November 13, 2010


Usually, I go up to the apartment on Wednesday evenings to spend time with my older kids: we eat Chinese food and watch Glee. But this week was so busy that we waited until Friday night, and they came home. Evenings have gotten dark and cold, so I built a fire. My husband was out of town, so it was nice to have the company of my four kids, plus two of my nieces.

Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter had a stack of quizzes she was grading, and she sat on the floor in front of the fire, marking them up. She, Boy in Black, and I are all teaching first year students this semester. “In the Physics department, we have grading parties,” said Boy in Black. “Well, it’s not really a party, but we sit around and grade all day, and the professor brings food.” That actually sounded like more fun than the solitary grading we writing teachers usually do.

Shaggy Hair Boy and Blonde Niece sat on the couch, re-formatting Blonde Niece’s computer. “It’s going to take awhile,” Shaggy Hair Boy said. Blonde Niece decided to kill some time by baking, and soon the whole room smelled like warm brownies. Red-haired Niece arrived with some board games.

With-a-Why sat down at the piano. I’d left my music – the song I’ve been struggling with for weeks – open on the piano. It’s a Christmas song: Away in the Manager. I can play the right hand just fine, and the left hand just fine, but putting my hands together makes my head explode. Piano Teacher keeps assuring me that I’ll get it eventually.

So anyhow, With-a-Why sat down, glanced at this music he’s never played before, and played it beautifully.

“That’s so unfair,” I said to him. “I’ve been practicing that music FOR WEEKS, and I can’t get it right.”

“How’s it unfair?” he asked, his finger still moving lightly and gracefully over the keys. “I’ve been playing the piano for years. It’s entirely fair that I play better than you.”

“Hey, that song sounds … just a little bit familiar,” Shaggy Hair said, snickering. “Is THAT what you’ve been trying to be play, Mom?”

“I don’t think so,” said Boy in Black, grinning. “That’s nothing like what Mom’s been playing.”

Shaggy Hair Boy loves to tease me – as do all the young men of the household — but I have to admit that he’s also been completely supportive of my piano playing. When I’m practicing, he’ll say, “It’s getting better all the time.” He says things he’s learned from Piano Teacher. “Just take it slow.”

I don’t know what time the gang of young people all went to bed, but I ended up going upstairs sometime after midnight. I could hear the conversations and laughter still going on downstairs. By then Shaggy Hair Boy had taken his usual seat on the piano bench, playing jazz as I drifted off to sleep.


Songbird said...

I like your house.
(Just makes me wish my older kids were closer to home.)

Lomagirl said...

Could you write a parenting book, please, and quickly? It's quite clear that you and your husband have done it quite well, with all the kids liking to hang out with you.
I hope my kids want to hang with me when they are teens and older, but I'm afraid they won't. My guess is we have to set up patterns early- right?

jillheather said...

What are the lyrics to "Away in the Manager"? I'm thinking something like:

Away in the manager
No cubicle for his chair
The little office worker
Knew the boss wasn't there

It sounds like a fun office carol.

Jennifer said...

Ditto what Lomagirl said. I love that your older kids like to hang out with you. When I was growing up, I couldn't get out the door fast enough, and I don't want it to be that way with my kids. I think we're on the right track - I'm guessing the key is to simply be engaged with your children..

SwedishPhdStudent said...

Apropos grading parties. At my CS-department at the Royal Institute of
Technology (On this blog it probably should have an alias like "Posh
sounding technical university in the capital"), our professor does
something similar although he usually takes the TA's out to dinner
when all the grading is done. He brought the tradition with him from
the German university where he got his PhD.

Phil said...

What a wonderful salon!

Rev Dr Mom said...

How cool is it that you are all teaching first year students?!

Anonymous said...

Grading is indeed done better in company and with food. A friend of mine and I often go to Starbucks to hang out in the comfy chairs and drink endless green tea lattes while grading; it's the only way we get anything done.

Karen said...

Ditto again the people wanting parenting tips. I dream of my kids all getting along and wanting to hang out my husband and I and each other even when they are older...

Zhoen said...

In martial arts, the phrase goes "Practice slow, learn fast."