Motherhood/Parenting

Back in My Day

abc books chalk chalkboardI am so jealous of parenting expectations from 25+ years ago.  I NEVER remember my parents or anyone’s parents for that matter, having to be as involved with their kids’ schooling as today’s parents have to be.  Don’t get me wrong, I like being involved.  During the elementary years, I did all the things.  I volunteered both in the classroom and at school in general.  I dutifully bought items for the teachers wish lists. I attended all the open houses and mandatory meetings. I signed all the forms and sent them back on time.

When my oldest went to middle school, I did much of the same things I did for elementary. I attended open houses and mandatory meetings.  I offered to volunteer but my email was never returned.  What I encountered more than anything was please send in four different checks all made out to the school for four different amounts for various things and please ensure you check these 4,000 different websites to ensure your child has their proverbial shit together.  Okay, so I exaggerate about the 4,000 different websites but the email goes a little like this:

Dear parent,
Please ensure you are checking Canvas daily so you will know what your child is supposed to do for homework.  Additionally, some teachers choose not to use Canvas because they can’t figure it out. Those teachers have their own way of doing things and you need to figure out which teachers those are and how they will be posting their information.  If you would like to see your child’s grades, those are on another platform that can only be accessed through a smartphone app but know that some teachers only post grades right before the grades are due per the district. However, you may want to stay on top of it so you can remind your student.

That paragraph you just read wasn’t a direct quote email but it wasn’t far from it.  It was a combination of an actual email and what a few teachers told us at the open house last week.  Remember last week how I groused about how much is too much? This is yet another instance.  We as a society keep griping about how young adults cannot fend for themselves yet we (the older generation) are enabling them not to fend for themselves.  And, this my friends is another example.  Back in my day (whispers – see what I did there) our parents didn’t keep up with our grades.  Sure we brought home a report card but other than that parents had no clue how we were doing in school.  We as students didn’t either unless our teacher gave back our papers or we asked the teacher to look at the grade book. I distinctly remember asking to see that grade book when I knew I was struggling.  I also remember certain teachers (Ms. Hughes – 3rd grade math) calling me to the desk to show me the grade book and informing me I needed to get it together and work a little harder.

Just last night I was riding one of my kids about their grades.  Of course, that child got an attitude and told me, “I have it under control.”  Clearly, they don’t.  We’ve only been back to school for three weeks and this kid is already failing one subject.  I yelled, “Do you want me to pretend is 1985 and just let you sink?  Do you not want me to care, ofter to help you study or take you to the tutoring sessions at school?  We can do that but I’m gonna let the teacher know I am totally hands off and this is all on you, chief.”  The child said yes, I sighed and then bitched to my husband that I don’t want to see our kid fail yet I don’t want to be an enabler.  This parenting crap was so much easier back in the day.

P.S. – Here’s another fun fact. Did you know my school district has forbidden teachers from using a red pen to grade papers? It has negative connotations. Well, no shit Sherlock. And, if you don’t want a negative connotation do better and you’ll see less red ink.  Or, don’t do better, think to yourself this teacher is crap and I won’t have them next year and ignore the red ink. The choice is entirely up to the receiver.

Photo Credit:  Free from the interwebs. I do love free.

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Motherhood/Parenting

Drowning in Drama

sea water blue sun

Years ago, I put a curse on myself. One of my friends, who happens to be famous for drama, announced that she had entered a point in her life where there was no more drama.  I literally laughed in her face and told her, “There is never no drama only different drama.” At that moment, the universe perked its ears up and laughed.  Then the universe proceeded to show me just how right my proclamation was in the worst kind of way – I became a mother.  And, I learned every time I thought I had something, anything, figured out when it came to raising my kids – everything changed.  This phenomenon occurred with the mundane like favorite socks to big things like potty training. This phenomenon still occurs but on a larger scale with high stakes issues like preteen girl interpersonal relationships and high school Algebra.  This high stakes drama has given me grey hair and wrinkles and I have no doubt in my mind it will give me an ulcer before these children are out of school.  Right now I’m up to my eyeballs in school drama which centers around the question of how much accountability and accommodation is too much.

