(sitting down to dinner)
Molly: I want fish fingers.
Pai: Your mother made this lovely roast.
Me: And you had fish fingers for lunch.
Molly: (arms crossed in front of her, pouting)
Pai: Try this nice broccoli. You love broccoli.
Me: Dip it in the sauce.
Hank: You made gravy?!?!!
Me: Yup. When you survive a Monday you deserve gravy.
Hank: I love gravy.
Me: I think this is the most American thing about you.
Pai: Well, that makes two of us them.
Molly: (dipping her broccoli in gravy) Yummmmmmmmmy. I love molho (sause), too.
Me: Splendid! How was your day today, Hank?
Hank: (oozing with sarcasm) My gym teacher thought it would be a perfectly fine idea to let us 5th graders play dodgeball with the 8th graders.
Me: Oh good lord, no. (shaking my head) Just no!
Hank: It was awful. I got hit the most. This one 8th grade boy just met my eyes and whenever he had the ball he just hit me.
Me: But that’s good! Once you get hit in dodge ball you’re out.
Hank: In American dodgeball yes, but not in Portuguese dodgeball. Here it is more like futebol (soccer) and there are two… what are those called with the nets in English?
Hank: (nodding mouth full of roast and gravy) and the people who stand at the net?
Hank: Yah, and if you get hit you have to go and defend the goal with them. YOU are never out in dodgeball. It is horrible and never ends. Plus, I always get picked last because they say I am too fraca (weak) and I am the same as a girl.
Pai: (wincing) Um…
Me: Whoa, not cool. Not all girls are weak and you aren’t weak! Sports just aren’t your thing. You’re killing it when it comes to your style, photography, robotics.
Hank: Kids call me a girl all the time, not just in gym. They either call me a girl or the older girls at school want me to be their best friend. (making a face of disgust)
Pai: The older girls think they’re helping.
Hank: But they’re not. (sigh)
Me: There should be a law about dodgeball. They ban perfectly wonderful books for less.
Pai: Not in Portugal. We don’t ban books in Portugal.
Hank: OR we should play with the American rules so that I can sit out. I’m picked last and the first one hit with the ball, every time. At least on Wednesday we all have to run 30 laps so we will all be too exhausted to do anything else.
Pai: You like running.
Hank: But not with other people.
Me: I wish I could make you invisible.
Hank: That is my wish, too.
Pai: It gets easier. It is still the first semester in a new school.
Me: And next year you won’t be the youngest anymore.
Hank: There is a new boy in my class and he likes to make fun of me.
Me: Like in class?
Hank: No, but as soon as we’re outside or in the lunch line.
Pai: He wasn’t in school with you last year?
Hank: Yah, and I have been using that guy’s thing, that Gibbs guy, where I just agree with him and am sarcastic. It’s working, I think. I feel better for saying something and not just taking it, but more people watch and laugh so that isn’t my favorite thing.
Me: Good for you, but is his teasing a problem?
Hank: No, he just thinks he will be cool if he picks on me. He’s new and feels left out because all the other boys have known each other since jardim infância (kindergarten).
Pai: That is a mature way of looking at it, but don’t let things get out of hand. We have a conference with your teacher scheduled. You can always let her know and the school can help.
Hank: It’s fine. I mean it’s not but… (pouring yet more gravy on his roast, rice, salad and broccoli) Agreeing with him and being sarcastic is helping. I know I’m not a girl, that I’m me and that I am who I am supposed to be and that’s okay. I don’t want to change, but…
Me: But it’s not easy being seen and having to stand up for yourself, but coming home to a whole pitcher of gravy helps?
Hank: Yah it does!
Molly: Mais molho (more sauce), papa!
Hank: What do you say, Amália?
Molly: Mais molho (more sauce), please?
Hank: Amália, this molho (sauce) is American. It’s called gravy.
Molly: Mais molho (more sauce) gravy please, papa, thank you. (nodding)
Hank: Good job, mana (sister)! You’re so smart.
Molly: Thank you, mano (brother), I smart.
Hank: (sigh) At least Friday is Christmas Break and I will have three whole weeks without school.
Hank: (nodding, smiling, mouth full, gravy on the side of his mouth, ready for holiday break)