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Go Choice

In thinking about a title I like to make it short and concise. I don’t always make that happen. Sometimes its longer than I like and doesn’t even have anything to do with what I’m writing about. For this little jaunt with my literary wrecking ball I wanted the title to be Pro Choice. The problem is that my story had almost nothing to do with talking about abortion. Wait, I think it’s safe to say that it has nothing to do with talking about abortion. There’s a light-hearted and playful little topic that always gives everyone a chuckle. No, I wanted to talk about going back to school and how it reminded me of the fact that living in a city we have so many choices for schools. And, see, good and apolitical reader, I am pro choices. Who is not pro choice(s). I guess I could have named the whole thing “Pro Choices”, but someone would have gotten mad. Even now, as you’re reading this, some might be thinking “is he going to pull some political number on me” while others might be thinking, “All right, he’s going to pull some political number.” Well, I’m sorry to disappoint anyone. I’m probably just like most of the other people writing about their little sojourns into the world – I’m of the kind that doesn’t like to disappoint anyone. So, I’m sorry to disappoint if this recounting of recent events doesn’t weigh in on a big issue like abortion.

Recently my daughter and I were planning on watching the last shuttle into space be launched, until at the last-minute the launch had to be aborted. My daughter was very upset – not so much because she didn’t get to see the shuttle launch but more because I woke her up very early in the morning and wouldn’t let her play with her Barbies as we awaited the launch. I had “wasted her time.” Strong words from the eight year old who takes forty-five minute baths while playing with little plastic people. Just then her brother Hoyt (the 4-year-old meat-eater) came into the room to hear our conversation.  I explained to her that the mission had to be aborted for the safety of all those involved. The weather wasn’t right and it could have been very dangerous for the men and women aboard the shuttle. She rolled her eyes and went on to do whatever it is that 8 year olds do. Hoyt had a few follow-up questions.

Sometimes it’s a bit difficult talking to a 4-year-old because English is still not really the first language. As a parent you get to know what they are saying, but it’s just from being exposed to the language. It’s like any foreign language – there are rules. The rules are not 100% consistent, but close enough. For example, we know that he may skip “s” at the beginning and endings of words. To him the word “sprinkler” becomes “pinkler”. The problem with his foreign language is that it’s cute, so if it were up to his mother he’d be talking like that until he’s 32. To be honest, it’s really not worth trying to correct everything because we all know that he’ll eventually get it (fingers crossed). But, I think about taking a cruise and  being a ship wrecked and he’s the only one to survive. There he’ll be, out there on that desert island telling all the monkeys about the mechanical devices that they’ll never know called “pinklers”. Sometimes Cynthia might even get a little irritated with someone for not understanding what he (or the first child at that age) said. I have to remind her that he really does not do a great job of talking yet – you know, because of the 4 thing.

So, inquisitive Hoyt wanted to know all about the aborted launch and if it was safe to go to space and who’s driving the rocket and when will they be coming back and if they’ll get lava on the moon. I made a personal note to get him one of those 1940 fedoras with the “PRESS” tag sticking out of above the brim. I try to be patient and answer all his questions, but at the end of the day I remember he’s 4 and I haven’t seen him write a damn thing down that I’ve said. After my unsuccessful viewing of the launching and now my discussion of the space program in general, I have a happy feeling come over me. In a few short months school will be starting and I will not be home schooling my kids. I will still have to answer Hoyt’s follow-up questions for the next year. But this year he’ll be going to daycare part-time. Someone else will be able to teach him things. My hat’s off to the people who home school, but I could never do it. My wife’s a teacher and she could never do it. One of the best reasons, that I believe may fit into the non selfish category, is that our household leans towards a right brained situation. I’m afraid if we taught our kids, the left side of their brain would atrophy, shrivel and fall out of their ear (left ear). “Oh, honey, whose brain is this?” Then we’d have to pick it up and push it back in and quickly talk math to it, so it would expand enough not to fall out – again. That’s no way to live.

When the first day of school comes around our family is excited. Well, come to think of it, Cynthia’s a teacher, so she’s not super excited to go back to work, Lila’s a bit shy, and Hoyt and Iris don’t really know what’s going on. I guess I’m excited. Lila is now in third grade. For many with older or grown kids, it’s all a distant memory that you could recall if forced. Most dads will not remember that their children went to grammar school once it’s over. High school can be more shocking and there may be more things a dad can register – like driving a car. Those of you just starting out can’t imagine your little hooligan getting on a bus all by himself or going to a place away from you all day. I can remember, because it’s still fresh, all the thinking that went into choosing a school. I’m pro choices (see – I’m taking back the phrase). I couldn’t believe that we could choose from several neighborhood schools and even more outside of our neighborhood if we wanted to drive her. I know for a fact that my parents never thought about what school I would go to. We lived in the middle of nowhere (actually, to the left of the middle of nowhere) and there was always just one school choice. Where ever that bus that drove by our house was going – that’s where we were going.

We’re very happy with the school we chose for Lila. You see, that’s generally how it works with schools. No matter what you chose, you’ve got everything riding on this and you’re always happy until you move them out and choose another school. When you can choose a school it’s like going to Vegas with your last thousand dollars and putting it all on one bet. Wait, no that’s not right. It’s like going to Vegas and getting into a black jack game with your last thousand dollars. The difference between the two for you non gamblers is that you can’t lose everything at the black jack table at once. But, nonetheless, it’s a gamble. You can read all about counting cards and when to hold and when to double down and other winning strategies, but you’re at the mercy of the house. You decide if you want to make the principal or the superintendent of schools the dealer. I bet you’ll make the right call.

On the way to school on the first day Lila was asking me questions about why she goes to this school and other friends go to other schools. Hoyt stares out the window thinking about meat. One friend goes here, why don’t I go there. I say where you go is free to us. Another friend goes here, why don’t I go there. I say because this is closer to us. One friend goes here, why don’t I go there. I say because that’s their home and you know how daddy doesn’t want you to be at home during the day. She adds that she would like to be at their home. I tell her that I will have to talk with her mother about this. It’s not totally unacceptable for her to get home schooled at another home. I tell her as long as it’s free, it’s a good choice and I’m pro that. Just then we pull up to the school.

I say, “Ok, let’s go, go, go.” And open the doors and get Lila and Hoyt out. We decide to walk Lila into school on her first day and help carry the many supplies. We’re like Louis and Clark minus the canoes. I think we even have some beads for the teacher. As we get to the classroom Lila puts her coat in her locker like an old pro and Hoyt walks into the class and surveys the tables. Lila is the first student and introduces herself to the teacher, Mrs. Wawawa (in Charlie Brown grown up talk to disguise her real name), then goes over to put her notebooks in her desk. I follow Lila to her desk, then I see Hoyt approach the teacher.

The teacher engages Hoyt, like any respectable teacher would. She asks him what he wants to be when he grows up. Hoyt thinks for a minute then unleashes information from the last month right up to a few minutes ago. He says, “I wanna be a a(s)tranaut. (S)ometime(s) you gotta have the abort (mis)sion for the (s)aftey of the men and woman. (s)Pecially when the weather’s bad. We go, go, go cause we’re pro choice(s) and it’s free at (s)omeone else’s house.” I just looked at the teacher and pretended I didn’t understand a word he said. “I think he wants to be an astronaut.” Then I start thinking about what school we’re going to send him to and if it’s worth continuing to work on his speech skills.

Sadly Yours,

Jason Spafford

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