In the last 20 years, there has been a huge push in the public school system for accountability and accommodation.  Accountability on the district and individual school to prove they are providing all children with a solid education.  Accommodations so that all may learn from the most gifted to most challenged. When you say those sentences out loud it makes so much sense. It seems like a given – like the sun rising and setting.  Yet, nothing about accountability and accommodation are easy.

Both of my children have one or more learning differences and social issues that were rarely addressed back in the day – ADHD, anxiety, and dyslexia to be specific.  The schools we’ve attended were always aware of the situation. Accommodation plans were put into place and almost everyone has been on board at least at the lip service level to implementing said accommodation plans. Yet, as time has gone on and I have become more involved in my children’s classrooms and in the field of early childhood development, I’ve noticed something.  More and more children have accommodation plans.  Many times there are children in the classroom whose plan is the complete opposite of many others in the classroom.  So riddle me this, how is a teacher with 20 kids, 10 of which have accommodation plans and half of those contradictory, supposed to teach a class all the things all the children are supposed to learn for the year to reach accountability goals? At what juncture do we all throw up our hands and say we are teaching it one way and one way only and those of you (my kids included) that can’t hang have to do something else?  I can guarantee the super-advanced kids are not getting the stimulation they need to really shine.  I can also guarantee the children who are really struggling are not getting the information doled out in a slow enough manner for those children to process.  I’m convinced this is why homeschooling is on the rise.

Cycling back to the accountability issue is the push for everyone to be college ready.  Many districts are requiring students to have completed the basic courses for entering college. What if a child doesn’t want to or doesn’t have the aptitude to go to a traditional four year college? Can that child take a modified list of classes geared toward trade school or two year college?  Typically, the answer is no.

Having said all that, I can safely say both me and one of my children are drowning.  While I want my child to have the accommodations necessary to succeed I also worry about the future.  The real world does not care about accommodations. The real world fires you from a job when you can’t hack it. It doesn’t matter if the reason you can’t hack it is you process information differently than most people.  Which leaves me asking how many accommodations can be made and what should be made?  Are those accommodations enough for my child to meet the accountability standards (i.e. to pass the class and the standardized tests)?  And, do these accommodations set up my child up for failure when the real world says no accommodations?  It’s questions like these that make homeschooling look more and more attractive every year.

 

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Motherhood/Parenting

First Day

img_0484We are less than a week to go in the count down to the start of a new school year.   We have school supplies bought.  Schedules have been printed.  Orientation has been attended. Open locker days and walk your schedule are both happening this week.  All the forms have been filled out and all the physicals and paperwork have been turned in. My oldest has been at football related camps at his soon to be high school for the last three weeks. Everything is in order or as in order as they can possibly be and still I don’t feel ready and I’m not the only one. My oldest is nervous about being in high school.  My youngest just flat out doesn’t want to go.  They don’t want summer to end.

I mentioned to both of the kids that not everyone gets to have a summer break. I reminded them that I work part time so I am home with them part of the day but that Dad never gets off except for vacation. I told them in a few years when they are out of high school and secondary school and have jobs they will more than likely not have summers off either.  I said something like it’s a rude awakening when you wake up one August and realize you aren’t going back to school, you aren’t shopping for school supplies and it’s just a random Tuesday and you have to be at work in an hour. Do you remember your first year without summer break?  I do. It sucked. It immediately made me want to re-enroll. I also remember thinking I will never again have to go to Walmart and buy school supplies.  I didn’t really account for the fact that I might have kids one day.  The worst of it was the time off and the random fun things in the middle of the week. It’s hard to go to the movies at 2 p.m. on a random Tuesday unless you work part time, are unemployed or on summer break.

