Welcome To The PTA

 

“Forgive me for interrupting this pretentious discussion of the sordid affairs of your politico-religious existence,” , she said quite loudly to the small group that had gathered near the door, “but the reality is, you’re all full of shit.” The droning murmur of inane chatter that had filled the room suddenly stopped.

“Nicely done.”, I told her.

“Thank you.”, she said. “I’ve been rehearsing.”

“It shows.”, I replied.  “I think we should go now.”

“Really?”, she asked, with an air of disappointment.

“Really.”, I said. “This could get very ugly.”

And so began our ongoing battle with our children’s school. Up until then, it had been my role to challenge the powers that be, to shake the status quo at its very foundation, to deliberate, dissect, and disgrace those involved with the task of educating my children. It was quite satisfying to know that my wife was equally up to the challenge.

“That was quite impressive.”, I continued as we walked to the car.

“Thank you.”, she responded. “I had an excellent teacher.”

“Well, its nice to know you were paying attention.”, I said.

“Do you really think that after all these years of listening to you that something wouldn’t have rubbed off?”, she asked.

The phone call we received the next day came as no surprise. The school administration, including the school’s Superintendent, had requested a meeting with us to discuss several concerns related to our kids. It did not sit well with my wife.

“Concerns with our kids?”, she ranted. “Are they out of their minds?”

“They are.”, I confirmed. “But you have to try to relax. We have to go in calm and seemingly rational, no matter how pissed we are. Never let them know what we are thinking.”

“That’s good.”, she said.

“Yep.”, I replied. “Words to live by from Vito Colerone.”

The meeting was more of a lynching, with 6 school and board personnel present, armed with files, and reports. They positioned themselves at one end of the table, so that my wife and I were forced to sit at the opposite end, looking like guilty school children. “Have a seat, please.”, the principal stated.

“I think I’d prefer to stand.”, I responded., as my wife sat down in her assigned seat. “What I have to say really won’t take very long.”

“However we have a rather lengthy list of concerns regarding your children.”, the Superintendent spouted.

“I’m sure you do.”, I replied. “But I really have no interest in hearing any of them. So, I understand that the teacher who had manhandled my daughter is still teaching in the school.”

“We have finished our investigation into the matter, and we don’t believe there is any need for further disciplinary measures.”, he answered.

“Well”, I said as I put my hand on my wife’s shoulder. “I don’t believe there is any need to continue this meeting.”, I stated as my wife stood up.

“Just a minute.”, the Superintendent said. “There are issues here we need to address.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”, I replied. “Did I not make it clear that we really don’t give a shit about what you think?”.

“Well”, he continued. “Now we see why the children have so many behavioral issues.”

“Hell no.”, I corrected him. “You haven’t seen anything yet. I suggested you contact your superior, and have yourself, the principal of this school, the teacher and the Board of Education obtain legal counsel. I have secured a human rights attorney who is, as we speak, presenting a motion to bar Ms. Emmerson from teaching until a full and complete inquiry has been completed. As well, criminal charges for assault, and child abuse are being laid against this deranged woman. And the rest of you who were aware of the issues we raised, and did nothing, have been named in a civil law suit, as has the board. Papers should be served to all of you within the next 72 hours.”

“I don’t know what you think you’re going to get out of this.”, the Superintendent questioned.

“Oh.”, I reported, “I almost forgot. You may want to watch the 6 o’clock news tonight. Doesn’t matter which network. They are all airing this story. As to what I think I’m going to get out of this, well, your fucking jobs. Your careers, and your reputations.”

The silence that fell on the room was deafening. The Superintendent finally spoke. “Can I speak with you outside?”  My wife and I joined him in the hallway, just outside of the school Principal’s office. “Don’t you think this can be rectified in some other way?”

“That ship has sailed.”, I replied. “We spoke several times, and you informed me every time that there were no grounds for any disciplinary action. You blamed my daughter, and justified the teacher’s actions. And so, now, you’re all fucked. Get Ms. Emmerson out of my kid’s school, and I will consider withdrawing the legal proceedings. Can I be frank with you?”

“Of course.”, he said.

“Do yourself a favor.”, I told him. “Don’t fuck with my family. We will take you down.”

“Well, that was pretty amazing.”, my wife said to me in the car. “How did you arrange all of that stuff.”

“I didn’t.”, I told her. “My friend Jerod is a lawyer. He’s drafting some letters, but now we wait to see what they do with our offer. They can transfer her wherever we don’t have kids.”

