Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Rookiedad 315 001

Quick question: Do your kids act differently at school than they do at home? Mine do, and now that summer has faded into fall and my two boys’ days are spent in the classroom instead of the living room, the distinction has become glaringly obvious. They are a couple of reserved, polite Dr. Jekylls at school and raucous, wild-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth Mr. Hydes at home.

Of course, I know exactly where they get it: me. Yes, their dear old dad. It all started with my first day of school. The year was 1978 (wow, I’m getting old). The place was the kindergarten room at St. Ann’s School in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. The teacher was … ah, let’s spare her the indignity of being named in such a sordid story — she was a sweet lady.

My mom dropped me off in the morning and, as the story goes, I turned into a complete maniac. I cried, I screamed, I flopped on the floor to scream and cry some more. The worst part, though — the part that lives on in family lore forever — is that I kicked the teacher in the shins! I was so off my little rocker that they had to remove me from the classroom and calm me down in the hall.

Apparently, it was a traumatic experience because I didn’t make another sound in school until third grade. Yes, third grade. And even by then, the only sound I emitted was a giggle. You see, my next run-in with the law occurred when my third-grade teacher sent a note home to my mother to tell her I was giggling in class. Me, the kid who didn’t say a word in school to anyone unless directly asked for an answer for nearly four years, was caught giggling. My best friend’s mother received a similar note about her son. He was a quiet kid, too, and we had been giggling together, presumably to avoid speaking. Other than that, I didn’t cause any trouble at school.

Now during this entire time — all those years of being quiet in class— I returned home every single day to start an afternoon and evening full of mischief with my three brothers. As soon as I left the school grounds and arrived in the friendly confines of my home, I changed. All heck broke loose, and I roughhoused and made noise and was the best Mr. Hyde I could be.

The Jekyll-at-school-and-Hyde-at-home act endured. In fact, it became my trademark, and that was fine by me. In high school, one of my teachers nicknamed me the “Master of the One-Word Sentence.” In the classroom, I found I could politely answer any query with a simple, “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.”

I even took pride in linking myself to our 30th president, Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge. I loved the old story that at a White House party a woman approached Coolidge and said, “Mr. President, I made a bet that I can get more then two words out of you.” Cal coolly replied, “You lose.” He was a master of the two-word sentence.”

And now, here I am, years later, watching my two boys act the same way. At home, I hardly can get them to shut up or stop squabbling. At school, their teachers report, quite sincerely, they are soft-spoken, model citizens.

At home, it’s like a scene straight out of Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Just like those wild Who kids, my boys love to shriek, squeak and squeal, racing round on their wheels, dancing with jing-tinglers tied onto their heels, blowing their flu-flubbers, banging their tar-tinkers, blowing their hoo-hoovers, banging their gar-dinkers, beating their trum-tookers, slamming their sloo-slunkers, beating their blum-blookers and whamming their hoo-whunkers.

And they play noisy games, like Zoo-Zivver-Car-Zay — a rollerskate-type of lacrosse and croquet — and make earsplitting noises delyxe on their great big Electro-Who-Cardio-Floox. I know exactly how the Grinch felt. I, too, can’t take all that NOISE, NOISE, NOISE, NOISE! And, if my kids are any indication, I’m pretty sure those little Who children didn’t act that way at school.

I suppose I should count my blessings, though. I should be glad it isn’t the other way around. Dr. Jekyll is much better suited for school.

Out of curiosity, Brian Kantz searched eBay for a used great big Electro-Who-Cardio-Flux. No dice. Apparently, not everything is available on eBay. Visit Brian online at www.briankantz.com or drop him a note at thenewbiedad@yahoo.com.