Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “children”

The Gym, the Guilt and the Undying Search for Balance

10257789_685963581450789_99859160733615273_nThe guilt is overwhelming sometimes.  Most of the time.

It doesn’t help that the little guys in my life HATE coming with me to the gym.  Or that they ask, “why do you ALWAYS have to go to that gymmmmmm?”

I am insanely fortunate to have found a phenomenal CrossFit gym with a supportive and encouraging coach who allows me to let my children play on their tablets and do their homework while I work out.  But, I still feel incredibly awful dragging them to sit there so I can do something that is solely and completely just for me.

All the self-help people and women’s magazines tell us that we just simply must make the time to do something for ourselves.  It is essential that we take care and have something to call our own.  But I am not sure what the point is at which I am taking too much for myself.

mom-me-time_iwqi70I already work outside of the home as a teacher.  So, that’s “mine.”  I work out somewhat faithfully twice a week.  I get my nails done every two weeks or so.  I see a chiropractor semi-regularly.  I get my hair highlighted and cut every six to eight weeks.  If I wanted to add a third gym day in or see a physical therapist to figure out why I always have to pee when I jump rope, I feel as though that is just going to far.

And, I have to admit that I don’t know who I am more afraid will judge me:  my kids, my husband, society at large or ME.

6e1f525658ca73c44d018f7598768963So, I work out two days a week and while that is wonderful, I am not progressing that quickly.  I’d love to be able to tell you that I can do real pull-ups and bench-press 250 lbs., but those would both be lies.  Since starting at my gym 14 months ago, I have not managed to squeeze out one single actual real pull-up.  Or push-up.  Or unbroken 400-meter run.

The former, couch-potato me would say, “but you’re out there and you’re doing something and you’re sweating and doing something amazing for your body.”

Yep.  I am.

But, can I justify it?

What is a mother supposed to do?  No, really.  What am I supposed to do?  What percentage of “me” time is acceptable?  How many gym days can I have without being a “bad mother”?  If I drag the kids with me tomorrow so I can pick out new frames for my glasses, do I have to counterbalance that which was done solely for my (and not their direct) benefit with ice cream or trips to the park or other bribery/rewards/”quality time with the kids”?

Today, during my front squat, my coach told me I had to take weight off of the bar.  That’s demoralizing.  While I was thankful for the lighter load to bear, I also wondered about whether that made me weak.  But, his cue to me let me know that in that moment I was taking on too much.  I needed to scale back.  I wish I had a better system in place to help cue me as to when I have taken on an improper balance of time dedicated to the different elements of my own life.

Be better

FUCKING MILLENNIALS.

I swear to all that is good an holy that if I have to listen to one more twenty-something complain about bills and college and, you know, LIFE, I am going to lose my damn mind.

I’m an ageist.  I admit to totally being completely and unabashedly discriminatory against the under 30 set.  And, I admit to hating this generalized demographic even while having many friends, colleagues and other people I generally respect, fall into this category.

It is absolutely not that I am out of touch.  I get it.  I’ve taught for long enough that the first few graduating classes of seniors I worked with are now squarely in their 30’s.  So, while this makes me super old, it also means that I have watched teenagers grapple with the educational system since the 90’s.  I understand that everyone tells you that you HAVE to go to college, then you go broke once you do the thing that everyone insisted you do, but weren’t sure you really wanted to do in the first place.  But, you marched along with the other lemmings and filled out your FAFSA and got your degree in French Literature and now you fold sweatshop clothes at the strip mall.  I know.  We all know because you have told us about a million times on Twitter, but perhaps you may have forgotten to take responsibility for your own actions, decisions and life.

My 9th graders are working on a research project right now in class.  I would estimate that only about 30% of them have accepted this challenge by digging in and really pouring through resources.  That 30% is going to the library, using databases to find periodicals, and utilizing scholarly websites and journals to find high-quality information for their writing.

The other 70% says something like, “can you help me?”.  Now, it is totally my job to help kids.  But, when I would come over to the desk of one of these 70%’ers, I would usually say, “What can I help you do?”.  This is usually met with blank stares.  Or, with a generic, “I don’t know how to start?”  or just “I don’t understand.”  If pressed  with, “what don’t you understand?”, I either get “all of it” or a shoulder shrug and more blank staring.

See, the thing is that for years and years, we’ve tried to protect our children from failure, doubt, mistakes and disappointment.  And, as a teacher who has seen a generation of kids who cannot struggle in a healthy way terrifies me.  There are millions of young people who are incapable of dealing with heartache, with rejection and with broken promises.

Is college too expensive?  Yes.  But so is just about everything that we actually want.  When we told all the kids that they needed college, they listened.  The demand went up.  It got more expensive.  This is how things work.

Are there too few jobs out there and is the majority being suffocated by the so-called “1%”?  I dunno.  Maybe?  But, so the fuck what?  Do something about it.  Change your world.  Change yourself.  Change your perspective.  Just don’t write a letter to your CEO about how you can’t afford your rent.  It’s not his problem.  It’s yours.  Figure something out.  Struggle.  Sweat.  Overcome.

