Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Table of Learning

Cranky fortune, August 2011.
Herr Cranky regularly brings home library books for the diversion of Crankies large and small. Most recently, he returned with a memoir of the foul-mouthed chef who operates Prune, a wildly popular East Village restaurant. Let's call her Eff Yu. Meta Cranky's virtual ears perked up at Eff Yu's description of her harrowing adolescence. EY's fascinating, colorful parents effectively lost track of their five children during the turmoil of their divorce. As a result, Eff Yu spent her 12th summer smoking cigarette butts found on the curb, stealing pawn-able valuables from neighbors' houses, and polishing her extensive swear vocabulary. The family blossomed under this not-quite-actionable neglect: one sister became a writer for Saveur. A brother became a Goldman Sachs billionaire-with-a-B. Eff Yu? She lied about her age and got the dishwashing job the led her to destiny. Upon reading Herr Cranky's library book, MC realized that 1979 was truly the golden age of sucky parenting. A time when parental units were completely down with the possibility that "Not all the baby turtles make it to the ocean," as Renaissance Mom has succinctly observed. What a glorious time to be alive.

Sadly, expectations for parents and children are different in the 21st century.  By the time MC has returned home from a dental appointment with Cranky #1, she has received email, voice mail, and text notification that her child has missed part of a school day from Purplish High. Really? Could administration officials not read the form where MC signed her out after showing a photo ID? Inventory control isn't MC's strong suit, so she appreciates that other want to keep count of their units. Still. Imagine this attention to detail applied to homework. Which brings MC to the mythical Table of Learning.

In MC's rich fantasy life, small children gather around the Table of Learning, beckoned by a homey lamp purchased from the Vermont Country Store, and then quietly, earnestly complete their daily studies using parchment and quills. In her dreams, MC plays Marmee, while the smaller Crankies take turns portraying the various March sisters. No wait, let's just go with Meg, the industrious Little Women character who doesn't bother being colorful. In actual practice, Cranky #1 heroically plows through her mountain of work, stopping occasionally to emit factoids about insulin resistance or to produce reams of papers to be signed, notarized, and monetized. Cranky #2 produces equally complicated paperwork, as well as spelling word lists and math problems graded by an inscrutable four-point system. When MC's dinner prep requires engagement with gelatinous meat products or complicated measurements, C2 emits a piteous plea for help, followed by a wracking sob of frustration. Not until MC puts down the task at hand will C2's message morph into: "Nevermind!" Every. Single. Time.

The Crankies' Table of Learning regularly sports a German dictionary and innumerable variations of number sentences. Eff Yu's table holds braised lamb shanks and grilled branzino. We're all getting an education.


  1. I just read a great article about how we are not letting our kids get enough hard knocks to learn to succeed. Then I heard someone say just this past Friday that an expert has come out in favor of Risky Play. Maybe those 1979 parents were onto something? ;-)
    Renaissance Mom

  2. Hey, y'all. How about a cranky update?

    I miss you!

  3. ::blows off the dust::

    I miss the Cranky Girls blog. :(