“What about the news casts tonight?”, she asked. “If they watch and its not on, they’ll know we’re full of shit.”

“It will be on.”, I assured her. “That I was able to arrange through Jerod. All three networks will air a report on a child being assaulted by a teacher and how the school and the board swept it under the rug.”

“You’re pretty sexy when you’re devious.”, she said.

In less than 24 hours, we received an email stating that effective immediately, Ms. Emmerson had been removed from the staff at my kid’s school, and transferred to another school at the far end of the school district. A formal letter from the school board arrived several days later, with a full and complete apology from the Board.

Things changed at my kid’s school. My kids seemed happier, and we no longer received phone calls about nonsense. When we did attend planning meetings for our kid’s, our ideas and recommendations were included in the plan. We never saw Ms. Emmerson again, and a few months later, the school principal disappeared. I told my wife that I had nothing to do with it, but I’m not sure if she believed me. My wife decided to become active in the PTA, and wound up being president. Me, well, I took satisfaction in knowing that my dream of being a Mafia enforcer had come true, and that I could easily turn my wife on by behaving like a character from Goodfellas.

 

 

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The Rebellion of 2010

 

Moving with my family was one of the most horrifyingly traumatic events in our lives. My wife and I were busy in our search for a home in the city’s downtown core, while my kids were opposed to leaving their lives in suburbia.

We searched and searched for the ideal home, but everything we saw raised at least one significant issue with my wife. It was  too far from a school, or not near enough to a subway station. There were homes that were too close to the main street, or too far from a grocery store.  And  the search seemed to continue for what seemed like an eternity. After intensive investigating, and viewing, we finally found something she could live with. It was just blocks away from a high school, right next door to a grocery store, a few blocks from a subway station, and about a 1/2 hour walk to a hospital. “Well.”, she said, “I suppose its as close to perfect as we’re going to get.”

“What do we tell the kids?”, I asked.

“Leave that with me.”, she said. “It will be a piece of cake.” Now, I don’t eat cake. I never did. I just don’t like it, but I was almost certain this would not be a piece of cake.

We sat down with the 4 remaining kids still living at home, and my wife broke the news. “We’ve found a place. We’re going to be moving downtown. You guys will love it.”

“What the hell?”, one of my daughters shouted.

“I’m not going.”, my son said. “I hate it downtown.”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”, another daughter chimed in. “I love it here. I’m not going.”, and she burst into tears. They all got up and left the room.

“Well, that went over well.”, I said to my wife. “Perhaps they don’t like cake either.” And, as I have so regularly been subjected to over the years, my wife gave me the Moroccan death glare, the one that implies “I could kill you with just a blink of an eye.”

“You could have helped out a little.”, she said.

“You said to leave it with you.”, I replied. “Remember? It was going to be a piece of cake.”

“What do we do?”, she asked, “Do we stay here?”

“I think we just leave it alone.”, I told her. “They’ll get used to the idea. It’s not like they have a choice.”

Well, things went from bad to worse, and of course, I bore the brunt of the blame. My son had decided that he was moving out. He had a friend who was looking to share an apartment, and my son was moving in with him. One of my daughters was okay with the move, as long as she had her own bedroom, and we took the dogs with. The 2 other girls were emotionally wrought, filled with anxiety, fear, and hatred. They said that they would not move. They informed me that I could not make them move. They threatened to contact Children’s Aid, and have themselves placed in foster care in order to stay in outer suburbia.

“Its all fixed.”, I told my wife. “We lucked out. One is moving in with a friend, and two are going into the care of Children’s Aid. So we have 4 out of 5 kids no longer living with us. And, just to let you know, there was no cake involved. I substituted pie.”

“Nobody is going into Foster Care.”, she bellowed. “They’re coming with us. It doesn’t matter what they say. We are the parents. We decide what’s best for this family.” She often said we, but in reality, she meant that she decided what was best for this family.

The kids continued to be adamant about not moving, singing rousing versions of ‘We Shall Overcome’, and  ‘I Shall Be Released’, that came out as “I hate you”, and “I wish I was never born”. Over the following days, and weeks, they began a campaign to try to force us to change our minds. They employed subversive tactics such as ignoring us when we called them, refusing to do their chores, and refusing to clean up after themselves. They kept their lights and televisions on, and stayed up late in the early morning hours, on their computers. They posted on social media just how unfair and cruel their parents were. They left us notes stating that they would run away, and we would never see them again. I bought them suitcases on wheels, like a good and thoughtful father, so their departures would be easier.

