Resolutions with Matteo

The week between Christmas and New Year’s went by quietly enough in the modified bubble, although it wasn’t really the time between Christmas and New Year’s, since the Sharpmans haven’t had Christmas yet… although the boys did make sure that I had something under my tree in the pool house to open on December 25th.

I know that the boys don’t go to real school, but I reckoned it should still be Christmas vacation, so I’ve been going pretty easy on them in the schoolroom. Pretty much all we’ve been doing is reading As You Like It, which the boys are definitely enjoying. I think I may have got them to liking Shakespeare before a more ‘qualified’ teacher ruins it for them. I’m not sure that he understands everything Jaques says, but Matteo kept asking to read his part. Jacob sees himself more as an Orlando…which meant that, just like I had to read Juliet, I now end up reading Rosalind. Oh, well…at least she pretends to be a dude during most of the play…and she has some pretty dang nice speeches. We haven’t gotten to the end of the play yet, but they’re looking forward to finding out how it ends. That’s pretty awesome. I’m totally new to this teaching business, but I think that the really satisfying part is when you see your students getting something they didn’t get before. And Joyce thinks it’s pretty impressive that I’ve gotten an 11 year old and a 9 year old through almost 2 Shakespeare plays in a month. I still get the feeling that I’m flying blind sometimes, but, after a month of this, I’m realizing that I’m not as terrible at it as I thought I might be. It’ll be nice when Dr. Peterson gets back and I can go back to my normal life, but the bubble and teaching school have turned out kinda cool.

The only question is which play are we gonna do next…since it looks like Dr. Peterson isn’t coming back before we finish As You Like It. I was surprised when she suggested it, but Mom said we should do Macbeth. She thought the boys would like all the blood, and it’s a short play, so we’d stand a chance of finishing it. So I had Sandy get us three copies of that so we don’t run out of Shakespeare.

Meanwhile, the report on Dr. Peterson is that he still has the bronchitis he got after he got over COVID. I’ve had bronchitis in the past, and I know it takes forever to go away. Maya wants to make sure that at least 10 days go by after he’s free of all symptoms before he can come back and be with the boys. Yeah, that’s a little excessive…but we know how careful Maya’s being about the boys…and, well, it’s not like I have too much else that I can be doing at this point. From what I saw on the news, there are no ICU beds available in Southern California, so being super careful is smart. I wish I could see Cody and Noah and work with them…and hang out with Lucas some…but that’s just going to have to wait.

I had a talk with Matteo on the day it rained last week and there wasn’t much we could do outside. I wanted to try and convince him that there are worse things than getting some exercise.

“You know, dude,” I said to him when we were sitting in his room watching the rain, “you don’t have to hate everything I tell you to do when it comes to being more active.”

“I do it all, don’t I?,” he answered defensively.

“Yeah, man…but half the time you do it like you’re being made to take medicine. Or are you just doing that for the cameras?”

“Maybe a little,” he said. “You pay attention, don’t you?”

I didn’t know what to say to that.

“Still, even when it’s just us, I get the feeling that you’re not enjoying yourself.”

“That’s because I’m not,” he said.

“Fair enough,” I said. “But do you think just maybe you could give it more of a try?”

“I’m not like you and Jacob, and I’m never gonna be a jock. I’m the fat and uncoordinated brother. Jacob always says I look retarded when I try to run. So it’s easier not running.”

“You know what a new year’s resolution is?,” I asked him.

“Yeah…it’s like when people say they’re gonna lose weight in the new year and then give up on their diets by the end of January…right?”

I couldn’t help smiling.

“That’s about it,” I said, “but it doesn’t have to be just about being on a diet. It’s when you decide that you want to change some part of your behavior that you don’t like in the New Year…and maybe it’ll make your life better.”

“Mostly it sounds to me like grown-ups resolve to do stuff they don’t want to do…”

“It doesn’t have to be that bad,” I said.

“Oh yes it does. You’re gonna ask me to exercise more.”

“No, not that,” I said. The program they had made for him was pretty intense already. It wasn’t quantity that was the problem; it was quality.

“Then what?”

“Just make a little more effort. Can you do that?”

Matteo looked doubtful.

“At least give it a chance. Try and not hate it so much. You may discover you like it.”

“I keep trying to tell you that I’m not like you and Jacob. I’m never going to like it. And I’m going to suck at it for the rest of my life and everyone’s going to think I look retarded when I try to run or swim.”

“Dude…you don’t look retarded. Actually you run better than some other pupils I’ve had when I started working with them. My first pupil ran on his tippy toes like a girl when I first got him…and you should see him now. He made the varsity team at his school as the starting 2nd baseman and he can run faster than me. It’s not as hopeless as you think.” Maybe I don’t know enough about child psychology, but I do still think that every kid can be at least a little athletic if they’re given the chance…and I reckon the right encouragement.

“So what do you want my new year’s resolution to be?”

“It’s you who’s gotta make it, or it doesn’t work.” Matteo was about to interrupt, I caught him before he could say the obvious. “And, yeah, it doesn’t work even when grown-ups make their resolutions on their own. What I’m gonna suggest is that you make a resolution to try a little…”

“But I do try hard.”

“Not just trying hard,” I said. And I knew there were times when he really was trying to squeeze out an extra lap in the pool or something because I was asking him to do it. “Trying to like it a little. Or at least to not hate it so much. Think you can do that?”

No answer.

“Just think about it, okay, dude? It’s a few days to New Year’s yet. You don’t have to tell yourself what your resolutions are until then.”

“Are you gonna make a new year’s resolution?,” Matteo asked.

I was stumped. I haven’t thought about it. I usually don’t bother with new year’s resolutions, and, this year, I think I’m just glad enough to have made it through 2020 healthy and with a roof over my head. But I reckon I’m gonna have to come up with something to tell Matteo before the end of the year. So I said:

“I’ll tell you on New Year’s Day. The important thing, though, is to take little steps with your resolution. Like they say, ‘progress not perfection’.” I couldn’t remember where I heard that – was it from Adam at one point? – but it sounded like something good to tell Matteo.

That was the end of our talk. Jacob knocked on the door and told me he wanted me to come join him in the gym, since he couldn’t go outside and run around in the pouring rain. (I actually told him how much fun it is to play football in the rain, and I think he was all psyched for that, but Maya probably didn’t want him getting wet and, like Meemaw says, catching his death of cold.) So I was gonna work out with him in the gym. Then I was going to have to work out with Matteo. With all that time in the gym, I may end up as ripped as Lucas by the end of the winter.

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