The teacher of the class was a desperately old guy with more wrinkles than a Shar-Pei dog. He was carving and eating an apple off the blade of a pocket knife, and the class members, all young adults, watched fixated, waiting for a gruesome accident.
“This is a community education class called Parenting 101,” he said to the group of young parents sitting in too small desks. “They don’t teach you this in public school. It’s been passed down from generations of parents, like wisdom from an avalanching mountaintop.”
A young man raised his hand.
“Are we going to learn about sex?”
“No,” the teacher said. “In this class, we’re going old school. You’ll learn to talk like a parent. No matter the circumstance, you’ll be prepared to get the whippersnappers in line. Now repeat after me. Were you born in a barn?”
The class responded, some with gusto, others mumbling.
“Try again,” the old teacher said. “Close the door. We’re not heating up the whole neighborhood.”
The class responded, more in synch.
“Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched,” the old teacher said. The class responded.
“Cluck, cluck,” one young parent joked.
The old teacher gave him the sick eye. The young parent squirmed in his too small chair.
“Don’t complain because you have to get up,” the old teacher continued, carving his apple. “Be thankful you have two legs to get up on.”
The class responded, in harmony this time.
The old teacher nibbled on his apple, juice dripping down his chin.
“If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?”
“Of course not,” a class member responded.
“Sometimes, you have to rob Peter to pay Paul,” the teacher said.
“Pay Pal,” the class echoed inaccurately.
The old teacher hit his palm against his forehead. “OK. Try again. If wishes were fishes, we’d have enough for a fry.”
“Fry,” the class said.
Now here’s some parent talk that will come in useful, the teacher said, waving his knife for emphasis. “Just wait till your father gets home.”
“Father gets home,” the class echoed.
“Mother gets home.”
“Mother gets home.”
The teacher licked apple juice off the blade of his knife. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”
“Children should be seen and not heard.”
The class responded, with appropriate gusto, getting into the spirit of things.
The old teacher moved to spring cleaning mode.
“Hey, let’s clean this place up. There’s not enough room in here to swing a cat.”
“Swing a cat,” the class said.
Next he told his class how to deal with a kid throwing a tantrum.
“Don’t lose your head; your brains are in it.”
“Brains,” the class said.
The teacher was getting warmed up. He sliced off another chunk of apple and crunched it loudly, then swallowed, his adam’s apple bobbing wildly. “When you’re working with knives, you got to do a quality job,” he said. “It’s the same with kids. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right the first time.”
“First time,” the class echoed.
The old teacher, however, had saved the best for last.
“This one is for special occasions, when your child is being particularly naughty,” he told the gathered throng, waving his knife for emphasis. “Someday you’ll have a kid ... just like you.”