Klingon As A Second Language

20121118-144303.jpg“I don’t think Mrs. H likes Klingon.”

This is the first thing my son shared with me after arriving home from school earlier this week. And with an intro like that, I wondered what was coming.

“She asked us if any of us knew a second language, and I raised my hand. When she called on me and asked me what other language I knew, I told her I’d taught myself Klingon.”

I wasn’t sure which question to ask: when did you teach yourself Klingon or what did she say? I opted for the latter.

“She didn’t believe me, even after I told her there was an online academy and several websites where you could learn it. So she told me to prove it by saying something in Klingon,” my son said.

Note to teachers: unless you plan to lose control of the class, it is likely not a good plan to ask a kid to start speaking in Klingon … for any reason.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I told her HIja’, tlhIngan Hol vIjatlh jIH.” His words pushed out in rough, guttural grunts. “It means I speak Klingon.”

“What happened after that?” I asked, dreading the answer and whether it might be leading towards a visit with the principal.

“Well, the rest of the class all died laughing and started trying to say things in Klingon. And then once everyone quieted down, she just told me it was nothing to be proud of.”

Oh, she is wrong there. My kid taught himself a language online instead of vegging out. He ought to be really proud of that. And, who knows. If we ever meet any Klingons, it might come in very handy.

Sorting Out A Stomach Ache

A phone call from the school at 11 AM always raises alarms for a mother, and I am no exception. I am one of those scraping-you-off-the-sidewalk kind of moms, no thanks in part to a very vivid imagination.

So when the phone rang this morning, my first fear was that my twelve-year-old was in the throes of a terrible asthma attack and had left his inhaler at home. I pictured him blue and gasping for breath, and I mentally started berating myself for not making sure his inhaler was in his back pack before he left for school. What kind of mother was I, anyway, that haranguing him about talking to his math teacher was more important than making sure he was prepared for every medical emergency?

All of this happened in the few seconds before I answered the call. It’s amazing how fast tragedies unfold in our mind within the vacuum of any actual facts or details. Instead of a panicked nurse on the other end of the line, I heard my son’s voice.


“Are you ok?” I asked, relieved that at least he could still speak.

“Uh, yeah. I’m in the nurses’ office, though.”

“Yes, I could tell that by my caller ID,” I tell him. “What’s wrong?”

“I have a stomach ache,” he says. And then he continues, “although I’m not sure what’s causing it. That’s why I called you. I’m thinking it could be a virus, and that would mean I was exposing other kids to it where they would get sick. On the other hand, it could be from anxiety or stress. And it might be from boredom since all we’re doing in science is grading papers.”

I didn’t say anything for a moment, still recovering from panicked-tragedy mode. Finally I managed an “OK?” followed by a pause.

“I was hoping you could help me sort out what might be causing it, because if it is just boredom or stress, I need to deal with it and stay in class,” he explained.

And so I helped him sort it out with a few questions:
Was he running a fever? No.
Was he feeling like he might throw up? No.
Was his chest tight? No.
Did it feel hard to breathe? No.

And after the series of questions, he came to his own conclusion. “You know, I think it is likely boredom. I didn’t know for sure, but I think that’s it. I’ll go back to class now.”

The line went dead, and I stood there holding the phone. I wondered what the nurse thought about it all.

Then again, I’m not even sure yet what I think about it all.

I hate it when I’m wrong

I hate it when I’m wrong, but I especially hate when that means my husband is right.

If you’ve been married longer than ten minutes, I’m sure you can appreciate that sentiment. After twenty years of marriage, we’ve stopped keeping a tally mark, but that’s because we needed to clean out the garage, and all our old tally sheets were just taking up room. (Actually, it’s because I don’t want to even look at the real possibility that I might not be winning.)
This is how it usually goes in our house: I think I’m right. I know I’m right. I try to win a debate with my husband. I get mad. We quit debating. I pretend I’m still right.
This played out like an old dance during the first week the kids were back in school.
My third grader came home with massive amounts of work to do each night. Whatever he didn’t finish in class was sent home right alongside his regularly scheduled homework. And each night the poor little guy would start work right after snack and sit in the same spot in the kitchen until suppertime. After supper he would continue to work until it was time for bed.
The mommy in me was at a breaking point. He needed rescued, and who better to rescue than the same person to kissed his scraped knees and tucked him into bed every night?
I informed my husband of my plan. I was careful to use words like, “I’m going to” and “I plan to”. Not once did I slip in a phrase that sounded anywhere near, “what do you think” or “do you agree”. So, I’m not sure where things fell off course, but somewhere between the sentence, “I’m going to have a talk with his teacher” and “This has to stop; it’s ridiculous” my husband stopped me dead in my tracks with one comment.
“Leave it alone,” he said.
I had a lot of not-so-nice thoughts but managed to keep most of them from escaping my wagging tongue. He was mean. Cruel. How could he not care about his own kid? How could he be so dense as to think this was fair, reasonable for a poor 8-year-old kid to suffer through no playing, no fun every night – how could he be that unfeeling?

“Leave it alone?” I asked.

“Let him figure it out,” he said. “Remember all that research you did about dyslexia and about all those people with it? Do you really think that Charles Schwab, Patrick Dempsey or Steven Spielberg are so successful because of dyslexia? Or do you think it’s because there weren’t such things as accommodations and special plans when they went to school?”

“Well,” I said. It wasn’t much of an argument.

“Leave it alone and see if he can figure out that if he doesn’t work harder at school he doesn’t have fun at home. Let him solve this on his own. Don’t take that away from him.”

I still didn’t agree with him, but I knew this was going in his side of the tally sheet. Fine, we’ll do it his way and prove he’s wrong.

Over the next few weeks, the unfinished work that came home dwindled to almost nothing. And yesterday, there was a check next to everything on his schedule. Not one solitary piece of unfinished work in the back pack.

My husband won this argument. And this one I am more than happy to leave on his side of the tally sheet. Sometimes the best thing of all is to lose an argument.