Cruel and Unusual

“The children start school now in August. They say it has to do with air-conditioning, but I know sadism when I see it.” ― Rick Bragg, My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South

My soon to be five-year-old boy-child grandbaby sat in the middle of the driveway painting a frog as his father was finishing up mowing grass.  A big grin erupted from his face as we pulled up.  I suspect the grin was more for his life-sized play toy, Grand Momi Linda, than for his Popi. 

Noli, short for Nolan, was barefooted, a perpetual condition regardless of atmospheric temperature.  It was a cool afternoon, but I can hear a soft Southern voice in my head say, “The boy just don’t like to be incumbered by the unnecessary”…and had he been left to his own devises would have been out of most if not all of his clothing.   The big grin on his face made it all okay.  Boy, you are going to be trouble with a capital T. 

As I looked at his water-colored painting, I realized he had been left to his devises as it applied to creativity.  Noli had chosen some interesting color schemes.  The frog he was painting was an escapee from an LSD trip it seemed, or a taco fueled dream. 

During this ten-minute period in his life, the boy is into his painting, but I doubt I have another “Grand Master” on my hands…unless a color-blind Salvador Dali might be a grand master. 

“Noli, that sho is an interesting looking frog.  Pretty!  Never seen one with a blue eye and a purple eye.”  Not to mention multi-colored spots. 

Noli just grinned and continued to add paint. 

“What is that sticking out of his head?  I’ve never seen antennas on a frog.”

Noli got hit by a photon and leaving his artwork on the driveway, ran to get his Spiderman playground ball.  So much for the budding artist.  Now it was superhero time.

Spiderman is a big deal…Noli has all the “Spidee” poses down pat.  I vaguely I remember tying a towel around my neck and flying from one twin bed to the other ala George Reeves as Superman.  That acorn might have landed close when it fell from my tree. Much can be said for imagination.

Both my grandbabies operate at one speed.  Wide open in daredevil mode.  Miller Kate the seven-year-old first grader and Noli the soon to be five-year-old will begin kindergarten in August unless Covid has closed us down again. 

I’m not sure I would want to be the teacher who has to channel their energy into something educational…especially with the siren’s call of warm August sunshine just outside the window.  I agree with Rick Bragg.

It is sadistic for a five-year-old to sit in a desk for long periods of time in August…or mid-January.  I pray for a creative teacher fostering a love for readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmatic.  A teacher who nurtures his or her children’s creative streaks.  A teacher who channels their own inner Peter Pan.

They both love doing.  Not much for sittin’ and their parents have done a good job of limiting their “screen” exposure.  The outdoors is their siren’s call, running, jumping, riding bicycles, splashing in the one mud puddle in their yard. 

I have a picture of a much younger Miller Kate standing in a flooded church parking lot after a drenching thunderstorm.  Barefooted in her new dress, ankle deep in water with her Grand Momi also barefooted in her own dress clothes.  Grand Momi never let Peter Pan die and I’m sure it was her idea to go wading.

Yes, August can be cruel and unusual punishment…as can early April with its seductive spring temperatures calling out for children to run barefooted in the newly immerging grass.  Hard to sit still in a schoolhouse desk with so much fun waiting just outside.

I remember those days when Peter Pan was holding on by his last grasp.  Shut up in a classroom, but at least there were big, tall, open windows to look out of.  Morning recess and what seemed to be a long afternoon lunch period to look forward to.  A brief afternoon recess just to get the kinks out. 

The best part of the school day.  Tall swings to practice your landings with a tuck and roll, see saws, and a spinning contraption that would send you rolling into next week if you lost your grip.  Playing “crack the whip” and “king of the mountain”, somewhat violent games now banned.  Bumps and bruises we somehow survived, laughing all the way back to the classroom. 

Somehow it prepared us for the afternoon “see Dick run” reading period, cyphering our numbers, or writing with “big, fat” pencils in a wide lined notebook.  Physical stimulation seems to help mental stimulation.

Fear of liability has turned the school day from learning opportunities into cruel and unusual punishments.  That, and the need to “stay on task” so that we look good at test time.  I’ve always believed there was more to schoolin’ than just what comes from a book…now, a Chromebook, and how well you do on a standardized test. 

Miller Kate seems to have weathered the storm and I’m sure Noli will too, especially if he keeps his grin. I’m sure that grin will terrorize all ladies regardless of age and regardless of their occupation.

I hope Peter Pan can find a last gasp and take them to a Wonderland of imagination, away from the cruel and unusual punishment. 

***

Don Miller is a retired History and Science teacher and Coach. His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2bHfb3dx-hOqW5DoszodDazv8xJDscd0_mpUS-ary5h6NEk6IOJp5St_g

Image is from Canva

5 thoughts on “Cruel and Unusual

    • I don’t know but to quote Jesse Winchester and Jimmy Buffett,
      “Life is just too short for some folks
      For other folks it just drags on
      Some folks like the taste of smokey whiskey
      Others figure tea is too strong
      I’m the type of guy who likes it right down the middle
      I don’t like all this bouncing back and forth
      Me, I want to live with my feet in Dixie
      And my head in the cool blue North”

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I think sitting for hours at age five is a cruel and unusual punishment. Our Grandson is 6 and he likes to be up and active. Luckily he has a teacher who encourages this in all her students. Sadly the schools are in a lockdown and he will be taking classes online. Don’t get me started on how hellishly WRONG I think it is to have closed schools across the whole Province of Ontario. 😡

    Like

  2. Love this! All of my best to your grandkids! Mine are about the same ages. 🙂
    I taught Kindergarten for decades and decades…in private schools…3 to 6 year olds…they are STILL my people-group! 🙂
    We can learn a lot from observing how they do life…what they say…how they feel…their take on life, etc. We all need to keep alive the child within us! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s