Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Parenting Class and Other Adventures in Adult Education

With tuition rates on the rise, and the cost of a college education far outweighing any future benefit, many are looking to alternative methods to expand their intellectual and earning power.    I began attending a low-cost parenting class even though I don't have any biological children and haven't seen my ex-stepchildren in years.   I used to babysit my nieces and nephew years ago, but they're all grown up and don't need my help anymore.   One of the bus routes I take conducts several impromptu and loosely organized classes in the seating area in the vehical's back, a U-shaped space surrounded by eight seats--two on each side, four forming the bottom of the U.   I like to sit in one of the far back corners of the bus and read, so I often get to sit in on these group therapy-style encounter classes.  My favorite is Parenting Class.  This informative session teaches you how to properly raise offspring, should you ever have any.

In this group you can usually find a multi-racial crowd of tattooed, angry, and bellowing mothers dandling and slapping the babes on their laps, and giving each other parental advice while a shaky, amped-up and teeth-chomping boyfriend or two snickers and looks on with fiendish red eyes.  

One bald mother is heavily tattooed with pictures of foreign currency--colorful stuff from Europe, China, the Ukraine.  "I call myself "MOB," she tells people.  "That's 'Money in the Bank,' get it?  Most people have no idea how dull our money is--just a bunch of green shit like vomit or ulcer shit--but the rest of the world got more class and more imagination.  I want to go to Italy some day or maybe France.   I tried to get a fucking job at Cricket but they said 'look,  we're a professional organization and we have to project a professional image' and I said look BITCH! I'm a walking, talking  fucking cash box, what could be more fucking professional than that?  Here! take her for a sec while I show you all something!" 

 MOB shoves her blond infant at the guy I think of as BW because his tattoo scheme imitates barbed wire coiling around every exposed body part.   He's often the only male in class besides me.   He takes the baby and stands it up in his grease-caked lap while MOB bends over to rummage in a handbag.  She comes up with a fistful of coins.  

"See those coins? All from overseas.  Even their coins are prettier than ours." The group murmurs and seems to agree.  "I'm gonna get some coin tattoos, too."  She shoves the coins back in her bag and shrieks at BW,  "Hold her right, you stupid son-of-a-bitch!"

"I'm holding her just fine, baby doll.   She's happy!"

"She's biting her nails again!  Sherri!  I told you not to bite your nails!  It's dangerous!  You wanna get smacked?"

To me it looks as if the child is too young to bite its nails and is more likely sucking its fingers.   I feel like saying something, but as in cases where parents beat children in public, it often--not always-- seems wiser to keep your mouth shut.

MOB continues, "I knew someone who swallowed too many fingernails and they died!  Got punctured in their stomach and bleeded to death!  You want that to happen?  Give her here!"  She snags the baby from BW's grasp, plants it in her lap like a sapling and starts shaking it--hard.  "Take your fingers out!"  She cuffs the child on the cheek (you can hear the slap) and it starts wailing.   She shakes it some more.  "Cut that shit out!"

"There's some stuff you can put on their fingers.  Can't remember it.  It tastes bad so they stop."  This is from the mother next to me,  a very pale and slender red-headed and freckled Caucasian woman with a toddler who looks African American.   He always wears Spiderman attire and eats Nutter Butter cookies from a long box. 

"What's it called?" asks MOB.

"They sell it downtown by that candle shop where you can get stuff for scrapbooking and stuff."

BW is shaking his hands out in front of him like two limp gloves he's trying to rid of fluid.  He catches my eye.   His eyes seem solid crimson.  "Women!" He grins at me.  "Can't live with 'em . . ." he surveys the circle of women and babies . .. . "Well, I bet you can fill in the rest, buddy!"

I give a brief nod and return to my book.

Another good one I attend with the same group is Linguistics and Genetic Inheritance, a high speed science class with a fair bit of technical information tossed at you, but still recommended.  It's always held without the red-headed mother and her seeming black child.

A typical comment for discussion:  "I'm telling you, that boy don't look nothing like his daddy."

"What's his daddy look like?"

"Like her.  And don't tell me he's adopted.  He had a different biological  daddy.  He talks like an African, with an accent and everything."

"Girl, you don't talk like your dad just because you inherit his looks.  His hair looks that way because of his genes, but he talks like his mama."

"He don't ever talk."

"I've heard him talk plenty of times and I've got a good ear for where people were raised.  He was raised in fucking Fresno."

And the debate rages.   It's exciting to sit in on these heated exchanges.

Attending Baby's First Step, I get a glimmer of an entrepreneurial idea.   In this class young mothers let their issue stand up on the seat beside them while they talk on their cells and the bus careens around and makes rapid lane shifts.  A couple times I reach out to steady a child whose soft cranium is about to impact a metal seat frame.  Motherly snarls and bared fangs greet me.  My idea is this:  I could work as a child advocate and make digital video documents of precious moments for proud parents, thereby working two often adversarial social strata at once.

I also recommend Free Food, an informative seminar on churches and charity offices that give out free eats, and Collecting Child Support--Non Violent Course.    

I hope this brief guide to back-of-the-bus adult education gets you headed down the path to enlightenment and financial solvency.  Or, as another child raised under a harsh regimen said as an adult, "Live Long and Prosper!"

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