All high schools in the city, it seems, have a reputation or something that they are known for. Some schools are known for their excellence in fine and performing arts, some schools have fabulous vocational programs, some schools excel at sports. The nearby Catholic high school, for example, has won the city championships in football pretty much every year since its inception. Our high school has a reputation for academia, and the demographics in the school reflect that.
So it was with interest that I attended Math 10 Parent Info Night on Tuesday. We are a very mathematically-inclined family, and even though I couldn’t imagine what the info night would cover – I already had the course outline, complete with weighting for each unit, test schedule, and information about notes-for-purchase and the required graphing calculator – I wasn’t going to miss it.
It turns out that, hilariously, in addition to a discussion about different streams of math and the various avenues available for academic assistance, the math department felt the need to give a somewhat prolonged lecture with an underlying message to parents to just calm the fuck down. It was priceless.
I consider myself to be, in many ways, a very strict parent. I have high expectations for my children in terms of academic performance, work ethic, and general behaviour, but in that crowd, I looked like a lax, overly permissive hippie.
My son’s math teacher got up to speak; he is an older, very formal gentleman who is of Ethiopian descent. He began with a very long story about how he is actually a physicist, he loves teaching high school math but his first major was physics. This went on for some time, causing me to tilt my head and think where is he going with this. Eventually he revealed that his daughter, in high school, was struggling in physics. More than struggling, she was suffering. And so, after some discussion with the teacher, he withdrew her from physics. In the car on the way home she sighed with relief and said “I didn’t think you would let me drop physics.”
At this point the teacher appealed to the parents, saying that he did not know WHY she would think that she had to take physics, just because HE was a physicist. That was HIS dream, not hers. I half expected him to start reciting Your children are not your children, but instead he stated that, as parents, we may have dreams of our children being engineers or doctors or what have you, but there are many, many different paths to success in the world.
He concluded by saying, with much pride, that his daughter is now a high school band teacher. I smiled, and looked around at my fellow parents, expecting a certain smiling reaction to a man who has revealed with pride and joy that his daughter chose her own path, one that has led to success.
The room was silent. All the parents were leaning back in their chairs with their arms crossed, and a look of bemusement mixed with horror on their faces.
After that the presentation opened up to a Q and A session, which was equally ridiculous. One mother kept pressing to see what SPECIFIC grades a university engineering program required for entrance, a question literally impossible to answer. A father asked which math stream was appropriate for a student who has career aspirations of being an astronaut. Sir, if your child is going to obtain a PhD in Astrophysics, probably that child should pursue the more RIGOROUS math stream?
At that point I booted it out of there, and when I got home and relayed the story my son pointed out that I did, indeed, look a little bit like a hippie with my yoga pants and mala, which seemed a bit aggressive on his part. It’s not like I was wearing Birkenstocks or sporting leg and armpit hair.
I do very much value academics, but I am also very happy that my son is taking drama this semester. I played Amanda Wingfield in our high school production of The Glass Menagerie, and I can still do a mean Southern accent. I also played – bizarrely – Shelly in Grade 11 when our school did Buried Child, and if you do not know this play, I suggest you google it and sit in awe that a high school actually put on such a thing.
Anyway, the current unit in my son’s drama class is lip-synching, and he and a friend have chosen Brass Monkey as their assignment.
As a slight aside, during the week the boys work out in the “dungeon” after school; they alternate days and if I didn’t already know their workout schedule I would be able to ascertain it based solely on the playlist blasting from the basement. My younger son’s playlist is almost entirely Guns and Roses, interspersed with some dreadful death metal and – strangely enough – Elton John. There’s something weirdly unsettling about having Tiny Dancer follow Mr. Brownstone. My older son’s playlist is similar, except that it is Van Halen with Led Zeppelin, with the occasional Michael Jackson tune.
I am not judging, here, my own workout playlist is similarly eclectic, with everything from Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock to the Pointer Sisters to Jimi Hendrix to Eminem.
Because of the impending Brass Monkey performance, my son has been working out to the Beastie Boys exclusively this past week, and let me tell you this: if I thought having Honky Cat in my head for six days straight was bad, it was NOTHING compared to Brass Monkey. Honky Cat, at least, has lyrics that I know and are varied. Now I just keep mentally yelling Brass Monkey, that funky monkey, Brass Monkey junkie…over and over in my head.
Yesterday my son was working out and I was inspired. I ran down the stairs and screamed at him “WHAT’S THAT NOISE?”
He stared at me for a moment – I’m not a screamer, especially not for no apparent reason – and then it dawned on him. “Mom, you’re just jealous, IT’S THE BEASTIE BOYS!”
It was as proud a moment as could be. I felt like his math teacher, beaming with pride and joy. I also felt like this:
Well, this Cool Mom is off to do some cardio and maybe I’ll add the Beastie Boys to my playlist today. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! xo