Friday, November 5 2021

teacher conferences, new swag, and the motorcycle racing game



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Hope you're having a good morning so far. Seeing as it's Friday, that's already a great way to start off the day, isn't it?

It's quiet today - one of those rare mornings where I have the whole main floor of the house to myself, and arguably our family's natural state. Marissa fondly remembers the good old days where she and the boys could sleep until 9:30 AM every day, and the days where Rodney doesn't have any school gives her a chance to relive that golden age. It was a golden age for me too. Even though I never got to sleep in, I forgot just how much chore work you could squeeze into this half hour when you don't have to worry about Rodney's breakfast or setting up Marissa with coffee for the road. And of course, I always appreciate the silence when I'm winding up for the day. Here's to quiet mornings, contemplative cleaning, and fresh coffee.

Sip. Rodney has off school today for parent teacher conferences. We have a slotted zoom chat with Rodney's teacher later this afternoon for fifteen minutes. So this morning I ask the group, what can you even get out of a fifteen minute long meeting? At least in the way I conduct zoom meetings, it takes me five minutes to break the ice and warm up with some small talk. I've spent fifteen minutes talking to my neighbor about the weather. I've spent fifteen minutes waiting for door-to-door canvassers to get off my front porch. I get it - teachers are busy, but a fifteen minute meeting feels like a flash in the pan.

What can you even get into in fifteen minutes with a teacher? I plan to scope my goals down to the bite sized. I'll be happy if I can learn what "reach class" is, confirm which of Rodney's friends are real and imaginary, and maybe double check that he's not biting or slapping kids. After all in the age of COVID protocol, Rodney's kindergarten is a black box to me. Our kid goes in, and he comes out a few hours later with stickers and scraps of colored paper. Everything he does in between is for his eyes and ears only.

The good thing about school in COVID is that we don't have to sit through any "programs". Remember how often our schools would make us stand on a stage wearing coordinated outfits and mouth the words to songs we didn't know? Even as a kindergartener I remember marveling at how bored everyone looked. This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that we don't have to wrestle Rodney into a stuffy white dress shirt and sit in a stuffy auditorium for a "thanksgiving program".

Marissa was planning on asking Rodney's teacher about all the scrapes and scratches he incurs. I think some of that has been good for Rodney. It's made him more resilient, and taught him that the world can't stop every time he gets a little cut on his knee. But they always seem to be accompanied by arguments at recess while hanging out in his school's "mini forest" - the shady garden enclave attached to the playground. Is kindergarten supposed to be this dangerous, or does Rodney just have a tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Maybe Rodney just needs to learn to stay out of the mini forest.

Ugh. It's been a week. My work on-call began with a fury. My phone bleats with pages and dings with slack messages. It's been that kind of week. But one of those "dings" gave way to some good news. This morning I got a message from our company's engineering onboarding team. Being a regular presenter, they wanted to get my mailing address so they can send me a thank-you gift. I love getting new swag, but these gifts never seem to last long around this house. If I get a pair of fuzzy dress socks with a Zendesk logo, Minnie will pull them out of my hamper and rip them to shreds. If I get a moleskin notebook, Rodney will steal it off my desk and saturate the pages with crayon scribbles four hours later. Ballpoint pens will be swallowed up in the Bermuda triangle of clutter that is the front console of our family car - I'm just leaning into the bit now, for being a one automobile family, I think we keep our car remarkably clean.

Yesterday, we had a low-key evening. We quickly scarfed down some Peruvian takeout so Marissa could make her evening agility class. After she left, I plunked Miles in his crib with some toys so Rodney and I could play video games. Rodney and I had a disagreement over how we'd use our precious video game time. I wanted to keep marching along the campaign for Lego Jurassic Park. Rodney wanted to break from format and play our motorcycle and monster truck racing game. He beat me to the punch - while I was changing Miles and setting him up, Rodney pulled the game off my shelf and slipped the game disk inside the Xbox. "I put the dee-bee-dee in," he called from my desk, and he was even careful enough to put Call of Duty back in the case with "the scary guys with guns" on the front.

I bought this silly racing game because it humored a post-toddler Rodney. A year later, he still loves it. That's unfortunate, because objectively the game is trash. There are no interesting mechanics. There are only about six songs on the soundtrack. The game menu is convoluted. There's nothing to do but rigidly steer a motorcycle around a bumpy map, avoid trees and cacti, and listen to each other's engines whine.

Rodney relies on me to make the game more fun. Every few seconds, he wants to change the map. Or he wants to change the color of his motorcycle. Or he wants to switch to a monster truck, or switch controllers and play on my side of the screen.

If I wasn't so honest, I'd put a deep scratch into the motorcycle racing game dee-bee-dee with a screwdriver. "Oops - the game is broke. We just have to play the LEGO game instead."

That's what I got today. Thanks for stopping by today - have a great Friday, everyone.