The four-year-olds sat on the floor in a quiet, orderly cluster. They each raised a hopeful hand in response to their teacher’s questions and then waited patiently to be called upon.
My three-soon-to-be-four-year-old sat at the outer edge. She didn’t raise her hand. We were only there to observe.
I hadn’t planned to send her to pre-school, figured 13 years of the five-day-a-week educational grind was years enough.
But the September before she was to begin kindergarten she suddenly wanted to go. She WANTED to go. Because her friends were going.
A fellow volunteer at the pregnancy center recommended the pre-school housed within the church at 11 Mile and Woodward. The son of one of the center’s board members attends there, she said.
So I arranged for us to check it out before I signed on the dotted line, to make sure I liked it, and, more importantly, to make sure my daughter liked it.
The grandmotherly teacher asked a question.
All the clustered hands went up.
She called on a boy in the front.
The teacher asked another question.
All hands went up.
She called on a boy in the middle.
The teacher asked another question, and another and then another.
All hands went up, up, up.
She called on a boy, and then on another and then another.
On and on it went, one boy after another.
My spirit started to feel a little sick.
Those hopeful female hands kept going up, and those hopeful female hands kept coming silently back down.
The class moved on to their next activity, the same pattern developed.
“Would you like to stay all morning?,” the teacher asked.
I glanced toward my daughter. Her heart did not appear set on staying.
“No thank you,” I smiled back.
And with that I took my daughter’s smart, sweet little hand and led us the heck out of there.
I had to drive quite a distance to get there, but I found an excellent pre-school – one where all the children were allowed to speak. All of them were given a turn, all were allowed to know things. And since one of her best friends from church was in the class, my daughter, oblivious to the masculism she had witnessed at the corner of 11 Mile and Woodward, was happy with my choice – my Monday, Wednesday and Friday choice because a three-almost-four-year-old and her mama needed one more year of some sleeping in days.
I wondered, as we made our bee-line out of there, what would become of the girls in that unfortunate pre-school. I wondered what would become of the boys. I wondered what effect the subliminal message etched daily upon their young brains would have upon their futures.
That little class came to mind this morning as I sent my husband this text:
He’s not following our layout even after I asked him to follow the numbers. I’m not going to fight with him anymore. He just does what he wants no matter what I say.
We are remodeling our master bath. It’s been a fiasco, but I’m not here to gripe.
I’ll just say it’s been one disappointment after another.
On the first day the tile guy came, he said he’d lay out the tile for my husband’s approval.
I just looked at him.
My husband reminded the project manager that the approval that’s needed is mine, not his.
I was concerned that first day about the measurements. I had spent considerable time pre-project going over them in my genius head, knowing the placement of the shower tiles was going to have to be precise in order to get the look I was after.
So I kept bringing it up. I brought it up to the project manager and he brushed me off.
Each time I tried to discuss it with the tile guy he’d grab his measuring tape, extend the little silver tab, waive the erect tape in the air and throw out numbers that were proof positive he hadn’t thought it through.
The project manager assured me that the tile guy has thirty years of experience.
I chose to shut up and trust.
Even though I knew better.
Needless to say, his measurements were off and my shower tile will forever have the look of an amateur.
At professional prices.
The hub had a talk with the project manager, said we weren’t confident in the tile guy’s ability. The hub told him if we were to proceed I was to be included in all problem-solving discussions and I was to sign off on the decisions.
“Did you tell him I’m good at problem solving?,” I asked the hub. “Did you tell him I’m a genius?”
“No, but I could have,” the hub replied.
The PM assured the hub I would have a say. He talked to the tile guy and assured me the rest of the bathroom would be done properly.
Gave me his word.
