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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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