Monthly Archives: March 2009

Not The Worst Day

This past Thursday was an important day here.  It was the day the boy was going to compete in the Math Olympics.  He won this honor by getting one of the highest scores on a test the class took.  He would be representing his school in the area of third grade computation.  Three other kids from the third grade were also chosen.  The boy had studied and practiced and was ready for the big day.  To say he was excited would be an understatement.

The competition was being held at another school about an hour and a half away.  I studied the directions carefully so that I would be confident about where I was driving.  I packed breakfast for us to eat in the car and we were on our way before 6:30a.m.  He had to be on time or he would be disqualified.

We talked and laughed, ate breakfast and listened to our favorite cds.  What a great time we were having!  What a great day this would be!

And then?  I got on the wrong freeway. 

So confident was I that I knew where I was going, I had no idea we were on the wrong freeway until we had gone way (way!) out of our way.  I called my husband frantically, figured out what I needed to do to get back on track and tried to make things right. 

I was pretty sure we wouldn’t make it to the school on time.  I stayed quiet about this, trying to figure things out.  But my boy, he is bright (he was picked for the Math Olympics, after all!) and it didn’t take him long to ask the dreaded question.  I was honest with him and said I wasn’t sure, but I would do my best.  He was O.K.  He still mostly thinks I can do anything.  I called his school, they called his teacher and she said try to make it to the other school by 9a.m.

I drove faster than I have ever driven in my life. 

When we got to a certain point and I was sure we wouldn’t make it on time, I had to tell my boy.  He was upset, of course.  He doesn’t cry often but ….he cried.

I decided to call his teacher to see if there was any hope at all of competing if the boy was late.  We had been told he would be disqualified if he was late, so we were understandably panicked.  When his teacher heard we would most likely be a half hour late, I could tell by her voice that there was no hope.  She said come anyway, we could watch the awards ceremony and go to lunch afterwards, as planned.

Oh, yeah- that should be fun.

When I got off the phone with the teacher, I told the boy the bad news.  He had been upset and crying before, but now?  He lost it.  I could in no way blame him.  I felt like losing it, too.  

“I practiced so hard!!  I wanted to do the tests!! I wanted to know what it was like!!  This is the worst day of my life!!”  

I heard this over and over.  I apologized over and over.  While not disrespectful, he was so very angry with me.  And I just let him be angry.

I listened for a long while and then tried to turn things around, be positive.  I told him this was terrible and disappointing but one day, we would be over it and he would forgive me.  He said,  “I don’t think I will ever forgive you.”  I let him have that feeling.  I wasn’t even ready to think about forgiving myself at that point.

During the time the boy was losing it and I was trying to calm him, I was not paying attention to how fast I was driving, unlike earlier when I was speeding on purpose.  I looked down at the speedometer to see that I was going way too fast.  My eyes automatically went to my rearview mirror.  The officer in his highway patrol car with the flashing lights?  He also thought I was going way too fast.  We must have been quite a sight when he peered into our car, me visibly upset, the boy with tears streaming down his bright red face.  I saw the officer’s stern expression soften, but only a little.  He still gave me a ticket.  I definitely deserved it.

When we were on our way, no longer speeding, the boy told me he wanted to go home.  Why should he watch other kids do what HE should be doing, he asked.  I wanted to give him what he wanted.   I would have done anything to make things O.K.  But I just didn’t think going home was the right thing to do.  I suggested we keep going, hold our heads high and support his school.

“But, Mom!  I won’t even get to take any tests!  I just wanted to take the tests!”, he cried.

“Honey, I’m going to make sure you get to take a test”, I heard myself say.

I didn’t care what I had to do, my boy was going to take a test.  And because he still mostly  thinks I can do anything (except take the right freeway), he agreed to keep going.

When we arrived at the school, I explained the situation to the coordinator.  I told her that I would understand if he was disqualified from winning a ribbon but, please, just give the boy a test.  She looked at him and then at me and….hugged me.  I must have looked as awful as I felt.  That kind woman said to my boy,  “Let’s go, there’s no time to waste.  The first round has already started.”  And then she took my boy, with his required two sharpened pencils in his hand, and disappeared into the third grade test room.

