Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Poker Face

My son Zachary is a puzzle to me. He keeps most of his feelings in, rarely shares them unless pushed and will do anything to avoid conflict.

He is the middle child.

He’s smart, capable and does well in school. He doesn’t complain at home and is rarely involved in a fight of any kind with his brothers. He is polite and says all the right things.

We met with his teacher the other day and we all agreed- the boy hoses everyone. He has a great poker face.

Not really in a bad, malicious way- he really does do all his work, he really is kind to others and he really does do what he's told. Usually. Except the time when he signed my name to forms and unlike most third graders, did not admit that he signed my name. He hosed his teacher and he clearly did not think he was going to get caught.

Luckily, he is a third grader and the sheet he signed had to be signed the next week, and the next… he only filled out one week’s worth.

When I confronted him, he ran to the couch and buried his head.

No, I said, you are going to talk to me about this.

A grunt came from between the cushions.


He did, his face red, brow deeply crossed. He has one huge plus- from a parent's perspective- he feels really guilty about doing the wrong thing.

Why didn’t you ask me to sign this?

You were away.

I remembered I was. I was in New York for a conference with Jeanine. Walter and Allan were taking care of the boys.

You could have had either Walter or Allan sign, I said.

Face went right back to being planted in the cushions.

In the moment, I get it. It was Friday morning, his routine shifted, he was in a rush and no one had signed the sheet all week. In honestly, he probably did not do the work assigned.

But then he went sneaky. He grabbed a pencil and tried- hard- to make the signature match.


This one is going to be out drinking beer and driving cars. Or he’s going to try. With those big blue eyes, he knows where the lines are- and when they can be avoided. Not just pushed, but avoided.It's not the first time he's been caught in an out and out lie.

I paused for a moment trying to decide what to say to him. Do I speak for him or do I push to get him to talk, which usually ends up in a disaster, him not talking and me completely frustrated.

I had to go make dinner so my choice was made for me.

Listen, I know that you waited until Friday morning and then didn’t know who to ask. I also know that you probably didn’t do the work-

His face softens with the first part, and becomes indignant with the second but even with those blue eyes? I know he didn’t do the work. He’s hard to read but not impossible.

In the future, I want to see all sheets the minute they come into the house. And when Walter asks you if there is anything else to do, you better tell him the truth. I understand it’s more fun to go out and play metallica man.

The discussion ended, Zachary saved once again from saying more than two words, and I’m left with the uneasy image of a sports car weaving down the road with 16-year-old Zachary behind the wheel.

The teacher assured us as we left the conference, don’t worry. I’m giving his next year teacher a heads up. There will be no learning curve.

She pointed to the very sweet picture of Zachary on the cover of his progress folio. So sweet, to be sure. And so sneaky, too.

I know I’ll keep working on the puzzle. I have to figure out how to get him to talk when he’s having big feelings. It’s not good to keep so much inside.

Besides, it’ll ruin his poker face.


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