Fourth grade pipers lead parents over edge

I’d like to address the parents of fourth graders everywhere throughout the world:

My sincere sympathies.

Isn’t that the year the teachers send home those wonderful, little musical instruments called flutophones or recorders? They are meant to teach the kids the basics of music, but only end up leading parents to the Xanex Horn of Plenty.

The flutophone – sometimes referred to as the Horn of Eternal Darkness – is a direct link to non-smoking parents going out to buy a pack of cigarettes and never being heard from again.

When my first two children brought home this adorable instrument I was just as excited as they were. With my third and fourth – well, not so much.

The year my third child gleefully unpacked his new flutophone, I sighed and feigned excitement through clenched teeth.

“Hey mom, listen – want to hear me play “My Bonnie Likes to Smear on the Lotion?”

“Uh, well, okay.”

Eeeeeiiiiiiikkkkkk, iiiiiieeeeeerrrrrkkkkk, rrrriiiiiaaaaaaaeeeekkkk …


He proceeded to emit sounds that reminded me of the time ole’ Mama Cat got tangled in our new turbo engine weedwacker.

I grinned – or maybe grimaced – and told him how wonderful he sounded.

Our newest cat, MnM – short for Meow and Mix — screeched and ran straight up the wall. Seriously, straight up the wall.

The youngest, a second grader, screamed and ran to his room. The two older kids, who hadn’t cracked a book since adolescence discovered them and they discovered “My Changing Body”, sprinted out the back door, saying they were going to friend’s house to do homework.

Obviously, the cat and his siblings had no appreciation of the Fine Arts, I said, trying to console the fourth-grader.

Later, during the umpteenth rendition of “East Side, West Side, Come and Get This Clown,” my unadulterated admiration and pride began to wane.

“Listen, hon,” I said. “You sound great. But maybe you could just take it into your bedroom for a while? Mommy’s got a nasty headache.”

Which he did. Until the second-grader came sprinting out of the bedroom yelling, “Make him stop! Make him stop! It’s making my eyes roll up and drop out to the ground and my legs and arms twist in circles like this!” (wild gyrations, eye rolling and flailing of limbs)

I then sent the fourth-grader into the bathroom to shut the door and practice his concerto.

As I walked back to the kitchen, I violently kicked the recorder case into the next room.

About eight minutes after he moved into the bathroom and began rehearsing “She’ll be Humming Around the Fountain,” I asked him to please move to the basement and kindly shut all the windows and doors.

Soon he was crouched on top of the washer and dryer in the basement practicing, “I’ve Been Working on the Dead Toad,” while the second-grader and I sat on the sofa and tried to stuff throw pillows into our ear canals.

Seconds before the pulsating vein exploded and hemorrhaged in my frontal lobe, I decided distraction was the only way out.

“Let’s go for a walk!” I announced, and soon all three of us were outside walking, the second grader and I now communicating through sign language.

As we approached the home of another fourth grader on our block, we heard the familiar sounds of the recorder wafting from the basement.

Eeeeeiiiiiiikkkkkk, iiiiiieeeeeerrrrrkkkkk, rrrriiiiiaaaaaaaeeeekkkk …


I nodded sympathetically at the boy’s mother and father, who were sitting on the front porch, rocking psychotically. They were not in rocking chairs.

They nodded and smiled vacantly while filling their mouths with sharp stones and stirring them with wooded spatulas.

Or maybe they were just gritting their teeth.

Either way, that fourth grade year is eternal.

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