Yesterday I was invited to a "Poetry Cafe" at the kids' school. It was set up with tablecloths and low lighting, and the writing teachers were all wearing sunglasses and berets. I should have known I was in trouble when I first saw that. Three of my kids were reading poems, so I sat near the front. This turned out to be a grave mistake. When I saw about 100 second graders shuffle in, each carrying a poem in their hand, I should have slipped into a chair near the back, but I was spotted by one of my beaming second graders. Every child (but one who got cold feet) read their poem, followed by the entire room snapping their fingers, beatnik style. I was so proud of Olivia, whose stomach was in knots all morning with worry about being in the spotlight and speaking into a microphone. She went up, mumbled her poem in one loooong word, and quickly sat down. But, she did it, which is huge for her. I think it was about puppies. About an hour and a half into it, mothers with restless toddlers were looking at their watches and shifting uncomfortably. Up steps my other second grader, with a three-page poem. I could hear an audible sigh from the dad sitting behind me.
"MY NAME IS GRACE, AND THIS IS MY POEM! I HOPE YOU ENJOY IT!" And, as if she were auditioning for a Broadway show, she read her poem, which was a rhyme about every person in her class, complete with hand gestures and pauses for dramatic effect. Then, there was a brief break before the hundred or so fourth graders shuffled in to read their poems. These poems were different in that they were about how poetry writing was lame, and who the greatest sports stars were. Henry was about 80 kids in, naturally, with a poem about watermelon and summer.
At this point I'd been at the school four hours, but I still had the "Fourth Grade Program" to look forward to. This was the program in which Henry had been picked to sing with a small group of girls. He had asked me to get him out of it, but I said he was old enough to speak to the teacher himself about his concerns, and that I would NOT let him fake sick. In hindsight, I should have let him be sick, it would have certainly made MY day more enjoyable (not that I don't enjoy hearing 200 kids mumble into a microphone that only works sporadically, mind you). Anyway, his strategy was just to not show up for any of the rehearsals. Um. Okay, maybe I should have intervened a little, but it seemed to work out for him. The girls sang their song and were lovely, while Henry grinned like a Cheshire cat from the bleachers. He did play the recorder and sang with the chorus. It was actually a very good show, until a kid in the second row of the bleachers passed out cold, taking a few kids down with him (he was checked out at the hospital and was okay). When it was all over, and we knew the boy was going to be okay, the music teacher walked over to me. "I've really enjoyed having Henry in my class. I'm sorry he didn't join the select group, he really is the only boy who can hit the high notes with perfect pitch." And now I see why he didn't want to join the group. What ten year-old wants to be told he's the only boy who sings like a girl?