Goldenlicks, for lack of a better title

Today, I had my last elementary classes of the year, yay. It feels like a big accomplishment, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. (Mainly that 45 children is far too many for a foreign language class.)
We closed out the year by selecting and performing fairytale-type stories in groups. The children chose their own groups, and chose between one of five story adoptations, authored by yours truly of course. They practiced for a couple of lessons, and today was the performance (complete with simple props.)
I give you this background because I was surprised when a fight broke out in one of the groups over who would play Mama Bear from Goldilocks (whin co-worker kept referring to the play as Goldenlicks…) I mean, they could have chosen a play without gender specific roles (like The Three Billy Goats Gruff) or one I had done two versions of (The King’s/Queen’s New Clothes,) or they could have revised it to Papa Bear and Uncle Bear; it shouldn’t have been an issue.  But for whatever reason, these boys chose this particular play,  practiced it for a month, and starting crying over it TODAY.
Dealing with the boys and their fragile ego issues consumed me at the time, but now I’m more bothered by something else. 
What about all the girls in that class, who saw two boys literally come to blows and then dissolve into pouty tears for twenty minutes over having to play a fictional female role? This same role that they are born into.  Two teachers jumped in to talk to the boys, but what about the girls? What message does it send to them? Are we giving them any counter-messages to celebrate womanhood?

And what about me? Or you? We, who grew up at a time when people  threw around with abandon terms that equate being a woman with being fickle or silly or nonsensical or weak? How has that effected us? Are we damaged? Or has it, to the contrary, made us strong?

Somebody explain this….

Things have been really quiet on the blog lately. That’s what happens when real life gets busy, I guess.

I’ve started working more mornings now, three or even four, up from one or two last year. Then Holy moly Mary and Josephine somehow I ended up being PTA class rep AGAIN, this time for the fifth grade. As if there weren’t 25 other mothers (and 26 fathers) and an exponential number of grandparents who are better suited for this than me simply by virtue of being literate in Japanese. Or so I assume (granted HRH, judging by his tendency to eff up paperwork, is iffy.)

Of course none of these jobs are through the same organization. That would be too simple, too normal. What’s the fun in doing anything if it doesn’t make life more complicated? (That’s sarcasm, y’all, in case you were unsure. The only things I complicate on purpose are grammar structures.)

I leave at the same time as the children, or will be since one of my teaching gigs starts next month, two or three times a week. And-lo and behold- thus far those leaving-at-the-same-time mornings go much more smoothly than the other mornings.

What is up with that?

Thought having said it, and worse, written it down, I now need to knock on wood, cross my fingers, throw salt over my shoulder, and stick a needle in my eye. (Hope that covers it.)

In other news, both of the little shits boys who were aggravating Me First last year are in a different class. Hallelujah, praise the lord! His teacher is a hard ass, which is exactly what he needed. They had shuji (Japanese calligraphy) class the other day, and the teacher got onto him about not having cleaned his calligraphy set since the last class.

Me First wisely chose not to divulge the particular details of his shuji set cleaning habits (as in he has never once actually cleaned it.)

As soon as he came home, he went right into the bathroom and started washing all the bits and bobbles. I was holding my breath, thinking there was going to be permanent shuji ink all over my g.d. bathroom, but who’dathunkit, I bought him washable ink last year. So cleaning up his cleaning up was not as traumatic as I was expecting.

Yay, me.

Me Too is coughing and spluttering, hopefully it’s getting better. Another reason I haven’t been writing much is because we’ve been on the sickness merry-go-round and who wants to read about that? Heaven forbid someone Google “asthma” and it lead them here. Bless your heart, I cannot be of any help there besides to commiserate. It sucks. Well, I guess actually it rasps and wheezes. I’ll leave the puns at that.

I need a good sign-off to write here at the bottom…. Ideas?

Panic

Yesterday, I went to pick the kids up from after care at school. (I had been in a PTA meeting all afternoon.)

And they told me Me Too wasn’t there.

Where to even start? I was horrified. I was mortified. I was livid.

I trust these people with my children. It seems to me the very least they could do was ensure the children were where they were supposed to be.

