“Mind Over Middle School” by Amy Mullis
This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Mom.”
This school year, I’m twitching like a substitute teacher with a cold sore in sex-ed class.
You see, I have a middle-schooler. Now, the possibility I might confuse the toothpaste with his hair gel in the morning is a real danger—as if I needed another Fruit Loop in the morning mix. But at least I’m confident my hair would have fluoride protection.
Because he is certain that I have the IQ of a bran flake, my son gave me detailed instructions for the school year. So that no one will suspect him of having actual parents, I should not be the first in line to pick him up at the end of the day. It’s much cooler to hide behind the dumpsters and tap out a secret Navajo code when he wanders past—unless he is walking with a friend, in which case I should stuff my mouth with old bread wrappers to help me resist the urge to call out his name. My assignment for this year is to write cunning notes excusing him from gym class.
This morning, in the time I usually reserve for scavenging for coffee money in the glove compartment, I found a small packet of curled papers, one folded intricately into a paper football. This highly official document, addressed to me personally (Parent or Guardian), bore the title, “Questionnaire from Teacher,” and was obviously written for purposes of public humiliation. My son hasn’t given me this much intimate information about himself since he could form the words “No comment” without spitting applesauce down his chin.
I opened the form and began to read: “Does he have any health problems?” (It depends. Is potty mouth a disease or strictly a condition treated by telephone restriction and the loss of electronic entertainment?) “What is the name and phone number of the nearest relative not living with you?” (My ex-husband. Thanks for the memories.)
Chuckling to myself, I fumbled in my purse for a pen. All I could find was a tube of travel-sized toothpaste and a Q-Tip. My choice of writing utensil would probably result in more questions, but at least the paper would have a clean, fresh taste.
Squinting through my bifocals and dipping my Q-Tip in Icy Mint Gel, I proceeded with answering the questions.
Question: Is your child organized?
Answer: Yes. He has 3,962 trading cards perfectly categorized in three-ring binders and labeled as to type, condition and year. Each one is logged in a notebook tagged with a security sensor that emits a deafening noise, lays down a toxic smoke screen and dials the emergency squad if disturbed by a younger brother. These notebooks are strategically hidden beneath 3 tons of toxic waste on his bedroom floor.
Question: How much time does your child spend on homework?
Answer: He has homework?
Question: What subject takes the most homework time?
Answer: He has different subjects?
Question: How would you rate your child’s social skills?
Answer: This is difficult to answer. If, by social skills, you mean does he gargle green JELL-O at the dinner table or spit down his brother’s shirt when there are no witnesses, I would say he reeks of social skills. Of course, the same child is likely to become invisible if I mention the word “underwear” in public.
Question: How can I best help your child learn?
Answer: Insert homework material into commercial segments that air during television shows offering Japanese animation. This kid memorized the words to every commercial made since 1987, but he cannot recall his address and date of birth unless a mail-in rebate is involved.
Question: What special facts do I need to know to help your child learn?
Answer: He considers it a personal insult to be included in vocabulary tests. He is offended by teachers with fussy hairdos or bizarre mannerisms (such as weeping bitterly at the beginning of the school day). He prefers ice cream over meatloaf for lunch, loathes science projects and thinks teachers who wear pith helmets to school are neat.
Question: What are your child’s goals for the year?
Answer: To sleep until 7:45 every morning, to exist for an entire year on curly fries and carbonated beverages and to wear cooler clothes than T. J., who sports a dog chain around his neck and torn boxer shorts over his pants.
Question: Whom do I call in case of emergency?
Honestly, you’d think a teacher would know that.
Amy Mullis embarrasses her children from her home in the Sweet Tea Section of South Carolina. She earned an Honorable Mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition and has served up essays in a buffet of anthologies. For more “Don’t Let This Happen To Me” moments, visit her blog, MindoverMullis.com.
Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Mom.” The book is filled with 64 hilarious stories by moms raising their families. Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (
To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.