Sunday, August 25, 2013

Middle School Stole My Baby

We survived our first week back to school/work. We only have 175 days to go till summer, so we're celebrating at Disneyland. (If you haven't figured this out already, we will celebrate almost anything at Disneyland. The kids remembered to put their dirty socks in the hamper?  DISNEYLAND! Yeah. Anything.) 

My family is still sleeping, so I've busied myself with waving at passing joggers as I shove waffles in my face. I lead a pretty challenging existence, I know. Because I haven't written in a while, I thought I might take a break from the joggers to check in...the joggers, but not the waffles. I can multitask. 

6 days ago middle school happened. I know you're thinking to yourself, "Middle school?  That can't be right. Joanna is only 22. How can she possibly have a child in middle school?"  I know. I think that to myself too. But it's real. It happened. 

The first day, I loaded the kids in the clown car and drove through a fog of nerves and fear to the new school. The parents were told not to park and walk the kids up. We were supposed to park several blocks away, and let the kids walk in on their own. SEVERAL BLOCKS?  Several blocks presents a real problem to my overprotective, control freak nature. But, I gave it a shot anyway. 

The kid got out of the car, and my mouth went dry. I could feel the lump rising in my throat.  It was like I was swallowing little shards of glass. He looked back to me wide-eyed (this was going to be a tearful goodbye, I could just tell) stood there for a moment, then quickly said, "Bye mom!" before slamming the door, and being surrounded by a gaggle of 7th grade girls. 
I hate middle school. But my son loves it.

It's been hilarious hearing all his awkward, coming of age stories from the first week. Fighting with combination locks. Finding friends at lunch. Changing for the first time in the gym locker room (horror and humiliation!).  We've all had those experiences. I just wish I could have seen the humor when I was going through them. 

Overall, he's still taking it better than I am. He's becoming independent and self sufficient just like he's supposed to. And I'm standing on the sidelines watching, wondering what the hell happened to the little boy I dropped off at preschool who grabbed the gates and screamed "Don't leave me in this place!" Not saying that's the reaction I wanted him to have to middle school. But one little backwards glance wouldn't have killed him either.  

I guess he's a man now. And that's ok, because men still have mommies. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Teachers are Better Than Me

School is only days away.  I have moved past the denial stage, through anger, bargaining, and depression.  I've made it all the way to acceptance.  This thing is happening.  Might as well embrace it. 

I've stocked up on hand sanitizer, juice boxes and granola bars.  I have tutors' contact info saved to my favorites.  Now I'm just waiting for my first day in a quiet house.  You see, I've got big things planned for when the kids are at school.  (Probably none of which I'll actually accomplish, but I'm planning them just the same.)  I'm going to read a book, use a spa gift card I've been holding onto for 3 years, take a nap, and maybe stop by the gym.  Maybe. 

I can't begin to explain how grateful I am for the people who will make those blissful moments possible. 

Over the course of my parenting years, I've spent a lot of time in classrooms.  A lot of time seeing what teachers are faced with daily.  It's not pretty.  Boogers, back talk, potty accidents, arguments...and then they get to deal with us too.  (I cannot fathom the level of patience a person would need to make it through 30ish parent/teacher conferences.  I am breaking out in hives just thinking about it.)  And the truly strange thing?  Teachers, really truly good teachers, seem to enjoy it.

Teachers are better than me.

When my kids tell me stories at home, my responses are things like "uh"  When my kids tell their teachers a story, I hear responses like "Then what did you do?  What did he say next?  What did you learn?"  They're better than me.

If my child falls at home, my reaction is a quick "Shake it off."  No kidding.  It could be a compound fracture, and without looking, my first response would be "Shake it off."  My kid falls at school, and the teacher is there to help them up with kind words, a hug, and an ice pack. 

When my kids forget to pack themselves a snack (They are 8 and 11.  Fully old enough to grab an apple from the fridge.  Snack duty isn't my job anymore), then tell me they're hungry?  Yeah, that's too bad.  When a child at school forgets their lunch on a field trip?  I've seen teachers give up their own lunch so the student won't go hungry.  I'm not giving up my lunch for anyone.  Not even to the child with the saddest, puppy dog eyes in the school.  Teachers are so much better.

Sometimes teachers sacrifice time with their own families to be there for ours.  They miss their kids' sporting events for parent nights.  They miss performances for fundraisers.  Some give up their evenings and early mornings to help kids who are falling a little behind.  I don't know that I would wake up an hour earlier than necessary to go over math facts with a child who didn't belong to me.  I don't know that I would wake up an hour earlier than necessary for a child who does belong to me.  I know for sure that I wouldn't miss seeing my son score a touchdown to answer questions at an open house. 

