Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fiction is stranger than truth

My son has a very active imagination. It’s quite diverting, to be sure, but sometimes it makes it difficult to tell truth from fiction. I really think even he can’t distinguish what’s real and what’s fantasy sometimes.

Lately, I’ve been grilling him about kindergarten. I know that if you ask a child, “How was school?” they are required by law to say, “Fine.” And if you ask, “What did you do at school today,” they are likewise bound to reply, “Nothing.”

So I fire off much more specific questions.

“When you go to dance class, does your teacher make you take your shoes off or can you leave them on?”

“Only the bad kids have to take them off,” he replied, “And I am never bad so I can leave them on,”

Interesting policy, I observed.

“What kind of games do you play at “Math Games?” I asked.

“Well the teacher is Miss Meg.”

“What a perfect name! Miss Meg the Math teacher.”

“And she asked what 7 plus 7 was and I knew the answer was 14 and I won! I got to wear a crown!”

This, too, seemed unusual -- kind of weirdly and atypically competitive --and also a rather large coincidence that she would have asked the exact mathematical equation to which my son knows the answer. Ask his 7+9 or 6+6, and he wouldn’t be wearing the crown. But still, I told him I was very, very proud.

Yesterday I asked, “What did your teacher read to you at storytime?”

“A chapter book about Elvis Presley doing karate,”

“What?” I countered, “Is that true? That sounds very strange.”

“It IS true,” Primo insisted, “And Marilyn Monroe was in it too but I don’t remember what she was doing.”

That’s probably for the best, I thought to myself. I mean, I love Monroe probably more than the average Joe, but her hobbies and habits don’t make suitable reading material for children.

Since I often look for books that Primo has read in school at our local library, I asked his teacher today at drop-off: “Hey, Cathy, what’s the name of that Elvis Presley book you read to the kids?”

“The what?’ she asked.

Primo tugged on my arm hard and whispered with a mischievous grin, “No! Don’t say anything about that!”

“Oh,” I replied, “Nothing, I guess I was confused.”

“OK,” she smiled, just glad, I’m sure, that the day was over and that the last of the naggy parents and wacko kids had left the building.

Then a block later, we ran into his schoolmate Myrna, on her way home.

“Hey, Myrna,” I asked, “I’m interested in your opinion. Is Miss Meg the math teacher boring or fun?”

Primo tugged on my arm again as Myrna said, “Who?”

I glared at him and asked her, “What’s the name of your math teacher?”

“Joe,” she replied.

The funny thing is, Primo is a total straight-shooting honest Abe when it comes to everything else, He won’t even lie when he stands to gain sugary treats.

“If I give you this cookie, will you stop attacking your sister?”

“No,” he’ll say, “I won’t! But gimme the cookie anyway!”

He often uses the expression, “I cannot tell a lie . . .” to preface confessions of guilt. He is precisely like David, whereas my daughter, like me, lies just for shits and giggles.

But now, for no reason whatsoever, we’ve got tall tales galore about Kindergarten. Is the reality of it so gruesome that he has to invent a fantastical world populated with Elvis Presley and Miss Meg Mathmaster? Only time will tell.