My crowning parental achievement came in kindergarten. Every day, Ethan’s teacher would send him home with a short science book to read. The topics were dry, but the author liked to bombard his work with hyphens (-), en-dashes (–) and em-dashes (—). When an opportunity falls in your lap, you must seize it!

Each night we’d read about the nomads in the deserts or how clouds are formed, and I’d point out all those different punctuation marks. It took weeks of over-achieving parenting pop quizzes as Ethan read, but on one cold, but cozy winter night, he identified each one correctly.

We high-fived. Ethan got candy. We celebrated! (Note: one exclamation point celebration only.) Everyone else rolled their eyes, but it didn’t matter. I had a grammarian in the making! I shouted it from the rooftops/posted a Facebook status and cemented my place with the word nerds.

Sure I’m always reading that my English degree is one of the most worthless degrees you can get, but not so. Forget journalism. Half the people write with cartoons or emojis nowadays anyway.


This was my time. My English degree was coming out in all its glory now as a parent.

Fast forward two years and in comes second grade word study. Each week a new set of words have to be sorted according to sounds and letter combos. word-sortCVVC. CVC. CVCe. Seriously, what the hell is this? New York Stock Exchange ticker symbols? The name of a new pharmacy? Ah, consonant and vowels. Of course, we live in an Acronym or Shortened Society, ASS for short.

But never mind that. We tackled that process in 1st grade like a boss. Short vowel sounds. Long vowel sounds. We’ve got this. Then one night came the e-mail from a fellow 2nd grade mom. “Where does ‘stamp’ go?”

Two parents said it went under the short a, CVC column. I thought it went under the Oddball category, but doubt crept in when a teacher had a different answer. Someone else chimed in to say sometimes long a’s sounded like short a’s to her. The best response was a parent who said the stamp should go on an envelope.

By the end of the e-mail thread there was no consensus except that we needed a parent key. Only two years since my em-dash victory, I stood defeated by 2nd grade English. I thought I could sink no lower. And then Ethan brought out his math homework.

Betty, Lucille, Hank and Al each rode a different ride at the amusement park. The rides were the whip, the parachute drop, carousel and roller coaster. Neither girl would ride the parachute drop. What ride did Betty go on while Hank was on carousel and Lucille was on the roller coaster?