By Ann Ivins
An Open Letter to the Concerned Parent with Whom I Recently Had a Phone Conference
Dear Ms. Three Surnames Down the Marital Road from Your Childâ€™s Last Name,
Tonight, after downing two Cosmopolitans, I feel that itâ€™s time to abandon the pat answers and glib jargon of our earlier conversation. We are two adults who share responsibility for the growth and development of a human soul. Surely we can come to a meeting of minds and arrive at a plan of action which may give fifteen-year-old R_____ a better chance, both in school and in life. Here, then, are my honest answers to the pressing questions you posed.
â€œWhy is my son failing your class?â€
On the surface, the problem seems to be how he spends his time while in the classroom: attempting to sprawl on the floor; pratfalling out of desks; tapping his pencil, his foot, and his head on any available surface; whining audibly about his dislike of (fill in the blank); poking, grabbing, and needling any classmate who inadvertently wanders within his reach; asking to go to the bathroom; and announcing that he is about to urinate on the floor. If we look more closely, however, it becomes apparent that he is deeply angry with you and his third (or is it fourth?) â€œstepfather,â€ whose â€œhome businessâ€ apparently involves â€œclientsâ€ coming and going at all hours, and that much of his behavior is either a cry for help or a preliminary to stabbing both of you in your sleep.
â€œBut heâ€™s so smart. Why wonâ€™t he do anything?â€
The brain, like muscle, can atrophy through disuse. He is so accustomed to avoiding intellectual effort as a form of rebellion that he is rapidly losing the developmental progress he has made. The methamphetamine you ingested during pregnancy and, by the smell of his clothing, the atmosphere of marijuana smoke which pervades your lovely home may also have something to do with it.
â€œYou know heâ€™s got ADHD, right? Are you modifying for him?â€
Yes, the inch-high stack of paperwork on R________ makes it abundantly clear that, although no actual neurological tests have confirmed the diagnosis, the hack therapist your insurance will pay for has diagnosed him as ADHD. And frankly, no, I havenâ€™t made any special modifications for him, because regular freshman English is a no-brainer to begin with. He could excrete something from the lower end of his digestive tract in his sleep, smear it on a paper bag, and get credit for it. If you sign it, Iâ€™ll even count it twice.
â€œCan you hold on a minute?â€
Oh, sure. Hey, is that Maury I hear? Lucky for both of us I caught you during a commercial.
â€œOkay, Iâ€™m back. So is there any makeup work he can
Can you rewind the last fifteen years of his life? Ah. Then no.
â€œSo what CAN he do?â€
Well, he could have a sudden epiphany, realize that his future is in his own hands, and turn his life around in spite of you. He could straggle through the public school system until he turns sixteen, at which time you could, in a drug-induced fit of maudlin regret, sign his school release papers, absolve yourself of legal responsibility, and wait for him to run away.
Or he could stab both of you in your sleep.
Your Son’s Ninth Grade English Teacher
Categories: American Culture