I want my children at home to be independent.  I don’t want them just to make awesome independent decisions about getting mermaid hair or listening to 21 Pilots be Just. So. Avant-Garde.  (Look at us and how avant-garde we are!)  I want them to tell me, “It’s okay mom.  I can do it myself” when I offer to button a shirt or cut a banana.  I’ll cry that my babies are all grown up, but I do not want to raise boys who cannot or will not try something that is hard, maybe even do it wrong or just shitty or even get a little bumped and bruised in the process, but the come out on the other side with a product that they can own entirely themselves.

In the words of one of my favorite fashion gurus, “Make it work,” people.

Grrrrrrrr…

Today I hate people.

Admittedly, most days I hate people.  I’m an introvert and I like quiet.  And, you know, NOT being around…people.

And, if this is your first time visiting this blog you might be surprised to know, given my general distaste for humanity, that I am a teacher.  Of teenagers.  Pretty much the worst people of all people.

I actually really seriously dislike children.  I mean, mine are cool, but yours suck.  No offense.

I kid only sort of.

On a serious note (for once), I actually tremendously love working with high school students.  I like talking with them.  I like helping them with their ridiculous dramatic bullshit.  I like talking to them about Star Wars.  I like watching them “get it” for the first time.  I seriously fucking love my job.  I am truly an introvert and I prefer quiet to parties, but my favorite thing of all of the things is discussing Hamlet with a group of hungry AP English Literature students.

But, today, I had to cover a 7th grade Math class.  Just let that sink in:  I hate numbers more than I hate people.  And, remember I hate children, but not teenagers.  Seventh graders are CHILDREN.  Don’t talk to me until you’ve made it at least one full day past your 14th birthday.  Even then, I don’t really want to talk to you for very long periods of time until about halfway through your freshman year of high school.

Seniors?  Give me all of the seniors all of the days.  Love ’em.  Lazy sons-a-bitches.  Those kids are my jaaaaam.

Sure, my piss-poor attitude today is colored by the fact that by 8:00 this morning, I had dealt with two students who were ethnically intimidating a Middle-Eastern refugee student and one student who told another to “eat balls.”  This week, I have been trying to stop a small group of boys in their attempt to mercilessly and evilly bully a weaker kid.  I’ve been failing at this miserably since the bullied kid is so bullied that he is too terrified to admit to the bullying so we can proceed with assistance for him.  I’m trying desperately to get a student scheduled into all of her appropriate classes for her junior and senior years because her parents do not speak English and they cannot advocate for her at school here.  So I do.  I’m trying to encourage a kid I’ve been mentoring for four years to finish all of the credit recovery programming he’s been working on so he can have enough credits to graduate in June.  He probably won’t make it.  I’ll be devastated when/if he ultimately drops out of high school.

I’ll go home today to a car with only three working tires.  My kids will need help with their homework.  I will have to cook dinner — from scratch because I am trying desperately not to pour a bunch of food additives, processed garbage and sugar into my family’s bodies.  I’ll care for my aging dog who was diagnosed yesterday with cataracts.  I’ll probably not get to the gym though I consider this a “gym day.” I’m not trying to get into a bikini or impress anyone, but I am trying to get stronger and healthier and today that will have to wait.

It is hard to be a working mom.

That’s it.  This is hard.  And I hate people.  And I’m tired.  And this is hard.  And I love it.  And hate it.  And…this is hard.

 

Some days I just really don’t want to be a responsible grown up

My mom and dad are the coolest.

Seriously.

They’re supportive, helpful and kind.  They have a beautiful marriage and they truly love my children and me.  My husband has a very strained relationship with his family and my parents have warmly welcomed him into the fold with us.

BUT…

We seem to have different definitions of what the role of “grandparent” is supposed to look like.

Please let me know that I am not alone on this.  I need to hear from some voices who understand.

Today, my 6-year old son, told me he was “too sick” to go to school and that he was “going to throw up.”  Now, I am not going to call him a lying shithead, but I will say that these two statements he said to me are not true.  Draw what conclusions you will.

When I left for work, he was sitting on the couch reading Minecraft books.  READING.  Awesome.  You go, kid.

At this point, my husband is preparing to start his day.  He was upstairs in our room, still in bed because he had rearranged his work appointments this morning to take my son to school — for his last day of 1st grade.  There were likely going to be pictures and a special breakfast and generalized merriment.

Knowing that my husband was unlikely to respond in the desired way to the claims of illness, my son picked up the house phone (OMG — yes, we still have one of those) and called my mother, crying.  He told her he was sick and was scared of throwing up and he couldn’t go to school.

Now, we all know rule #1 is “don’t play mom against dad.”  If mom says, “no,” then that is the answer.  If dad says, “no,” don’t go ask mom.  Don’t you good-cop-bad-cop us.

But, perhaps we were unclear about whether it was okay to ask “Nana” for something when mom didn’t give you the answer you wanted and dad was not likely to tell you what you wanted to hear.

