Saturday, September 28, 2013

Turning 40

I snuck it in there....on the subtitle of my blog.

I am now a 40-something, part-time employed mood-disordered-mama which is very different from where I was on Nov 16, 2006 when I started this blog.  I was only a little ways into my "anxiety remission."  I only had 1 child.  I hadn't any desire to do anything but be a stay-at-home mom.

Seven years and two additional children sure do change things.

At one point I had considered getting a bunch of girlfriends together to go dancing on my birthday, but I decided against it.  For one, I teach on Fridays, so I am more or less worthless on Friday nights.  Secondly, as much as I sometimes think I'd like to have a night out on the town, ultimately I want to be with my family, spending time with them enjoying this fall weather.  And thirdly, I have just been too dang busy to plan something.  I really and truly don't need to add anything else to my list of things to do.

So I turned 40 without much fanfare, which is fine.

A few things have been on my mind as a result of hitting this milestone birthday.

First, it recently dawned on me that I am really and truly over people whom I thought hung the moon from my childhood.  Not that I had been living in the past, but I think the rosy fog of nostalgia (or forgetfulness) had made me continue thinking of people as I did when I was a kid.  Not that I don't think these people aren't nice or good or whatever, but I have found myself asking a bit, "What did I see in them back in the day because I sure don't see it now."  

Secondly, I have revisited one of the reasons I didn't originally want to have children, which is because I viewed having children as "the end."  It seemed like after a person married and finished having babies, there was nothing really remarkable or "big" that people oohed and ahed over.  I guess in a sense that is true, but being on the other side now, having been married a good long time and being DONE with childbearing, I certainly don't think there is nothing remarkable or big for the remainder of my life.

On this side of the fence, I see that there are many adventures awaiting me.  Seeing the kids grow up and being able to do fun things with them that we weren't able to do when they were itty-bitty.  Continuing my professional endeavors.  Traveling again with D.  Soaking up all this great wisdom and perspective that life keeps laying on me as time goes by.

I'm only like 2 weeks into this 40 thing, but so far, so good.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Super six

Dear G,

Tomorrow you turn 6-years-old.

Since before you were born, you have been doing things your own way, keeping me in a perpetual state of off-kilter that is mostly exhiliarating and sometimes exhausting.

You think deeply, surprising me and your dad with the depth of your questioning and desire to know. You are also tremendously funny, but perhaps not in a way that other kids your age appreciate like older people do.  While you can definitely be silly funny like other kids, because you are such a deep little thinker, your humor tends to be pretty cerebral.  (And since your daddy and I are also pretty cerebral you really crack us up!)

In some ways, you are very mature in your awareness of who you are and what you like. I don't know very many almost 6-year-old kids who do not want to be surprised on their birthdays but would rather be told what they are getting, and in being told do not throw fits demanding their presents before their parties.  You helped your Mamaw wrap your own birthday presents, and even a Christmas present, totally ok in delaying the opening for another 3 months.

You have adjusted to kindergarten like a champ, even when you had to switch teachers due to enrollment issues, being so sweet and charming that both teachers just love you to pieces.  I am proud that you are trying to be more independent by writing words and asking to learn to tie your shoes.

Even when you and I butt heads, and we often do, I am always so glad that you are my son.  As I've told you many times, the middle is what makes the Oreo so good, it is the expanse that connects the two sides of the river, it is the nutritionally filling part of every sandwich.

Your strong personality is what gives our family flavor, interest, chaos and delight.

I hope your 6th year is awesome and amazing!

I love you bub,


Thursday, September 19, 2013

What works for me [and why cheerleading doesn't]

Regardless what books or society or doctors or parent friends say, if I've learned anything as a mom (and continue to have to remind myself of as a mom) it is that I have to do what feels right to me.  

Cheerleading did not feel right to me.  

As much as I hate the idea of not letting N do something she said she wants to do, I know what she and I can handle.
And it is not 2 practices a week plus games every Friday plus competitions on various Saturdays plus 3 fundraisers plus up to $225 for uniforms/shoes/etc.

Too much.

