do it all really fast and then I do whatever I want the rest of the day.”
This was all sounding rather odd, so I threw in a question of my own. “Do you go to a different classroom to do your work?” I was secretly hoping he’d been inducted into the gifted and talented program.
“Yeah, I do it in the principal’s office.” His brother had lost interest and was at the kitchen counter dragging a knife full of chunky peanut butter across a slice of soft white bread. Robby was at his elbow, ready to have his turn with the peanut butter.
But I still had questions. “Does anyone else do this or is it just you?”
“Cody does too, because I have to help him with his work. That’s why I hurry and do my work really fast—so I can help Cody. I was definitely puzzled now. It was Robby’s turn with the peanut butter. He worked less carefully; I watched as the bread became torn and lumpy with peanut butter.
“Why didn’t your teacher tell me you were doing this?” But Robby was clearly impatient with me now. I could see he preferred his sandwich over continuing the conversation.
“I don’t know,” he answered, “Maybe she forgot.” Without a glance backward he slipped outside to enjoy one of the last golden autumn days of the year. I was left alone to consider the details of his interesting story. I thought about calling his teacher, but then remembered that next week was parent-teacher conference, so I decided to wait till then.
Gone were the golden days of autumn when parent-teacher conference day arrived. The sky was gray and cloudy; a blustery north wind whipped my hair as I ran from my car to the school building. As I entered and walked down the hall, the pleasant smells of paper and pencils and new textbooks and glue mingled in my nose, bringing back memories of my school days. The teacher noticed me and signaled that it was my turn. I smiled as the teacher went over Robby’s academic progress so far. Finally I related Robby’s story from the week before. “Well …”, she replied, stifling some laughter, “the part where he helps Cody with his work is true. Except it isn’t every day, once a week maybe, and he doesn’t leave the classroom to do it.” Then we shared a laugh. What kids won’t do for attention!
Later, back at home, I found Robby in his room creating a one-of-a-kind Lego masterpiece. “Hey Robby,” I began and waited for him to show interest. He looked up slowly, clearly bored with anything I might have to say. “What do you think your teacher said when I asked her about you going to the principal’s office with Cody and doing whatever you want the rest of the day?”
An embarrassed blush crept into Robby’s cheeks. He wasn’t looking at me anymore. Smiling smugly, I said nothing more. I didn’t have to.