Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Back To School IV - Meet the Parents

This is the fourth post of the Back-To-School series.

Part I, part II, part III

My son K9 is, generally, very wise for his age. However, even the most wise people sometimes do really asinine things. So, last winter, when a friend offered K9 and another boy ten dollars so he could remain in their rap band, K9 took the money. He bought snacks for all three of them, and brought the rest home for safekeeping.

Here’s how they got to that point. I don’t know if it’s by error or design, but every year during placement, K9 is separated from his best friends, and put in a class full of kids that he barely knows. So, every year, he has to find himself new best friends. Last year, it ended up being two boys, which, in the best tradition of our city, I’ll call Billy and Joey. All three were smart kids and good students. Pretty soon, they were also constantly in trouble for talking and passing notes in class.

Billy’s family was into rap and hip-hop, so little Billy introduced it to his friends. Both got very excited, and decided to become rappers when they grew up. The three formed a rap band. Billy and K9 each wrote a few songs. I remember one of K9’s creations. He left it on the living room table, so I had no choice but to pick it up and take a look. It was called “Life’s a Bitch”. Generally speaking, I tend to agree, but, coming from a nine-year-old, it was kind of… um, interesting.

Anyway, it seemed like little Joey could not get the hang of rapping. Maybe it was because he did not have enough background. Billy’s family had lived in the inner city for a few years. K9 is, well, an immigrant kid, and lived in a poor, semi-bad neighborhood for one whole year (he was a toddler then, but that, I guess, was irrelevant to Billy and Joey). Whereas Joey’s parents were born and raised in the same city they now live in, and went to the same school. He tried writing songs, but they did not come out so well. On that unfortunate day, he was showing K9 and Billy a new song he’d written. They did not like it, and told Joey that maybe he wasn’t meant to be a rapper, and that they were cutting him from the band. Poor Joey was devastated. He begged and he pleaded, but they patiently explained that they were still his friends; he just did not have the rapping skills. It would have ended there, but, that morning, Joey’s Mom had the misfortune to give him a ten-dollar bill. You already know the rest.

Meanwhile, I was at work, putting in another one of my 60-hour weeks. It was the year end, everyone was struggling to make plan, and, on top of that, we were in the middle of a major software release that had to be done by the end of the year. On that day, I had installed the changes over at one of our biggest plants. Sure enough, when faced with the high volume, the software started blowing up. It only took me a few hours to find the spot that was causing it to crash; fix it; and redeploy the changes to nine PCs halfway across the country. And then I stuck around for another hour, to make sure that my fix really worked. By the time I left, the plant’s team leader was a happy man; I was extremely proud of myself; and it was 8:30 PM on a December evening.

I got home at nine, deadly tired, and headed straight for the shower. K9 stopped me in my tracks.

“Mom, there’s something I need to tell you.”

“Tired. Must shower. Tell it to me later.”

“Mom, this is very important.”

Dang. I get out of the shower. Throw on a robe. Come into K9’s room. There’s eight dollars and some change lying on his desk. And K9 tells me the whole story. Except that, by then, there was more to it.

Turned out, little Joey came home from school and asked his Mom to give him lunch money for the next day. Mom, reasonably enough, inquired about the $10 she had given him in the morning. And heard Joey’s side of the story. If you were Joey’s Mom, what would you do? Here’s what she did.

She got on the phone, called our house, and asked to speak to K9. My parents, bless their hearts, promptly put K9 on. Joey’s Mom then proceeded to tell K9 to: a) return the money, and b) stay away from her son in the future, because he (K9) was bad influence. Poor K9 was scared out of his mind.

Keep in mind, I was exhausted, tired, stressed out, and had just got home from work. When I heard this story, I saw red. I grabbed a ten-dollar bill, looked Joey’s address up in the directory, threw on some sweatpants and a T-shirt, and drove straight to their house. I was going to tell Joey’s Mom all I thought about her call. Where does an adult get an idea to call somebody else’s kid and speak to the kid in that tone? That’s not how it’s done.

So I walk up the driveway and ring the doorbell. Joey’s Mom opens the door and she is five months pregnant. There goes my plan. I cannot yell at a pregnant woman. So I handed her the ten bucks and was treated to a long lecture about how horrible my son was.