So, now, here is where things get interesting:  after asking where “Daddy” is to my son, my mother asked whether the “patient” would like her to come to our house to comfort him.

Of course the kid said, “yes.”

And this is all happening without my husband or me knowing about it.  And, now my mom is on her way – at 6:30 in the morning on a Wednesday – to my house.

The little guy creeps into my bedroom where he sheepishly tells his father that he “accidentally” called his grandmother to tell her he was sick.  Daddy responded to tell him that he is not sick and that he should go back to reading.  He also should not bother his grandparents with these stories.  If there is a problem, Mommy or Daddy will solve it.  It’s our job.

Then, my mother walks into my house to console the now weeping child I’ve birthed.  She sees a pained, ill child whose parents are – I don’t know – ignoring him/not loving him enough/not caring for his illness/not listening to his desperate pleas for help and affection.  I can’t really be sure what was going on at this point.  Allegedly, my mother told my son twice to go tell his daddy that he was sick, but the little man said that he couldn’t because his father was sleeping.  In the argument that resulted on the phone later with my mother, she threw in something to the effect that she wasn’t sure if my husband was passed out or had fallen and couldn’t get up or there was other trouble.  If that were true, I can’t speak to why she never attempted to contact him directly, though.

And, now my husband is seething.  He figured that the kid’s confession of his “accidental” phone call would be soon followed with a phone call from one of my parents saying, “hey, this is weird.  Little Guy just called us crying that he was sick.  What’s up?  Do you need help?  Everything ok?”

But, instead of that, our take on this overly dramatic response is that we must be such fucking horrible parents that immediate intervention was needed.

And that’s not all…

After a bit of time cradling a weeping liar kid, my mother gathers BOTH of my boys up, tells them to get their shoes on and yells up the steps, “I’m taking the kids.”

Then the door shuts behind them.

Neither of the boys was sent up to kiss their father “goodbye.”  An attempt was never made to inquire as to whether my husband was in need of help.  I was never called to be told that my children were being removed from my home by someone other than their father in whose charge they were left.

Shit just got serious.

And, after a lengthy phone conversation, my mother is mad at me for “not appreciating” her “help” and making her “always” feel as though she “can’t do anything right,” something she says she is, “frankly, sick of.”

In almost 40 years on this planet, I have never hung up on my mother.  But, I did today.

Now, you do not have to support me.  Maybe I am an asshole.  I probably am for other reasons, anyway.

But, if you were in this situation, how would you react? How would you feel?  How would you have wanted this to be handled?  And, what in the hell do I do now?

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bear Hunters and Future Whores

The bar for overzealous geekery has been raised.

While watching an episode of “Cosmos” (which, by the way is A-freaking-mazing) I became giddy with nerdtastic delight when I heard Neil DeGrasse Tyson refer to an Event Horizon as a place “from which no traveler returns.”

For my fellow book-snobs, you, too, may recognize that as a quote from Hamlet.

My nerd cup runneth over.

And, my brain hurts as I sit and ponder whether our Earth could really just be contained inside of a universe that was pulled into a black hole and only exists because the properties of physics in the external universe changed in such a way as to construct our existence.  And, I think about Kurt Vonnegut’s message in Slaughter-House Five when he wrote about the possibility of human understanding of time to be insufficient to the reality of it.

You see, geek though I may be, I do seek to increase my understanding of that which is around me.

Books (though much more so as an adult than they were when I was younger) open my mind to understanding reality in new ways.  It’s so empowering and exciting.

It would be important to note, however, that not all books have this impact.  In fact, some, I might assert, actually make humankind stoopider.  God (or Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster) help our children.  Literature for little ones is a minefield of suck.

For example:

1. The Rainbow Fish – My kid loves this book.  He has little cut-outs of fish all over his room now and he loves to look at and play with them.  But, this highly-regarded book really burns my ass.  Lemme lay it out for ya:  The story revolves around a pompous rainbow fish who has sparkly scales.  Personally, I believe that the sparkle is really what attracts kids (and some parents) to the book.  Nobody likes this fish because he (or she — I don’t care enough to remember) has such beautiful scales.  Many other fishes ask him if they can have just one scale and he says “no.”  Fast-forward to the end of the book when he gives away each of his sparkly scales one-by-one and then people like him.

So, let me get this right:  I am teaching my kid to give up parts of himself to others so he can buy friends?  Thank God I don’t have a little girl.  I would have a serious problem with the idea of selling your body for popularity.  I venture to say that this is a slightly less terrifying message for the moms of boys, but perhaps not.

2.  We’re Going on a Bear Hunt — A family inexplicably goes, you know, on a bear hunt.  Pardon me for taking this to mean that they intend to catch, see, kill or meet a bear.  They even take their toddler to go visit one of Earth’s greatest killing machines.  They are subsequently shocked and terrified once they actually find a bear.  No one thought to bring any sort of protective gear.  They were gone all damn day and trekked through all kinds of treacherous bullshit and didn’t even pack a granola bar or a bottle of Dasani.