Me First and I ran home, and thank god she was there on the landing. The poor little lamb had been waiting there for almost TWO HOURS.

There just are no words. The whole thing was beyond awful.

The Obligatory Winter Vacation Homework Post

Winter vacation as a kid in the US involved a lot of staying up too late and eating too many sweets with people from the various churches my father pastored. He’d get lots of homemade sweets and, invariably, every year at least one giant tin of popcorn.

Winter vacation in Japan is… less vacationy. We have people over for Christmas (on which I let my kids stay home, rebel that I am.) We might go to one party at a friends’. But what really puts the damper on any fun one might have is homework.

It’s oppressive.

Not just because of the amount, which this year consists of 14 worksheets (2 per day,) reading, and caligraphy homework. It’s the fussiness of it all.

You just don’t do homework while lying on your bed, kicking your feet to the rhythms of New Kids on the Block while simultaneously admiring your new friendship bracelet. No, at the Hamakko house at least, it’s a big frickin’ production.

Today, Me First did his caligraphy homework with the PILs. He had three pieces of paper from school, with instructions to bring in the best one.

The in-laws start off by covering their table in newspaper (understandable,) then propping Me First up on several cushions until he is 3/4 inches higher than he was to start with. Then giving him a blanket. (?) After that, they made him practice several times before letting him use the paper he brought from school. Then coached him on approaching the blank paper with proper feeling. And some yelling about sitting up straight.

All in all, this particular fiasco cost an hour and a couple of tears.

And people wonder why I don’t get the Japanese relatives to help with homework…

Close Encounters

Perhaps if you’ve lived in a foreign country, or are a minority language speaker living in an Anglo one, you’ve had to deal with young people making fun of your language. It happens to us here in Japan all the freaking time, from the annoying kid in my daughter’s class who makes English-y sounds and waves his hands at me, to the gangsta-wannabe high school boys who yell “Sex!” when we walk by. Seriously, both kids were with me. Real tough guys, right.

I’m always at a loss as to how to deal with these encounters. I don’t want to turn the kids off English forever. They might be potential students and ca-ching at some point in the future, after all.

Today on the way home from the kids’ swimming lesson, we passed two innocent looking junior high school boys. Well, innocent as far as junior high school boys go, I guess. They had on ぴかぴか brand new gym uniforms, which was a dead give-away that they were seventh graders, first years here in Japan. Give those uniforms another month or so and they’ll be walking themselves into the laundry, I’m sure.

As we passed by on our bikes, Me First was singing at the top of his lungs, as is his cycling time habit. Me Too was singing as well, but a different song (of course.) I guess it was inevitable that we would face adolescent scorn.

They weren’t tough enough to say anything to my face; they almost never are. And these boys were only first years, so they didn’t know much English yet. As I drove by, one of them yelled, “I’mu hongoree!”

Well, dad-nab-it, I was hungry, too. I stopped my bike, turned around and said, “I’m hungry, too! What’s for dinner?”

To which the boys replied, and I quote:

!(◎_◎;)

Me First got a good laugh out of that, and then translated what I’d said to them. At this point Boy A started to feel brave and said, “I’m hungry MAX!”

I love how the first-year kids are so willing to experiment with English.

He’ll probably go to school tomorrow and brag about this encounter. In another two years, if he’s
like most of the other junior high kids I used to teach, they will have tested all of the enthusiasm out of him. What a shame, a waste MAX.

Now I just need to think of a good response to the “Sex!” thing.

It’s getting old.

Anticlimaxes, Twists, and Turns

Those of you who have been through something like this probably already know what happened this afternoon. Me First didn’t give the notebook to the teacher. He said he was worried that the other boys would get in trouble.

(~_~;)

That’s turning the other cheek and praying for your enemy all in one fell swoop, isn’t it? And this child has hardly ever set foot in a church. How did I do such a good job there? That’s children for you, isn’t it? We spend a good portion of our adult lives re-learning what comes to them naturally.

Anyway.