The awards ceremony wouldn’t start for an hour and a half, so I walked back to the car to get my camera.  The older I get, the less I cry- it’s not worth it and keeps you from solving the problem at hand.  I had held it together for the past two hours, but by the time I got back to the car, I was openly crying.  I felt like I had just woke up from the worst nightmare and I was relieved.

Then, I tried to clean up the milk that had spilled all over the car when the boy, in his haste to get out of the car, had slammed the door (with the milk in the cup holder) a bit too hard.

Good times, folks- good times.

Of course, the boy didn’t win a ribbon.  (To be honest, he might not have won a ribbon even if he was on time.)  The points were tallied and he was at a disadvantage from the start because his time on the first test out of four was cut very short and he couldn’t get many problems done.  I thought he might be angry about this but, as we walked to the car, he seemed  really happy.  I watched him closely and listened to him chatting away about how great it was, taking those tests.  We did not talk about ribbons or winning at all.  And then my boy said this:  “You know, Mom, I didn’t care so much about winning, I just wanted to participate.  And I got to!”

Yes, he said that, all on his own.  For the second time that day, my eyes were teary.

As we got to the car, I said,  “It seems to me like you are O.K. now.”

“Oh, I’m fine, Mom.  I told you, I just wanted to be a part of it.  I wanted to know what it was like.”

Then, I realized this:  He pulled himself out of a really hard situation, all on his own.  He was making the day O.K. for himself.  He really was fine.  Well.   I must be doing something right.

On the way into lunch, I asked the boy if he thought he could forgive me today or would that wait for another day.  “Oh, Mom!”, he said,  “I’ve already forgiven you!”  Whew!

My favorite part of the day (I know!  Hard to believe there even WAS a favorite part!) was standing in line waiting to order food, watching my boy with his friends, chatting and goofing around.  He has been a shy, kind of quiet kid for most of his years and it was so great to see him interacting so easily with his buddies.  I know this could not have been the worst day of his life, not yet.

As we got back in the car to head for home (following everyone else to the RIGHT freeway), the boy asked me to apologize to him again.  I had already apologized eleventy-hundred times, one more couldn’t hurt. 

“I’m sorry I made you late this morning, I really am.”

In a very kind, sweet voice, he said,  “I forgive you, Mom!”

This boy, he is my heart.

 

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In Trouble

I spotted this scene unfolding today on the desk in our office.

 

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Not looking good for the monkey.

Dear Hard Hearted Coworker

Dear Hard Hearted Coworker,

Today, I stood at the door of the reading lab, waiting for you to dismiss your third graders so that the fourth graders lined up outside could come in and get to work  (Why DO we have to wait for ONLY YOUR KIDS to finish every day?  What are you, Super Teacher?  Let them go on time so that they can get back to their classroom and finish their work so they don’t have to do it at recess!  Thanks!)  I mostly try not to listen to the way you talk to kids on a daily basis because you are so disrepectful of them, it hurts me to hear it.  I turn my head, busy myself, cover my ears, whatever it takes.  But I was caught off guard today when I heard what you said to that third grade boy as you dismissed him.  You turned to pick up some photos and then said to him,  “And don’t bring these back here.  They’re no big deal.  They’re just pictures of you as a little boy- no big deal.” 

I couldn’t turn away this time.  I didn’t even care that you saw me looking at you.  The boy looked confused.  He took the pictures from you and looked at them, almost as if he couldn’t believe you would say pictures of him as a little boy we’re “no big deal”.  Then, to make sure he understood, you said again,  “They’re no big deal.”

As the boy walked past me out the door, I said, in a low voice,  “They ARE a big deal.”  He looked at me, still confused, so I repeated myself.  He smiled slowly, nodded his head and walked back to class, still looking at the pictures.

Can I just ask you this, Hard Hearted Coworker?  What the hell?  He’s 8 YEARS OLD!  Why?  Why would you say that to an 8 YEAR OLD KID?! 

Wait, don’t answer.  There is nothing you could say that would explain your cruel behavior.  Not to me, anyway.  You think you know everything, you have worked at our school for more than 10 years, blah, blah, blah, whatever.  But, Hard Hearted Coworker, you know nothing about how a kid feels when he is talked to like you talked to that boy.  If you did, you would know you kind of crushed him today.  I saw that in his face.  And I think you may have, too, but….you didn’t care.