On these final days on summer break I’m trying to work more random summer activities into each day.  All this week, as soon as I get off work, we will go to the local amusement park or buy a bunch of clearance water balloons and have a water balloon fight even though it’s so hot you can literally fry an egg on the pavement.  We will do crazy, silly and fun things.  And, I will try very hard not to think about my days of buying school supplies being numbered.

Photo Credit: Yes, this our very own attempt at frying an egg on the sidewalk. Our current temperature is 102. I’ll show you how it turns out net time.

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Motherhood/Parenting

Father’s Day

baby sitting on man s shoulder

Father’s Day was two days ago and I’ve come to the realization I have an unhealthy relationship with parental holidays. For years, Mother’s Day depressed me. I even wrote about it here. I’ve progressed to pretty much making peace with that holiday. Although, there was a setback this year that I may or may not discuss at a later date.  Father’s Day, though not as bad, is hard as well.  I have no problem celebrating my husband and his parentage.  That’s easy; he’s a good Dad.  However, my relationship with my Father and Step Father, that’s another story.  My biological Father and Mother divorced when I was very young.  He had little to no contact with me until I was nearly 30.  My Step Father, the man who helped raise me, wasn’t a bad Father.  He was a good provider and solid guy until my Mother passed away.  After that, it all went to hell in a handbasket. He ended up getting remarried to a wonderful woman whom my children call Granny and who I always thought was too good for him.

Now, having explained my situation, imagine how hard it is to find a card that’s appropriate.  Hallmark and American Greetings do not make cards that say things like “Thanks for raising me and finding a lady better than my own Mother” or “Thanks for knocking up Mom all those years ago. I’m glad I’m alive”.  No, the cards usually say nice things about how Dad is the person who loved you and guided you and led the family. There are usually phrases about sacrifice and strength.  And, if you go the funny route, there are comments about dealing with the kids during the teen years and potty training or how we’ll all stop asking for money when you die.  But, here’s my problem, I can’t identify with any of these things.  I never asked anyone for money – not even as a teen. I had a job when I was 13.  If I didn’t have money, I wasn’t going to get anything from my parental units.  I was already potty trained when my Step Dad showed up and my Mother forbade him from disciplining me – which sucked because he was fairer than she was.  I can’t send my biological Father these types of cards because he had no part in my upbringing.  I know I could easily suck it up and buy the card but its such a lie and so disingenuous.  How the hell can I say thanks for leading me when he led nothing?  And, yet, since I have established a relationship with him several years ago, I feel like I have to participate in the facade of appreciating him as a Father.

In the years since I reestablished contact, my biological Father has been somewhat present but I see a difference between his role with me and his role with the children he helped raise with his wife of nearly 40 years.  Part of that is geography, as those children live in the same city.  But, part of it is a connection.  He won’t admit it.  I doubt my half siblings will either. Yet, I see it. I don’t truly blame them.  How can you have a connection with someone instantly, regardless of DNA? They have a history I simply don’t and never will have.  Could more of a connection have been established in the past? Absolutely, but that is the past and nothing can be done about the past. One must deal with the now.  I wish I could come to him with my feelings and he would understand my perspective.  Yet, I know him enough to know he’s a simple, straight forward type of guy and it would probably hurt his feelings.  So, instead of mailing a heartfelt card and thoughtful gift, I bought a generic “Hope your Father’s Day was great” card along with a gift certificate and hoped for the best. I’ll probably continue to do this until he passes and it becomes a non-issue, much like my Step Dad.  It’s sad but it’s the path of least resistance and it saves me from an uncomfortable and possibly hurtful conversation.

I do know one thing.  If my husband and I get divorced or I die, he better be the good Dad he’s always been or he’s going to have to deal with a very mad ex-wife or even madder ghost.