The final page, though, is what really pisses me off.  You see, the family runs away from the bear once they find it.  The bear, by the way, apparently lives at the beach, so I do question the authors’ understanding of environmental science, but whatever.  But, on the very last page, the bear looks completely melancholy with shoulders slumped as he skulks back to his cave not having been able to chase the ridiculously unprepared family into their home.  My nerdessness reminds me of Frankenstein’s monster and I wonder if the illustrator might have been trying to make some sort of philosophical statement about seeking someone/thing out just to reject it.  The pop-culture weirdo in me thinks of that scene from “Never Been Kissed” when Drew Barrymore is hit with raw eggs while she awaits her nonexistent prom date.  People are assholes.  That’s what I learn from this book.

3.  Harry by the Sea — A family of dickheads takes their dog on vacation with them.  Harry, the dog, is the only one of them cloaked in a permanent fur coat, but that does not seem to matter to them.  They banish him from the shade of the umbrella they brought with them.  Even the kids give Harry shit for wanting to play with them.  Excuuuuuuse Harry for wanting to be, oh — I don’t know — A DOG.  Harry wanders from his family, is mistaken for a sea monster, gets yelled at by a fat lady, is nearly trapped by two Keystone Cop-esque beach patrol numbnuts and suffers temporary deafness.  Only once a food vendor feeds him (perhaps because his asshole family wasn’t going to bother to) do the kids come and find him (where the fuck are the parents?), claiming that they miss him and want him to come back.

Keep in mind, folks, that the family nooooooow decides to get a new umbrella so Harry doesn’t have to die of heatstroke while on the beach in the motherfucking middle of the summer.  So, the lesson we are teaching kids is:  When irresponsibly taking your family pet to a place that is inherently unhealthy for him, don’t wait until some stranger feeds him processed meat products before you start giving a shit about him.

Maybe that actually isn’t the worst one, then.

Have a children’s book you’ve read (hell — ANY book, really) that doesn’t seem to resonate with you the same way it did with critics or others who read it?  I’d love it if you shared.

Generation Zombie

Because Google completely failed me recently, I feel inclined to rant.

Here’s what happened:

1. I am a teacher.  I freaking love my job.  It is rewarding as hell and I don’t care that it makes me poor.  I love working with young people and helping them better understand our world.

2. No amount of love for young minds changes the fact that kids can be little shits sometimes.  I happen to have well over 30 students of this particular variety all in one classroom.  For 80 minutes.

3. In an effort to figure out how to better manage them and keep them from doing the following…

–eating Hot Cheetos in class even though I have asked them not to eat anything in the room on about a million occasions

–talking incessantly with other students far and near even though I constantly move around, ask them repeatedly to quiet down and have moved seats over and over again

–saying the following (and this is not an exhaustive list):  suck my dick, shut the hell up, fuck you, go to Hell, oh shit, rape is funny, titties (I could go on and on)

–staring at me when I have told them to write notes

–forgetting pencils, papers, laptops, chargers, pens, notebooks, folders, etc.

–getting up and walking around the room freely

…I have been searching online for strategies to help me “up” my teacher game.

4. I have taken to Google (and, frankly, a number of sites associated with professional development for educators) to try to learn what other teachers might already know about wrangling 9th graders.

5.  I came up with squat.  Most educational resources out there are focused on little kids.  All of the suggestions do not relate to someone who has 30-40 students in a room in a major public high school, cannot punish anyone with a loss of recess time, and has students big enough to kick her ass.

 

So, now, here I am.

 

No one on the internet can tell me a goddamn thing about how to manage these hooligans.  I am a 15-year veteran teacher.  I have taught some of the absolute toughest kids on the planet.  Criminals, even.  If there were a yearbook of my former students you would find in it a convicted child molester, a murderer, several drug-dealers, a kid who was lucky to have been tried as a juvenile after he slit another kid’s throat (the victim lived, by the way), two assholes who got into a hallway fight that was so bloody, there was red sprayed up on the ceiling, and at least three strippers who may or may not take “extra” cash for “extra” services at their places of employment.

I am no stranger to tough kids.  But, this is something different I haven’t seen before.  This is just total disregard for other humans.  They are completely apathetic.  They don’t fear their parents; they don’t fear detentions, suspensions or tongue-lashings from a principal; they don’t care if they pass the class; they don’t have any interest in gaining new knowledge; and they certainly don’t care about anything I do or say.  I am at a loss.  They just don’t fucking care.  I am flabbergasted.  I have not seen a group of people care so little about anything.  I have tried rewards, positive behavioral reinforcement, a variety of punishments and consequences, changing seats, giving them ownership of their own learning, empowering them to make decisions about the class, offering incentives.  I have tried just about every traditional teacher trick.

They all fail me.

And, of course, this makes me feel like a complete failure myself.

