Pick You Battles



Hank: (walking in the house from school, coat and backpack still on) Oh my gawd, mom, you will never believe what happened at school today.

Me: Spill.

Hank: So I was in the library and this 6th grader who had missed school was in there to take an exam and he cheated on the whole time! Like through the whole test!

Me: Cheated how?

Hank: I saw him. He was googling the answers.

Me: Huh.

Hank: Normally there is always someone with you when you take a test, but for some reason, I don’t know why he was given the test and left alone so he just used his phone. I mean, I told the librarian, but she said his teacher knew what was going on and not to worry about it, but my friends and I were, like, so upset because that wasn’t right. He should have studied.

Me: Agreed, but Hank, you don’t know the situation. You informed someone of your concerns and that is all you can do.

Hank: I was thinking of speaking to someone else tomorrow. I mean, it isn’t right!

Me: Was the boy physical harming himself or others?

Hank: No.

Me: Was he destroying property?

Hank: No.

Me: Was he creating an unsafe or disruptive environment?

Hank: No.

Me: Was he intentionally spreading a highly contagious communicable disease that could decimate the population?

Hank: Mom!

Me: Hank, you did your policing; you informed an adult and that is all you should do. I know you are a rule follower, but not everyone is like you. In life you will meet people who haven’t earned their place in the world and that isn’t fair, but trust me, that boy will suffer later if he doesn’t know the information on that exam. His laziness will cost him in the future, so there is no need to be a vigilante.

Hank: I just think it is unfair.

Me: Life isn’t fair.

Hank: But (pause)…

Me: Is that boy your friend?

Hank: No, he’s a sixth grader.

Me: All the more reason to not take this further. It isn’t your business, you informed an adult of what you saw and now his cheating is between him and his teacher.

Hank: (frustrated sigh) But why didn’t he just study?

Me: What if he did, but in being left alone he was far too tempted by his access to the internet to prove he knew the material?

Hank: I would never do that. I would never cheat.

Me: And I respect your decision, but no one is asking you to police your school and prosecute wrongdoing. Are you Batman?

Hank: Mom, no.

Me: You did the right thing speaking with the librarian, but you also need to trust the adult you informed to handle the situation further. Only in cases of marginalization, neglect, abuse, violence, impending doom and or natural disaster do you push forward.

Hank: But it’s wrong.

Me: I agree.


Me: Okay, I will tell you a story. A couple of years ago I had to get a blood draw and that blood draw had to be sent to Porto for analysis. It was arranged that I would just pop into the pathology lab at the hospital at the earliest appointment possible and dash in, have my blood drawn and dash out. It was all arranged. So I show up and I am the first one in line, but I didn’t have the same paperwork as the other people waiting in line so they assumed I was cheating and jumping in front of them, but I wasn’t Portugal people with certain illness, diseases and ages get to the front of the line.

Hank: Like babies.

Me: Exactly, but I didn’t look like I fit the criteria to jump the queue so a group of people, men and women, started demanding they see my appointment card and when the techs and I explained the situation and that I had priority because of my RA/AS they didn’t accept our answer and got rowdy and loud and accused me of cheating, saying I was lying and was probably a doctor’s daughter and being given special treatment.

Hank: That is so rude.

Me: Exactly! Then someone went and got a security guard and he got involved and questioned the techs and I again why I was jumping to the front of the line.

Hank: But you weren’t jumping.

Me: Yes, but the people assembled weren’t listening and decided to police the situation to get justice for being the second, third, fourth and fifth people in line instead of simply being one spot higher up the chain. It got so bad that the men that had their blood draws just after mine even walked behind me and insulted my limp and accused me of faking it for sympathy literally all the way home. They followed me to the door of our building loudly heckling me and accusing me of being a liar.

Hank: I think I remember this. You were so upset.

Me: I was and here’s the thing: I wasn’t upset when they raised their concerns in line, but I was mortified when they took their policing of me to the security guard and then to the streets. Even if I was cheating, which I wasn’t, was it all necessary? They had made their poor opinion of me and the situation known, they spoke with staff from the hospital and then with security, but in the end took it too far.