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Motherhood/Parenting

Too Many Choices

img_2353In August of this year, I will officially have a high schooler. I find this fact very hard to wrap my head around.  Just yesterday I was worried this child would never potty train and would go off to college with a case of diapers under one arm and a case of cheap beer under the other.  Yet, here we are.  He is completely housebroken and in the final months of 8th grade.

As of a couple of weeks ago, I started getting emails about random parent meetings from our school district.  Meetings if you wanted your child to do dual credit college courses. Meetings if you wanted your child to go to the career center.  Tonight it’s a meeting to learn about the registration process, requirements to graduate in our state and district, and information on the various electives, sports, and AP classes. To say that I am overwhelmed is an understatement. When I say this to some friends they look at me like I am crazy.  Apparently, they have either done this before or this was how their high school experience looked.  I do not share their experience.  My grandmother dropped out of school after the 5th grade to help her dirt poor, sharecropping family.  My mother was the first in her family to graduate from high school; not of all of her brothers and sisters did so.  I was the first person in my family to go to college.  Additionally, I went to a very small high school. Our electives were classes like typing, home ec, and Spanish. I had so little choice I wasn’t worried. I just picked whatever fit my schedule and I thought I could pull off a decent grade.  Our State’s requirements to graduate were not that strict. I don’t recall having to have a minimum of two years of foreign language and one year of fine art. Yet now I look at this form my child’s school wants back in a few days and I’m completely baffled.  Electives like Teen Leadership and Intro to Architectural Design sound like college classes, not high school.  The school wants to know what path my kid will be on arts, business, STEM, public service or multidisciplinary.  This kid’s greatest ambition is to beat his current video game.  He doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up.  I’m in a downright breathe into a paper bag panic and this kid doesn’t have two fucks to give.

The questions that keep running through my mind is how did this process get so complicated?  Is there such a thing as too many choices?  Is it because my kid goes to a school of thousands of kids and I went to one with just a few hundred?  Is it because it really was 25 years ago and that’s just how things have progressed?  Is it because of our district?  I don’t have any answers because I have no frame of reference for other districts.  As my oldest child, he is my test dummy and this really is our first rodeo.  Then I start to worry about the classes my kid picks.  What if my kid picks the wrong classes could that delay graduation or hurt his chances of getting into a good post-secondary education opportunity? What are the consequences? This is definitely one of those parenting situations where the drama doesn’t go away it just becomes different. Even though potty training was a nightmare, I think I would gladly take a week of nightly pee the bed sheets over trying to make heads or tails of high school registration.

P.S. – At the end of the day I know I’m probably overreacting. Like all parents, I just want to do the very best I can for my kid. I don’t want to let him down or know I didn’t help put him on the path for success. And, I don’t want him living in our spare room until he’s 30.

P.P.S – Yes, that really is a picture of the actual form for my kid’s high school. Those are just some of the electives offered at his school.

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Important Stuff, Motherhood/Parenting, Rants

Just

As some of you know I got a part time job a few months ago.  It’s fun, has great hours and has got me back into the workforce. I’m not paying any bills with my paycheck. It’s more like a vacation fund. But, as someone who had their first regular job at 13 until 30, it fills a void. I missed that validation of a paycheck and stating a profession when asked by strangers.  Whether we want to or not, we tie some of our identity to our jobs. And, I will admit, I felt somehow less of a person when I said I was a stay at home mom. Even though I knew it was a very valid job I looked at other women with jobs outside the home and felt less; like I was a sell out because I didn’t bring in a paycheck. That feeling ended today.

A few hours ago, while at my job,  I listened to a client talk about something that happened to her last night.  She was at a parent meeting at a local school.  She and her husband were chatting with an acquaintance. This acquaintance asked my client, “What do you do again?” She replied, “I’m a stay at home mom.”  She said the acquaintance looked confused and asked, “How many kids do you still have at home?”  She said her youngest is now in the 7th grade.  Then, some guy sitting behind them, a complete stranger who wasn’t even involved in the conversation, piped in with, “Then you’re not a stay at home mom. You just stay at home.”  At that point, a bell rang and the parent meeting was called to order so my client couldn’t say anything in response.   My client described the waves of emotions that hit her after this douchey perfect stranger’s response. She said she felt shocked like she’d been slapped and then ashamed because this jerk basically invalidated her existence which she has tied to her job of homemaker.

