I recently experienced my first “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.” I owe my resulting glow to Gloria Steinem, who founded its predecessor, “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” in 1993. I don’t have daughters, but I do have a fifth grade son, Dimples, who brought this holiday, which I now know occurs on the fourth Thursday of April (springtime’s Thanksgiving), to my attention, and begged me to take him to work. It’s no wonder. I work as a Paraprofessional in a fifth grade classroom at a nearby elementary school where some of his friends go, so I’m sure he saw it as an adventure that would allow him to skip school and meet up with his baseball buddies in the bathroom. Oh, and maybe see what his mom does all day. When I went to sleep the night before, I realized how excited I was. I know this day is designed for kids, but it felt like a huge treat for me too: showing him off to the people I work with, showing them off to him, and that out-of-context thrill of being together at a time when we normally wouldn’t be.
We woke up that Thursday morning and I made him a special lunch (i.e., extras in the way of chocolate and his favorite - a ketchup sandwich on a potato roll). He couldn’t wait to go. First stop was our classroom, which has a couch, courtesy of the incredible teacher I work with. He leapt right onto it. I told him to keep one of his many snacks out in case he got hungry during the morning, and he said in amazement, “You can eat in your classroom? You have a couch? This place is so free!” What he wanted to see next was the crowned jewel, the teachers’ lounge, and it didn’t disappoint. There were couches in there too, and lots of miniature Dove bars, some of which found their way into his pocket.
When school started, he saw some people he knew: a boy on his baseball team and some kids he remembered from pre-school. My teacher put us to work right away, organizing a stack of graded assignments. It took about 30 seconds for him to decide he wasn’t there to work, but to tour the building and meet the Principal, Mr. B., with whom he shared an interest in ultimate frisbee. I got the papers sorted and we went for a walk. We couldn’t track down Mr. B., but there were stairs! He couldn’t get over that. Murals on the walls! Lockers! It was settled. He liked my school better and wanted to transfer.
Soon, it was time for math, when I leave the classroom with a few students and head upstairs to the resource room. My teacher was going to do some NJ ASK test review with her class. Dimples, who has a propensity to stay close to me in unfamiliar surroundings, chose to stay in the classroom for the first half of math and join me upstairs for the second half. I loved the sudden surge of independence. I left him at a desk next to his baseball teammate, behind a privacy shield, with a stapled NJ ASK test packet, and went to resource, where one of the girls asked about his whereabouts and his birthday. I should have suspected something then. Halfway through math, I went back to the classroom to get him. We had a nice time upstairs, where he got to know another teacher and did some multiplication problems with our group. After math, he got the bug to wander, and he felt so comfortable in the school (after yet more sweets from the incredibly friendly secretaries), I let him.
Finally, it was time for recess and lunch, and Dimples was psyched. He grabbed his frisbee and we headed down the hall. There was Mr. B., who noticed what Dimples was holding and said, if I remember correctly, “you have a flatball?!?” He said he’d be right out to partake, which is in keeping with the way he usually spends recess. It was pure joy, standing in the sunshine, watching Dimples fit right in with all the kids - some he knew, but most he’d never laid eyes on. First came kickball. One of his baseball buds put him in the pitcher’s spot and it was like he’d been playing there all year. Before long, Mr. B. found his way outside, and Dimples and several other kids migrated from the cement to the grass where Mr. B. organized a game of ultimate. Mr. B. said he’d tried to get the fifth graders interested in the flatball (my new favorite word), but it hadn’t really taken. On this day, kids were running, tossing, catching, missing, and tossing again. Dimples went back and forth from kickball to frisbee; it was full-throttle recess. At the end of the half hour, we went into the gym for lunch and within seconds, Dimples was sitting in the middle of a large group of boys, discovering the ketchupy surprise I’d put in his bag, and looking, again, like he’d been part of the scene for months. He showed me notes he was given by sweet, smitten girls, referring to him as “hot,” “cute,” and a “crush,” one of whom mentioned his birthday. What was happening?!
After the lunch hour, Dimples asked if he could split his Language Arts time between the classroom and the resource room, where I would be. He had the hang of this now. When I brought him down to resource, with his Readers’ Workshop bag in tow, we saw Mr. B., who commented on how well prepared he was (I thought we’d kill two birds by having him visit and get his own work done). Dimples promptly threw me under the bus, saying he didn’t want to read, and that I’d made him bring the bag. We all laughed. He kept talking about how he wanted to stay at my school all day, and come back the next and the next, which had mostly to do with the candies, the couches, the recess games, his fun bond with the Principal, and assignments he only had to do if he felt like it.
I was palpably sad when the day was over. It was one of those events that surpassed all expectations and remains in my consciousness. Ever since then, when the sun shines at 11:30, Mr. B. rounds up a crowd of eager fifth graders for a rousing game of ultimate. I recently saw him doling out at least ten flatballs (had to say it again) to get everyone warmed up. The adorable note-writers ask me when Dimples can come back.
Ms. Steinem and Dimples, I am indebted to you both for giving me this spring Thanksgiving holiday. I have a lot to be grateful for.