Grade: 9th grade
Age: 15

The Kindergarten Lesson

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“Handball! Handball!” the crowd shouted at me. My day was now horrendous.
The real finisher was when someone held up a “red card” to me, implying that I had been removed from the game. The referee just pointed his finger towards the swings and waited for me to get a move on.
This time, I didn’t resist the public and walked off in shame. I couldn’t believe that I was so unfairly kicked out of the game, even some other boy was also touching the ball with his hands.
With a bitter taste in my mouth, I sat on the swingset and started crying. This went on for a minute until a student asked me what was wrong. I didn’t even look over, I just kept on crying, answering only with tears.
By the time I had to go to lunch, I had stopped crying, but I was still visibly distressed. Lunch got tense. I used to sit with a certain group of kids at the time, but I sat at my own table, alone, on that day.
I couldn’t eat; I just stared into my food with confusion and anger. I wanted to ask those kids, ask them about why I had received a red card from the referee, and why I couldn’t play, even though, in my mind, I didn’t break any rules.
Obviously, the teachers wanted to sort something out, but they didn’t interfere. Perhaps they didn’t see. I believe now that they did feel sorry for me, they just knew that sometimes interfering with a disagreement (that I had blown out of proportion) was unnecessary, and sometimes could actually make things worse. I had to fend for my own.
The rest of the day was long. I was in a bad mood from my tantrum, and I still received disapproving looks coming from fellow male classmates. It was hard letting the situation defuse. I was ashamed, and I also wanted to hit someone.
All of this reminded me of such previous situations that happened earlier in the school year. I would get embarrassed if the teacher called me up to ask what I was doing when I would be fooling around. With a red face, I would apologize to my classmates for distracting them, and sit back down regretting every moment of it. I guess that was the punishment though, so I did deserve it.
Eventually, the day ended. I felt a temporary surge of monumental relief as I realized the day was over. Unfortunately, the second I got into my mother’s car (I was a walker), she figured something was wrong.
“What’s the matter with you? Are you okay?” my mother questioned.
“I’m fine,” I responded in a grumpy tone. My mother persisted, trying to get something out of me. It was clear that I had been crying.
“You didn’t get into any trouble now, did you?”
“No! I’m fine!” – I responded and leaned away from her gaze through the rearview mirror. Silence ensued for the following dozen or so seconds. Then I told about what happened, spending the whole ride home pitying myself.
At home, she talked some sense into me. It turned out that the kid who picked up the ball before me was correcting a foul ball, yet I had cheated with a handball. I Immediately understood that I totally over-exaggerated the incident. I guess I forgot about handballs and all of those other rules after playing in chaos for so long.
I knew why I had been given a red flag now, but I still dreaded going back to school after my little incident.
My mother told me to just play soccer in the field again and to not make the same mistake, but I “knew” that it was not this easy, even in kindergarten.
On my ride to school the next day, I thought the blood vessels in my brain would explode. Everyone would laugh at me and ignore me, I just knew it.
I had attempted to convince my mother that I was sick that morning. She was having none of it and just said:
“Be nice to people and they will be nice to you.”
Oh well, I didn’t have a choice. At least now my soul would rest easy knowing that I had tried everything reasonable that I could try. It was like walking up to a guillotine but I had not a chance of escaping.
However, I was shocked at school that day. (Almost) everyone didn’t remember what had happened on the soccer court the previous day. When it became time for recess, the soccer court that I dreaded welcomed me with a place on one of the “teams”. Obviously, the kids didn’t really care; they just wanted to play soccer without any handballs.
I was pleasantly surprised, and I got to continue to lunch feeling nice, sitting with my friends again and talking about who had scored the most in a friendly manner. This time, I could focus on my classwork and I finished my spelling worksheet. I could draw decent shapes in art and I could climb up the rock climbing wall at a blitzing pace.
At home, my mother asked me: “How was it Yegor? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, mother,” I answered softly.

Later on in the day, I tried to eat mashed potatoes again for the first time in a couple of years. I still remembered the last time I ate it: it ended with me crying and having a fit because I “threw up” (I didn’t actually throw up, I just hated the texture and spit it out). This time though, I thought to myself: “What’s the worst that can happen?” I ended up liking it, and I realized that it wasn’t as bad as I imagined it to be. Later on, I proudly told my mom: “If I hadn’t tried it, I never would’ve liked it.”
“It’s okay to take risks sometimes.” My mother told me in response.

One thought on “The Kindergarten Lesson

  1. The author of “The Kindergarten Lesson” succeeds in portraying emotions relating to shame and embarrassment.

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