The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Subjectivity: In Homework and HVAC Repairs

You’d think there are lots of things in life that wouldn’t be subjective. Yes, ‘Does this dress look cute with this belt?’ is a question with a subjective answer. Also, ‘How many lemon bars can I eat before I’m so fat you’ll no longer find me attractive?’ is kind of a personal question. If I were to ask MY husband I think I’d get at least 15-30 (OK, I *hope*. Because that pan I made a few days ago is looking sort of empty.), but someone else might give me a -12.

Really, though, some things it would seem like should have a fairly black and white answer, right? I mean, ‘Is grass green?’ should have a pretty clear cut response, right? Likewise, ‘Can I drive my car from Texas to Hawaii?’ and ‘Do the Road Rules/Real World Challenge episodes just get even better the crazier, older and more alcoholic the people get?’ It’s an obvious Yes, No, Yes, there, doncha think?

Apparently, though, I should not assume that just because something seems like it should have an easy answer, it does. It’s important to remember people always have a point of view slightly askew from your own.

Take for instance, my eldest son. He’s 10 and in a new school this year. It’s set up like a middle school where he has 9 teachers instead of just the one he had last year. We were warned at the beginning of the year he would have way more homework and responsibility to get used to this year. I took it seriously and have been asking him regularly all the normal questions:

Do you have homework tonight?
Do you need any help with your assignments?
Do you have tests you need to study for?
Is there anything I can check for you?
How are you doing in your classes and on your tests?

In general, over the last semester the answers have come back like this: No, No, No, No, FABULOUSLY GREAT AND AWESOME (a variation of this is sometimes: oh you know, just fine. Perfectly fine.).

He was doing some homework here and there and I was helping him study for vocab tests and reviewing the occasional math paper or helping with a science project, but it was all pretty low-key. I was actually starting to think the whole ‘LOTS OF HOMEWORK AND PRESSURE AND HARDNESS’ drama they had spouted at the beginning of the year was just a boogeyman used to weed out the wusses. Or that maybe my kid was really just that much more awesome than all other kids ever. Oh this is the ‘high performing’ school for smart kids with good test scores? Yawn. My kid is kicking its high-performing ass.

Then, last week I got his third quarter progress report. Which looked more like a progress report from the Compton School for Derelict Boys Who Never Do Their Homework and Will Probably End Up Working for Auto-Zone and Living with Their Parents For the Rest of Their Lives.

Of course, when I talked to his teachers (which was no easy task with 9 of them to track down) the story they told was radically different from my son’s lovely-easy-happy-awesome one. He was just rampantly not turning things in. He was failing math tests. MATH. Which there’s just no excuse for. As a childhood-not-turner-inner-of-homework myself, I know you still learn the general concepts so that you can ace the tests. That’s how it works. You fail Social Studies tests, because who cares about that crap, but MATH is important. You USE it later in life. (I just had to go back and edit exclamation points out of the last five sentences. I feel strongly about this. Can you tell?) He was failing violin with utter abandon. GAH.

It’s a situation we’re still all coming to terms with. I have yet to extricate from my son where the breakdown in communication between ‘real life’ and the story he was telling me occurred. My sister (the high school English teacher) says it’s just that all kids are liars. My son’s no more horrifying than any other normal delinquent (I mean kid).

And OK, maybe that’s the truth. Maybe all kids are liars. But then how do you explain the story of my buyer under contract’s HVAC unit?

This one went like this (technical jargon interpreted by me. I’m kind of a genius about what-do-you-call-them… mechanical stuff)-

Inspector after checking out townhouse: Seems ok. AC is wonky, though. Split is wrong. (The split is the AC gnome who runs on a treadmill inside the unit to make it go. When it’s ‘wrong’ that means the guy is facing the incorrect direction and has pants on that are a size too small.).

First HVAC guy the buyer paid to come out and check the unit: The AC is totally effed. It’s leaking Freon into the walls and to find the leak we’ll probably have to tear out all of the walls in the house. (Freon is a sparkly green dust that makes the air colder. But if it gets into the walls termites will smell it and eat your house from the inside out because to them it’s like catnip. Or pot.) It’s going to cost either $1000 or $8000 to fix. But probably not anywhere in between.

HVAC guy the seller paid to come out and check the unit:
The AC is out of Freon, but other than that, it’s fine. The Freon is just leaking out of the edges of the unit in a completely non-invasive manner and once I refill it this will stop. (Sometimes this happens, and the AC gnome can jump off his treadmill really quick and seal the inside of the unit while he’s changing his pants and reversing his direction. But only if you have a really good gnome. Some are pretty lazy and like to attract termites to keep as pets.)

Sadly, the only exaggerations I made to this story were in the technical descriptions. The rest is pretty much verbatim. Guy #1: it’s screwed. Guy #2: it’s fine. They’re just like my son and his teachers.

So in this case, because neither of these people is 10 years old and assumedly the unreliable one, we’re getting a third quote tomorrow. I’m really crossing my fingers it doesn’t come back: The HVAC is totally fine. But did you realize you have a massive Radon emission problem coming from the master bathroom shower?

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