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1:31 p.m. - 2010-11-07
Art and Academic War

The dining room is put back together. The new rug makes it a bit gloomy in there. The old one was a very pale green ground with slightly darker stylized palms and flowers in green, maroon and beige. I know it never struck anyone else this way but I always loved the combo of the vaguely tropical print carpet with my heavy carved Victorian furniture. It reminded me of the British in their Empire days. How they'd go off someplace exotic and recreate their veddy proper upper-crusty households in the damnedest places. "Hellooo! Welcome to Simla (or Bangkok or Yangtze). Do come in for crumpets and tea, won't you?"

The new rug is much the same palette as the previous one but much darker hues. And its design is a geometric of overlapping squares, a stark post-modernist which is quite pretty but doesn't inspire any fanciful mental travels. It's a rug and it keeps the chairs from marking up the floor. Not a magic carpet.

Along with my cleaning I was busy this week ferrying Wolf to Science Olympiad practice. A rigorous schedule with practices five days a week. Not what we had anticipated when the plan was first hatched to get Wolf involved in an activity at the district middle school. It was meant to be something fun and a way for Wolf to meet some of his future classmates and begin to acclimatize to regular school.

I'd had my doubts all along. Not that he shouldn't or couldn't get involved with a club of some sort, that part was dead on, but whether the actual activity he signed up for was the right one. I was right to worry. Far from being the science hobbyist club that met a couple times a week to build model rockets and grow hydroponic radishes that Wolf and his advisor at his current school thought it was, Science Olympiad is a hardcore academic team.

Now a word about Podunkville and its attitude toward its academic teams.

These people do NOT fuck around.

The Podunkville Odyssey of The Mind team has gone onto World finals. Like after winning regional, state and nationals they go to Denmark and Belgium and even fricken Japan to compete against other world-class teams.

Podunkville kids go to the National Spelling Bee. The Latin-Ancient Greek Debate team has its own trophy case at the high school. Mathletes, Mock Trial, they have teams that build solar cars, go to the UN to debate politics, calculus competitions, in short Podunkville is Texas high school football serious about its academics.

By law they had to accept Wolf onto the Science Olympiad team, but he's been about as welcome as a cockroach on a wedding cake. And just as visible as an outsider. Not Our Kind, Dear. The coach, while not outright hostile to Wolf, has been very clear about her distaste for having to lump a special ed kid in with her precious champeen brainiacs.

I hung tough though. If this was what Wolf wanted then I'd do it. The insane practice schedule. The endless fundraising. The providing of healthy snacks and overseeing of begging trips to local businesses for donations and sponsorships. Wednesday and Thursday I'd suffered through the squint-eyed nosy questions from the maniacally hyper uber-parents who, if anything, are worse than the coach about needing to win.

After a week of floundering and being ignored by coach and team alike I picked Wolf up after yesterday's 5 hour practice and he was bummed. We talked about it. Debated the pros and cons. I did NOT put any of my own observations about the poisonous NOKD tude of the coach and parents, I stuck with what it means to make a commitment to a team and what Wolf was getting out of the deal. If he was liking the studies and wanted to gut it out, then I was there for him. If he didn't think it was the right activity then he needed to opt out now, before it got too deep into the season. (I knew they'd be glad to see the door behind him no matter what or when, but it was put in terms of being a responsible person who thinks about the team as a whole and whether it would be fair to leave a blank in the line-up later on.)

Wolf struggled. He didn't want to be a quitter. He didn't want me to think he was too lazy to work hard. I assured him he was nothing of the sort. Leaving now wasn't quitting, it was having given something a fair trial and discovering it wasn't his dish and moving on to find something that he enjoyed more. He couldn't have known whether it was right until he tried it. We have much the same rule about food. In this house you have to try a few bites, but I never make my family choke down an entire plateful. If he gave the red cabbage an honest taste test and then still didn't like it he didn't have to eat more of it. But he did have to take in more than a teeny crumb. Fair is fair.

Relieved, my boy said he wasn't ready to jump into this particular activity. It was too difficult logistically. The other kids hung out with each other at school and were able to keep their notes and do their research on the school's database. (Each student has a school computer account with storage and net access.) Wolf had to print everything at home and lug it around and his being at another school all day meant he missed out on the informal convos and decisions.

Okey-doke. On Tuesday we'd go to practice and thank the coach and tell her he was leaving. We go and do it in person. That was just the decent thing to do. Just dropping out and disappearing was irresponsible. I'll thank her too, without rancor and with honest gratitude. For whatever else she was, the coach did let Wolf onto her team and that should be acknowledged.

I asked Wolf what he might like to do instead. He thought on it and said he really enjoyed drawing. Could he maybe find something arty to do?

Absolutely. Last night I did some looking around and found a local art school that has all sorts of classes and workshops. I showed the website to him this morning and we found a drawing class that sounds just right. Next Saturday instead of grinding away all day at Science Olympiad he'll hopefully be happily sketching and meeting some potential friends. Friends who won't care where he goes to school during the week or whether he's willing to kill to get a blue ribbon at the spring art fair.


Fingers crossed. ~LA

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