If I’m ever a dad, I will not be able to name my kid Thomas.
All the Thomases in my teaching life, I’m certain, were simply one reincarnated being – the same clever, willful, completely mischievous bundle of id, sent to test me year after year. Yes, each Thomas looked different, had different parents, different birthdays. But this was all an attempt to throw me off, I know now.
I was actually not Thomas #1’s classroom teacher. To make extra money, I had decided to work our ice-skating afterschool program. This entailed taking a busload of five- to seven-year-olds, including Thomas, a kindergartener at the time, to the old rink at Prospect Park in Brooklyn one afternoon a week. I actually loved those late fall days, watching the kids glide unsteadily around miniature orange cones and point their toes inward to slow down as they made their wide-arcing turns.
The bus ride back was almost always pleasantly peaceful, the kids exhausted and sleeping. On one of those return rides, though, we found ourselves in the midst of a miserable Flatbush Avenue traffic jam. The bus crawled along or, worse, stood completely still for interminable stretches. Besides the shrill honking of annoyed drivers and the deep rumble of the bus engine, it was quiet. We were resigned to our traffic-jam fate.
And then Thomas #1 screamed:
“Move the bus, fuck face!”
It was, more or less, what we all were feeling. Still, inappropriate. My co-teacher, Virginia, a brilliant early childhood educator, spoke to Thomas. Instead of reprimanding him, she coaxed out the fact that he had to pee and then gave him better language to use for future moments. Incident done.
But really just the beginning for me.