I should have known something was up. There I sat across from three of Sarah's teachers. Like any parent, I was worried. They hadn't told me why I was coming in. They said they'd discuss it when I got there. It could mean only one thing: Sarah had done something flagrantly illegal, something mordant and hideous. They were calling me in to dismiss me from parenting forever, then putting her into a "home." Probably with high walls and guards.
I swear there was a single, 40-watt bulb over the table and I barely could see their haggard veteran educator faces. They slid my daughter's creative writing essay across the table. The room chilled.
I braced myself and looked across the table, expecting a grim visage set in grave concern. I was wrong.
They were smirking.
Teacher: Mr. Garling-ton, thank you for joining us.
Me: You make it sound like I had no choice.
Teacher: Take a look at your daughter's essay and tell me what you see.
I looked down at the paper. I didn't want to show weakness. But as soon as my eyes landed on the page, I saw a pattern emerge, as if my daughter was trying to send me a message.
There, wedged between actual seventh-grade vocab words, was a string of F words. A lot of F words.
She was a sending me a message all right.
I'm no snitch. I shrugged and said "So?" like I was channeling Clint Eastwood.
OK, actually I said, "Well, it's creative."
Apparently, this wasn't the answer they were looking for. They laid into me, hammering me with explanations about form and context, about accepted commonalities. They even used the word colloquial. Colloquial.
I didn't blink. Because they got nothing on me. I'm a frickin' parent. I'm front line. I know teachers are tough, but when did they ever peel their kid's underwear off the floor or clear a house for lice only to find out it was dandruff? I've been in the weeds, man.
I held my ground like a rock and ...
... they started laughing.
"Mr. Garlington, we think the essay is a hoot. Seriously, it's the funniest thing we've read in years. Sarah is wildly talented."
"Oh, well thank-"
"But she's gonna fail unless you have her change the F word so U and C are replaced by asterisks."
"You're just gonna let me walk out of here?"
"*&^%$# right we are."
Christopher lives in Chicago with his wife and kids and can also be found at deathbychildren.com.
See more of Christopher's stories here.