The Style Guide

I’ve said it before, this blog basically writes itself. The professor opens his mouth and strings together a series of non-sequiturs; I try to remember them and ta-da: blog post.

I must say ta-da a lot, because all of the Johnson boys walk around the house saying ta-da when unveiling something of negligible importance. That, and seriously. ‘Have you heard Percy saying seriously,’ the professor asked me today. I hadn’t. ‘I’ve no idea where he gets it from,’ I denied any potential allegations and walked out of the room.

When the professor isn’t saying something bizarre and funny, my kids are. Like the Hen’s take on Remembrance Day. I picked him up from preschool yesterday and collected the ‘poppy’ art they’d done after learning about the significance of the day. ‘So, why did you do this poppy?’ I asked the Hen as we walked home. ‘They’re petals,’ he insisted on calling the little red fingerprint dots of paints scattered across the page. ‘Yeah, but what’s it for,’ I tried again. To see if he’d actually learned and/or remembered something about Remembrance Day. ‘They’re petals,’ he continued. And I felt like I was talking to a brick wall. ‘Is it for Christmas?’ I tried to spell it out in the singsong manner of preschool teachers. He seemed confused by the question, so I tried the blunt approach, ‘did you learn about Remembrance Day?!’ There was no answer so I abandoned my teachable moment and we walked on in silence.

After we’d been home for a few minutes, he approached me and randomly recollected: ‘sometimes people wear poppies and then they die in wars.’ And I laughed, because what else do you do when a four year old frames a day of remembrance so…casually. (And incorrectly.) This same kid came home from preschool last week and told me they’d learned about Vincent van Gogh and his painting ‘Story Night’.

I actually spent three minutes trying to convince him it was ‘Starry Night’, going so far as to pull up images on the computer of the famous painting(s). ‘It’s Starry Night, because it has stars in it,’ I persisted, pointing at said celestial objects. But he would have none of it. It seems the four year old attention span allows for the retention of [some] facts, but not necessarily [at all] in the correct order. Also, we should probably get his hearing tested.

But this was supposed to be about the style guide.

‘Did you see your oldest reading the Style Guide?’ the professor asked when I came downstairs yesterday. I had no clue what he was talking about and thought he meant the Style section of the Sunday New York Times we bought-and-didn’t-read. Because the Gort continues to display an interesting approach to all things fashion, appearing at my bed yesterday morning wearing an orange and blue striped t-shirt under a blue and yellow striped cardigan. Even in the dark, I could tell it was a bad idea, but I let it go.

So imagine my surprise when I picked up the cardigan-less Gort from school and find him carrying the Webster’s New Pocket Style Guide in his hand. Aha! ‘What are you doing with that?’ I had to ask. ‘I’m using it to look at capitalization and punctuation,’ he explained with the same level of enthusiasm Alex P. Keaton used to refer to Ronald Reagan. ‘I had it on my desk all day, and I made these bookmarks so I would know where to look.’ ‘Capitalization of what?’ I interrogated, because I’ve seen his spelling lists and from what I can tell grade two is not exactly rigorous in its study of language arts. ‘Capitalization and Punctuation,’ he replied as if I’d asked a redundant question. ‘Yes, but capitalization of what,’ I tried again. ‘What are you capitalizing?’

Another dead-end exchange which left me wondering why on earth I try to engage my children in conversation.

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