Farewell, Kindergarten!

Today is Leo’s last day in Kindergarten.

Just looking at that sentence makes me fall into grief.

Yesterday, in celebration for their hard work as Kindergarteners, the parents were invited for a Recitation and Ice Cream Social. Now, at Leo’s school, the concept of a recitation is nothing new. It’s part of their School of Oratory curriculum, and they learn how to speak in front of a group, how to communicate effectively, how to make eye-contact and etc. But this was the first time they spoke in front of parents, so it was a big deal.

What’s more: they were reciting poems that they themselves had written. As part of their unit on insects, each kid learned everything they could about a bug, and wrote a poem about their bug. Leo chose spiders. “Why spiders,” I asked. “Because spiders are awesome,” he said.

To get ready to write his poem, he wanted to look at every youtube video ever made that had a spider in it. Like this one:

“I like to know how they move,” he said. “Also how gross they are.”

I arrived a little early with my assigned contribution (caramel syrup; on sale), and was greeted with the requisite Kindergarteney hugs (Look! It’s Leo’s mom! I love Leo’s mom!). I always get hugs from Leo’s class. This is partially because they think I’m funny, but it’s mostly because they love Leo. Because he is funny.

There was a little podium in the front of the room, set up on a small wooden dais. One by one, the Kindergarteners walked up, took the podium, recited their poems, and bowed.

Then, it was Leo’s turn. Leo the class clown. Leo the constant performer. Leo who was sent to the principal’s office during his first week as a Kindergartener. That Leo. He stood up, took the stage, paused to gaze at the audience and made a silly face. The other Kindergarteners thought it was hilarious. He took the podium and cleared his throat.

The Awesomest Spider
By Leo Barnhill

The Spider will leap to its prey
it will quietly creep.
The Spider is big.
The Spider dances a jig.

The Kindergarteners erupted with cheers. It was, as far as they were concerned, the best poem that had ever been written, or would ever be written. Leo bowed, then raised his hands in a two-fisted Victory sign. The crowd went wild.

And then, as his piece de resistance, he lifted his shirt, exposed his bare belly and chest, and rolled his stomach muscles like a belly dancer.

He was escorted out of the room.

Later that day, as he played at the playground and I sat on the bench, decompressing (did I wish for a gin and tonic? Or two? Why yes, ladies and gentlemen. Yes I did.), fifteen different Kindergarteners came up to me and gave me a hug.

“Thank you for putting Leo in my class,” one kid said.

“Leo is my favorite friend,” another kid said.

And last, the kid who gave me no less than four hugs that afternoon, motioned for me to lean down so she could tell me a secret. “Leo,” she whispered, “is my hero.”

“Mine too,” I whispered back, as my son, oblivious to our conversation, scooped up handful after handful of playground woodchips, and shoved them in his pants.

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And GOD gaveth her a SON to teacheth her HUMILITY

In honor of the recent anniversary of the King James Bible, I’ve been thinking a lot about admonishments – from clergy, from doctors, from teachers, from little old neighbor ladies, from televangelists, from uptight uncles, and from moms. This mom, specifically.

Because holy hell, do I ever admonish.

Just to illustrate this point, here is a list of the admonishments from today given by me (THE MOTHER) to Leo (THE SON).

1. Do NOT punch your sister in the face.

2. Do NOT punch your sister in the butt.

3. Do NOT punch your dog in the butt.

4. Do NOT rip the picture out of that book.

5. I do not care if it would look good on your wall.

6. Do NOT bury my cell phone in the garden.

7. Tell me where my cell phone is THIS MINUTE.

8. No, you may NOT play video games.

9. No, not even if you give me a hundred bucks.

10. No, I will NOT give you a hundred bucks.

11. Do NOT dump that can of paint on the floor.

12. No I will NOT help you look up instructions on how to build a bomb.

13. No you may NOT feed the toothpaste to the dog.

14. Tell me where your dog is THIS MINUTE.

15. No you may NOT stick that screwdriver into that outlet.

16. Do NOT turn on that stove. I MEAN IT!

And so forth.

And that was just today. And he was at school for six hours of today.

I remember once having a discussion in a Theology class about biblical God-as-Father metaphors as opposed to God-as-Mother. Mothers, the thinking goes, nurture. Fathers oversee. Mothers forgive; fathers admonish.

But that’s not been my experience. I admonish. I admonish a lot. I think admonishment is a form of nurturing. We admonish when we need to stop danger, foolishness or downright stupidity right in its tracks. We admonish when we need to give our children a vigorous and no-nonsense view into the consequences of the very, very poor choice they are about to make.

Admonishments are nurturing on steroids. They are the things we yell, wail, yodel and screech to keep our children from hurling themselves over the goddamn cliff.

Is this an argument then, for the adoption of the God-as-Mother metaphor as opposed to God-as-Father? If three-quarters of the bible is a list of don’t’s, can’t’s, don’t-even-think-about-it’s, and OH-FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-PETE-WHAT-DID-YOU-JUST-DO, then I am well on my way to godishness. Because, in the end, as much as we’d all prefer the whole big, fluffy, amorphous marshmallow in the sky, the fact is that much of the world’s population is built like Leo, and actually needs an admonishment or two along the way. So maybe we all need to channel our inner nosy-neighbors, our inner strict teachers, and our inner royally pissed off mothers and start admonishing the hell out of anyone and everyone who needs it.

I think we all need to start admonishing. Today. Tomorrow. Every day.

For example:

1. No you may NOT publish racist pseudo-science studies. (That means YOU, Psychology Today!)

2. No you may NOT negate the fourth amendment. (Supreme Court, I’m giving you the stink-eye)

3. No you may NOT write bigotry into our state’s constitution. (That’s right, Minnesota. You’re on my list.)

You know? I actually feel better. Admonishing is great! Who would you people like to admonish?