Neighbors stopped by this weekend with family who were eager to meet Baxter. They came in the midst of sweat in my bra as we wrangled all the pool and porch furniture into storage for the winter. It was our Vos Family Work Weekend. We called it that because naming something that sucks makes it suck less. I know this to be true because it’s been tested on such things as Vaccinations for China Day! and Exams at School Day! and Sheet Changing Day! Bad news disguised as good news is fodder for fools and my kids bite every time.
Which is why I smiled last week when I got an email from Abe’s teacher, who we adore, saying the following, “You will be thrilled to learn that Abe has been chosen to participate in our S.T.A.R.S. program here at school. Congratulations!” A first time parent would celebrate with a special dinner and extra hugs and wonder how they’ve been so lucky to have a child chosen for a program named for greatness and destined for the same. They would do this because they wouldn’t know that S.T.A.R.S. stands for Strategic Testing to Accelerate Reading Success and involves extra homework every night. It is not an honor; it’s a remedial program for kids who need a little extra help in reading comprehension. Congratulations! You will now spend your evenings shaking words cut from construction paper onto your counter. They will stick inside the bag because of static. Your child will need to glue them onto a piece of paper in the correct order and illustrate the sentence below it. They will think this is fun for approximately one week, which is terrible because they will need to do this every. night. for. months. The other thirty eight weeks will involve bribes and silent swearing. By November, you will be telling them it’s ok to just use a few colors for the picture and every corner doesn’t have to be glued. By January, you will tell them to skip the picture and focus on just gluing the bloody words and being done with it. By April you will tell the school you’ve lost the binder and for the love of all things holy do not want it replaced. You will recognize that being in a school district that offers help in this crucial area is such a gift, even while you consider moving to a district that doesn’t offer it. This is not your first rodeo. In fact, three of your children have paved the way with their own participation and you cannot for the life of you figure out how a bibliophile can produce 6, count em: 6, offspring who hate reading and need remediation. This is cruel.
You, after all, have done everything right. You took your kids to Story Time at the library every week so Miss Jackie, who wore themed sweaters and earrings and read with all the voices, could delight them with her stories. You gave them books for Christmas, Valentines and Birthdays. You still do. You read to them constantly when they were little. You read Ten, Nine, Eight every single night for years. Read it so many times, you can still remember every word. The experts implored you to create a “literacy rich environment” and yours was so rich it made your teeth hurt. Is still so rich and no one wants anything to do with it. This is not your failure. You will not eat that bitter pill. Your children are remedial in this area and it. is. not. your. fault. And so when you get the congratulations! your child gets to be a S.T.A.R., you will sigh and wonder again how this happened. Then you will set that boy up with his glue stick and a Hershey’s Kiss and you will exclaim over the amazing job he does gluing 5 words in order and making stick figures to go with. You will do this because you know that mothers the world over would kill to be in your shoes, with your safe schools and teachers who really care. And you will do this because you know reading is the gateway to so many many good things. And you will do this because, despite the hard sell, it really is an honor to have this resource at your kitchen island; you don’t even have to leave your house for it and this is worth of celebrating just by itself. You will write about this so that in January, when you want to rip your shirt and shave your head in protest you will remember.
this is me being real.