Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Tutor Satan

The awkward moment when you want to murder a seven-year-old.

No seriously.

Every weekday afternoon at 4pm, I drive 2 minutes to the house of this first-grader named Collin to help him with his homework. Collin is blonde-haired and blue-eyed and--upon first glance--reasonably cute.

I have known Collin since he was one year old, and as long as I've known him, I've disliked him. Mostly it's his parents' fault. In their eyes, he can do no wrong. Spitting? Adorable. Screaming? Adorable. Kicking? Adorable.

Now that he's in first grade with homework, his parents are starting to realize that Oh, Hey, This Isn't Adorable. Their solution? Hire me to be a parent for them five hours a week.

In my mind, it's not quite Collin's fault he's a holy terror. He couldn't speak coherently until he was six because he was spoken to with baby talk until he went to kindergarten--where he stayed for three years. Everywhere he went, it was all about him. No one ever made him tow the line. No one ever told him no. No one ever expected him to play fair.

Until I came along.

I was not raised like Collin. I was taught to say "please" and "thank you" and form sentences consisting of the correct words, in the correct order, with the correct pronunciation. I was taught that you treat others the way you want to be treated, that the world does not revolve around you, and that the quickest way to Nowhere is to be a brat.

Needless to say, Collin and I are on different wavelengths.

Despite that, we actually got along very well for the first six months of his grade-school career. I ran the show differently, yes, but Collin seemed to like the structure. He liked the way I didn't assume he was an idiot. He liked the way I told him no.

I taught him all kinds of reading tricks, like "O-U says OW, like when you hit your knee on something" and "A-Y at the end of the word says AY" and "See the E that's separated from the A by just one letter? That's a ninja E. It's quiet, but it makes the A say its name."

I started to enjoy tutoring Collin, and I think he liked it himself. His grades went up and he became second in his class. I was working hard, but so was he. HE was doing well. HE was learning to read. HE was improving. It was great.

And if the story ended there, it really would be great. But it doesn't, and it's not.

This semester marks the beginning of Collin's spelling tests. That means he has to know how to spell five words a week. It's not even that big a deal, and he could spell them if he tried. But for God knows why, spelling has turned him into a completely different--and infinitely more hellacious--child.

If he just sat there saying "No, I won't," I wouldn't care. If he sat there SCREAMING "No, I won't," I could handle it. But he does more than that.

He won't sit in his chair. He gets up even after I've told him multiple times not to.

He throws things. And then either A) accuses me of doing it, and goes off on a long, loud tirade about "WHY'D YOU DO THAT? GOSH, STEPHANIE!" or B) demands to be allowed to go pick up whatever it is he threw. So he can chuck it again.

He snatches things, be it the book, the pencil, the paper, or anything else not attached to the table. He's especially fond of trying to rip the homework from my hands while screaming, "YOU'RE GONNA RIP IT! STOPPPPPPP!"

He thinks it's all a joke. He laughs. He smiles. He thinks he's adorable. That's not completely his fault, seeing as how it's been practically drilled into his platinum blonde head since he was born. But I have news: he's not adorable.

He's Satan.

He makes up his own rules. "In MY world, I don't tell lies and you have to let me go play." "Well, you said you would read this page for me." "We always take turns doing spelling words." "You promised me you'd let me get juice." We're not in your world; no, I didn't; no, we don't; and how dumb do you think I am?

He's stubborn. And not the silent type of stubborn. He does all of the above relentlessly, and today he wouldn't stay in his chair no matter what I said. So, I sat beside him and put my arm around him. Not going anywhere now, are you? That pissed him off. Insert twenty minutes of us sitting like that, him repeating--among other things--"Well, until you let go of me I'm not gonna be ready to write the words. I'm not gonna write the words til you let go of me. Too bad we're gonna be here for like three days."




This is AFTER I'd gone through an hour and a half of the aforementioned Hell.

The only way I kept myself sane was by breathing slowly and forcing myself to smile and keep my voice even.

He thinks HE'S stubborn? I had news for the kid: He was pitting himself against the WRONG GIRL if he was hoping to out-stubborn me. He was looking at the girl who, as a child, sat in a kitchen chair for two hours because she didn't want to take a vitamin. He was looking at the girl who beat her FATHER in a verbal head-butting battle at age nine. He was looking at the girl who won Mock Trial, conquered chemistry, saved a playground and became a general in an all-boys playground army.


Turns out pretty close to my match. But not quite. Yeah, I outlasted him and we wrote the spelling words. But holy mother.

I don't know what changed when January first hit, but I hope we get over this bump in the road quickly. I don't know how much longer I can keep myself from shoving a pencil up the little demon seed's nose.

Pray for me. I have to go again tomorrow.



  1. I read an article about why the terrible two's happen. Up until that age children are given whatever they want. Hungry? Cry and get fed. Sleepy? Cry and get put to bed. Dirty? Cry and get changed. When they reach two they hear the word no. At two they realize that they're not the center of the world and those large people that wait on them hand and foot are not servants but their parents and those large people are actually the ones in charge.

    That's my way of saying it sounds like Collin's terrible two's were put off until he was six. By then he's much larger and smarter and can create a whole lot of trouble.

    You're wise enough to see that it's mostly his parents fault, and I think you have tremendous patience...stubbornness to keep up with it as I would have walked out.

  2. You could give him an inspirational speech on how he needs to learn to get a good job. Don't yell at him too much or he'll just resent you more. My primary school was a traditional Irish school, and they used to put bad children standing in the corner with a dunce hat on, or make them write out "Please forgive me God for I have sinned I have disrupted-" blah, blah 4 or 5 hundred times. The kids thought this was too much, and began to hate co-operating with their teachers even more. Is he an easy child to get along with outside of tutoring? Perhaps you could take him swimming/walking/exploring and bring the lesson into it.
    I've tutored a troublesome kid before, and got them to settle down in the end. It takes a LOT of patience, though! Very well written post by the way. :)

  3. Jay: Oddly enough, I'd never really thought about that, the fact that at one point it honestly DID seem to the child that the world revolved around him. Good point.

    Hopefully his parents will figure out that they're destroying their kid's life and make him tow the line a little better. We'll see. At any rate, I go off to college in eight months and they'll have to do SOMETHING different.

    Ginger: Dude, I've tried the inspirational thing at least twenty times. I don't ever yell at him. I'm more the slow-quiet angry with kids. Good gosh, writing that much would have the same effect on me too. Just make me want to rebel all the harder.

    Hopefully I'll have the same experience as you! And thank you :)