As the moving date neared, their defiance heightened. They flat out refused to pack up their things. They would hold sit ins in their rooms so my wife and I could not pack for them. “It’s really a simple choice.”, I told one of my daughters. “You can leave with your stuff, or without it, but you will be leaving.”

“You can’t make me move.”, she replied.

“That’s true.”, I told her. “I just hope the family moving in doesn’t mind having you here.”

By moving day, my daughters had, I thought, surrendered, given that they had packed what they wanted to take with. Once we arrived at our new home, they amped up their disapproval of downtown living by refusing to eat, staying in their rooms, and giving us the silent treatment. My youngest daughter gave up the battle soon after we moved in.

The older of the 2 dug her heels in, with letters expressing her absolute and total disapproval of our parenting style and decision making process. Apparently, she believed that she had rights, which my wife and I had violated. I reminded my daughter that, since she was over 16 years old, I no longer had to allow her to live with me. I could, if I so desired, toss her sorry ass out on the street. She reminded me that she had rights. “Not in my dictatorship.”, I advised her. “You’re not obligated to stay here. You can pack up, and leave. Sail away to undiscovered lands, and start a new life. But if you choose to stay here, remember, this is not a democracy. I am not taking votes.”

“I want to talk to mommy.”, she said.

“That’s up to her.”, I said. “But I will ask.” I spoke with my wife about my daughter’s requrest.

“What am I supposed to say to her?”, my wife asked.

“I guess you don’t want to try that cake thing again.”, I remarked, as her Moroccan eyes darted back and forth searching for her prey. “Just tell her the truth. She will come around.”

“And what if she doesn’t?”, my wife inquired.

“Well”, I responded, “she really has no choice. Where is she going to go?”

The negotiations were long and arduous. Hour after hour, day after day of back and forth bargaining had the parties at a standstill. “Why don’t you say anything?”, my wife asked me one night.

“I am using my silence to confuse and befuddle her.”, I said. “I will talk when it is time to deliver the one crushing blow that will bring this to an end once and for all.”

“This isn’t a game.”, she said.

“Ah, my dear wife,”, I advised her, “but it is.”

About 1 week later, my daughter made a fatal mistake, and I could see the end in sight. She had made plans to spend the weekend with a friend in suburbia. She approached my wife and I, asking for money to finance her trip. I took money out of my pocket and placed it on the table in front of her. “How much do you need?”, I asked.

“$20.”, she said.

“Okay.”, I said and I picked up a $20 bill, and held it in my hand. “Let me explain how this is going to work. As long as you need to come to me and ask for money, there are rules that must be followed. I will always provide for my family. It doesn’t require you to like me, I really don’t care if you do or not. It does however require you to respect me and your mother. Nothing is free. This money is not just money, it is time taken from my life that I can never get back. It is mine. I have the option of sharing it with you, or not. I am under no obligation to provide with anything other than food, shelter and clothing. I don’t even have to pay for your cell phone. In fact, if this continues, I will cancel it. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”, she said.

“So”, I asked, “What do you want to do, because today we are resolving this. The revolution is over, and we now need to negotiate peace”

“Can I use the money you were going to give me to go to see my friends to paint my room instead?”, she asked.

“When do you want to paint it?”, I responded.

“This weekend.”, she told me. “I don’t think I want to see Elana right now, anyway.”

“Go and get dressed, and we’ll go get paint and the brushes.”, I said.

“I’m sorry.”, she said as she walked to her room to change.

“Me too.”, I told her.

“Well”, my wife said, “that turned out okay.”

“Okay?”, I questioned. “That was a superbly executed act of patience, power and control.  I told you not to worry.”

“I am impressed.”, she added.

“Thank you.”, I replied. “And notice that there was no need for any cake.”

My daughter remained with us for another 5 years, before moving in with her boyfriend, who resides in an outer suburban community. She calls her mother everyday, and comes by and visits at least once a month, whether we want her to or not. She learnt her lesson, and I was proud as hell of her for at least attempting to overthrow the powers that be. None of it really matters to me anymore though, as her boyfriend, who we care for very much, has inherited the little guerrilla inside of her, laying dormant, but waiting for the opportunity to jump out and usurp power and control before he even notices that it is gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Days Of Crime & Roses

 

I grew up watching TV Westerns. My father just couldn’t get enough of them. I watched them all, curled up on the floor, laying beside him, eyes glued to the legendary adventures of those larger than life heroes. More than anything, I wanted to be a cowboy. I wanted to ride into town on my horse, gun at my side, just wanting a drink to wash down the trail dust.

