I picked Riley up from school yesterday and began the laborious process of trying to tease out some information about how his day went (“Good.” “Well, what did you guys do?” “Um … some reading. Oh, and recess! Yeah, recess was good.”). I asked him if he knew the names of any other kids yet, and he allowed as how he probably did, but couldn’t remember them right then.

“Wait!” he said. “I know a guy named Lance*.”

“Oh yeah? You knew a Lance at your old school, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. This Lance is nicer, though. He doesn’t use toilet language like the other Lance did.”

Toilet language?

“So … I mean, I can probably guess, but what’s toilet language?”

He was unusually prim: “Toilet language is, you know, fart and poop and all that.”

“Right, right. So the old Lance was prone to toilet language, was he?”

“OH yeah. The WORST.”

“I see. May I just point out that I’ve definitely heard you use toilet language before?”

“Mom!” Riley was scandalized. “That’s at home.”

I imagine this could change at any moment, but since he started kindergarten, Riley is so doggedly obedient about school. Last year his teacher repeatedly told me how well he paid attention in class, and how quick he was to do what he was asked. In all honesty, I wondered if she had managed to get him confused with some other kid, since he’s the one who must be nagged to the point of rattling off commands like a cattle auctioneer in order to get him to complete one simple task at home (“Pick up your toys pick up your toys pick up your toys pick up your toys pick up your TOOOOOOOOOOOYYYYYYYYS”).

Eventually I understood that for him, school is a magical authoritative environment where the very idea of disobeying a teacher is akin to deliberately setting fire to his entire Ninjago collection. If a teacher tells you to write your name, you sharpen your pencil and get cracking. If a teacher says “fart” is toilet language, well, by god, you save your “WELL YOUR FACE IS A DIAPER THAT THE CAT POOPED IN AND THEN IT GOT WIPED IN BARF!” brotherly insults for home.

* Name changed to protect the toilet-y.


32 Responses to “Brainwashing”

  1. Eric's Mommy on September 7th, 2012 12:23 pm

    My son was the same way. The first time I went to a parent teacher conference, the teacher told me how good he was and how well he paid attention. I was like, “Are we talking about the same kid here?”

  2. Amanda on September 7th, 2012 12:28 pm

    My sitter once explained how my daughter gave me such grief, yet was an angel for her like this: “Mommy’s love is unconditional. If she wants me to even like her, she feels like she needs to earn it by behaving well.”

  3. Liz on September 7th, 2012 12:46 pm

    We say, “would you do something like this at school?” and our first grader says, “NO! I don’t want to go to the principal’s office!”

  4. Emily on September 7th, 2012 12:49 pm

    I love it. My little 1st grader is the SAME WAY! I get tired of hearing my own voice, I have to repeat myself so many times these days. But she is all over it as school. The first week of school she tells me in this sorta valley-girl/authoritative voice, “Mom, Mrs. Freeman does NOT like to repeat herself, so we have to listen!” Why does this good listening behavior not transition to the home life, and to MOM?!?! ;)

  5. Emily on September 7th, 2012 12:54 pm

    Consider yourself lucky you get anything more than “Good.” “Okay.” “Yeah.” from your son. I get NOTHING from my second-grader.

  6. JennB on September 7th, 2012 12:58 pm

    I think it’s better to have them behave in the outside world than at home, and act like a hellion at home instead of in the outside world…

    And my daughter still doesn’t like to tell me about her day. She’s in 2nd grade. It’s always a Thing.

  7. June on September 7th, 2012 1:01 pm

    I am enjoying a magical (but sure to be brief) phase of total and instant obedience plus happy demeanor from one of my 2-year-olds. I call it “service with a smile.” No matter what the request, she’ll carry it out and respond gleefully, saying, “I got my shoes!” “I’m sitting down!” “I’m eating a dinner with SPOON!” and I could just eat her up. She is totally earning brownie points.

    Maybe it will rub off on her twin (who totally pretends she can’t hear me) and her oldest sister (who does the polar opposite of whatever I ask while saying, “Do you still love me when I’m naughty?”).

  8. Liz on September 7th, 2012 1:13 pm

    awwww. he’s a Virgo through and through, isn’t he now? :)

  9. Amy N on September 7th, 2012 1:30 pm

    oh god….laughing so hard I almost choked! My Nick is just like that, too!!! I really thought his kinder teacher had him confused with someone else. One day he came home and was being a real pill. I asked him why his teacher told me that he was so good in school, helpful, etc. and why couldn’t he be that way for me. He looked at me with his big round eyes and said, “I guess I left all my goodness at school.”

  10. Randy on September 7th, 2012 1:58 pm

    Why is it when boys have a potty mouth it’s uncouth, but for girls it can be hot?! I suppose there’s the hotness factor of the girl involved too. No one likes an ugly potty mouth.

  11. Christine on September 7th, 2012 2:15 pm

    Mine is exactly the same. His teacher said to me last year, “He’s such a perfectionist, isn’t he?” and I really wondered if we were talking about the same kid.

  12. M on September 7th, 2012 2:23 pm

    First grade teacher . . . So common. Children are often better at schoo than home. I love Amanda’s comment about unconditional love. I have some horribly behaved children in my class and I wonder if this is their best, what does it look like at home? Shudders.

  13. Emily on September 7th, 2012 2:37 pm

    That insult? Is AWESOME.

