The Year My Parents Were My Playmates
Drop the mic, kid. It’s time for in-person learning. I’m not allowed to walk my fifth-grader to school.
I ask him, “Do your friends think you have your own place? Do they not know you have a mother?”
“Mom!” He grinds the words through his teeth.
His resistance to being a baby tracks though. When I was a fifth-grader, I started getting invited to boy-girl parties. I was a woman. I would have denied my mother’s existence to anyone who spotted her. “Who her?” I would have laughed. “Some crazy lady who feeds me and makes up arbitrary rules. Not sure who she is. The government, maybe?”
At the boy-girl parties, we played spin the bottle. I sat out because as I told them, “I’m dating someone.” It was viable. I was new. I had mystery. What fifth grader didn’t have a secret lover? I could get away with that kind of shit because I was new and had a weekend dad. I was out of town enough to claim a mysterious secret identity.
I didn’t know these people. The people at the boy-girl parties had been going to school together since kindergarten. Why they invited me into their lord of the flies mixer was anyone’s guess. I would essentially be kissing a stranger. They would essentially be kissing a relative. Oh wait, maybe that’s why they invited me. Fresh meat. Blech.
But I digress. I’m just trying to get in my fifth-grade state of mind.
My fifth grader didn’t even want me to drop him at the park, where he was meeting a friend to walk to school with. The street near us is busy, so I insisted on crossing with him.
Once we crossed, he started running. He ran slowly because his backpack is essentially a portable classroom. The kids have to bring everything they need back and forth. Due to the bag’s weight, he slow-ran so I managed to snap a picture of his back. It wasn’t as cute as the Kindergarten first day of school picture, when he held a handmade DAY ONE sign in front of him, but it would do.
One factor, about the Pandemic school year, is what age your children were when the COVID anvil landed. What developmental age was truncated for your child? Instead of boy-girl parties, my fifth-grader is playing video games and laughing at his parents’ jokes.
He has an in-depth, even encyclopedic knowledge of our humor at this point. He’s gathered enough data about us to write a short novel called, “The Year My Parents were My Playmates.”
This is the table of contents.
A. Characteristics of the dad joke
- Intentionally unfunny, requires audience response.
- Pun and physical comedy dependent.
- Cringey and creates a desire to physically hide from the joke.
B. Characteristics of the mom joke
- Laughs at her own jokes, audience unnecessary.
- Ends in her hysteria, sometimes tears.
- Punchline often lost in hysteria.
Needless to say, I’m glad my son is going back. No child should write a book about the kinds of jokes their parents tell. It’s funny, but it’s tragic. One day, he’ll bring it into his therapist's office.
On the way to school, the fifth-grade girls are holding their mother's hands and singing aloud. I join the mothers and their daughters, who I know, and walk with them. It’s been a year since my son went to school and I want to make sure he arrives. I’m okay with being a stalker.
I remember the day I picked him up and told my son school was over. It was thirty-one weeks ago. He was so excited. All of the kids were. They made jokey songs about Corona Virus on TikTok. The blush of that rose faded fast.
Thirty-one weeks later, he walked home with some friends, actual human children. Not kids with acronym names on video games, or YouTubers, or TikTokers. Human children. He was giddy.
“How was your day?” I asked.
“It feels like ten hours in person.”
“Ten good hours or ten bad hours?” I asked.
“It’s really nice not working alone all day.”
When I was a fifth-grader, four people sat at our table. If you looked into the classroom, we looked like magnets. We went to parties where we could fake seeing someone else from another town, so we wouldn’t have to kiss anyone. Life was good. Life was normal.
This year has been good for me and my husband, as far as practicing out our jokes on a fifth-grader. What fifth-grade parent, or any parent, in the history of time, had such a captive audience? But it’s time to end the grownup show.
It’s time to let the captive audience go to school.