As I mentioned, I am not weak.  I can handle shitheads.  But these kids are their own kind of craptastic.  They are just vapid.  They openly choose nothing over something.  When I asked a student who sat empty-handed with a blank stare today if he was opting to take a “0” for his work, he said, “I forgot my backpack today.”  This was the 4th day in a row he forgot a backpack.  He didn’t care to borrow a pencil, ask a classmate for some paper or write in marker on the back of his fucking hand.  He just figured he’d sit for 80 minutes and stare.  If I gave him a “0” for today’s assignment, that was okay.  I guess.  Eeyore.

This is no “Dangerous Minds” shit.  These kids are GOOD kids.  At least that is what we call them nowadays because they don’t do drugs, they don’t get into fights and they don’t join gangs.  They manage in some classes to get adequate grades.  Some of their parents care a little.  Most of their parents actually care a ton.  Most of their parents have good jobs and they live in the nicer parts of town.  Our school is known for good test scores and great teaching.  But, this one class of students just seems to have so much apathy and I truly fear that there is a serious generational shift I am witnessing.

Everyone hated Gen X because we were supposedly so lazy and apathetic.  This makes the graduating class of 1991 look like motherfucking rocket scientists.  The kids I see each day are empty.  And they do not wish to be filled.

I am certain that I can work to fix this if only I could build a personal relationship and rapport with each of them individually.  You work hard and behave well for people you trust, respect and connect with.  But, by the time I do that with this many kids, it will be time for them to move on and be zombies for some other unsuspecting teacher.

As parents, I don’t know what we ought to be doing, but we need to be doing SOMETHING to make our children care about anything.  One kid today in my class shaded an entire notebook sheet dark gray with pencil.  Meticulously.  Then he “wrote” his name by erasing some of the scribble.  Another young lady had to be asked to return to her seat 9 times.  9 TIMES!  What was she doing all of those times?  Just seeing what other kids in the room were up to.  I was lecturing at the time.

Please join with me to build a better generation.  I don’t know what we must do, but we must do something here.  Your suggestions are more than welcome.

Miley Cyrus is just trying to f#(k me

WordleI guess every generation of kids has the same essential goal:  to piss off “authority.”

I came to this bombshell of a conclusion the other day when I stumbled upon a video posted on Facebook by an old friend.  It was a segment of “Donahue” (what a damn terrible show that was) from 1995 that talked about the horrifying dangers of the new trend of slam-dancing.  One whole child DIED when he (shockingly) fell down.  I mean, he FELL, you guys.  There are absolutely NO other circumstances, Phil Donahue seemed to suggest, under which a 17-year old could fall and die.  THESE MOSH PITS MUST BE STOPPED!

Enter Marilyn Manson and two other yahoos from his band that I probably could once identify, but now at my age just look like assholes.  Mr. Manson, as he agreed Donahue could call him, suggested that indeed, throwing one’s body into a crowd of hyped up concert-goers could be dangerous, but that it was the danger that made it appealing.  It’s a thrill of a different sort — fueled by adrenaline, hard music, camaraderie, and maybe just a teensy bit of weed.

As a 37-year old adult, I kinda wanted to punch that Twiggy fucktwit next to Manson who only “spoke” via a tiny Walkman with some weird recording on it that he occasionally held up to his stage mic.  As a kid who was 18 in 1995 when this moshing phenomena was rolling along (and who MAY have partaken in a pit or two herself) I thought that this whole thing was just goddamn ridiculous.  Take your fear-mongering elsewhere, 20-years-ago-Donahue, you look like a douchebag right now.

But here’s the thing:  all of the adults in the audience were shocked — SHOCKED, I SAY! — that kids would call this abomination of God’s earth “dancing.”  They were about 30 seconds away from getting the town pastor to abolish all dancing altogether (except for one brave kids who would save the day after a long routine of gymnasti-boogie in a warehouse, I assume).

shock rockAnd, Donahue commented that Manson’s “look” reminded him a bit of Alice Cooper.

Indeed.  And that’s the thing, right?  Since pretty much, like, forever (or at least since my parents were born, which was sooooooooooooo long ago — Hi, Mom!  Love you!), the goal of youth culture is to fuck the establishment, right?  Nirvana throwing their guitars in the air, NWA even having the name “NWA,” Madonna dry-humping a stage, Pink Floyd shaving eyebrows (and nipples, do I remember?  I try to block it out.  I was traumatized by “The Wall”), Ozzy eating bats, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” “NOT” being about hallucinogenics, Elvis’ hips, and so on — it was all just so youth culture could separate itself as much as possible from the established adult “normalcy.”

In the aforementioned video clip, Donahue mentioned, as he looked at the shirt-and-tie-clad father of the young man who had died in a mosh accident and the leather-clad Marilyn Manson seated next to him, that never before had there been such a sharp contrast between generations.

I disagree.  If you put a guy in slacks and JC Penney neckwear next to, say, Flavor Flav, Robert Smith, Iggy Pop, Sid Vicious, or any of the members of KISS, you might notice that there are some differences.

mileyAnd, I, of course, am a mom and a high school teacher.  I roll my eyes when my students say they like Miley Cyrus or Lil Wayne because, you know, I don’t personally love overexposed brats or misogyny, but their goal is likely the same as was the goal of Henry Rollins, Tupac or Rage Against the Machine.

