Knowing what to say and when to say it is an art. Or maybe a science.

So is knowing when to shut your mouth.

“Mom! Mom! I got into advanced science for next year,” said my eldest, coming through the door so hard she took off the handle.

The handle thing wasn’t a huge feat. There’s a loose screw and it pops off quite often actually, but suffice to say, the kid was excited.

“That is great,” I said. “But I thought you hated science.”

She rolled her eyes at the heinous accusation.

“That was just the periodic table,” she said, before adding, “this is great news,” in case her dense mother needed help understanding which news box, good vs. bad, to toss this one in.

“It’s just I remember all year you wanted me to schedule your orthodontist appointment during first period so you could miss science,” I said. “Did you study the periodic table all year?”

She ignored the question and pressed on.

“I can get high school credit!”

“You would do this little happy dance in the van,” I said. “Every ortho appointment.”

“It will lay the groundwork for other advanced classes!”

Then I realized mine was not to reason why, mine was but to smile and lie.

“Sounds wonderful, honey!”

News of the noble acceptance came just before summer, two and a half months of academic amnesia. A time when those who once claimed to love school start asking if they have to go back, ever. It was at the end of this tender juncture that the eighth-grade schedule arrived.

“I have no idea why I signed up for advanced science. This is going to be awful,” said the weepy voice on the phone.

I was at work when the call came, and I listened intently to how horrific the 13-year-old’s life was about to become.

“Unfortunately, sweetie, I think you are stuck.”

(Insert more tragic sounds of weeping, sniffling and general lament.)

“But I can write your guidance counselor to see if there is any wiggle room,” I said.

The letter took me 40 minutes to write, and I covered it all, stopping just short of quoting Maya Angelou and “America the Beautiful.” I was taking up the mantle of saving my child’s school year, and I was taking no shortcuts.

Click. Send.

Five minutes later, my phone rang again. A stranger had taken over possession of my daughter’s body.

“Hi, I am feeling so much better,” the voice chirped. “Dad just gave me a really, really good pep talk. I am looking forward to advanced science. It is going to be great!”

“What? But I ... Do you realize I emailed ...”

But then I stopped talking. Just stopped.

I typed out another note to the guidance counselor.

“Hi. Me again. Ignore everything I just said. Thank you.”

Martha Petteys writes a weekly column for The Post-Star. Write to her at petteyshome@gmail.com or visit her on Facebook.


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