“You’ve got to understand – before Joey met your son, he was a different person. Now Joey’s Dad and I, we don’t recognize our own child! He’s getting in trouble at school! He never used to before. And this music he listens to! Rap?! It’s horrible! Do you agree with me that it is horrible? And your son has taught our Joey to listen to rap! Why, our Joey never listened to rap until K9 came along!”

It is very hard to carry on this kind of conversation when you’re tired and confused.

“I’m confused myself,” I tell her. “K9 didn’t even know about rap music before he started 3rd grade. And he never used to get in trouble, either. I’ll be honest with you, I have no idea where this all came from. Trust me, my son is a good kid. I’ve seen some bad kids, and he is not a bad kid.”

Yeah, like she’ll trust me.

As far as rap goes, I really had no idea that Billy and his family were the culprits. Otherwise, I would’ve kept quiet on the subject. I almost set them up when I said K9 hadn’t known about rap before. Fortunately, Joey’s Mom had already made up my mind that my son was responsible for all her troubles, WWII, and the global warming, and she wasn’t really listening to what I was saying. She continued with her scheduled speech.

“Eminem! How can they listen to that? Did you even listen to his songs? My husband and I sat down and listened to two of his songs, and they are horrible! He uses the F-word, and the S-word. I don’t know about you, but we don’t allow that kind of crap in our house.”

I kept quiet. I have mixed feelings about Eminem myself. I mean, the man obviously has the talent, but how long can you keep bitching about your mother and ex-wife? I have never before seen a guy cleaning out his closet for six years straight. Just shut the dang closet – it’s clean already! - and move on to, I don’t know, mowing the lawn or something.

K9 admires him, though. Eminem is his hero. I can’t trash Eminem in front of K9. He gets mad.

Joey’s mom went on.

“And I said to my son, why would you listen to this? Why don’t you listen to something good instead, like Backstreet Boys?”

Backstreet Boys. The kings of the dreck that is pop music. With an inhuman effort, I managed to keep a straight face.

“Have you heard of Backstreet Boys?”

I am a foreigner, remember. I speak with an accent; therefore, I'm ignorant.

“Sure,” I admitted. “They’re good.”

“See? Why can’t they listen to that?”

And so on, and so on… for thirty minutes… and throughout the entire speech, she keeps asking me to tell K9 to keep away from her son from now on. Well, I assured her, I will most definitely tell him! My request, when I got home, went something like this:

“K9, I am afraid to death of Joey’s parents and I don’t want to ever talk to them again. Can you please stay away from Joey, and then maybe they won’t call this house again? By the way, how did you feel when Joey’s mom talked to you?”

K9 goes:

“Mom, have you ever frozen with terror? That’s how I felt.”

But, of course, kids cannot stay away from each other too long, especially since both K9 and Joey are basically nice kids. So, by spring, they started hanging out together again.

One evening in March, K9 was at his swimming practice, and I was home. A phone rings. I pick it up, and it’s a male voice asking for K9. I was sure it was his basketball coach.

“He’s not home, can I take a message?”

“Yes, this is Mr. Joey’s Dad, and I wanted to talk to K9 about my son.”

Have you ever felt like you’re a kettle, and you have just reached the boiling point? That’s what I felt like.

I just could not believe that they would try to pull that same thing again. What is wrong with these people?

In my nicest computer-support voice, I asked Mr. Joey’s Dad:

“Can I ask you for a favor?”


“I’ve been thinking here, and I think it probably isn’t a good idea for you and Joey’s Mom to call my son directly, because when you do that, you intimidate him, so could you please not do it anymore in the future? And, whenever you want to talk, you can always talk to me.”

So Mr. Joey’s Dad told me that Joey had been getting quiet rooms again because of my son, and asked if K9 could make sure that Joey didn’t talk to him in class anymore.

So I passed the message on.

With a few comments of my own.

Sorry, I just could not resist.

Coming up next: my favorite quotes from I12 on the subject of school. His posts are not as long-winded as mine, but there will be some strong language.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:29 AM

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