It makes me feel immensely better about letting my kids vegetate on the weekends, watch tv when they want, go outside when they want, not have to keep to any kind of schedule.
They will do enough of that when they are adults.  

Sometimes I feel like I am so old-fashioned.  Because I stay home.  Because I don't have a smart phone and am therefore not connectable at all times.  Because I want 2-3 evenings each week to be completely free for us to take a family walk or shoot basketball or throw a frisbee.  

But these are things that feel right to me so I will continue to remind myself of this when it seems like I'm the oddball. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

And now she wants to be a......


I am so totally underwhelmed by this idea.

I don't have anything against cheerleading per se.  My lack of excitement at this newest interest is due to its complete insistence on us turning over our entire lives to it, as is the case in all things remotely sports-related.

(It has become clear to me that there is virtually nothing I am willing to turn my life over to in any consistent way, be it sports, church, exercise.  I am good with that whole "moderation in all things" credo.)

Two days of practice until 6 pm.  And games.  I have agreed to go to the meeting at school this evening to gather more information, but I have already told her it is highly unlikely she will be able to do it.

Because she has piano lessons on Monday evenings.
Because she does Girl Scouts every other Wednesday.
Because if she does M (piano) and W (Girl Scouts) and then T/Th cheerleading practice, she will have ZERO time to just chill and play Barbies or whatever.
Because 4 days of busyness during the week doesn't include the games.
Because the uniform costs $125 (plus another $60 for a warm-up).
Because with her height and solidness she will be at the bottom of the pyramid and not the top (I cleared that up when she was talking about this in the car).
Because when she is tired she is a complete lunatic bear of a kid.
Because she isn't a particularly coordinated / rhythmic child.
Because even if she wants to turn her life over to cheerleading and being active I, as the designated concierge and chauffeur of her life, do not.

The type of teacher I am

Being back in a classroom after nearly a decade is much like riding the proverbial bike.  It just came back to me.  The rhythm, the movement, the tone, the type of teacher I am came back, and it feels if I haven't been doing completely unrelated other things.

I think it is interesting how many people who don't teach professionally (or never have) give me all kinds of kudos for having such great lessons, but I can't really take credit for it.  My talent isn't in the creation.  I don't have the grand ideas, but I am an excellent thief.

My talent is in the organizing of other people's great ideas and the performance.  The building up of my joy at reading literature and sharing the depth of thought with them, helping them plumb the depths of their own understanding.  Acknowledging "I don't know" instead of trying to act as if I do.  Being able to work a connection between the origination of the word "twerking" into our discussion of the Absolute Morphodite in To Kill a Mockingbird.

It feels good to hear "This is the best English class I've ever had."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Things I think are important to remember as a parent of school children

Every year I see articles in August that are along the lines of, "What Teachers Wish Every Parent Knew" or "How Parents Can Help Teachers."  Some of the tips mentioned are usually things like "Read to your child every day" and "Attend school functions."  I have no disagreement with these articles or their substance, but I think I would like to write an article entitled, Some Things Parents Should Know About Sending Their Child to School That They May Not Want to Hear.

1.  Don't Say Anything Negative/Disrespectful About Your Child's Teacher/School in Front of Your Child
You can think whatever the heck you want, cuss 'em out inside your head all the livelong day, have endless conversations with your spouse after the kids are in bed, but you need to model respect, restraint and maturity in front of your child.  And even if you don't throw a temper tantrum every day, kids are very good at picking up their parents' moods.  Your negative attitude will be picked up by the child and will impact his/her reactions to the school or teacher.  If you feel so compelled by your feelings to share them with the child, keep it to "I disagree with some of the things that the school does so I'm going to talk to the teacher/principal."  The end.

2. Don't Believe Everything Your Child Tells You
Children can lie, but much of the time they don't.  They are, however, only able to see situations from a child's perspective.  A child might say "My teacher didn't let me finish lunch."  What the child leaves out is that he/she talked with a friend for 15 minutes and didn't spend enough time actually eating.

