Sunday, August 29, 2010

What I'd Like to Say--Wish I Could Say--To My Daughter's New Teacher

There comes a point somewhere into the summer when a mom hears "What are we doing today?" or "Where are we going today?" one too many times.  Gets nagged out, and with one twitching eye, one thread of a nerve and zero sanity left, she begins counting the days until the start of school.  Being the mom of an only child sometimes moves that point a bit sooner into the summer break.

For me, that point happened quite a ways back.

And then it hit me this afternoon.  My heart's about put on brand new clothes, throw her book bag over her shoulder and walk out the door and into the classroom of someone I don't know.  It happens every year...and every year, that point of counting down days is replaced with the tear-tugging silent prayer of just about every mother:  Please let my child's teacher "get her," appreciate her humor, her sweetness, her everything...Please let her teacher know that she's a good kid--not a perfect kid--but a good kid, and let her occasionally laugh at her jokes and smile when she sees her. Please. 

There are so many things I wish I could tell each new teacher who comes into our lives.  Sometimes they send home a paper that asks, "Is there anything you wish to share about your child"; most of the time they don't.  When they do, my mind races, tripping all over itself with everything I wish I could "share about my child."  Though none of it actually gets written (except two things in her third grade year), my hand that holds the pen struggles against the whispers of my heart.

I wish I could tell this new teacher, just meeting my daughter, about how we almost lost her when I got pneumonia in my fifteenth week of pregnancy.  I wish I could tell her how fighting for my unborn child's life helped save my own.  I wish I could tell her about how we allowed ourselves to be relieved that she made it, that she was born--only to have her turn blue before she was even three months old; how lucky a thing it was that I just happened to turn around in time to see her apneac and dying--in my arms she was limp and slipping into gone.  I wish I could tell the teacher how precious those things make her.

I'd get a kick out of sharing the story of the night my daughter--two and a half years old--confidently corrected our Grammy (her great-grandmother) about Venus being a planet, not a star, as she sat on her daddy's shoulders on a bat watching evening.  How awesome is that?

I wish I could make it matter to the teacher that her dad and I gave her no voice in the decision when we moved from California to Pennsylvania, away from all her friends and all of her family--including our Grammy--mid-school year.

I wish that I could talk about her crazy-brave resiliancy in the fact that, with that cross-country move, she had to adjust to not only a new state with no one she knew, but to life in a hotel for months, while we waited for our house to sell in the crappy California housing market.  That she had to get used to three schools, three teachers and 60 different sets of eyes looking at "the new kid" as she entered the door of each new classroom that year of second grade.

I wish her new teacher could have met my daughter before the bratty girl in the second school of second grade led a brigade to convince her that she was "too smart"--in a bad way--and broke her spirit in math, when she'd JUST gotten comfortable in it.  I wish the teachers she's had since could help bring that spark back that was stolen.

I wish I could get it in writing that I wouldn't have to rush her to the ER for stitches at the hand of a troublesome boy or have to answer calls and console tears because of the same kid, again and again, and I'd kind of like it to be known that I'd kind of like to let my husband go toe-to-toe with the kid's dad once, like he'd like to do.  I'd like to know that this kid will be kept away from my daughter this year--six strikes is enough, and we're ready to go to the school board and show what true Mama and Papa bears look like in human form. 

(But that part would probably scare the new teacher, so I should probably keep that to myself...but I'll continue to think it.)

How awesome it would be to be able to tell the new teacher that my daughter's favorite band has been The White Stripes since preschool, and she can play "We Are Going to Be Friends" on her electric guitar.  I'd also mention that she took Tae Kwon Do for years and got all the way to green belt (and ready for her next belt test) in one school, only to have to start from scratch and work her way up back to it in another, because the first didn't register her with Kukkiwon in Seoul, Korea.  She did it twice, because that's what kind of kid she is.  I'd like to mention that, in first grade, my daughter's teacher loved the fact that she always "got" the joke that no other kid did, and that her humor was considered valuable and welcome in that classroom.  I'd also like to point out that my daughter is pen pals with children at Sareka House in Cambodia, and she might be one of the only ones in the classroom inherently kind enough to think about cultural differences and work from a place of sensitivity to that when writing to them or when we chose books for our care package to send to them.  I'd love for the teacher to know that sometimes, even when my daughter seems like a snide comment doesn't bother her, girls haven't always found it in their hearts to be kind to her, and some of that bravado is her way of trying not to cry--please protect her.