Hank: YES!

Me: Do you understand what I mean now about being a vigilante? There are a precious few moments in life when it is necessary to interfere, but there are far more small moments where it isn’t and your interference will be more harm than good.

Hank: Okay. I understand what you mean now. I don’t have to like the cheating, but I did what I could and I don’t want to take it too far.

Me: Exactly. Pick your battles, Hank.

Hank: I should save my battles for when I am needed.

Me: (nodding)

Hank: Okay, I understand now, thanks mom.

Me: Thank you.



One of the amazing letters Hank is lucky to receive from my dad, Grandpa Snitch, that help lift him up.

One of the amazing letters Hank is lucky to receive from my dad, Grandpa Snitch, that help lift him up.


Me: Hank! Dinner!

Pai: Amália Sofia, you sit with us at the table or you play with your toys quietly. This is our dinner time and just because you’ve eaten already doesn’t mean you get to interrupt us every 13 seconds because you want something not on the table or you want to leave. What is your choice?

Molly: What you eating?

Me: Soup and grilled cheese.

Molly: I no like it.

Pai: (Chef of the soup) Hey!

Me: (Chef of the grilled cheese) There is a better way to turn down a kind offer of nice food.

Molly: No, thank you. I no like it.

Me: (giggling to myself)

Pai: More for me then!

Hank: (dragging himself to the table)

Pai: How is the studying going?

Hank: (sigh) Good.

Me: You have been working very hard lately. Thank you for doing your best.

Hank: Once this test is over I am going to work harder to learn how to take criticism.

Me: Were you given a critique today at school?

Pai: (eyebrow raised)

Hank: It’s just, when we were studying for the test today in class my friend and I answered a question wrong and we were the only two that answered wrong, so my teacher called us, “palerma (idiot),” in front of the whole class.

Me: (suddenly seething with anger)

Pai: Palerma (idiot), that was the word she used? That isn’t criticism, Hank. That was an unfortunate choice of words.

Hank: She is always saying she has been teaching for 40 years and we need to listen to her and I do, but…

Me: (shelving my anger for the moment) Buddy, I agree with your papa. That was not criticism. You remember what your Grandpa Snitch said in his letter to you about criticism?

Hank: I remember the letter, but not the right words.

Me: He said, “ Good criticism is instructive and constructive and bad criticism is destructive – always!”

Pai: What was her mood? Was she having a bad day and took it out on you and your friend?

Hank: She was laughing.

Me: There are two types of people in this world: those who educate by lifting you up and those who educate by tearing you down, by bullying, by using what is called “tough love.” You’re papa and I believe that it is better to educate by lifting up a student, but in this world you won’t always meet people who agree with us.

Pai: It is unfortunate that was her choice.

Me: You’re lucky, Hank, because you have someone at your school you can go and speak to about this anonymously and with no consequence to you or the relationship you have with that teacher. At the parent teacher conference your Director de Turma (homeroom teacher) explained to us that if there was ever a moment when you or one of your classmates or one of us parents have a differing opinion or a disagreement or felt upset or were being hurt in some way by a teacher we could go to her, that she would listen and then address the issue for us. She encouraged us that was exactly what she was there for and always has time on Thursdays during lunch.  If you choose, if you need to talk to someone about this other than us, she is always there and I know your Director de Turma is a teacher who chooses to educate by lifting up a student and not by tearing them down. Please go and speak to her if you need someone to talk to.

Hank: (pushing soup around his plate)

Pai: I am sure it was embarrassing for her to call you both that in front of the class.

Hank: (nodding)

Me: And I am sure she has no idea how hard you have been working to improve in her class, but I do, we do. You are doing your best and your best is enough. I have been telling you since the day you were born that, “no one ever called you dumb, not one day,” and no one had until now. I wouldn’t lie to you; I am far to busy and important to lie. I know you aren’t a palerma (idiot) and I hope you know you aren’t and won’t let that destructive criticism ruin all the hard work you have been doing.

