By Mimi Greenwood Knight
Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn't have said.
I've heard the FBI holds extensive files on every American citizen — the good, the bad and the ugly. As the mother of a chatty, never-met-a-stranger five-year-old about to start kindergarten, my concerns are much more immediate. To be perfectly honest, I am petrified to think what and how much my son's kindergarten teacher is about to learn about me and mine.
My first three kids were a little on the quiet side, apt to speak only when they were spoken to. But my late-in-life child, Jonah, would talk to a post. The teacher seems like a nice enough lady. But I know my son. And I can't shake the image of her escorting him into the teachers' lounge one day, instructing him to, "Go ahead. Tell the other teachers what you were just telling me about your mommy." I shudder at the possibility.
It's not like there's anything that juicy in our family closet — or family tree, for that matter. I'm just worried about the way it might come out of Jonah's mouth. You know, like, "Guess what! We got to have cupcakes for breakfast because Mom's on deadline." (Eggs, milk, flour — aren't those breakfast foods?) Or, "You know, it's the thing you serve punch with, plus Mama uses it to scoop dead fish out of the fish tank."
That's actually mild for Jonah. This is the child who told the lady at the ball field as she was unfolding her ballpark chair, "Don't you think you're a little FAT for that?" and, after a half dozen lectures about not making such comments, hollered to me across a crowded church hall, "Don't worry, Mom. I'm not going to ask you why he's so FAT until we get in the car." My fears are not unfounded.
What Jonah thinks, Jonah says. And I'm not being paranoid when I imagine his teacher will be hearing things like:
• "Here. This is for you. Aunt Gail gave it to Mommy, but she didn't like it."
• "Then Mom said she'd KILL the next person who left dirty dishes in her office." (It's a figure of speech.)
• "Mommy thinks Daddy's made-out-of-money and Daddy thinks Mommy was born-to-wait-on-him."
• "But that's what Mommy called the man in the truck who honked at her."
• "I don't have to go to the bathroom. When we were stuck in a traffic jam, I just used a coffee cup." (Once! I let him do that once!)
• "If you open the bathroom door in a restaurant when my mom's on the toilet, she'll slam it on your arm."
• "Mom said it was okay to eat my hotdog after we cut off the part the cat licked."
• "My Mom says you're 'no-spring-chicken.' What does that mean?"
• "Mom couldn't find her running shorts 'cause they were under that gi-AN-tic pile in the laundry room." (I wouldn't exactly call it "gi-AN-tic.")
My strategy with this kindergarten teacher will be the same as with the three before her — ply her with baked goods and flowers from the yard, pamper her at Christmas and Teacher Appreciation time, extol her virtues to the principal, and hope beyond hope she has her own little blabbermouth at home and understands to take anything Jonah says with a grain of salt. Really!