I guess the last thing I'd like to say to the teacher (if I could really get her to hear me) is that I realize I can't make her love my child, and it's okay if she doesn't, because I have enough for both of us, all that I ask is that she doesn't let my daughter know. 

  • note #1--I used to teach; I've been on the other side, and I know that the specialness of each child has to be kept in mind.  I don't teach now, and, honestly, (like everyone) mine's the one who matters to me.
  • note #2--The diary that I kept on the night that we spent in the hospital, after my daughter turned blue, can be found HERE (Diary of a Parent at Her Daughter's Bedside)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fireworks and Thoughts on a Hot August Night

The sky in Pennsylvania goes on forever.  Last night, I saw it lit up and blazing, every part, with fireworks and raindrops.

My daughter's friend invited my little fam to meet up with hers at "A Night in the Country," an annual farewell to summer, filled with expensive food, $5 lemonade, carnival games, vintage cars, a bad country band with heavy bass, teenagers experimenting with the boundaries of their freedom and flirting, and TONS of people. (In other words, I found myself as much in my element as dear Austin Scarlett in a Bait and Tackle).  The evening air hung sticky and heavy with the impending rain, scheduled to arrive after midnight.  We placed our blanket on the field, and our daughter escaped with her friend and her friend's father, and my husband and I went to look at the cars.

As we walked, he with his admiration of the cars, me with my dread of crowds and heat, I wished I were the kind of wife who could truly enjoy the moment with him--not detract from his enjoyment.  I think I somewhat accomplished that air of enthusiasm with the car show, but there's no hiding how crowds of people make me feel, and, unfortunately, I'm not the kind of woman who looks fresh and granola in any and all weather--my body and hair kind of wilt, just like my spirits, in humidity and heat; it's always been that way.

When we went back to our blanket, our daughter popped back in within minutes, sugared up and drunk with prizes and the excitement of being with her friend.  Even more than I'd wished with my husband, I longed to be the kind of mom enthusiastically participating in these moments, even suggesting them, because they will become her memories of growing up in the country.

Yet there were still two more hours left to wait before the fireworks, and the people kept coming...and coming.  And the air kept getting heavier and heavier.

"What time is it, Mom?"  Every 10 minutes on cue, my daughter asked, and I wished, for my own sake, that I could tell her that there were only 10 more minutes...or even only an hour left.  But the time dragged, and the band kept playing--the bright point being an only-slight butchering of one of my favorite Cash songs and a rousing example of a white-bread Pennsylvanian band attempting to belt out a song with a line in Spanish (uh-oh) them, the line was "Via Con Mios."  Mmmm Hmmm.

The kids escorted adults throughout the midway a few more times, the too-near port-a-potties began making their presence known, and still, I wished I was honestly enjoying the whole thing.  I wished that when my daughter, inevitably, asked if we can return next year, I'd have an emphatic "YES!" to give to her, yet all that went through my mind, non-stop, was I hope Zen (my chihuahua) hasn't peed on the bed to punish us for being gone so long (because she HAS done that) and At least in an hour I'll be done with this night    I hated myself for thinking that way.

A half  hour before the scheduled fireworks--nearly three and a half hours after our arrival, the rain started.  At first, the drops were so minimal I thought that I must be getting hit with some errant teenager's water gun, but only a couple of elderly ladies sat behind us, and while their smiles were a bit deviant, I couldn't pin the crime on them.  More drops, and the rain was official.  Are you kidding me?  How much more into hell do I have to be?  I hated myself a bit more.

And then, finally, the band stopped, the floodlights went out, and the first round of fireworks shot into the sky and burst into flowers of light and sounded with booms that competed with my heartbeat...and the rain didn't matter.  The crowds didn't matter.  My daughter huddled up under a blanket against the rain with her friend, and her "oohs and ahhs" were the only thing louder than the blasts above.  I heard the rain plunk on my soaked shirt, my arms dripping with rain, my hair wet and uncomfortable, and--in that moment--it became okay.  Next to me, I saw my husband's face light up, pink, golden, smiling, and beautiful.  I've never seen fireworks in the rain before.  This is amazing.  Look who I get to be with.