Hank: (soup finished, heavy dark circles under his eyes) Is it okay of I just go to sleep? I read that the best thing to do after studying is to go to sleep and let your brain take all the information and put it into categories which will help you remember better.

Pai: That is true! I am impressed you know this and that is a great idea.

Hank: (getting up from the table)

Me: Love you, buddy.

Hank: (leaves room) Love you, too.

Pai: (once he’s out of ear shot, whispers) Deep breath, Hanford.

Me: (whisper screaming) I could give two shits about 40 years experience that fucking teacher in one flippant soul crushing moment undermined my entire parenting ethos for the past ten years! WHAT DO I ALWAYS SAY TO HIM?!

Pai: I know, but it was bound to happen someday, you know that.

Me: I am at desk flipping levels over this.

Pai: I have already begun composing the email to his Director de Turma (homeroom teacher) in my brain. Her office hours are on Thursday. We will be there.

Me: (whisper raging) You better take the lead on this one, S’Tôr (slang for Senhor Douctor (Mr. Doctor) which is the formal way to address a professor in Portugal), and ooze DOCTOR of cognitive science and brains and developmental psychological citations allllllll over this conversation or I swear on all that is good and holy that I will leave all manor of decorum at the door and Mama Bear that school to the ground.

Pai: I am glad I have you in my corner, but I am confident I can argue our case. Even if you sit saying nothing and only have that expression on your face it will be enough to communicate the seriousness of our side of the debate.

Me: (head in my hands) He has been working so hard! He already has to punch his lying, irrational thoughts in the face every day single day to do his best. HE DIDN’T NEED THIS!

Pai: I know.





Me: (emotional) He’s going to bed at 8:30pm (an hour early). His soul is crushed.

Pai: He is going to bed at 8:30pm because he is tired and needs to rest and because you taught him how to take care of himself.






For the Love of Trains

conversations with hank


Me: (overhearing from inside the apartment)

Molly: (exiting the elevator, outside the apartment in the hallway) MAMA!

Pai: (also in the hallway) Amália Sofia, it is rude to yell in the hallway.

Molly: Papa, my trains!

Pai: I can only carry so many things, filha (daughter). Tem calma (calm down).

Me: (opening the front door) What’s all this?

Pai: (walking past me into the house) Hello, I love you.

Molly: MOMMMMMY! My Trains!

Pai: She insisted we bring the trains home from her ama’s (nanny’s) house.

Me: I am surprised Adriana (Molly’s nanny) agreed to let them leave! The girls are having such a ball learning about and playing with those trains!

Pai: I had to promise I’d bring them back tomorrow.

Me: (giggling) Of course.

Molly: (dragging an extra large shopping bag stuffed to the brim with a wooden train set out of the elevator, struggling) My… Trains! Mommy… argh… Help! Help!

Me: (stepping out of the doorway to help her)

Pai: OH no you don’t, Hanford. That bag is heavy. Save your arm strength for hugs and cuddles. (winking at me, while moving ahead to fetch the heavy shopping bag)

Hank: (entering the doorway) What is going on?


Hank: Hi, mana (sister)! How was your day?

Molly: TRAINS! Mano, trains!

Hank: Trains?

Me: Your sister has been learning about trains this week at her ama’s (nanny’s). They have been going to the train station, reading books about trains, coloring train pictures so I thought it would be a good idea to send your train collection for the girls to play with…

Pai: (interrupting) And your sister is now obsessed with your trains.

Hank: (hand on his heart, emotional) Really?

Molly: (toddling up the stairs to our front door) Play trains, mano (brother)? Play trains with me?

Hank: I would love to play trains with you, mana (sister)! (taking her hand and leading her inside) Did you know they were once my trains, but now they are for you! (helping her take off her coat)

Molly: Now they for me? Oh, thank you, mano! I love you. I love TRAINS!

Hank: Me, too.

Molly: Lets’s play! Play with me? Come on!

Hank: (diving right into the train bag) Sure! First we build the track!

Molly: YAY!

Me: (witnessing the scene from the door frame, beaming)