It won’t matter what I say to you and I don’t need more stress in my life, so I’ll say nothing about this and life in the reading lab will continue as usual.  But I wanted to let you know that I saw what happened and I can say that you really lived up to your name today.  It suits you.

One more thing, while we’re here.  Why do you think it’s O.K to make a bowl of oatmeal every morning and eat your oatmeal while kids are reading to you, across the table , just a few feet away?  And then?  You go out on the yard to supervise recesss and take pleasure in telling kids, who didn’t eat their snack because they were playing (yes, they were playing and lost track of time- they’re KIDS!)  and are shoving their snack in their mouths as the bell rings, to throw their snack away!  Maybe you could stop that, Hard Hearted Coworker, before your name is changed to Hard Hearted Bitch.

Thanks for listening, Hard Hearted Coworker!  Oh, wait, I forgot, you don’t listen to ANYONE! 

Regards,

Your Mostly Kind Hearted Coworker Who May Have Worked At This School For Only A Year And A Half But Knows Way More Than You Do About How To Treat Kids

Overheard on T.V. This Morning

Pearl, the whale to SpongeBob SquarePants: 

“Well, SpongeBob, I’m just trying to make it through the day with my social status intact!”

And sometimes?

That’s really all you can do.

Powerful

In the early mornings, while I get ready for the day, I worry.  That’s my time.  The husband is off to work and the boy is still asleep.  When the boy’s alarm goes off at 6a.m., he usually turns it off, then crawls back into bed to watch T.V. and ease into his day.  So, I have the time to worry for a while.  You would worry, too, if you were me.

Friday was different, though.  Friday morning at 6:01a.m., the boy bursts into the room and says,  “Good morning, Mom!  Happy Friday the 13th!”  I could feel my worrying stop:  my face relaxed into a smile (felt so much better than using all those muscles to frown!) and then I laughed over something that he said.  He was gone as quickly as he came.  I resumed my worrying.

A few minutes later, the boy was back, telling me I needed to look at the news RIGHT NOW because there was a story on off road vehicles he wanted me to see.  I felt my worries leave me for the minutes we watched various off road vehicles and picked out the ones we wished we had.  Then, he was off to call his dad and tell him about these off road vehicles.  I imagined his dad’s face, relaxing into a smile in the middle of his stressful morning when he heard his boy’s voice.

I wanted to resume my worrying but I knew he would be back in minutes with something else that would interrupt my worrying and….why keep shifting in and out of worry mode?  It was time to put my worries aside for the day and get on with the life at hand.  Because life has a way of going on, worries or no worries.  There would be time to worry another day.

This is not a story of “Oh, my kid is so great, he is all that matters, at least we have each other.”  Sadly, this does not pay the bills or find a new job.  This is about the power of an 8 year old boy.  Because to wipe out that worry, even for a few minutes, well, that is powerful.

Maybe the president should talk to this kid.  Maybe he could use this boy’s  help.

Morning Conversation

The Boy:  (coming into the bedroom)  “Mom!  Have you seen my motorcycle shirt that Auntie gave me for Christmas?”

The Mom:  (looking at the laundry basket full of dirty clothes)

The Boy:  (looking, too)  “Oh.”

The Mom:  “I’ll wash it today, you can wear it tomorrow.”

The Boy:  (looking longingly at the shirt)  “Man, I wish I could-”

The Mom:  (knowing exactly what the Boy was going to say, as moms often do)  “If you had worn it dirty out of the laundry and I didn’t know about it, that would have been fine.  But if I KNOW you are wearing a dirty shirt, I will think about it all day and it will just make me crazy.  Sorry, I just can’t let you do it.”

The Boy:  (still looking longingly at the shirt)

The Mom:  “We need to have good hygiene, Buddy.”

The Boy:  (walking away after one more glance over his shoulder that clearly asks, ” Why?”)

