The Right Word

Connie was particularly tired when she came home from school on Friday. She had stayed up too late twice during the week, and it is, after all, the very end of the school year. For once, the Parent Imperfect didn’t turn to cleaning up the kitchen or finishing some work project as soon as they got into the house. Instead, he sat on the couch and she sat in the leather chair that the cat is gradually destroying.

Just then, a call came in from one of the PI’s many bosses, and he took it. C. immediately started to squirm in the seat, obviously unhappy that the PI had turned to the Blackberry. After two minutes of this discomfort, the PI ended the call and apologized. It took a couple of minutes for C. to pardon the indiscretion, but she eventually showed that she had forgiven him by crossing the run to sit on his lap.

She had a story that she needed to tell.

“You know, one of the things I don’t like about the Hernández–and I don’t know if this is the right word–is that it’s sexist.”

Her emphasis on the last word roused the PI from his near stupor.

“?Por que dices que es sexista tu escuela?

“What happened today, happens all the time. Every week we have to move the TV from one classroom to the other and every week #1 asks who wants to help. #1 always picks the boys. Today, two boys raised their hands and two girls raised their hands, and of course #1 picked the two boys. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t take it today.”

“I said, “Why do you always pick the boys?” But #1 wasn’t even listening. #2 heard me, but that didn’t help. #2 turned to me and said, “I don’t like to work. In my house, my husband does all the work.” I was like, “That’s because you are a lazy bum…I’m not like that.”

“?Tu dijistes eso?” I asked, fearing the answer.

“No, if I had said that, I’d be suspended so quickly. That’s what I thought, but I didn’t say it. When R came back into the class, I asked him why it was always the boys who helped move the TV. He said, “Because the boys are stronger.”

Replaying the scene was causing the return of Ms. C’s ire. She gritted her teeth as she said, “If we weren’t in school, I’d have grabbed him and said, “Do you wanna’ see who’s strong?” (She grabbed her father’s T-shirt at the sternum, as if to show him that she meant it). “I know I’m stronger than he is. I was in school, though, so all I said was. “That’s not true!””

“Yo creo que R es un buen muchacho. El sólo está aprendiendo lo que los adultos lo están enseñando. ?Están así todos los maestros en las dos salones?” asked the PI, now very engaged in the topic.

“No,” she answered. #1 and #2 are always like that, and #3 is, too. But #4 and #5 are really different. They always choose boys and girls to do everything. They try to show us that everybody can at least try, even if they can’t do it. If they were the ones that had to get the TV moved, I know that I’d have helped to do it sometimes.”

No sé porque no pueden ayudar a #1, #2 and #3 que ven las cosas de la misma manera, o por lo menos que no son así con los niños.”

The conversation drifted off in other directions. The PI did have to clean up the kitchen before Liz arrived and Ms. C. did have to practice some before her piano class. As the PI shoved dirty dishes into their pre-ordained spots in the dishwasher, he momentarily wished he’d been more insistent about making a change in C’s schooling. But even before he swept the crumbs off the counters, he had realized that C hadn’t just found the right word to describe a single school or teacher or parent, she’d given him a Father’s Day wish worth wishing. By the time Liz came in from her own Frustrating Friday, he was ready to tell the tale, without the “I told you so” edge…for the moment.


1 Comment

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One response to “The Right Word

  1. memo

    mejor que connie tuviera cada vez mas oportunidades de experimentar situaciones sociales en las cuales personas adultas se actuaban con mas conciencia. Pero por lo menos se da cuenta ella de la falta de conciencia y le frustra.

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