‘You don’t understand!’
‘Mind your own business!’
I tiptoe past talking laptops, hoping no one will ask me anything.
I hear sighs, grumbling, moaning and rumble and try to ignore it.
My consequent answer: ‘I’ll wait until you ask me something politely’
I hear coming out of my mouth far too often.
When emotions run high, politeness apparently is temporarily turned off.
Yesterday I felt like a bullied schoolchild when one of them started a tantrum for the umpteenth time.
It’s not personal,” I whisper to myself.
It is not aimed at me, but at the school work, at expectations that are not communicated unambiguously, structured and logically and in too many different ways.
I was forced to become a mentor, teacher and supervisor, but also remain the biggest fan, coach and caretaker.
But above all, I am a punching ball. Because where do you go when you’re a kid and there is something you don’t understand? Where do you go when you find something difficult? When you are angry? If you are disappointed? If you feel you’re treated unfair? When you are faced with your own failure? If you are scared?
“Yes dear, I studied Dutch language and literature indeed. But no, I don’t understand those questions either.” I’m good at detecting ambiguity, and here it is, right here before me.
I understand you, my child.
“No, I don’t care the chemical composition, although I’m happy with your enthusiasm” and “no, I don’t know why this kahoot quiz doesn’t work either.”
“I think you should email that teacher for the seventh time.”
“Don’t you check the study guide?”
“Isn’t it on the Electronic Learning Program?”
“Have you already checked your mailbox?”
“Oh, you had to write a report on it!”
“Oh, you had to record it!”
“Oh dear. Yes, then you have to cycle 10 kilometers again. The gymnastics-teacher also wants proof you did the assignment.”
I want to have a punching bag myself. And I want to go back to my previous position. The one of a cup of tea and a biscuit. Of being a safe basis from where you can go into the world or you can start doing your homework. Of the living room for myself and playing the piano, guitar and flute for hours.
I need a vacation and so do my kids. And I’m not alone in feeling this way, because in near-desperation I wrote on Facebook: ‘I’m not a stupid mom. Maybe I’m just a stupid teacher.’ I turned out to be ‘not the only one feeling this way. Hence this blog and as we in our family use to say to each other here when we find something really stupid and annoying but also know that it is not the end of the world:
“I deserve the pity cup”.
That is, for being a punching ball.
First published in Dutch on April 21, 2020