My home is full of love and laughs.  It's full of silliness and big personalities.  A teacher's classroom is full of that stuff too, but it's kept in nice balance with structure, discipline and learning.  That's a balancing act that I haven't mastered.  I've got the discipline thing, ok.  And I own books.  But structure?  Now they're just making me look bad. 

As you can see, there are many reasons I have not chosen to home-school.

I am not a teacher.  I could go to school, study education for years, and get a job teaching, but I doubt even then that I would be a teacher.  I'm fairly certain teachers are born.  Not made.  And as I said, I am thankful for all the teachers who dedicate their lives to providing me with peace 5 days a week throughout the school year.  (That is what they dedicate their lives to, right?  Whatever.  It's an added bonus, anyway.) 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Kate Upton, Just Stop

I have posted several times over the past few months about girls demeaning themselves and dressing like tiny, little tramps and making absolutely horrible decisions.  I know I am just one small voice in a sea of internet know-it-alls.  But today I will try again to get my point across, because clearly the people who should be taking notes are not reading my blog.

I'm standing tall on this soapbox yet again because of an article I haven't even read yet.  The Elle interview with the very beautiful Kate Upton. It would probably be smart to read it first and get all the details, but truly, just the highlights make me nauseous.  So let me just say this:  Kate Upton, just stop.  Please.

I have never thought of myself as a feminist.  That's not to say that I didn't love the Spice Girls.  I owned 2 copies of Spice World.  It's not that I think that women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, or speak only when spoken to.  I never thought of myself as a feminist because I never needed a label.

As far as I'm concerned, If a woman wants to stay home, and have a litter of babies, and bake cookies every day that's great.  (Especially if she gives me some of the cookies.)  And she can. Not because she's a woman, but because she is a patient, caring, determined person.  If a woman wants to work 15 hour days, climb a corporate ladder, and smash a glass ceiling that's great too.  And she can.  Not because she is a woman, but because she is a smart, qualified, determined person.

I never felt the need to be a feminist,  because I think women are smart and powerful enough to fight their own battles.  But now I'm thinking maybe we need a new kind of feminist.  An honest feminist.  So here goes.

The older I get, or more accurately the older my daughter gets, the more I see all the negative ways that women are treated and portrayed.  It scares the hell out of me.

We are belittled.  We are discounted.  We are judged by the shoes we wear, instead of the brains in our heads.  And sometimes, we invite people to value us by our bra sizes, not our IQs.  It's not only men who are the problem.  We are guilty of doing it to each other.  We hold a lot of the responsibility here.  And it's time we're called on it.  People will treat you exactly as you allow them to.

For example, right now I'm discounting Kate Upton a little bit.  Only I'm not discounting her because of her looks like she thinks I am...I'm discounting her because she's acting like an idiot. 

Honestly, I have absolutely nothing against the modeling profession.  I might wish models would eat a cheeseburger now and again so the rest of us wouldn't feel like shit for being normal.  Overall though, I've got no issue.  If that's your thing, do it.  But know, if that's the profession you choose, you will be judged solely on your looks, and not your ability to broker shrewd business deals.  It's the nature of the thing.

I understand Kate Upton's complaints.  I really do.  I don't want to be objectified either.  I am also not a toy.  So to illustrate that, I keep my posing in body paint and barely-there swimsuits in national perv mags to a minimum.  That's the only reason I haven't graced the pages of Sports Illustrated.  Really.  It's definitely not because I've had 2 children who left me with stretch marks that resemble a topographic map of the Rockies.  (Full disclosure: If I had Kate Upton's body, I probably wouldn't feel this way. I would probably walk around naked all the time. And if people wanted to pay me for it, that would be ok.  But I definitely wouldn't whine about it after.)

If she truly felt terrible about the way she was treated after her first SI swimsuit edition, why on earth would she do it again?  Twice.   If she really didn't want to be objectified, why would she do this and allow it to be posted for all the internet to ogle?  (Gentlemen, eyes back in your head please.)  Asking men not to objectify you after that is like asking fish not to swim. 

It's not their fault. (Well, it's not only their fault.)  They are guys. That's what they do. We need to own up to the fact that we are responsible for the way we're perceived. We need to put a little more importance on what books we read than what labels we wear. We need to teach our daughters that stupid isn't cute.  That smart is sexy. That their intellect has value. 