Hope

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Last Spring, our first in this house, it seemed that these flowers appeared in our yard overnight, as if by magic.  I figured someone had crept into our yard at night in the darkness and left this sign of Spring in our gray yard that was filled with stick-like plants.  That was the only possible explanation for someone like me, who knows absolutely NOTHING about plants and their behavior.  But then my mom filled me in, as moms do, and let me know that the previous owner had planted a bulb some Spring and it was no longer visible by the time we moved into our house in the month of July.  Now that explanation was not nearly as wonderful as the one that I had imagined, but, O.K., whatever, Mom- guess you know about these things.

Even though I knew the real story, I was still a bit taken by surprise when the flowers popped up in our yard last week.  A year has passed and it’s been a hard year, but the flowers didn’t care.  Their job is to bloom, that’s what they do.  And so they did.  Well, at least SOMETHING is predictable around here.

Like last year, seeing these flowers gives me hope.  Hope that Spring and warmer weather are just around the corner, of course.  But also, hope that anything that is difficult in my life, in your life or in anyone’s life….will be O.K.

You know, sometimes hope is all we have.

Fly Away

My niece, a high school senior, called the other night, nearly beside herself with excitement at the news she had just received.  She had been accepted to her first choice college.

“Woo hoo!!”, I cheered.  “I am so glad for you!  Congratulations!”

After I hung up the phone, I thought,  “This is so great!  That is exactly where she wanted to go!” 

To a college on the east coast.  And we live on the west coast.  That is so….great.

Kids are supposed to grow up, fly away, spread their wings, be free.

Right?

Apparently, I have been in denial.  I mean, the girl is in her SENIOR YEAR.  That means she will GRADUATE and then she will go to COLLEGE.  I guess this means my nephew, who is also in his SENIOR YEAR, will head out into the world soon, too, right? 

When did this happen?  They just grew up, without even asking my permission?  It’s rather annoying.

I have 5 nieces and a nephew.  For a long time, I considered them “my kids”, since I had made the decision not to have kids of my own.  My siblings were extremely generous in letting me be a part of their children’s lives.  When the kids were asked who their favorite auntie was, they all answered my name.  If they couldn’t talk yet, they simply pointed in my direction.  I taught them well.

This niece who is graduating was born at a time in my life when it was just me (I know, can you believe it?!), no boyfriend/husband, no kids, only a couple of birds and a fish for pets.  I had time back then.  So, I asked my sister,  “Can I take her here?  Or there?”  And my sister replied,  “You can take her ANYWHERE!”  And off we went.

This girl, oh, this girl!  I called her Small Girlfriend.  We went on all kinds of adventures together.  She was up for anything.   At the end of a busy, fun-filled day, I’d tell her I was taking her home and she would burst into tears.  Not because she didn’t like her home, she was just always ready for the next big adventure.  And I was always ready for her.

When I changed my mind about being childless and had my boy, he naturally became my priority and I didn’t have as much time to dedicate to the nieces and nephew.  Also, they were busy doing that growing up thing and, naturally, were branching out on their own and spending more time with their friends and school activities.  Still, it didn’t change how I felt about them:  I thought of them every day.  When we had family gatherings, I loved talking to them.  I loved hearing the things they had to say.  The young people they have become, well, it is simply amazing to see. 

And now this niece is venturing out into that big world, moving far away.  She won’t be at every family gathering.  I miss her already.  But it is as it should be, I know.  My older niece is in her second year of college and she lived to tell the tale.  This is going to keep happening:  the orange-headed niece will fly free in a couple years, the blonde-haired niece is in middle school, although I don’t know how that can be, since she was just turning 2 the other day.  And of course, it reminds me that my own boy, the youngest, will be where his cousins are in the blink of an eye, if I dare to blink.  I need to adjust.  I will.

Fly away, my dear, sweet niece.  Spread your wings.  Be free.

See ya back at the nest, every now and again.

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“But love is letting go, and this I know…You were mine, for a time.”    

-Sheryl Crow-                   

 

  

Discouraged

When I started working at an elementary school about a year and a half ago, the age group was new to me.  I had worked with infants through kindergarten in my previous job but, really, kids are kids.  I adjusted and settled in pretty quickly to my new job.  I actually look forward to going to work many days, not something a lot of people can say.  I am at my best when I spend my day with children.

