F (Daddy’s finger moving along): Say. Look. A. Bird. Was. In. Your. Ear. But. He. Is. Out. So. Have. No. (Pause.) Fear?
D: That’s right.
F (Daddy’s finger on the hardest word on the page): There? No! Wait!
D: There? There’s no “th” in that word, goose.
D (covering only the “a”): What would it be if the word only had these letters?
F: Guh. Ay. Nuh. Guh-ay-nuh. Gay-nuh. Gain?
D: That’s right. I really liked how you sounded that out, Fisher! That was cool.
F: Thanks, Daddy. Gain. Your…
D: Wait, hold on. You forgot the letter I’m covering. (Uncovering the “a”.) What would this word…
F: A. Gain. A-gain. Again?
D: It is “again”. Nice job working that out.
F: Oh, thanks. Again. Your. Ear. Can. Hear. My. (Long pause.) Duh-er. Der. (Daddy points to the other “dear”, the “hear”, the “near”, the “fear, in quick succession.) Dear.
D: Again your ear can hear, my dear!
F: Because it doesn’t have that bird in it anymore?
D: That’s right. It would be hard to hear with a bird in your ear, right, my dear?
F: Uh, huh. Look, that bird has a blue face.
D: It does.
F: Daddy, can we do another page?
F: Because this is fun.
Daddy implements the “finger” method: pointing to each word read (by him or by one of the twins). Either the kids are coincidentally ready to start reading just the introduction or it helped nudge them over the reading edge: both are reading simple books now, with a little help here and there…because English is so crazy: “were” and “where”…and “meat” and “great”…and “height” and “weight”…and…so many other whack-a-do words.
But, these words — “Because this is fun” — are the best heard all day.
In any home concert, determining which performer is the lead singer and which is the backup dancer requires close examination.
First, try to identify which child is…Cory. Once you’ve finished with that painstaking process, you have, in all likelihood, identified the lead singer.
She will likely also display other telltale clues, besides everything else about her, that she’s the lead, clues like, a maraca-cum-microphone in one hand, a position closer to the front of the stage, and a “we’re on” smile plastered over frustration with the other guy’s inability to ignore the beat of the drummer in his own head to strictly follow her direction.
C (only slightly below normal voice during the big finish): Like this, Fisher. Fisher!? Like this. Fisher?! With your leg. And your arm. Fisher!! Fisher!!!
Fisher smiles through every exclamation point she manages to squeeze past her smiling, gritted teeth.
Close to the beginning of this past school year, a little boy runs over to Daddy at pickup. The boy is NOT Fisher.
B (assertive, energetic): Does Fisher not have a mom?
D: Well, hello. I’m Mr. Mike.
B (excited to resolve a dispute in his own favor): Fisher says that he doesn’t have a mom, that he has two dads. Is that true?
Daddy glances over at Fisher, who’s moving toward Daddy, hands working in idiosyncratic sheepishness or apprehension.
D: Yep, sure is. Cory and Fisher have two dads and no mom. Pretty cool, huh?
B (taken aback): It’s true?
D: Yes, it is. Do you have a mom or a dad?
B: I have a mom and a dad.
D: Awesome. That must be fun.
Fisher relaxes as the boy wanders away, body language communicating disappointment. On the way home, Fisher confirms that the boy was pretty sure that Fisher had been lying to him and that he was hoping to make Fisher eat some crow. Daddy decides to keep an eye on this one.
There’s a report later in the year that Fisher and this boy have continued to butt heads, that they’ve been warned at the Y to keep their hands to themselves. When asked about the boy, Fisher indicates that they are “not really friends,” which is saying something because the kindergarten classrooms generally equate “classmate” with “friend” to avoid cliques and hurt feelings…all of them are “friends.” A little later, the after-school soccer coaches report that Fisher and this boy are getting very physical with one another on the field and have been told repeatedly to tone it down.
On the eerier side, though, throughout the year, at pickup, Daddy will get that creepy feeling of being watched, only to look around and find this boy staring, fascinated for some reason during Daddy’s whole pickup process, from lifting each kid up to kiss them to walking out the door. This kid has apparently also decided to keep an eye on Daddy. If the boy weren’t six, Daddy’d start watching his back.
An inquiry to Fisher’s teacher (they are in the same class) causes her to watch their interaction closely for a few days. The report? Nothing out of the ordinary, at least not in the classroom. In fact, they barely ever interact at all.
C (at bedtime toward the end of the school year): Daddy, can I tell you something?
C: I don’t really like Bart.
D: Oh? Why not?
C: Well, he just tells on me and Gabi all the time. For no reason. It’s like…
F: I don’t like Bart either. Not really.
D: Why don’t you like Bart?
F: Because he tells on me for no reason.
C: And today, Daddy, let me tell you. Bart lied.
D: He did? What did he lie about?
