#96 – Mommy and Me, and Machiavelli

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March 23, 2020

“Mommy? The microwave clock says it’s eight forty-three. We should have started school—“ Beth counts on her fingers “—eighteen minutes ago.”

She drums her pencil on the kitchen table, a black and white marbled composition book open, ready for the morning’s work.

I haven’t read the news on my iPad or checked Instagram or, more to point, had my second cup of coffee yet. There is no way I can cope with Beth’s clock watching and her new enthusiasm for homeschooling before I’m fully caffeinated.

“Are your brothers awake?” Knowing what the answer will be. Knowing that George probably snuck out of bed late last night to play Minecraft with Jack until an unsuitable time, and therefore neither boy will surface for at least another hour.

“No,” she says, in her are-you-really-that-stupid voice, and pulls my iPad towards her.

“Hey!” I object, but she takes no notice, and clicks on her brand new school email icon.

“George and me have an email from Miss Selwyn.”

“George and I,” I correct her. Not that I’m a particular grammar fiend, but my daughter brings out the competitive streak in me. Even though she’s only seven.

Beth gives me a withering stare. “No. It’s to George and me. Not George and you.”

“Yes, I know. But you should…never mind. What does Miss Selwyn say?”

She reads the email silently, her lips moving slightly with each word, then pushes the iPad back across the table to me. I know better than to ask her to read it to me. Beth hates reading aloud in case she mispronounces something.

March 23, 2020

From: Courtney Selwyn, Oakton Elementary School

To: Beth Patrick, George Patrick + 18 others

Subject: This Week’s Special Surprise Assignment!

Happy Monday to all of Miss Selwyn’s Second Grade Superstars!

I hope everyone is having fun doing their work at home! Yesterday I emailed this week’s Classroom Challenge to your parents. It’s the same deal as last week – you have to complete TWO assignments from each column during the week, in addition to watching my daily classroom video. Mom or Dad will be able to help you if there’s anything you don’t understand.

This week, as well as the Classroom Challenge, we are ALL going to do something together, which is very exciting! Everyone is going to start a daily journal, writing about their time in quarantine, and when we come back to school, we will make a big book of everybody’s journal entries. Write whatever you like – you can write about your family, what you had for lunch, what you did for exercise, what you did for fun, how you feel…just let your imagination loose!! Don’t forget to draw pictures as well! I have sent more instructions to your parents, so they will be able to help you get started.

Have fun, Superstars, and Stay Safe And Socially Distant!

Miss Selwyn

Teacher, Second Grade

Oakton Elementary School

Woodhaven Public Schools

“You need to check your own email, probably,” Beth says.

Sure enough, in my own inbox, there’s another teeth-grindingly upbeat message from the twins’ teacher.

March 23, 2020

From: Courtney Selwyn,

To: Libby Patrick +18 others

Subject: Extra E-learning Assignment

Dear Superstar Parents ~

You have most likely seen the email I sent to your children, about the extra assignment they have this week! A few parents expressed concern last week that the current work load was not enough, and therefore the three second grade teachers at Oakton Elementary have made the decision to add a daily journal to the Classroom Challenge. This will help the children with their language skills and handwriting, and also provide a valuable emotional outlet as they come to terms with this new way of life. But in a super-fun way!!!

We would like this assignment to be done on paper rather than on computer or tablet, using a different sheet of paper for each entry. (Template pdf attached.) Please keep all the entries dated and together in a folder, and return them to us when we resume school as normal. We will make a big time capsule book of journal entries when we are all together again!

Why not lead by example and make this a family project? Show your kids that keeping a journal is something everyone can do – even Mom or Dad!

Have fun, Superstar Parents! Stay Safe And Socially Distant!

Courtney Selwyn

Teacher, Second Grade

Oakton Elementary School

Woodhaven Public Schools

“Is it like a diary?” Beth asks. “Like Wimpy Kid?”

“Er…yes. That sort of thing. You write what you do every day.”

Beth wrinkles her nose. “Like, what I had for dinner, or what I did for school. Or what music I practiced on the recorder. Well…what I would have practiced on the recorder if it hadn’t gotten lost.”