  14. melanie on September 7th, 2012 3:01 pm

    My son is the exact same way, in fact I got an email from his 2nd grade teacher last week telling me what a delight he was to have in class and what a hard-working and sweet boy he was… I forwarded it to my family and every single one wrote back some version of, QUICK print it out and place it in his baby book now before we forget this happened. I get it, I was also one of the kids who thought school was serious business (perhaps its a first born thing), and gave my mom serious sass at home, so my kid comes by it honestly.

  15. Ashley on September 7th, 2012 3:27 pm

    That is EXACTLY how my kindergarten daughter is, too! WTH? Whatever, I am just glad she’s good at school!

  16. Kami on September 7th, 2012 3:32 pm

    You know this means that you and JB are doing your job, right? Kids aren’t meant to behave at home 24/7. It’s the outside world that counts at this point ;) Good job Mama!

  17. Trina on September 7th, 2012 4:33 pm

    My kids are exactly the same. My son will clean the preschool with a toothbrush and uses our floor as his personal trash can. Everyone always tells me how polite and well behaved my kids are. When my husband is at his wits end with the craziness I have to remind him that they are very well behaved kids for everyone else and that matters more. :)

  18. Christina on September 7th, 2012 7:32 pm

    Oh this had me in stitches. I mean seriously my kid thinks taking down his four year old sister is an Olympic sport that he must be well trained for but at school he’s like ‘DOOODE do not knock my best friend down’ and he gets home and tell us so with such indignance like how dare some mean bully would dare to hurt my bestest buddy in the world (at the time of this incident he only knew this boy for two weeks…) Me back to him ‘DOOODE you regularly draw blood from your own flesh and blood sister but little L you defend?!’ School is like some weird obedience zone for some kids!

  19. Karen on September 7th, 2012 8:36 pm

    So, my kid is too young to know if he’ll fall in my footsteps, but I was exactly like Riley. Though, to be fair, I was like that at home, too. I can very distinctly remember one particular day in the elementary school lunch line when the kid in front of me pulled a crumpled up dollar bill from his pocket to pay for his lunch. I said, “It is illegal to crumple money!! You can’t do that!” He looked at me like I was cray and passed his janky bill to the lunch lady. I thought for sure the cops were going to arrest him. Turns out, not only can you crumple money, you can also WRITE on it. The horrors!!!

  20. Cori on September 8th, 2012 4:44 am

    A cattle auctioneer! That’s EXACTLY it! I have to do the same thing to my kids and never had a title for it.

  21. Maggie on September 8th, 2012 7:07 am

    This is my first child to a tee! She would rather die than do anything to upset her teacher. She is in 6th grade now and has been that way all along. My second child, however, doesn’t care who she disappoints :/. And we have had more than a few calls home and ‘meetings’ with her teachers. Let’s hope Dylan will take after his big brother!

  22. Jen on September 8th, 2012 7:12 am

    I was a kindergarten & first grade teacher before staying home these last 9 years with this young crew, and parents always made these connections (who? what? my kid?) in conversations/parent-teacher conferences. I like it to us all going to work–we have our work self and our home self. Kids have figured that out as well–they take their business clothes off when they get home too. And burp, fart, put their feet on the furniture and throw (friendly?) insults at family members.

  23. Erin@MommyontheSpot on September 8th, 2012 7:21 am

    I just witnessed this same phenomenon with my son. He just started preschool, and I was able to see him paying attention with such keen ear. The same boy who is prone to fits of rage when we tell him it’s bath time. In a word: relieved.

  24. Christen on September 8th, 2012 1:41 pm

    I am filing away the diaper face insult for future use. Maybe even on my own brother. Seems like a normal thing for a 34 yr old woman to do.

  25. katy on September 9th, 2012 6:27 am

    My 6 year old is like this too. I watched in open mouthed amazement the other day when he walked into his classroom, sat cross legged on the carpet, and put his finger on his lips. This is the child that rarely listens to a word I say and finds all rude words hilarious.

  26. MelV on September 10th, 2012 9:33 am

    Ditto to that rendition of the first days of school. One afternoon during the first week he came home and was so off the rails obnoxious that I looked at him and said “how could you have gotten a sticker today if you were acting like this?” and he looked at me in complete seriousness and exasperation and said “Mom, I used up all my good behavior at school, I dont have any left and I have to get this out sometime.” (he’s 7 btw) Fair enough, son, fair enough.

    Also on the cattle auctioneer thing, yeah…my mom laughs at me because i have taken to just saying everything in threes so save myself time. Getupgetupgetup! Brushbrushbrush. Because evidence proves they cant even hear you until the third time.

  27. Cara on September 11th, 2012 7:26 am

    TRUTH! All of it.

    One thing I’ve been using with some success to get info out of my Kindergartener and 1st grader about how their days were at school is to make a little contest out of it. In the car on the way home I say, “It’s time to play the ‘Who Had the Most Awesome Day at School?’ game!” Then they take turns trying to beat each other by coming up with the most awesome thing that happened to them that day.

  28. lesley t. on September 12th, 2012 2:11 am

    I was definitely a Riley as a kid: angel at school, imp at home.

    What? It’s more fun that way.

  29. lisa on September 12th, 2012 9:14 pm

    I am a teacher, and my kids are the same way. My four year old supposedly eats cauliflower and lentil soup and chicken kabobs at daycare, which is interesting because at home we barely get her to inhale air that has touched food. My six year old couldn’t believe I am a teacher, and I had to show her my teacher manuals before she would let me correct her handwriting.

  30. April on September 13th, 2012 5:16 am

    My kids are also the same way. They are also that way in public, which means I spend a lot of time at the mall and Target JUST SO they can be magical boys for a little while.

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