The hub and I didn’t want to leave it to chance. So last night, at midnight, after discovering that the marble floor tiles appear to be mismatched (as I said, disappointments at every turn and at every opening of a box) we stayed up and laid them out in a pattern that minimized the problem. I know the beauty of natural stone is the variations, and I love variations, but this looked like leftovers of the three different types of tile the tile shop sells were all bundled up and unloaded on us. I’m not saying that’s what happened, I’m just saying that’s how it looked.
So the hub and I stayed up beyond tired and laid them out, closed the door and went to bed.
This morning I got up early and numbered them in such a way that the tile guy would know the order and orientation of each one.
When he arrived I pointed it out and asked him to follow the numbers.
“Got it,” he said in his typically friendly voice.
Late night, early morning time well spent, I thought, as I went about my chores.
Mid-morning I peeked in to see how it was coming.
The stickers were off the tiles and stuck to the subfloor. Half the tiles had already been cemented down in no where near the pattern we had laid out.
“You didn’t like our layout?,” I asked when he returned from the garage and came up behind me.
“It was fine,” he replied.
“You didn’t follow it.”
He said he did.
“That tile was there,” I said, pointing out one example.
That’s when I texted to the hub.
He just does what he wants no matter what I say.
As I loaded the dishwasher, my thoughts drifted back to that unfortunate little pre-school class and to the little boys in the cluster.
And I knew what had become of them.
I was going to end the post with that sentence, I was just putting the period on it when friendly tile guy told me he was done for the day.
I left my laptop and ran upstairs while he was cleaning up in the garage.
There was a whole monochromatic section that looked horrible.
I knew the hub and my eye-for-such-things daughter would think so, too.
I rushed outside to catch him before he left.
“Is it too late to move some tiles?,” I asked.
“Why, which one?,” he asked, with a slight exasperation in his voice.
“There’s a whole monochromatic section and monochromatic is the look we were trying to avoid.”
The look we stayed up past midnight to avoid, I didn’t say out loud.
We went up stairs. I showed him where. He replaced a tile. Then another. Then there was one he thought looked out of place, so he scraped that one up, too. In all we rearranged four or five tiles. He’ll cement them down tomorrow.
“Good thing we got that resolved,” he said as he was heading back downstairs, “tomorrow they would have come out in pieces.”
“I thought it might already be too late,” I said, “but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.”
“We were right on the edge,” he said, “it was almost dry.”
I’m kind of proud of myself for speaking up after having been brushed off so many times.
For hopefully raising my hand once more.
The hub and I were discussing the previous fiasco on the way to church last week.
“When a man speaks up,” I remarked, “he’s just being a man. But when a woman speaks up she’s being a b-i-t-c-h.”
“Speak up anyway,” he said.
Thank God for the pre-school we chose, where when a little boy speaks up he’s just being a boy and when a little girl speaks up she’s just being a girl. And that’s what’s being etched into their young brains.
And thank God I didn’t go to pre-school.
P.S. As the tile guy and I were rearranging, I said, “It looks like leftovers of the three types of marble the shop sells were all bundled together, it doesn’t match, which is why making the the layout look good is so difficult.
“It was on backorder and then it wasn’t?,” he asked. “The boxes had plastic straps around them?”
“Yes,” I said.
“When I’m doing a job from start to finish and not the subcontractor,” he said, “I reject the boxes with the white straps and wait for a new shipment. When guys return leftover tiles to the shop, the shop has them bundle them together to resell.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that before you laid it?,” I asked. “Before it was too late. I would have waited.”
“I didn’t want to get in the middle. The PM won’t be happy that I’m telling a customer this.” (Confirming it ‘cuz I already knew. It doesn’t take a genius.)
I wish he had gotten in the middle.
“I’ve learned something today,” I told the tile guy. “Never accept boxes of tiles wrapped in straps.”
I wish I’d known it yesterday.
Wish I’d known it before it was too late.
At least it’s not too late for you, dear reader.
Now, should I raise my hand again and ask for a refund on the tile I actually ordered and have them charge me instead for three boxes of mismatched leftovers?
Should I try not to be bummed?