C: Well, I saw him hit Fisher like this. (Slapping Daddy’s chest in the dark.) It was hard, Daddy. And then Fisher hit Bart back like this. (Pushing Daddy’s chest more gently in the dark.) And, then Bart told the Y leader that Fisher hit him, and when Fisher said that Bart hit him first, Bart just lied. He lied to the Y leader! He did hit Fisher first!
D: Fisher, why did Bart hit you?
F: I don’t know.
D: He just walked up to you and hit you?
D: Did it hurt?
F: Kind of. No, not really.
D: Well, did you hit him back?
F: Kind of.
C: But, Daddy, it wasn’t really hard or anything. And Bart just told on Fisher. And then he lied!
D: That’s not good. It’s not good that Bart hit you, Fisher. I don’t like that he did that. It’s not good that he lied. I don’t like that either. Let me think about those things, okay?
D: But, Fisher, can you control Bart?
F: Um…what did you say?
D: Can you control what Bart does or says?
F: Um, no.
D: Can you control what you do or say?
F: Um, yes.
D: Well, you hit or pushed Bart back. That wasn’t the…
F: But, he hit me first!
D: I know. You can’t control that. You can’t control what he did. But you can control what you do after he does that. Right?
F: I guess so.
D: Well, next time, you should think really hard about whether to hit or push Bart back, whether that helps things or makes things worse.
F: Okay. But he…
D: You can’t control Bart, Fisher. You can only control yourself.
F: Well, he should control hisself.
D: Himself. (Sheesh, with the “hisself” thing.) Yes, he should.
C: I don’t like Bart.
D: Listen, you don’t have to like Bart and you don’t have to like everyone, but you should try to be nice to everyone, okay?
C: Okay, but I don’t like that he hit Fisher, and I don’t like that he lied.
D: I don’t like those things either, Cory. But, I’m going to try to find a way to like Bart even though I don’t like what he does sometimes. Now, let’s…
Daddy moves things along. The next Thursday, Daddy works from home and heads over during soccer practice. Sitting next to other people near a tree, the kids don’t know Daddy’s watching. The coach explains a drill to teach the kids how to block without fouling each other. The ball sits on a little cone. One kid turns his body at a right angle to the ball so that he can watch the ball and the other player. He then shuffles around, using his body and his elbow, without ever raising it too high, to keep the other player from getting to the ball. She pairs Fisher and Bart up for this exercise.
Perfect petri dish.
They try to block each other. Each gets the ball away from the other a couple of times. Elbows are raised but never thrown. There’s some jostling, but nothing of concern. A few smiles even break out. Daddy feels reassured that de-escalate/defuse has been the right approach throughout the year. Just kid stuff. Neither here nor there.
But, um, neither here not there, with an asterisk because…
…a couple of days later, Daddy gets that creepy feeling of being watched during pickup. He turns around. Bart is standing in the middle of the room, by himself, staring at Daddy and Fisher interacting. Staring.
D: Hi, Bart. What’s up?
Bart stares for a couple of seconds more and then takes a couple of steps across the room, still staring.
Oh, well. For now. Daddy can’t control Bart. Daddy can only control “hisself.”
Before the bone chewing, Cinder stares at the family sanding chairs on the other side of the fence. At some point, the music dictates a quick break, you know, to stretch, mix it up.
C (walking to school the next morning): Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader! Daddy, can you show me that thing with your shoulders? (Stopping and trying that thing with her shoulders.) Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader!
Her attempts are pretty funny. Her upper body and lower body don’t seem to move independently yet.
D: Almost got it, Cory.
F: You look as funny like Daddy, Cory. Good job!
C (laughing, wiggling, moving forward again): Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader! She is always right there when I need her.
D (liking the vibe but annoyed by the lyrics): Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a giant schnauzer!
F: A giant schnauzer!
C: A cheerleader!
D: Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a giant schnauzer! He is always right there when I need him.
C (giggling): No! It’s “oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader! She is always right there when I need her!”
F: I like Daddy’s way.
D: He gives me love and affection. Baby, did I mention, you’re the only dog for me, no, I don’t need a next one, Papa loves you, too, he thinks I made the right selection…oh, I think that I’ve found myself a giant schnauzer! He is always right…
C (faux irritated): Cheerleader!
F: Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a giant…
D: Good job, Fisher.
D/F: Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a giant…
C (laughing): Cheerleader!
F: Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a German shepherd!
C: Daddy, what does a German shepherd look like?
Talk drifts through dog breeds, ending for a long stretch on pit bulls. Daddy overhears Cory, oblivious to his departure, explaining all the dangers of pit bulls to her kindergarten friend in a very serious tone as they march single file to their classroom. Fisher knows Daddy’s off. He smiles and waves bye.
D (humming on the way home, a quick, toned down version of the shoulder thing): Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a giant schnauzer…
She walks like a model? You’re the wizard of love? With a magic wand? Really? Is it really that magic? That song really should have been called The Dog Song, with various versions endorsing various breeds.
D (continuing to hum): Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a giant schnauzer…