Another weekend, another school. This time it was my school, and my son went with me. After we had spent the previous Saturday sweeping and hosing down his middle school, we headed on over to the elementary end of things. There was some tidying up to do, but mostly we focused on getting a hillside landscaped with brand new greenery.
We were met by a big crew, given our standards. There were a number of other teachers, parents and neighbors. And there were plenty of kids. When we signed in, I thought for a moment about explaining to the woman who was watching the lists that we didn't need to sign up for a chance to win baseball tickets. Then I remembered just how important those kinds of things are to my son, and since he had biked all the way over on a Saturday morning, I went ahead and put his name on my ticket as well as another for him. That's when I noticed that he was already busy taking care of himself. Now he had three chances to win the raffle.
But we weren't there for the baseball tickets. We were there to move some mulch around. I am always pleasantly surprised at just how easy it is for my son to connect with grown ups. He found a place on the hill and got straight to work digging and planting. At his age, I would have hung around like most of the other kids and waited for my mom or dad to find me something to do. He was into it. I went off in search of my own work.
We all worked hard for two hours, and by the end of it, there were a number of the younger kids who had done more than their share of hauling and digging and planting and sweeping. They were hovering around the snack table, expectantly. There were a few fifth grade boys, just a year younger than my son who had drifted off to ride their skateboards on the nearly empty playground.
"Hey guys," he called, "there's still work to do." Then, under his breath he whispered to me, "Slackers." I had a moment of supreme chagrin. My "Cool Hand Luke" work ethic had transferred fully to my son. When all ten yards of redwood mulch had been moved from the playground to the hillside, we put up our shovels and our brooms. He didn't get lucky on any of his three shots to win baseball tickets. He didn't care. He did make sure to tell our first grade teacher how lucky he was to score a pair. Then he grabbed a juice box and a Rice Krispie treat. It was break time. When he finished a second marshmellowy snack, it was time for the ride home. It was then that I remembered a morning, now almost twelve years ago, when I had strapped my infant son into our jogging stroller and ran through the streets in search of the place that I would eventually begin my teaching career. I wanted to be sure that I could find it on the day of my interview. A dozen years ago my son went with me to find the place where I got my first classroom position, and I'm still there. This time I didn't have to push him. I didn't need to.