I had a student once who told me that he knew some famous NBA basketball player, and I responded something like, "Sure."  He insisted, "No, I REALLY know so-and-so."  I think my response remained, "Sure you do."  I was not disrespectful in my tone, mostly indifferent. The child went to his mother, whined to her, and she wrote me a note, telling me how much I hurt her child's feelings because I didn't believe him, and that the family does actually know the NBA player.  I wrote her a note back saying I was sorry I hurt his feelings, but I would be a fool if I believed every single thing my students tell me.

(Had I been this mother and my son whined to me, I would have told him that 1.) it didn't really matter whether the teacher believed his story because he knows it is true and 2.) since most people do not know NBA stars, it is sort of an unbelievable story.  I would not under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES have written such a note to a teacher.)

Parents should get in the habit of taking things their children say about school with a small grain of salt.  Be judicious about what and how much you believe.

3. Don't Let Teacher Notes Get You Down
Some teachers are note-writers.  They send notes home or give detentions for every.little.thing.  Some teachers are better able to ignore or diffuse behaviors in the classroom and don't feel compelled to alert parents to every.little.thing.

I was in this latter category.  I rarely gave detentions, not because students never acted up (because they did), but because I tried to de-escalate situations in the class that would take time away from learning.  I could usually bend down and say something quietly to a student that would work far better than calling them out in front of their peers.

I worked with someone who gave detentions with almost every breath he took.  For awhile, the team teachers took turns holding detentions, but my colleagues and I (who also didn't use detentions for everything) were essentially holding detentions for the 11,000 detentions this one other teacher wrote.  Eventually, we implemented a policy of every teacher holds his/her own detention.  I got tired of "punishing" students who didn't do anything in my classroom that I felt would warrant a detention.  (This detention-loving teacher quickly cut back on his use of detentions when HE had to stay after school every week.)

The point I'm making is that parents have to discern how much mental energy and worry they should really give to notes sent home, especially if the teacher sends lots and lots of notes home.

4. Back Up the Teacher
This kinda goes along with #1 but also seems to contradict #3.  Even if you dislike the teacher and dislike the way he/she runs his/her classroom, you need to let the child know you back up the teacher (but in private tell the teacher you do not agree with his/her policy, etc).

I certainly don't believe in teaching children blind obedience, but being revolutionary means knowing how to play the system.  You have to know the rules in order to know how to work against them.  None of us always gets our druthers.  We don't choose our parents or our bosses; we sometimes have to go along to get along (at least for awhile).  

When I was in elementary school, I got into a fistfight with another student.  My mother went in to talk to the teacher (I did not go, and I did not know she talked to him).  Her words to him were that she (and therefore I) would accept whatever punishment was meted out, but that under no circumstances was I to allow another child to bully me in any way.  My mother did not agree in hitting and accepted school policy, in front of me, but in private she let her opinion be known.  After this event, the teacher was much more cognizant of the situation between me and this other student and monitored it carefully.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The quickening of time (the night before I send my youngest off to preschool)

This isn't what I expected.
I didn't think that the night before I send M off to preschool I would be in bed, weepy tears welling in my eyes, feeling everything except relieved to have some time all to myself.

I didn't expect to feel the harshness of time being sucked out from under my feet, pulling me away from this moment, all of these moments.

I didn't expect to hold all three of my children in my lap tonight and know that I have forgotten the babies they were. Know that I will forget much of the children they are at this moment.

I don't like the pull of my life toward the unknown and old age and my children slipping away from me.

Fleeting time is making me unsteady.

I have done a poor job of savoring, of holding tight to the sweet moments.
I am telling myself this is simply because I am human.
It is impossible to hold it all in the cup of my hand and appreciate it fully.
But I'm so sorry for not trying harder.

This is the natural progression.
This is as it should be.
This hurts tremendously.

Employed and eating crow

As yet, I can't say too many good things about the prospect of turning 40 next week, especially since I've had my first cancer removed and in a month go for a glaucoma workup.  Being a part of the slow decline of my physical self ain't too appealing.

The reward, though, is wisdom, and last week's re-entry into the world of teaching, although on a very part-time basis, has me understanding better that being a stay-at-home mom does have its benefits.

The day went fine, although I had a rough start.

