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How a Teacher Makes Me Mad at My Sons

I am losing my cool.

They are crying and making excuses. They are lying to my face, and I am shaking with so much anger that I am afraid I may shift out of existence—or perhaps have a heart attack. My money is on the latter.

I do not have a lot of buttons. I am a simple guy, and what you see is what you get. I trust to a fault and give more chances than I know I should. My buttons are few and hard to reach, but they are red and they are bright and they are flashing.

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My childhood was strict and light on leniency. When I was told to do something, I did it whether I liked it or not, and I did it right. Every deviation from the rules was met by repercussions. I find that I spend much of my adult life keeping promises to my childhood self—the vows I took under my breath and also duress—to never allow my children to feel the hopelessness I thought I knew. My backstory is full of many things, but mostly grumbling.

My wife has played the heavy, whereas I have the role of good cop.

The boys do not get it. They do not understand that a voice of reason is in their best interest and that every opportunity scorned is one more step toward situations going sideways. Or worse, they do not care.

I can only hope that it is something they have forgotten.

The culprit, as is oft the case, is homework. The endless paper trail of obsolescence and busy work that one bad apple in a barrel of excellent educators has forced into our home—and from that we began to rot.

Nearly every fight, argument, misunderstanding, tear, tantrum, missed opportunity and shadow of gloom during the past 10 months has resulted from the saga of one teacher's ego and her daily assault upon family time and life in general—hours every night, a bit more on the weekends. Granted, the school year is almost over, but it has taken its toll. We have spent the year counting down the days and hoping a gentle little boy doesn't fall into summer sharp and nearly broken.

That may be why I give him all the inches needed to make a mile—he is right. It was a hard realization for my wife and I to come to, that our 11-year-old was actually correct and his teacher wrong. However, we have had conversations with the parents of other students and they all report the same. When parents of older kids hear that we are in this teacher's class, they immediately offer their own horror stories and tales of woe. She breaks spirits and, in that span perhaps, she creates a few vows of her own.

I am sitting here, cursing the cause, embarrassed by my outburst and wondering if I am going to need a doctor.

This is where we are now. It is a Sunday in the middle of May. My son has picked his battle. He has had enough. His younger brother is full of support and instigation. My wife has played the heavy, whereas I have the role of good cop. They have argued and ignored every single direction given and refuted all of the talking points that back their merit. The boys are their own worst enemy—until one stands upon the shoulders of the other and finds my button, dusty and forgotten despite the glow of anger that surrounds it, and they press it firmly with both hands.

And I am losing my cool. I do not like it. This is not a release that I need. I am not fueled from gamma. I am not always angry. I am not a monster.

Yet, I am human, and, like anything made mostly of water, I can only take so much heat before I boil. There is steam involved and all kinds of science. I am breaking promises just as sure as they are making theirs. It is not where I want to be.

It works like we all knew it would. My oldest son is at the table doing the work he has tried to avoid. The youngest is on the couch reading a book and resenting it. My wife is down the hall, probably wishing I could keep a lid on.

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I am sitting here, cursing the cause, embarrassed by my outburst and wondering if I am going to need a doctor. It is decades since my promises were made, though I find I am still able to wish and grumble. I still have hope to be a better person.

No one remembers like a reflection, and some scars only heal as needed.

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Image by Whit Honea

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