Parenting Class

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In the parenting class' educational video, everyone but Karl Malone looked just like this.
In the parenting class’ educational video, everyone but Karl Malone looked just like this.

I was a half hour early. The police officer manning the security checkpoint at the courthouse had to unlock the door to let me in.

Like I was excited to be there or something.

The State of Ohio requires parents to take a mandatory one-time three-hour parenting class before they will schedule a divorce or dissolution hearing.

I wasn’t feeling 100 percent because I stayed up really late the night before drinking with friends at a local festival, despite having a cut on my face.

I don’t feel like I drank THAT much, but I have evidence to the contrary.

  1. I spent a lot of money last night.
  2. Despite going to bed in my room, I woke up in my son’s bed next to his stuffed animals just prior to 4 a.m. I don’t know how I got there. The TV was still on in my bedroom down the hall.
  3. I felt a little hung over.

I took my seat in the inactive courtroom now used only for these types of educational programs.

I remember thinking: There’s going to be a bunch of newly single women in here.

I’m such an asshole sometimes.

I was scanning the room when my eyes honed in on the whiteboard.

“Drugs and alcohol,” someone had written. “Obstacals?”

Spelled just like that.

Because I’m a smartass, I posted it on Facebook with the comment: “So, right away, you know you’re in for some top-quality education.”

Because of that decision, a few more people learned about my pending divorce. That’s always awkward. I always feel sorry for the people I tell. I don’t know why.

My classmates began to trickle in. I was sizing them up.

I wonder how many of them know how to spell the word “obstacle”?

I was surprised at how many not-yet-divorced couples attended together. Five, by my count.

One guy, maybe mid-50s, came in with his wife and was still drunk from the night before, I think.

The wife said: “Don’t sit by me if you’re going to talk.”

And the drunk replied: “I’ll talk if I wanna talk! Ain’t a library!”

They sat right behind me.

A semi-attractive blonde sat down two seats to my right. She smiled at me.

An extremely attractive blonde walked in shortly thereafter. She didn’t smile at me. She sat next to her soon-to-be-ex husband—the only guy who looked like he wanted to be there less than I did.

I feel you, sir. Note to self: Don’t marry any more attractive blondes.

The female magistrate—a former prosecutor—led the class. She seemed smart. I’m not convinced she’s the one who misspelled “obstacle.” But you never know.

She warned everyone to turn off their cell phones. That if they ring or otherwise cause a distraction, you would be excused and you would have to come back and complete the class some other day.

The semi-attractive blonde two seats to my right raised her hand.

“Excuse me. I can’t turn my phone on vibrate and I can’t turn it off either because I’m the emergency contact for my children,” she said.

“Well, let’s just hope there isn’t an emergency,” the magistrate said, coolly.

The blonde left her phone on, gambling. I sort of admired it. And I sort of hoped it would ring just to see what would happen.

The coffee started to wear off as my classmates bombarded the magistrate with legal questions.

“What if my husband refuses to come to parenting class?” one lady asked.

“What if they’re in jail?” the blonde who wouldn’t turn her phone off asked.

Some self-righteous guy in the back wanted to prove he was smarter than the rest of us. He may have had a law degree, or he may have just memorized a bunch of Law & Order episodes, but he asked a bunch of annoying questions in legalese only the magistrate understood.

No one cares that you can talk that way, dude.

The drunk guy behind me took a cue from the smart-sounding guy.

“Is there any deviation to shared parenting?” he slurred. “Joint parenting? Co-parenting? Equal parenting? Is there any deviation to that effect?” he asked.

I have no idea what he just asked her. I wonder if she does.

She responded thoughtfully.

“I kind of feel like you just glossed over my question!” the drunk yelled.

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said.

He asked the EXACT same question again. With the same level of nonsensicalness.

The magistrate set him straight and then started playing a video.

They were still using the old square-tube-TV-on-top-of-rolling-cart-with-VCR setup that I remember from high school. I’m not sure why this surprised me. It was the first time I watched a VHS tape in more than a decade.

Question for future essay: Why are all of these educational videos old and cheesy?

You should have seen the clothes and hair. 1987 dot com. I kept waiting for Whitesnake to start playing.

Is there not a TON of money to be made producing modern videos covering these topics? Someone should get on this.

Halfway through a video encouraging parents to truly listen to their children when they talk about their feelings, Karl Malone made an appearance.

Karl freaking Malone. He was still young and—at the time—the greatest power forward in basketball.

That’s how old the video is.

The Mailman hooked us up with some parenting knowledge. But Whitesnake never played “Here I Go Again,” which was disappointing.

My favorite part of the day was watching all of the wives looking at their husbands every time the magistrate said something about child support or that reinforced their side of the arguments they had obviously been having.

“Shared parenting does NOT mean no child support,” the magistrate said.

Every single woman attending with her husband shot him the EXACT same look, which said: I told you, motherfucker!

I felt bad for everyone in the room, except for the deputy getting paid time and a half and the guy in the back who thought he was smarter than everyone.

I thought back to waking up in my son’s bed.

Why did I go in there?

I was either just really intoxicated and confused, or in some drunken moment of self-reflection, I missed my son and wanted to be in his room.

He woke up in hysterics last week with his mom, sobbing.

“It’s all my fault! Everything’s ruined because of me!” he said, half asleep.

My soon-to-be ex consoled him and assured him that NONE of this was his fault and that he’s loved and safe. Exactly as she should have.

No, son. None of this is your fault. And you are loved. Beyond measure.

And I didn’t need this parenting class, or Karl Malone, to tell me that.

14 thoughts on “Parenting Class”

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  5. I’m happy to know I wasn’t the only one scoping out fellow soon to be divorcees in my parenting class. There were absolutely no contenders in mine.

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  11. This made me laugh, especially your thought about newly single women. Back in June I went to a similar sounding (non-mandatory but highly recommended)class and had that exact same thought…except in reverse.
    I was surprised and a little confused by how many soon-to-be-divorced couples looked like they came to the class together. And Whitesnake probably would’ve livened up those videos a bit.

    1. Right!? Rock on, Whitesnake.

      But seriously. The couples coming in together really blew me away. I’d say at least half the room. I was really surprised.

      I’ve always liked this post. Thank you for reading it.

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Matt Fray

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