My boys, three years apart, enjoyed the same second grade teacher. Actually, I enjoyed her very much myself. Mrs. J was a fantastic teacher who maintained a classroom balanced with fun and order. She was very creative when it came to assignments and projects, too.
Each year, during the week before Curriculum Night (the evening during which the parents were invited to visit the classroom and hear an overview of that year’s curriculum from the teachers), Mrs. J asked each student in her class to choose a parent to draw and describe. She told the kids to refrain from writing any names on the front of the papers, and on Curriculum Night we parents would walk into the classroom and try to identify which picture and description was created by our own child. It was a fun activity, but the raw, brutal honesty was occasionally shocking as we found pictures that had descriptions such as, “My mom has crazy hair.” or “My mom is fat.”. It was hard to reconcile that there was no malice whatsoever in these descriptions: the teacher asked the children, seven years old, to describe a parent, and that’s what they did.
When D was in Mrs. J’s class, we had a hard time picking his picture out. When we finally found it, we had a good laugh (and a sigh of relief, if I have to be honest in this post about honesty!). He drew a picture of me and part of the description read “My mom is a big nice lady.” So true: I was big to him, and I am nice. I’m also a lady. I loved that picture: in fact, I still have it in a box of his school papers, and we still use “she’s a big nice lady” in conversations, just to be nostalgic and funny.
When J was in Mrs. J’s class, we found his picture (also still here in the house, in a box of his school papers) immediately. He drew a picture of me (Two for two! Sorry, Jim!) flexing my bicep. His description read, in part, “My mom works at *insert name of health club here*. She is a strong whitey.” Still so true. He knew that I worked out regularly, and I did/do have white skin. Though the term “whitey” is typically known for being offensive, this was my then-seven year old, calling my skin tone as he saw it.
These days, my kids are still pretty honest about things. Jim and I love to sit at the dinner table and have long chats with them so we can get an idea of how they feel about certain issues, and I’m happy the boys know that even if they don’t agree with us on one thing or another, there can always be friendly debate and respect of each other’s opinions. When we’re having a conversation and I ask them if they like something, they aren’t shy about telling me no if they don’t, even if it’s the dinner I spent more than an hour preparing. The difference now from then is that as they have grown up, they have gained the ability to be tactful and well-spoken.
Of course, I still get a teenaged eye-roll or a chin drop/head shake combo every now and then, and one of those often says more than words can convey.