Just hearing her recount this story, I became enraged on her behalf. How dare he? He had no right. Then, I realized isn’t this what I’ve been mentally doing for years and what many stay at home mom’s do in general. How many times have I been asked, ‘what do you do’ and I respond with ‘I’m just a stay at home mom.” The key word here being ‘just’.  I’m not ‘just’ anything and neither is my client.  Somehow our society has gotten it into their collective heads that stay at home mothers or homemakers sit around on their ass eating bonbons and aren’t productive members of society.  It wasn’t so long ago that most women were homemakers and those that worked outside the home were an oddity.  Homemaker was a valid career.  And, despite not earning a paycheck, these women ran half the world. They kept the house clean, the laundry done, the items bought and the food prepared. They played taxi and tutor and basically took care of all the family’s needs while the men brought home the paycheck and little else.  How did we as a collective get to a place where those jobs are less valid than the majority of the other jobs out there?

I wish my client had known that asshole’s profession.  I wish she could have said a sneer, “Oh you’re just a insert generic job title here.”  I would have loved to have seen his face fall when he realized that his job isn’t that significant in the grand scheme of things. I would be willing to bet my minuscule paycheck that he’s not out there saving lives, securing world peace or even shaping young minds.  I hope to hell he’s not shaping young minds. He’s probably got some whatever job that pays a decent wage and could be done any number of people with a few working brain cells.  Deep down he probably hates his job and has his own issues.  I feel sorry for the people that live with him.  Can you imagine what this guy is like if he’s willing to say such a shitty thing to a perfect stranger? Bottom line is that guy is ‘just’ an asshole and my client is so much more than ‘just’.

 

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Motherhood/Parenting, Random, Uncategorized

Homecoming

75a7cf508587495cafa7cf790d089863As of last weekend, all the high schools in my area have finished with homecoming festivities; and I am very thankful.  No, it’s not because all the nice restaurants were a madhouse and you couldn’t find a decent cocktail dress within a 100-mile radius. It’s because I can finally go to any grocery store with a floral department or Hobby Lobby and not see the photos like the one attached to this post.

Today’s topic is going to get me de-friended by my Texas bestie but really y’all this is something I will never get used to no matter how long I live in this state.  Now I get that the traditional thing is to give a girl a corsage or flower of some sort before going to a formal dance/homecoming/prom but these Texas mums have moved beyond a flower.  I’m attaching a link here to something I found the other day. It’s a blog post about 50 Gigantic Homecoming Mums everyone has to see.  These things are truly ridiculous.  They are like a car wreck you just can’t take your eyes off of.  High schoolers turn these mums into a competition of sorts – who’s mum is bigger, tackier, has more flair and do-dads, etc.  And let me tell you, these things aren’t cheap.  A small mum is easy $100 with the average mum costing $200-$300.  It’s insanity.

For years I have mentally told myself we have to move away from Texas before my kids get in high school. Now, with high school fast approaching, I’m starting to get worried because we have no prospects for a move. I wonder, will my son have to help foot the bill for this monstrosity? Will my daughter expect to get one of these fugly things and will subsequently want to hang it on her bedroom wall after Homecoming like her peers? I’ve already started campaigning for a move to Florida. It’s about the only Southeastern state we haven’t lived in.

Photo Disclaimer –  I don’t know those girls or the school they attend. I did a Google search for Texas Mums and this was the first one that popped up. Apparently, it came from Pinterest. Whatever, if you find this post and you know these girls and want me to take it down just message me and let me know.

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