There is nothing more torturous to me than a school report. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I have a kid with a report due who gives even a mouse-sized shit about said report, but that is not my current status. No, my current status is that Kai I had a report on Morocco due the Tuesday after Memorial Day, a date the teachers must have picked because they hate us and want us to suffer horribly.
Kai doesn’t care about Morocco. And he doesn’t care about this report. Other reports he didn’t care about include Leopard Seals, Alpacas, Buzz Aldrin and Poland. Please believe me when I tell you that if I didn’t care about these reports, the number of people caring about these reports would drop to zero.
That he got any of them done is because I did them.
I did them. I read the assignment, created a timeline and a strategy to get them done, I planned some educational outings to the zoo or the yarn store or the Moroccan restaurant or to the apartment of a guy who gives Moroccan percussion lessons. I used the internet to find out what dinosaurs were discovered in Poland or Morocco in an attempt to hold Kai’s attention for more than five minutes. I bought the posterboard, printed the pictures, typed up the information, art directed the videos or the presentation.
Kai’s job was to stand there.
This last report of the year has been plagued with problems from the beginning. I got the assignment a week late because Kai lost his copy. Kai’s aide has been out on medical leave, so communication has been sporadic. In an effort to find some way to connect Kai with Morocco, I’d tried to hook Kai up with a guy from the Old Town School of Folk Music who teaches African rhythms, but whose communication lags several days behind every e-mail and voicemail. I’d taken Kai out for some Moroccan food, but, since the traditional dish of Morocco is not chicken nuggets and fries, the experience was pretty much a bust, as you can see from this picture:
So, as the days slipped by and the deadline loomed, I became filled with emotions that range from dread to anger to resignation, back to anger and then, mercifully, to wine-soaked denial. But then the weekend happened, and, as the saying goes, shit got real.
Kai told me that he was working on his report with his special ed teacher. With the due date approaching, I asked him to make sure to bring everything home so we could just finish it all up over the weekend.
At 4 pm on Friday afternoon, with a report due on Tuesday, the sum total of what Kai I had to work with was ONE WORD written in pencil on a scrap of paper clipped to the BLANK assignment sheet: Morocco.
After cleaning the bits of blood, bone and gray matter that covered the inside of my car from when my head exploded, I sat there and stewed in what could only be described as a deep well of rage and hopelessness.
For one thing, no one, and I mean no one, should have to do a report due at the end of May, but beyond that, what was Kai I going to do?
I considered, fairly seriously, the idea of blowing it off. Just…not doing it. What would the consequences be? He got a D in social studies? He would still pass 3rd grade. This idea spent a lot of time on the table until I realized that Kai would actually be upset about one thing—that while everyone in class was presenting his report, he wouldn’t have one to present. The entire goal of keeping him in a general education class is that he does everything his peers do.
Plus, Kai does, actually, like to present things to his class, even if he is only minimally invested in the work.
And so, reluctantly, we put on our thinking fez and went to work.
After I ran a 10-mile race and took the kids to a birthday party, I used the last of my remaining energy to summon Kai to me so we could get started on our report.
The first thing I did was to find out what dinosaurs were discovered in Morocco. I’m pretty sure that when you think of Morocco, you think of the Spinosaurus, a 97-million-year-old aquatic dinosaur discovered in a cave near Erfoud.
I printed out some pictures of this behemouth and set Kai to cutting them out.
“This is going to give my report extra pizzazz,” he said brightly.
I also printed out a map and a flag and some Moroccan tiles to decorate the posterboard, which Kai glued on all crooked and with enough glue to trap and fossilize a mosquito.
It was around this time that I ran out of steam and opened a beer, and everyone lost interest in Morocco, but not before the Moroccan drumming guy called me back (finally) and offered to give Kai a lesson on Monday morning at 10 am.
I briefly thought about how many things I’d rather do on Memorial Day than go to some guy’s apartment so he can teach my son about Moroccan 6/8 time for $50, but if ever a grade needed to be bought it was this one, so I agreed and then went to sit on the couch for a while.
I told Kai that we needed to finish four categories today and get them glued onto the posterboard.
“Kai,” I said, “It would appear that Morocco is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and Algeria.”
“Can I go watch TV?” he said, by way of reply.
Literally, he said that.
I stared at him for a long moment, before simply saying, “No.”
I asked him to type the descriptions of the land and water forms of Morocco.
“M,” I said.
He typed an M.
“O” I said.
He typed an O.
“R,” I said.
He typed an E, then backspaced to delete it. Then a Y.
Scott walked into the kitchen and I pretended to shove something sharp in my eye.
“Why don’t you type it,” Kai said to me.
“Because I already passed third grade,” I reminded him, before agreeing to type it up while he read me the information, which later morphed into me reading to him what I had typed and Kai editorializing that he didn’t like Moroccan food and that the Spinosaurus reminds him of the Deinosuchus, a marine reptile that has nothing to do with this project, but made it into the report anyway.
We began gluing the map and the flag, the dinosaur pictures. Ryan wanted to help, so I left them and wandered into the kitchen for stare at my computer. After a few moments, Kai wandered in and sat next to me.
“Are you done?” I asked.
“Ryan is gluing it,” he said.
And I decided that was fine and we could be done for the day.
I knew we were in trouble when Kai came downstairs in full-autism mode, all thousand-yard stare and inarticulate garblings.
“We’re going for our drumming lesson today,” I said.
“Nurrrghwuhll,” he replied.
“What?” I asked.
On the way over to the guy’s studio I reminded Kai that he had to be polite.
The music teacher held out his hand for Kai to shake, but Kai walked right past him and up the stairs.
I started to reprimand Kai, but the music teacher waved me off. He was a nice guy, and, judging by the breadth and depth of the lesson, clearly a long-time student of middle-eastern and African culture.
“What do you already know about Morocco?” he asked Kai.
“That’s where they discovered the Spinosaurus,” Kai answered. “And I’m hungry.”
The guy laughed. “I’m hungry, too.”
He showed us some instruments and played some examples of different kinds of music.
“That one’s from the Berbers. In North Africa, they’re like our Native Americans like the Cherokee or the Sioux. You’ve heard of those, right?”
Kai stared into space.
“I have,” I answered, wishing for some sort of trap door to appear beneath my feet.
Kai finally warmed up when he got to play a drum that I can no longer remember the name of and a tambourine called a Riq. He took some video of the teacher playing his Oud.
“What do you think so far, Kai?” the teacher said.
“I’d like to try to lift those,” he said, pointing to some 10-pound dumbbells sitting on the windowsill.
The music teacher patiently finished the wide-ranging and expansive lesson, explaining, among other things, onomatopoeia, the commonalities between Moroccan folk music and Spanish Flamenco, and at one point tapping out the rhythm to Get Lucky by Daft Punk on one of his drums.
Kai leaned into me. “This is so boring,” he said.
And I resisted the urge to murder him, but only just barely.
When we got home, I looked at Kai’s assignment sheet. We still had to cover history, plants and animals, landmarks and put the music stuff together.
Kai grabbed one of his graphic novels and sat down on the couch.
“Kai,” I said, “we have to finish this.”
“Aahwrollgh,” he replied.
Suddenly, I was incredibly tired. The idea of barking at Kai until we got this thing done seemed stupid. It was 80 degrees outside. The sky was blue.
So, with Plants and Animals, History, and a video presentation of a music lesson left to do, we went to the pool.
“Ungowerouhah,” Kai said.
Kai I have an extension until June 6.
Wish me luck.