My youngest nephew, almost ten, is carrying on a proud family tradition by telling lies in order to get out of school. His latest gambit, I am informed, is to emerge from the boy's bathroom and tell his teacher that he's just thrown up and thinks he's coming down with the flu. Neither of these statements is true -- rest assured, the family doctor has verified this -- but gullible school authorities have been sending him home each time he does it.
It happens that his mother, my little sister, has been around the block a few times and knows a lot about how to deal with deceitful children. Obviously her years of experience growing up with me were not entirely wasted. When he pulls this trick, she takes him with her to the office rather than letting him stay at home, and makes him sit there getting bored. She hopes he'll learn that skipping school will not be rewarded, but is even more boring and tedious than school.
I mention all this because there's something I want to tell my nephew the next time I see him, and I'm writing it here so that I won't forget. And that something is this:
"Nephew, I'm proud of you for not liking school and wanting to get the hell away from there.
"In a way, I'm also proud of you for being a nuisance to my sister, since that was my job for many long and difficult years and it's good to know someone is carrying on that tradition.
"But remember that no matter how intolerably mind-numbing school seems right now, there is hope. I myself am more than thirty-three years older than you...and even now, in the morning, I wake up and realize I DON'T HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL TODAY OR EVER AGAIN and it makes me happy.
"You have that pleasure to look forward to, and it will last the rest of your life."