Only, now I am the establishment they’re trying to fuck.

Button, It, Kids!

I am not sure whom to blame for this.

Are we still blaming George Bush for stuff?  I could get back on that train.  Or maybe I could just blame global warming?  Or video games?

But, maybe it doesn’t matter in the long run.  There’s war and poverty and injustice everywhere.  The world is so sad.

Hey, guys!  I will come out to play in, like, 5 hours, when I am done buttoning my shorts.

Hey, guys! I will come out to play in, like, 5 hours, when I am done buttoning my shorts.

And to add insult to injury there is this:
Who the FUCK decided it was a good idea to make little boys’ pants so  freaking complicated?

My older son took his time potty training, but has done a great job since he made up his own mind that he wasn’t going to shit his pants anymore.  He’s still only 5, though, and his dexterity is still forming.  He doesn’t know how to tie a bow yet.  So, the drawstring on many children’s pants are completely useless to him unless we dress him.  And, at 5 (nearly 6), he isn’t super-cool with being dressed by his mom all the time.

Seriously?

Seriously?

My boy loves to play hard.  He plays and plays and plays for so long that sometimes it isn’t until the very last moment that he realizes he has to run to pee.  And, when he gets there, he has to fiddle with buttons, snaps, zippers, hooks and whatnot.  We’re all pretty lucky there haven’t been more “incidents” where the little dude couldn’t fumble with all of the doo-hickeys fast enough to get his willie aimed at the bowl in time.

Then, when he pulls his pants back up, he yanks up the underoos and the pants all in one fistfull of fabric.  By the time he is done reassembling himself, his shirt ends up partially tucked in to his undies by one hip, just his pants in the front, then hangs pitifully on all other sides.  The underwear billows out the top of his pants in one place and he ends up looking like a blind drunk man with only 8 fingers put him together.

I am trying to think about solutions here, though, you know, ‘cuz I am such a problem-solver.

So, there has to be another way, I’m thinkin’.

Velcro?  Maternity-style stretchy-wide-waist pants?  Magnets?  Jedi mind-controlled pants?

I don’t know what it is yet, but I am going to be a millionaire when I figure this shit out.

 

Join the Off Duty Family

Please consider sharing your embarrassing stories for our Mother’s Day series.  Deadline for entry will be April 30.

What have you done that makes you want to shake your head at your former self?

For Mother’s Day this year, we are looking for stories you don’t want your mamma to know.  (We won’t tell her your story came from you!)

Let the fun begin!

Visit our submission page to send in your story.

Things I Can’t Tell You

I am an English teacher in an urban school with a diverse population of students who are, for the most part, really terrific.  I love my job even though I have been known to complain.  But, I complain because, you know, it’s WORK and that sometimes just sucks because it is, you know, WORK.

I am a mom, too.  This should come to no surprise to you, the person who is reading an entry on a blog titled “Off Duty Mom.”

But, my kids are still pretty small.  My oldest is in Kindergarten.  So, while I work daily (and have for hmfhmghph years) with teenagers (and, yes, actually enjoy the company of teenagers), I haven’t had the privilege yet of raising any teens of my own.

And, you’d be surprised the shit I hear as your teenager’s English teacher.  You’d be disgusted, embarrassed, shocked, terrified, enraged, and/or more than mildly amused at the things I both overhear and am told absolutely directly.

Here are just a few of the things I have dealt with in my time in this line of work:

*A sophomore student was once so high, she couldn’t spell her own name right.  I sent her to the nurse since that is our protocol when we suspect drug use.  She was back in my classroom a few minutes later because the nurse could not determine the cause of the student’s unusual behavior.  She then bragged (supposedly) out of my earshot about how much weed she had run through that morning.

*A group of 18-year old students had never heard of the Beatles.  Or Tupac.

*Last week I tried to get a 14-year old male student to stop cutting himself.  Last Thursday, he e-mailed me at 12:30 am apologizing for not being able to keep this promise.  He was treated at a nearby hospital for his self-inflicted injuries.

*For the past two months, a 9th grade boy I know who is a fabulously top-notch student has been dating one of the worst human beings imaginable.  He is an athlete, he’s well-liked, he is a straight-A student.  He is articulate and personable and handsome.  His girlfriend and her mother have been taken to court twice for the girl’s truancy.  She has failed every single one of her classes every quarter since the beginning of the year.  When she is in school, she does very little actual work and mostly just casts her head downward, looking at teachers and classmates above imaginary glasses the way a Bond villain might.  I can’t tell this boy’s mother that his girlfriend is a bad influence because this would be considered inappropriate and a breach of the girl’s confidentiality.

*A Freshman boy asked me why everyone was so sad in the 20th century.  He was referring to the Great Depression, I figured out from talking with him for a few minutes.

*A 15-year old boy today just proudly announced that he was off his ADD meds.  The class looked at him, puzzled.  He, I think, was hoping for applause.

