When I saw that this week's SKC was fruit cocktail, I immediately thought of a scene from one of my favorite movies. In "Steel Magnolias," Dolly Parton makes mention of an easy dessert that has since been made famous at church potlucks in these parts, the "Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa."
Clairee (Olympia Dukakis): "What's that other one? The 'cuppa something?'"
Truvy (Dolly Parton): "Oh, that's easy. You don't have to write that down. It's a cuppa flour, cuppa sugar, and a cuppa fruit cocktail with the juice. Mix it up and bake it at 350 until golden bubbly."
Clairee: "Sounds awfully rich."
Truvy: "It is. That's why I serve it with ice cream. To cut the sweetness."
Then I kept reading and realized that the SKC fruit cocktail was actually calling for a fruity drink, not a recipe featuring the Del Monte classic, which brought to mind a different story and recipe entirely.
The Red Rooster is a delicious drink, made all the sweeter with the story that goes with it. Those of you who enjoyed my Weed Cupcakes story last week may get a kick out of another story of my sweet son and his kamikaze mother.
Last year, my son started kindergarten. Everything was going along swimmingly when in mid-November, his sweet, wonderful teacher left for maternity leave. The long-term sub, while very qualified, was a far cry from the sweet, wonderful teacher we had come to love. The new teacher was old-fashioned, very regimented, and very strict, and while there is nothing wrong with this, it's not what this classroom of children had grown accustomed to.
As the weeks with the new sub went on, I noticed things here and there. Intermittently, Alex was extremely hungry when getting home from school. When asked about what they had for snack at school, the answer was often “we didn’t have time for snack." I was also often told that they “didn’t have time” to go on the playground. One afternoon in January, the sub stopped me after school to tell me that Alex “needed to focus on his work more.” When asked to provide more details (ie, was he being disruptive?, is he not paying attention?, etc.), I was just told that he was not finishing his work in the time allowed. I told her to feel free to send any unfinished work home and Alex could finish it for homework, but she responded that “they get enough homework already” with a grin. I took this to mean that it wasn’t anything to be too concerned over. It was, after all, only kindergarten.
Finally, the day of reckoning, the last straw, the day I put all the pieces together, was upon us. I arrived by the flagpole to pick up my son with the other walkers. He arrived a little behind the other children, visibly distressed. When I asked what was wrong, he told me “I was finishing packing up and I wasn’t ready quite yet but she sent the other walkers on. I had to run to catch up and I was worried I wouldn’t find you.” I reassured him that he was okay, that he knew where to go, and that the teachers had radios. If a child was missing, they would find him. Alex asked to go to the playground and I said okay.
On the way to the playground, we passed by the car rider area. Pre-K and Kindergarten were out there with the sub and one other teacher. Alex's teacher motioned over and called sternly “I need to speak to Alex.” Alex showed signs of stress and anxiety, but I took his hand and we walked over together. In front of the other students and teachers, she told Alex sternly that he needed to “go inside and clean up your workspace.” Alex showed signs of embarrassment and shame (tears welled up, chin quivered, etc.). I assured him that it was okay and that I would go in with him and help him.
When we got to the classroom, Alex said “I didn’t finish my rooster.” I looked at his work area and saw several colored and cut-out parts of a rooster, along with a rabbit worksheet (completed), and his homework folder. Alex indicated that he wanted to finish his work so he wouldn’t have to finish it tomorrow and “be behind again.” I said, “No problem. We’ll stay and you can finish it. What do you mean, ‘be behind again’?” Alex told me that the reason he didn’t have time to finish his rooster was that he had needed to finish his rabbit from last Friday before he could start work on the rooster. This sounds like setting a child up for failure, does it not?
Around the time that Alex finished coloring/cutting/gluing the rooster project, the sub came back inside. She seemed surprised to see us still in the classroom. I explained that Alex had wanted to finish his work. She remarked that if he could just focus a little more, he’d be done in time. I tried to get clarification. Alex most always has “Green” on his behavior chart, so I assumed he was not acting out, being disruptive, etc. She said no, he’s a smiling, willing, cooperative student, just has trouble getting things done on time. I was unsure of what to say…how does a mother teach her child to speed up on kindergarten assignments? When this was addressed with his (real) teacher at the beginning of the year, she assured me that kindergartners were encouraged to work at their own pace and that they were taught to their individual level, so as to avoid stress.
Alex had been coming home from school with headaches, had been having trouble sleeping, and had expressed reluctance about going to school. This, to me, indicates stress.
After completing the rooster and cleaning up his work area, Alex asked the sub, “May I please have my snack now?” She thought about it for a moment, then replied, “I’ll give it to you this time, but tomorrow, I want you to finish your work if you want a snack.” Alex then expressed thanks for the snack and sadness that in addition to missing snack at school, he was not allowed to go to centers. Again, he was reminded to focus on finishing his work so that he would be allowed to participate in center time.
I grabbed a couple more snacks out of the basket and marched down the hall to the principal's office with my child. We discussed the fact that, as his parent, my concern was that my child was falling further behind and being singled out over not finishing worksheets. He appeared to be having snack withheld as a punishment (this is not acceptable to me, especially since he eats lunch at 10:45 am). He was also missing out on center time, which, while fun and engaging, is also valuable learning time for kindergarten students.
From the beginning of the school year, Alex had been working to improve fine motor skills. This could be part of the reason he was falling a bit behind on activities involving a lot of steps (coloring, cutting, gluing, etc.) Rather than criticize and punish, wouldn’t encouragement be a better motivator?
I told her I was fearful that continued singling out and withholding of privileges (snack, center time, etc) may cause Alex to dislike school, feel reluctant to try his best, and lose interest in learning new things. He’s a bright, eager child who loves learning, and we wanted to make sure that nothing killed that spirit.
I asked that she, the principal, please help us to make sure we were all on the same page concerning practices and procedures, as well as any help Alex may need in order to stay caught up.
She agreed completely and said she would make it a point to follow through on all of this. I'm happy to report that my child had snack and center time every day for the rest of the year, his headaches and nightmares all but disappeared, and the rest of kindergarten passed without incident. He was promoted to first grade with all of his classmates, where, so far, 3 weeks in, he's doing very well. Whew.
Sometimes a little parent intervention is all that's needed. I have no clue what's going to happen when he gets to middle school and wants me to drop him off down the street and never show my face anywhere near his learning institution. I guess he's on his own at that point! Hopefully we'll give him the roots and wings he needs to survive and thrive.
This drink is in honor of my son and that red rooster project that we are oh-so-proud of. Alex, here's to you, my bright boy...you can have one when you're 21.
The Red Rooster
2 fluid ounces vodka
4 fluid ounces cranberry juice
1/2 fluid ounce orange juice
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into an iced glass. Garnish with cherries and an orange fan. Enjoy!
Text (C) 2010 Lisa Kuebler. Photo from googleimages.