This week, however, I am discouraged.  It’s not the kids.  For me, it’s rarely the kids.  It’s the adults.  The treatment of kids at my school by many adults (administrators, teachers, aides) is wearing me down.  At my other job, I was the boss.  I set the standards and they were high.  Children were expected to be treated with respect, no matter their age.  If this standard wasn’t met, well, I could do something about it.  Now, I am SO not the boss.  I have NO control over how adults treat kids.  I think for a while now, I have tried to look the other way, get along, enjoy the work I do with kids.  But things are happening this week, and it hurts me- how must the kids feel?  A disrespectful tone of voice, sarcasm, yelling and what I call discipline through humiliation- I just cannot agree with it.  It makes me feel I am spending my days in the wrong place.

As I’ve said before, kids should absolutely not be disrespectful to adults (or anyone else, for that matter), but they most certainly are.  I ask this question:  which came first- kids being disrespectful to adults or….adults being disrespectful to kids?

Today, I passed a couple kids in the hall and heard them talking about one of my coworkers:  “….Mrs. B!  She’s on the 6th grade yard!”  “I know!  She’s so mean!”

And they are right- she is.  I’ve seen her in action.  I am working hard to make sure no kid ever says that about me.

Turtle Drama

We have this cool turtle named Scooter.  We inherited him from the child care center that I directed for 17 years and where my boy was practically raised for 6 years, so there’s a lot of history between us.  Scooter lives in a cage in our spare room, roaming around, eating meal worms and going for swims in his bowl of water.  I keep his water spotlessly clean and keep track of when to feed him on a sticky note kept on the kitchen counter.  We all talk to him as if he were human.  The spare room is across from our bedroom, so many times a day, I see Scooter and tell him hello and what the plans for the day are.  Even my husband, who is not really a pet person can be heard saying,  “Scooty!  What’s up?”  Scooter is really a part of our family and has a pretty good turtle life with us.

On warm days, we take him out in the yard for exercise and fresh air.  It’s still kind of cold here but Saturday was a little warmer than usual.  Scooter was doing his turtle thing:  trying like crazy to get out of his cage by scratching in the corner.  I feel kind of bad when I see him do this and wanted to take him outside, but I was leaving for the market.  I asked the boys ( my husband and son) if they would watch him.   My husband  kind of shrugged as if to say,  “Sure, how hard can it be to watch a turtle?”  I almost changed my mind at that point, but my son was beside himself with excitement at this responsibility.  I couldn’t say no.  I told him to put the turtle away when he was done watching him and went on my merry way.

What a mistake.

I was unloading the groceries when I casually asked who put the turtle away.  Both boys froze.  Of course, they had forgotten poor Scooter and had no clue where he was.  Never trust boys.

We searched for Scooter until it was dark and finally had no choice but to leave him to spend the night who knows where.  As I was cooking dinner, my boy would occasionally whimper and when I asked what was wrong, he’d say,  “I miss Scooter!”  I don’t think any of us slept very well that night.

The next morning, we resumed the search and quickly discovered where Scooter must be.  There was a little turtle-sized hole where he must have burrowed under the wood platform that my husband built for the storage shed.  When the sun started to set the previous night, he must have done what turtles do- burrow into some place close and safe.  Great.

My husband pulled up the part of the platform that didn’t have the shed on it but, no Scooter.  There were, however more little holes which told us that he was under the platform which was under the shed.  Short of tearing down the shed, we could not reach him.  So, my husband propped up the part of the platform that he could and … now we wait.  Turtles are not dogs, running out to jump on you after you have rescued them from some tight spot.  No, turtles LIKE tight spots.  Scooter will take his own sweet time, coming out when he pleases.  Yay.

In the meantime, we set water and food at each side of the platform, hoping he’ll get hungry and make his way out.  Or stay right where he is, hibernating (as turtles do this time of year), until hotter days arrive.

Late yesterday, as I was nearly flat on the ground, peering under the platform:

Me:  “Come out Scooter, please.  We’re here for you, Man.  Come out!”

The Boy:  “Yeah, Scooter, come out.  We miss you!”

Me:  “Ya freakin’ turtle!”

The Boy: ” Well, Mom!  You don’t have to be mean to him!”

 

O.K., PLEASE come out, ya freakin’ turtle! 

 

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