“That’s right,” I say, not quite meeting her eye.

“But I know I brought it home from school with me because I was playing it on that first day for music class. And then poof! It just wasn’t in my bedroom anymore.”

Look. Sending a small child home with a recorder for an indefinite period of house arrest, with instructions to practice every day, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The recorder will reappear from the top shelf of my closet all in good time – most likely on the same day that Beth once more gets on the school bus at the end of our street.

“And George’s recorder got broke, so he can’t practice either.”

“That’s right.”

“And Jack’s violin broke a string and he can’t find his spare ones.”

“Mmmhmm.” I have to get her off this subject before she starts to piece the clues together. Beth is no slouch. “Anyway. Do you want to get started on this week’s Classroom Challenge?”

“No. It wouldn’t be fair to George. And you’ll have to explain things twice. But I could write the journal, couldn’t I? Can I read what Miss Selwyn said to you?”


She reads the email, frowning slightly.

“So…Miss Selwyn is giving you homework as well? You and Daddy? Will she grade you on it, or will you just get a gold star on your homework?”

“Neither. It’s just a suggestion. The moms and dads don’t have to do it.”

“But she says you do. So you should do it.”

I’m going to call Miss Selwyn for backup next time I suggest the twins tidy their bedrooms, since they evidently take more notice of her than they do of me.

“It’s optional. That means the parents only have to do it if they want to.”

“But the kids have to because some other mommies asked for more homework.”

“Yes.” I get up to print out the journal template.

“That doesn’t sound very fair.”

I shrug. “Sometimes life isn’t very fair. Jenna next door is graduating this year from high school and she doesn’t get to have a prom. Maggie can’t see us for weeks because we are all social-distancing. You can’t have any play dates with your friends for a while. None of that is very nice or fair but we have to do it to make sure no one else gets sick.”

Beth sits back in her chair, sucking on the end of her pencil – I’m sure this habit doesn’t come under the list of pandemic hygiene behaviors outlined by Drs. Fauci and Birx, but never mind – and eventually says, “OK. I’ll write my journal until George wakes up.”

I hand her the paper from the printer, pour her some orange juice and myself a second mug of coffee, and leave her to it while I peruse the New York Post.


“Finished!” Twenty minutes later, Beth waves the journal paper in the air. “My first diary page. Can you check my spelling, Mommy?”

I take it from her.

Dear Diary

Today I am going to do my homework as fast as I can because Mommy prommised me I can watch Frozen 2 this afternoon if I do. And then I’m going to watch The Tiger King. Jack says it’s not like The Lion King and I’m too young but I don’t see why he’s aloud to watch it and I can’t.

I want to practiss the recorder but I lost it the first day we had to stay home. It’s mine and George’s birthday soon so yesterday I looked in Mommy’s closet because that’s where she hides the Christmas presents that Santa brings. There was a recorder there just like my old one and some strings like on Jack’s violin that got broke so I hope I get a new recorder for my birthday even though Daddy said he would throw mine into the Sep Tick Tank if he heard it one more time when he was trying to Zoom…

“Right,” I say. “Erm…you don’t need to write this much, Beth. Two sentences is fine. Maybe the first one. And then say what you’re having for lunch.”

She pouts. “I wrote a lot. Don’t you think it’s very good? I bet Miss Selwyn would think it was good.”

“It’s excellent. Very detailed. Maybe…a bit too detailed. I’m not sure Miss Selwyn would give you a gold star for this. Tell you what. You keep a journal for school with just two sentences a day and keep your own private diary where you write what you like. Because diaries are supposed to be private anyway.”

She thinks about this.

“Did you ever keep a journal, Mommy?”

“I did. And then I stopped.”

She’s quiet for a moment.

“If I just write two sentences for school, will you do your journal with me? We can write together, and then you can make sure I’m only writing things that Miss Selwyn will give me a gold star for.”

And there we have it. The real reason for Libby: Resurrection.

My daughter, Beth.

Machiavelli would be proud.

This entry was posted in Episodes 91-100, Libby's Life Episodes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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