We were pulling out of the church parking lot when I asked my three oldest kids, “How was Sunday school class?”
“Terrible!” one of them said. “Jayden was so embarrassing!”
The other one said, “Yeah! He kept saying weird things.”
“Like what?” Laurie asked.
“Like when the teacher asked, ‘Who wrote the book of Romans?’ he shouted, ‘Chocolate!’”
“I’m sorry.” I paused for a moment, hoping I’d misheard. “He said what?”
“Yeah! And another time when the teacher asked a question, he shouted, ‘Chicken!’ And when the teacher asked what he meant, he said, “Kentucky Friiiiiiied Chicken!’”
“And this other time, he shouted, ‘Illuminati confirmed’ and made a triangle symbol with his hands.”
“Jayden.” I said, trying to swallow as much rage as possible. “How do you know what the illuminati is at the age of 10?”
He hung his head, and mumbled, “I don’t know.”
For the rest of the drive, Laurie and I took turns giving a good, ol’ fashioned lecture. When we got home, we sent him to his room and made lunch for the children who didn’t act like plum fools at church.
“How long do you want him to stay in his room?” Laurie asked me, once we were alone.
“I don’t know. I just need a break from him.”
Ultimately, I had to be sympathetic: I have an inner class clown, too. If a joke presents itself, I have to tell it. True comedians use trial and error to figure out what’s funny (and what isn’t).
After a few hours, we called Jayden out of his room and talked some sense into him. Or at least we tried. Then we sent him off.
I felt better until Laurie and I received an email from his middle school teacher, not even 60 minutes later. She reported that Jayden and a classmate had been telling “Yo Mama” jokes in class.
“Jayden!” I shouted. “A word! Please!”
He came in the room and flashed me a big smile. “Hey, Dad. What’s up?”
“Tell me about the ‘Yo Mama’ jokes you’ve been making in class.”
The smile on his face quickly disappeared. “Well,” he said softly. “Me and Elvis were in class…”
“You have a kid in your class named Elvis?” I interrupted.
“Like Elvis Presley?”
“No, his last name isn’t Presley.”
“No, Son,” I huffed. “I know that. I meant the singer.”
“There’s a singer named Elvis?” he asked.
I wanted to admonish my son for being disrespectful to his teacher and classmates. I should have wondered, “Where did I go wrong as a parent that my son doesn’t know Elvis Presley?”
But…my inner class clown was about to explode. Jokes flooded my brain: jokes about doing the hound dog in class, jokes about other kids in his class with names like Oprah, jokes about any other pop culture icons Jayden didn’t know.
Laurie must have sensed I was zoning out, because she dismissed Jayden and playfully swatted my leg. “You’re the worst,” she said. “Are any of those jokes in your head worth hearing?”
I smiled and said, “Not really.”
“Well,” she said, “I guess there’s some hope.”