Today my son and the rest of his classmates got to camp in his first grade classroom as a reward for good work. He was extremely excited and reminded us at least 17 times beforehand that he needed to bring in a sleeping bag and flashlight.
This morning, in preparation for “The Big Campout,” I asked him to pack up his supplies and put them in his backpack. And, oh yeah, not to forget to put his sleeping bag in the black CONTAINER so it would fit. He asked which one was the black container and I reminded him that it was the one that we put the sleeping bags in.
He followed his marching orders and went downstairs to begin packing his things. But soon after he yelled from the basement that he couldn’t figure out how to get the black container into his backpack. I wondered what he meant and asked his sister to help him out and find the black container, since she has already camped out several times with her girl scout troop and knows where the black containers are and how to get the sleeping bags in them. But she said she didn’t know where the black containers were.
After several minutes and their window for getting to school on time rapidly diminishing, I asked my son if he had had any luck finding the black container, and he said he found it, but couldn’t fit it in his backpack. Again, confused, and now stressed because we were late, I quickly searched the mud room closet, found the black container, and jammed the sleeping back along with everything else into his backpack.
On the way to school, it dawned on me that my son had, in fact, found the black container.
However, his interpretation of black container, while 100% accurate since we do sometimes store the sleeping bags inside of them, was not quite the black container I was thinking of, the one in which we also sometimes store, but mostly use to transport, the sleeping bags.
Today my son was also supposed to take a state-mandated test for memory, perception, cognitive skills, etc., and I joked with my wife that I hoped our boy did better on his test than he did this morning in thinking I actually wanted him to carry in one of these bulky black containers to school. But then I thought some more about my choice of the word “container,” and how to a six-year old boy, who interprets the world quite literally, a black container is in fact the box, and not the “sack/bag” I was thinking of but described as a “container.”
I gave him an “F” for failing to understand a simple request, for failing to think through how ridiculous it would be for him to schlep his sleeping bag to school in this heavy, wooden ottoman. And yet, I was the one who failed to communicate clearly.
It turns out the test is not until tomorrow. I wonder how many six-and seven-year olds’ standardized tests will be marked down for incorrect answers to questions as seemingly “straightforward.”