*A 16-year old boy has been confiding in me for months that his alcoholic mother physically abuses him and his father (the parents are separated) steals from him.  Yes, I have notified my superiors.  The boy and his family have been to court.  The courts have found that the boy is in a “safe” environment.  Since the abuse and thefts have started, the boy has been arrested 5 times for lashing out at others violently.  No one gives a shit if I think that this is a behavior he learned from his mother who beats the living crap out of him when she’s on the bottle.

*I suspect that a student of mine is on the Autism spectrum.  I cannot suggest this to her parents as I am not a certified medical practitioner and cannot legally make any determination or even suggestion about her health.  I referred her to a guidance counselor for evaluation, but because the young lady was already being tutored, the parents chalked up her bad grades to a basic need to step up her tutoring and denied any further evaluations.

*A 9th grade student asked me if the book we were reading took place in the time of slavery.  It was set in the 1950s.

*After spending 25 minutes explaining a research paper assignment in class one day, a student raised his hand and then asked me, what are we doing today?  Ummm… WRITING A RESEARCH PAPER?!?!?

*Today a teenage boy wrote his name on a paper to sign up to do a presentation for the class.  He listed only his first name and his last initial.  The “period” used to denote his initial was placed before, not after that letter.

*A senior student who was a “person of interest” in a crime that involved a throat-slashing sat in the front row of my class a few years back.  For legal reasons, my administration was not permitted to let me know that this young man may have been involved in this attempted murder.  When I found out about it from a colleague who had a relative in the police force, I could not share the information with anyone, either.  She was risking her job secretly warning me.

*Three students in my career have “come out” to me privately.  Since they were not a threat to themselves or others, I was not permitted to share this information with their families or friends, but was allowed to share it with the guidance counselor if that seemed appropriate.  She couldn’t share it with their families or friends, either, though.  Ordinarily, I would say that this type of privacy is a necessary thing, but when a mother called me crying about her son needing psychological care, I had to pretend that I knew nothing and couldn’t let her know that he wasn’t likely suffering from a serious disorder, but was simply gay and didn’t know how to talk to her about it.  She had him go through in-patient therapy and the doctors eventually determined that this was, of course, a complete waste of time and energy, as even the boy had insisted.  He wasn’t depressed as she had insisted he was.  His doctor finally “outed” the kid to his mom.  They no longer speak.

*A significantly troubled Autistic teen openly masturbated once in class.  The girl sitting next to him was obviously fairly traumatized.  The other students went through varying degrees of freaking-the-fuck-out depending on how much they saw/heard.  Teachers were not permitted to discuss the situation with the parents of these children other than to tell them that an “incident” had happened and that it was being “handled.”

*A 10th grader did not know that the following countries existed:  Trinidad, Austria, New Zealand and Tibet.

*An 11th grader did not know that Canada was in North America or that Hawaii was a state.

*Most of my students are shocked to learn that I read books before I teach them.  The vast majority are downright shocked when I tell them that I read most books I teach more than once.

*(I think) I talked a 16-year old out of quitting school last week.

*Today a student asked me if the bike I rode as a kid had one giant wheel on the front and a little one in the back.

*There is a student in my school who is severely depressed, but we are not supposed to know about it.  He only showers maybe a few times each month.  If we’re lucky.  We are not supposed to discuss this issue with him or with his family.  We are not supposed to make contact with Social Services.  We can only notify and re-notify our guidance department.

*I suspect a student is dyslexic.  I am not allowed to say that to her parents, though, because my degrees do not include School Psychology or an associated field, nor have I administered any diagnostic exams to suggest that she has a Learning Disability.  I can refer her generically to our Special Education Department and/or our Guidance or Social Work Departments, but if the parent calls me directly and asks me what I think her child’s problem is, I am not allowed to say.

*A parent called me to ask my opinion on a new girl who has been calling and texting her son.  I cannot tell her that this girl is a whore.  No, really.  She was cited for accepting payment in the form of designer accessories for offering blowjobs to fellow students in school.  I have to let this mother fly blind on this one.

 

All of the world’s secrets are safe with me.  Some should be.  Some are awfully damn hard to keep.

What do you think about all of this?

I’ve Found Him

I was a total nerd as a kid.

I got picked on — big time.

The cool girls used to throw popcorn at me when I ate lunch alone in the cafeteria in 7th grade.  I was usually alone, cafeteria or not.

I didn’t date a whole lot, but I grew into myself as I got a bit older.  However, when I was a younger teen, I would snuggle up on my side in my bed with a pillow and I would lay my head on it and pretend that it was my boyfriend who was letting me nuzzle into his shoulder.

I had daydreams about meeting a boy who would not know that I was such an outcast and he’d like me just because I have intrinsic value.

I had this incredibly silly fantasy that this magical boy would really know the real me and he wouldn’t judge me because I wasn’t wearing the coolest clothes.  He would know all of my idiosyncrasies like how I only ever eat French Fries two-at-a-time.

