Because the Cat Ran Away

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By DeeDee Corbitt Sauter

There are too many rules. Some for kids, extra morals for couples, acceptable behavior for the majority of the DeeDeepopulace, exceptions for many, and special excuses for various reasons that don’t fall into a regular category. It’s beginning to get too confusing, and I am starting to second-guess what I am permitted to do in public. I listened to my friend explain why we needed to give our children’s instructor ”a break.” Maybe she had a hard day; maybe her car broke down on the highway in the rain or her cat needed an operation. Maybe she had gotten into a fight with her
husband, or her children found the secret cookie stash. My friend insisted that everyone needs a chance.

But, I am mean, and I didn’t want to give her excuses. I flipped the test papers in my hand that bled red. Large marks were etched across the pages, void of an explanation, points subtracted on every line. With only a couple kids taking the class, it seemed unreasonable that no one passed. There were no half-points or credit given, just the total score scribbled in the upper right-hand corner.

My friend explained we can not and should not judge anyone, but instead strive to understand that her motivations were not malicious but probably just the result of stress. That did not bother me. I was not judging her and did not care about the test. Frankly, one test in a student’s academic world was meaningless. Plus, it was her class and if that is how she chose to run it, that was her business.

What I did not want was excuses. It was irrelevant that the kids failed. It was meaningless that she seemed to have graded so harshly. That was her prerogative and I did not have to like it. For all I know, she had given them all the answers right before the test, and no one was paying attention and that ticked her off. No one ever pays attention to me, and I would fail everyone if I could. Everyday. It should not matter what was occurring in her personal life and that should not flow into her professional life, although realistically that’s easier said than done.

Although I didn’t verbalize it, I was screaming in my head that I should not be given the responsibility of trying to identify the reasons for anyone’s behavior. There are too many rules. I barely know what motivates me! I try not to give excuses for my actions, even when I make the occasional bad choice.

I recently sat in a crowded, airless room filled with parents and siblings who waited for their dance students to finish the class. I prefer isolation and some semblance of quiet, which is difficult to attain in any after-school activity directed at children under the age of 10. Wearing earbuds, I write on my tablet or read a book. Time is never constant in that building, instead the speed of the second hand appears inversely correlated to the number family
and friends in the room. The larger the crowd, the slower the clock.

An adorable little girl, her face framed by perfect ringlets usually described only in fairy tales, was getting on my last nerve. First, the moms of this boisterous little group spent the better part of an hour comparing notes. Academics, parties, clothing, friendships, sports, vacations, reading levels and PTA involvement were just a few of the topics discussed in interminable detail. My earbuds help drown the chatter, but they are not magic.

While the moms outdid each other with greatness, this cherub of a child picked up a plastic IKEA toddler chair. Using no strength at all, because the chair was plastic, small, and hollow, she threw it across the room and smiled. Angel’s mom blinked and looked over. I continued to type, but was now officially distracted. The chair bounced twice on it’s second flight. Angel’s mom crossed her legs the other way then gently admonished her progeny, softly requesting she stop tossing about the chair. My right knee interrupted the momentum of the third toss. I glared at Angel and held on to the chair, but said nothing out loud.

I could not do anything because all of the rules. I have no idea why she threw the chair. The mom seemed to think this was normal. Maybe it was. Maybe Angel often tested the theory of aerodynamics for fun. Maybe there were no chairs at home and she did not know its purpose. It wasn’t for me to judge.

I know I wasn’t pleased, my knee hurt, and the earbuds were not helping. I didn’t know her specific rules, so I sat paralyzed by inaction. I had given them both a chance and now I wanted them to follow my rules. But my rules were less intrusive than hers. Suddenly, without forethought, I broke them. As Cutie Pie looked me in the eye and reached for the chair which was still leaning on my leg, I growl. It was a soft and guttural, but it was able to accomplish what passive looks and silent stares did not. She followed MY rules and proceeded to quietly sit while playing with an iPad.

After all, you never know what I am going to do.

DeeDee Corbitt Sauter is a resident of Northern Virginia.

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