I just looked down at my T-shirt and saw the labels that my 13-year-old son printed out and then stuck on me earlier today.
MATH IS FUN GEEK CLUB
IM A PROUD MEMBER
He had stuck an I KICK ASS AT MATH label on the backside of my shorts but he promptly removed it after I told him that both the wording and placement was crossing the line and bordering on being disrespectful.
The whole label thing came about after I took him shopping for back-to-school supplies.
Checklist in hand, we roamed the aisles of Staples.
It was so exciting and made me think back to my school shopping trips with my mother. As we walked in the door, I was giddy with memories of brand new colored pencils packaged in rainbow order, scented markers that smelled like real artificial fruit, erasable pens (can you believe it!) and the piece de resistance — a Trapper Keeper notebook in all its shiny, plastic glory. I wanted to find a permanent marker to sniff to prolong my back-to-school buzz.
However, I was quickly brought down to Earth by my son. This seems to be his full-time job.
He matter of factly picks out a couple of binders, a pack of Pentel mechanical pencils and some other necessities, and he’s done. Done. How can that be? There are aisles and aisles of pencil cases and paper punches, rulers and ruled paper, gel pens and glue sticks.
I quietly pay for the supplies, and we head home. While I’m driving, I turn to him and very earnestly say, “I have a notebook at home that has graph paper in it. You can have it if you want.”
For some reason, I thought he would find this neat. I used to love graph paper (imagine the word “LOVE” formed square by square on a sheet of graph paper). You could draw on it, use it to make word jumbles or to make your math homework neat as a pin. I have a very distinct memory of tucking into a brand new pack of colored pencils and using them to do long-division practice problems on a sheet of graph paper. So orderly and colorful with each row of numbers a different shade of the rainbow. Imagine the joy this brought to my 12-year-old OCD self.
Him: You’re kidding, right?
Me: No, I used to love graph paper when I was a kid.
Him: Mom, that is so lame. (snickers) Did you and your lame-o friends used to have graph paper parties?
Me: Well, actually, we used to get together and make word searches.
Him: (peals of laughter) Oh. My. God. That is so geeky.
I want to tell him how my friends and I liked books and puzzles and brain teasers and words. That we cared about our grades and thought that an organized notebook and a fresh number 2 Dixon Ticonderoga would help us achieve and succeed.
For a split second, I think about telling him how we loved Mad Libs. That Mad Libs are fun and smart. “See, it is possible,” I want to say.
I catch myself just in time, though.
I wear my labels for most of the day. He points them out to the other kids and they all laugh .
Little do they know that “geek” is a label that I’ll proudly wear any day of the week.
I can kick all of their asses at a times table competition. Losers.
I take the graph paper notebook from the pile of school supplies on our kitchen table and quietly put it in my desk drawer.