The most magnificent display flared up like a bright dandelion, changed into a gold weeping willow, and covered the entire sky.  I never knew that the sky, that I constantly marvel as infinite, could be totally blocked with sparks and color.  

The blasts and booms resounded in the sky and under us into the ground, reverberating through our bodies and forcing smiles and awe.  That's when other thoughts, beyond myself, occurred to me.  How lucky I am to live in a place where these sounds, these flashing lights in the night sky, don't mean something else entirely different.  How lucky I am that these earth-shaking and machine-gun rapid sounds don't mean death and war.  That these vibrant bursts of fast fire in the sky bring smiles and happy memories, rather than tears and memories that leave indelible trauma bruises on the soul.  The finale of the show was such a mess of all the remaining fireworks at once, all sound and fury, that it almost wasn't possible to see individual fireworks--the sky looked war-torn.  This must be what it's like.  I can't imagine this being my reality and expectation of normal life.  I can't imagine the heartache of raising my child in a place where this all meant destruction and fear, rather than the end of summer.

With a deafening BOOM, it was done.  The sky went black, all sulfur and smoke, and the floodlights came back on.  The crowd was back, and the rain had stopped.

The exodus began--walking bodies and cars--and I held the hands of my people, as we walked the line, my daughter recounting the night and winding down from her sugar high.  All in all, it took a good 40 minutes or more of sitting in our car before my husband could fanangle us out of the lot and onto the road back home. 

Thankfully, Zen didn't pee on the bed.  My daughter did, of course, ask if we'd go back next year; I didn't say "no."  This morning, my up-at-the-crack-of-dawn-girl didn't wake up until past 9:30--enough time for me to make blueberry muffins for her and at least be "that kind of mom" the morning after, while she ate and told me all about the night, once again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sayings that need to die painful deaths.

Okay, so that's a little extreme. Maybe somewhat painful deaths. At least just die. There are a few of these "pearls" that have been on my mind, as I think of the way that people are implementing them lately.  There will probably be a few others I'll end up adding, as they strike me.

#1 "It's easier to ask forgiveness than ask permission."

Boy, I know a lot of people who subscribe to this one. Yes, it is, indeed, easier. Easy does not mean better. This saying essentially says it's okay to steamroll over someone, as long as you say you're sorry later. Well, no, it's not. How about another saying, The Golden Rule: "Do unto others, as you would have done onto you." Something like that--also known as karma, the law of three, and many other guises. Pretty universal stuff, that one. I'm sure "walking a mile in someone else's shoes" is a great way to realize that #1 is a rude cop out.

#2 "Boys will be boys."

This one rankles me because I know too many good, decent men and boys who don't need to rely on this excuse. Having testosterone isn't a handicap. I sure wouldn't want to have a catch phrase for my bad behavior. "Call a spade a spade" (to use another cliché).

#3 "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

No, it's not. I'm thoroughly convinced that this was dreamed up by the one doing the imitating, not the one being imitated. Never in my lifetime have I felt the warm fuzzies when someone has used my ideas. There are plenty of fresh ways to look at the same thing; it just takes the guts to take a chance and try it, possibly messing up in the process...however, the originals out there have that in them, and that's what they've done--perfected.

One saying that's actually resonating with me a lot lately is from none other than Judge Judy (and she, in turn, has attributed it to her father):

"Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining."

The stellar saying, "Honesty is the best policy" is dead on.  It's not easy--like asking forgiveness later, imitating rather than innovating, or excusing bad behavior with hormones.  Not easy at all sometimes, and it can have its costs.  However, it's a clean life, and it's a respectable one.  When my leg is "peed on," I not only lose trust, I lose respect.  Maybe I'm old school--I'm not even 40 yet, so it's saddens me to think that it went down the tube so quickly--but I was taught that one's word is their ultimate gift; shake a hand and give your word, it's golden.  It seems to be a dying concept, and I suppose there will soon be another "great" saying to excuse it.  I'll just continue on what is becoming "the road less traveled," I suppose.  At least I have my friends for some company on it.