I had a talk with him, kind of similar to the cheating talk, actually, that when we let children get away with bullying behavior, they never learn that it is wrong. That leads to adult bullies, which leads to a)jail or b)a life without friends or love (I left out the other obvious result, c)a life of wealth and success unachievable by normal means.) We talked a little bit about why people become bullies, that they were bullied themselves or that they never learned aggressive behavior was wrong when they were small. Me Too very accurately pointed out a boy in her class who is on the verge of becoming one. Ouch. (She is right on, too.)

So, I think we had talked him into understanding why he had to tell the teacher.

He had a friend over this afternoon, and they spent a (weirdly) quiet afternoon playing with legos. Really, this kid needs to come over every day! I got so much work done while he was here. As soon as he left, Me Too awoke from her guest-induced lethargy and immediately destroyed the block creation they had been working on. Grrr. Luckily, I had dinner ready to distract them.

Then the phone rang.

I knew who it was before he announced himself. Not too many retirement age men call me. (Jiji prefers to have his wife call and yell at the phone over her shoulder.)

Apparently, someone else has notified the school on Me First’s behalf.

(I don’t know if it was Sparkly Mom or not.)

But, man, that has got things moving. Tomorrow, Me First’s teacher along with a couple of others are going to sit down with him and try to get to the bottom of exactly what is happening. The teacher came to me with the name of another child other than the usual suspects, so I suppose it will all come out. They want me to talk to him tonight and tell him that this will happen and that it’s okay to tell the truth.

It’s kind of easier for me this way, as now the school is in a 申し訳ない (apologetic) position to start with. I guess I need to keep on them to make sure the problem gets addressed properly.

Funny how that turned out.

Where’s the Devil?

We all know where the devil is, of course. In the details.

So what I have managed to get out of Me First in the past couple of days (and it hasn’t been easy) is this:

A) Three boys are kicking, punching, hitting him etc., when the teacher is not looking.

This may be hard to understand if you are in a country where kids are even remotely supervised, but kids here are left to their own devices a lot: break time between classes, when the class is moving to music class or English class, during lunch clean-up, etc.

B) Me First tried to tell the teacher on one occasion. His response was that he didn’t see what happened, he had the boys give their version of events (in front of each other) and apologize to each other. Me First didn’t tell me because he was made to feel that he was wrong (by apologizing.) After that he felt that the teacher wouldn’t listen. He is afraid the other boys will get him back if he tells.

I also have felt the teacher minimized my concerns on several occasions. (Does anyone else remember the ruler incident?)

C) Me First is not the only boy being hit or kicked, though he said he “gets it the most.”

D) At least one of the other boys is taunting him by calling him “gaikokujin” and “America-jin” in a mean way.

That last one is kind of the clincher for me. Hitting, kicking, stupid stuff like that? Boys do that shit. It isn’t nice to talk about, but they do. But the name calling and picking on someone who is “different” crosses another line, doesn’t it?

I heard this boy say this to Me First at the beginning of the year. (This kid has poor social skills, I think I think I mentioned before. Even 2nd graders should no better than to do stuff like that in front of the other kid’s mom, right?) Me First seemed to handle it well, explained calmly that he wasn’t actually “gaikokujin.” The other boy seemed to get bored and walked off. Me First didn’t get that the other boy was trying to be mean to him, so I let it slide. Perhaps I shouldn’t have.

Anyway, sorry to keep going round and round like this. I’m still trying to get my head around it, and steal myself against what I expect to be another minimizing reaction from the teacher. An absolute disgust tears through me when I think that this little boy, who I gave birth to and nursed and cuddled, have fretted over and laughed with, who has given me great joy and more than a few gray hairs, that other children think this boy is an object for their ridicule and abuse. And right now, just thinking about his teacher makes me feel sick to my stomach. He taught for 34 years. How many other children did he ignore?

But I’m being dramatic.

It doesn’t help matters that I feel like I’m being set up, again, to play the role of Hysterical Angry Foreign Woman, aka Kaya What’s-her-name and just about any other foreign woman on TV here. Even the “half-talent,” even the old ones, like Helen What’s-her-name who are over sixty and have never lived anywhere else, are presented that way.

Maybe I can work it in my favor.

(Sigh.)

Night, loves.

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