I worry about the way the world will view my own daughter.  I also worry about the way she views herself.  When I compliment her, I always tell her she's smart and kind.  Not just beautiful.  She is capable of much more than being beautiful.  Though she is absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous.  (I may be a little biased.)  Kate Upton is capable of much more too.  But, as unfair as it may seem, she might have to put on some clothes and take her self seriously for people to realize it. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Obama and Ice Cream

I had a full day of fun planned with the monsters.  A full day which at no point included standing in the street, watching for the President.  But that's exactly where we ended up.   I believe I was the only person who accidentally went to see the motorcade as it sped through the streets of our town.  I say 'accidentally' because it took a rather annoying chain of events to get us there, including bowling and terrible service at an ice cream counter. 

We weren't even on the same side of town as the motorcade when our ice cream mission began.  But because I was in a little bit of a snit with the woman at the bowling alley concession stand, we drove somewhere else.  (We'll show you!  We'll eat our Drumsticks elsewhere!)  We walked in, got our treats, and walked out to heavy police presence and some pretty serious crowds.  That was when it dawned on me that, blinded by rage and ice cream deprivation, I had driven right into the road closures.  We were stuck, so we made the best of it. 

We joined the throng of people waiting with iPhones up and Instagram open.

We stood on the curb, ice cream in hand, close enough to reach out and touch the cars as they passed.  I looked over to the kids.  They were properly impressed.  Convinced POTUS was waving back at them through the blacked-out, bulletproof windows of his Cadillac.  I assured them that's exactly what he was doing.  (Though, because I am currently addicted to The West Wing, I know better.  He was probably in the back prepping for The Tonight Show with his press and communications people, who are assuredly not as awesome as CJ Cregg and Sam Seaborn.)

The kids had tons of questions.  Why do they drive so fast?  Why doesn't the President want people to see him in the car?  Why are the police everywhere?  They had no idea that being the president is a dangerous job.  No idea that there are people who would do this man harm because of the office he holds.  No idea of racial intolerance.  They don't know about lobbyists, the Tea Party, Occupy or anyone in between.  I honestly don't think they would care if they knew.  Because they were seeing THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!  He was right in front of them.  For a moment, that's how I chose to see the world too.  No politics, no animosity.  Just history, wonder, and pride. 

My kids teach me lessons daily.  Some of the lessons are things like:  If you open a candy bar within a 3 mile radius of your offspring, you must be prepared to share it.  Other people don't care if you've had enough coffee.  And "I'm exhausted" isn't a valid excuse for anything.  But this one is important.  This one is worth passing on: See the wonder in things.  It rules. 

Kids are better than the rest of us.  That's a fact.  Some are rotten and bratty, sure.  But adults made them that way.  Even the rotten, bratty ones are better than the rest of us.  At one point we were better too.  We should try to get back to that.

Friday, August 2, 2013

T-minus 16 days

Here's something a little dumb to think about, school starts in just over 2 weeks. 

Yes.  16 days from now we'll all be standing in line waiting to meet this year's teacher.  Hoping our little ones didn't forget their #2 pencils, or Crayola Twistables.  Worrying that our big ones will forget their locker combinations, or have a run in with a man-sized 8th grader on their first day of middle school. 

All the kids will look nice and tidy in their new clothes with their hair done just right.  All the dads will be carrying bags filled with supplies, which cost roughly the same as the national debt.  The teachers will be cheerful.  The classrooms will be clean (at least for the first minute or so).  The Pinterest moms will be greeting each other, excited to plan the first class party of the year.

I will be on my 4th or 5th cup of coffee.  I'll probably still be in my pajamas, or maybe my gym clothes if I'm feeling fancy.  My messy hair will likely be shoved under a Colts hat.  With any luck though, I'll be wearing matching shoes.  Mornings aren't really my thing.  Especially on the first day of school.

The first day of school is not my favorite day.  I think that's because I am not particularly thrilled about my kids getting older.  I was perfectly happy when they were 2 and 5.  They were cute.  They thought I was amazing.  And, I understood their pre-k and kindergarten math homework.  Everything was magical.  At least that's how I remember it.

Now I'm dealing with 3rd and 6th graders.  Every year they age, I'm a little more out of my element.  Their math is difficult.  They no longer think I'm that amazing.  In fact, I secretly think that sometimes...every once in a while...they find me annoying.  I know, it's hard to believe. 

Even though they (very infrequently, I'm sure) find me annoying, I love having the kids home for the summer.  Though they fight with each other as naturally as they draw breath, I'm not in a hurry to send them back to the academic salt mines. I'll miss the monsters. But it will be nice to go to Target without them.