When I was about 5 or 6, my father bought me a cowboy set; holster, gun, hat, and Sheriff’s badge. I couldn’t wait to strap on the holster, drop in the gun, and, donning my way cool cowboy hat, practice my quick draw. “You forgot to put on the badge.”, my father pointed out. images“Do you need some help?”.

“No. I don’t want to wear the badge.”, I told him.

“So, you want to be the bad guy?”, he asked. After thinking about it, all I could muster was “Uh huh.” And so began my foray into a life as a desperado.

One afternoon, while looking for adventure, I found my mother in the kitchen, baking cookies. With her back towards me, I crept up to her, gun drawn, and sticking it in her back, shouted “Put your hands up, and move away from the cookies”!  She screamed, and dropped the tray of cookies on the floor. I gathered as many as I could, and got out of Dodge. No posse followed. This was so easy!

That evening, the sheriff, who had heard about the robbery, came looking for me. He found me with the cookies and told me to never do that to my mother again. I tried to explain, and he reminded me that he was still sheriff, and I would obey the law or find myself in jail, or worse.

Unable to continue on this path to a life of crime, as temporary as it was, I was led into the world of Superheroes. With a towel as a cape, I climbed the underdog-pointingantenna to the roof of the house, and stood there, looking out over the city, and my brothers playing in the backyard. The fluttering of my cape in the wind must have distracted me, as I lost my balance and fell down to the ground. My brother ran to get my father, who standing over me, asked if I was alright. I checked, and everything seemed to be working fine. “Of course”, I informed him, I’m a Superhero. I can’t be hurt”.

“There will be no more flying around here.”, He said. “No more Superheroes. Do you understand”

Dejected, all I could mutter was “Yes sir.”

With the train robber and Superhero no longer wanted, I sought out a life as a prankster, much like The Joker or The Riddler, on Batman. Teaming with my childhood friend, Howie, we set out on an exciting adventure. Howie’s older brother had purchased firecrackers, and we animated_joker__by_joker_laugh-d5oivx5had access to them. The question now was, what to do with them?

An idea formed, as if by fate. The Ericson’s, who lived directly across the road from my house, had an amazing array of roses growing at the front of their house. The plan was to plant the firecrackers amid the flowers, light them, and watch the resulting spectacle of color. Stealthily, we moved across the street, and as quickly as possible, strategically placed the weapons of floral destruction. We lit them, and ran back across the road. Just as we turned back to view our work, the site exploded, shooting petals and plants everywhere. The Ericson’s came out of their house, too late to see the event, but stared in disbelief at the resulting destruction. Mrs. Ericson saw Howie and I standing on the sidewalk, laughing with delight at our handiwork. “You rotten little brats.”, she shouted at us. The commotion and the shouting caused others to come out of their homes, including my parents.

Scanning the carnage, my father turned to me and asked, “Did you do it?”

“It was an accident.”, Was the only thing I could conjur up. He took me by the shirt collar, and walked me across the road to stand face to face with The Ericsons.

“Do you have something to say to Mr. and Mrs. Ericson?”, he asked.

136-jailI appologized as sincerely as I could, begging forgiveness, claiming it was an accident, feigning concern, and then was led back across the road by the man who had somehow been promoted from sheriff to judge.  I was sentenced to clean the mess followed by 1 week of solitary confinement, and hard labor. Howie was sent home by my father, and had to deal with his own parents. He gave up the life of excitement and danger, and went on to be an accountant. To this day, he does my taxes. As for me, well, I continued to live on the edge of danger. I was often in trouble in school, for questioning the rules, challenging authority, and refusing to participate in what I had informed the Vice Principal,  was insanely asinine. I was suspended on a few occasions, and had a semester long dalliance with my grade 10 French teacher, Mademoiselle Sherman, all of which helped pave the road I travelled in adulthood. My children have learnt to be free thinkers, and to have their own ideas, ideals, and opinions, and they have always made me proud.

I no longer have the desire to rob stagecoaches, or fight crime, or even to engage in wanton destruction. I have put away my gun, and discarded my cape. Cookies are baked for me whenever I request them, and I realized that I don’t need to climb up to the roof to see clearly. I do, however,  miss the excitement of blowing up the Ericson’s flower garden. That was a good time.