There was the understandable anxiety I felt at the prospect of being in a classroom setting after nearly a decade of not doing any such thing.

But when G discovered that Nana would be hanging with M while he had to go off to the drudgery that is kindergarten, he started feeling a whole lot whiney and a little sickly.  He even started crying when it was time to get on the bus, something I've never had to contend with in any of my children when it has been time to send them off to new adventures.  My anxiety escalated because now I had the potential wrench of "What if he IS really sick?" and all the unknowns that this would involve.

This was followed by the miscommunication between me and Nana over what time she should arrive at my house.

It was at this point I called D and yelled, "I will NEVER go back to work full-time!"

Suffice it to say, there was an awful lot of adrenaline and cortisol running through my system before 10:00 am.

Everything ran smoothly for the remainder, but I was completely and totally wiped the hell out by 8:00 pm.

So yes, there is great drudgery in staying at home with children, spending all day wiping butts and being interrupted and listening to crying and seeing one's hygiene go by the wayside.

But I understand better that there is much a woman gives up in the effort to make money and utilize the parts of her brain that don't get a sufficient workout in the tending of their own children.  

A taste of what is to come

N is in 4th grade now, which brings some big changes for her in terms of school work and volume.  Gone are the days when Friday equaled an empty "to-do" folder and assignments were due the very next day (not some point into the future requiring her to manage.her.time.)

This past Friday she had two Language Arts assignments, one due next Wednesday and the other (a simple worksheet) due on the 20th.  I instructed her yesterday morning to go ahead and get her work done for numerous reasons:
  • Last night she was to attend a sleepover/birthday party, and N morphs into a rabid, hungry bear if she doesn't get 11 hours of sleep. 
  • Sunday evenings are always spent at Mamaw's house for dinner and family time.  
  • Monday evenings are our piano lessons.  
  • Tuesday nights Mamaw comes to our home for dinner.  
  • This coming Wednesday we have a Girl Scout troop meeting.
  • Thursday night is Open House at school.
And I am not of the procrastinating persuasion.

If N were the type of child who would sit and do her homework on her own at the dining room table, I might not have made a big deal of going ahead and getting it done.  But N, as a general rule, wants me to "help her," which essentially means sit right next to her, a job I dislike immensely.  Not only does this prevent me from doing things I need to do, it also invites the boys into homework/quiet space, since they, too, seem unable to do most anything without checking in with me or wanting me to sit right next to them.  The disruptions from the boys annoy her and make the completion of homework more difficult.  

If her homework is going to infringe on my ability to do the things I need and want to get done, then I feel I have a say in when she does the work.  

Part of N's homework was to read a short magazine and answer some questions.  One of the questions was something like "When did Rosa Parks' refusal to sit at the back of the bus lead to the boycotts?"  N's answer was 2000 years ago.  

Now, I know my daughter, and to the best of my knowledge, she reads above grade level and tests very well.  Her comprehension and scanning skills are pretty darn good so answers like this do not ring of "I honestly don't understand." They ring of "I am pretending to be stupid because I feel like pushing my mother's buttons, and I don't feel like doing this work but would rather sit and watch an episode of Kickin' It that I have seen 10,000 times." 

I can garner sympathy/empathy if my child truly doesn't understand. 
I cannot tolerate pretending to be dumb.  

To make a long story short, I'll just sums up what followed as a skirmish of epic proportions involving her yelling, me yelling, her slamming doors, and me having to restrain myself from tearing her magazine into a zillion little pieces.  (What kept me from following through was the idea of writing a note to her teacher explaining that I destroyed the magazine because N was being a complete douche-bag.)

D suggested I walk away from her when she does this, but my children do not just let me walk away.  My children, when I try to disengage myself from an unpleasant battle of wills with them, FOLLOW ME!  Pester me.  Bang on the bedroom door that I've locked myself into in an attempt to not kill them.  If D were helping them, they wouldn't blink an eye if he walked away. They would then  

I am ok with letting her fail, letting her write stupid answers and take whatever consequences come at school, but the cost of doing that is to bear up under the weight of her badgering me and that is an aggravating burden to bear.