Eventually, I met an amazing man who became my husband.  We fell in love and made a house a home and are living happily ever after.

But, it was just a few weeks ago when my oldest son, age 5, mentioned that he wanted to eat his fries “just like mommy” and he popped two Five Guys hand-cut French Fries into his mouth.

Somewhere in my torn adolescent soul I felt sure that my time would come and I would meet the man of my dreams and he would fulfill all of my silly musings about love and he would make up for all of the emotional bruising I had muddled through.

I just never expected the man of my dreams to be my 5-year old son.

Babies, boobies, bosses

If you’re expecting, you have probably read What to Expect When You’re Expecting to help you know what you can expect while you’re expecting, except nothing can prepare expectant parents or help them better accept the truth about what happens after the expected baby arrives.

Fo’ real, though.

If you are pregnant right now, you may or may not be joking with others about how “crazy” you are.  You probably have heard of “pregnancy brain” and have lost your car keys a few times.  Your mood swings may either be cute and quirky or fully alarming.  You probably complain about things like swollen feet, missing ankles, blue veins, hemorrhoids, stretch marks, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, heart palpitations, blood sugar, back aches, head aches and an inability to drink alcohol to make you forget all of this nonsense.

If you are pregnant right now, you probably hate skinny people.  You probably lament the fact that no one makes a decent business suit for pregnant women and/or no one makes “maternity shoes” or “maternity bras” for temporary size changes.

Your boobs probably hurt.

You’ve no doubt noticed that maternity clothing is no less expensive than regular clothing (and sometimes is much more expensive) and you HAVE to fucking buy it because you can’t be naked and the Belly Band doesn’t help your pre-pregnancy pants fit over your pregnancy-ass.

If you wore high heels before your pregnancy, you are probably now wondering who the FUCKBALLS invented high heels and what giant ASSHOLE bought so many of them and put them in your closet.  Why doesn’t the Shoe Fairy come bring you some nice, sensible footwear from Lands End?

And, I hate to break it to you…

YOU’RE SCREWED.

With science what it is these days, if you are pregnant, you may not have been screwed, per se, but you are screwed in a more metaphorical and less fun way.

You’re gonna have a BABY.

They make you CRAZY.

You will actually feel like a real lunatic a few weeks after that baby is born.  You may cry for no reason.  You may feel completely incompetent.  You may be completely overwhelmed.  You may be super-duper pissed that your significant other’s life and body were not as completely RUINED by this tiny, beautiful, precious, angelic, life-destroying animal.

You will have nothing that is yours:  not your body, not your clothes, not your space, not your time, not your food, not your one-goddamn-minute-alone-on-the-fucking-toilet-in-silence.  That baby is the boss of you.  He decides when you sleep, what you eat, when you pee, whether you shower, and whether your clothes stay clean or vomit-laden.  He is your warden.  And you love him.  And kinda hate him (or maybe just the situation) soooooooooo much.  And then you feel enormously guilty for the “hate” part and you’ll cry and be certain that you’re the worst parent who ever parented in the whole universe of parents ever.

You will want to say (or even really say out loud and everything) “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” more than one time.

You will meet several “good” moms who have their lives in perfect order and just “love” being a mother and who have no idea what you mean when you say that it is a really hard job.  You will want to murder these women, but please don’t because your boss baby needs you.

Look:  this is going to suck.  Being a parent sucks.  But, people don’t really want you to know that.  And THAT sucks, because when the baby arrives and you realize it all just sucks so much, you will feel like a complete asshole because no one else talks about how much it sucks, so you are left to believe that it only sucks for you which means that you are a bad parent and an even worse person.

But, for all of its suckitude, one day you will realize that you are no longer just treading water.  You’ll be swimming.  And your kids will be able to care for themselves.  And, you’ll not have to change diapers or wipe up sour-milk-vomit or buckle anyone in but yourself when you get in your car.

And, you’ll cry because you will wonder what happened to your beautiful babies and you’ll look back on those days that sucked with such fondness and gratitude and bliss.  And you’ll miss holding a lavender-scented sleeping infant in your arms.

And you’ll have absolutely no desire to do it all over again.

I’m old and out of touch, just like I swore I’d never be…

I have been making a mental list of things I don’t understand.

It’s a long one.

(That’s what she said.)

And, being both a mother and a teacher I am therefore surrounded by young people for the vast majority of my waking hours.  And, you might think that this would aid me in my quest for ultimate world domination and superiority over others, but you’d be wrong.  Being around young people just makes me realize how little I know about the world around me.

macbethI have, like, a couple of degrees and whatnot.  I’m, you know, smart ‘n stuff.  I can recite a heaping chunk of the prologue of “The Canterbury Tales” in the original Middle English.  I can recall the entire first scene of “Macbeth” from memory.  I can say the alphabet backwards.  I know all the words to REM’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.”  I know my IQ.  I am not telling you what it is, but let’s just say that I’m not not telling you ‘cuz I’m embarassed, but because I don’t want you to feel bad about yourself.

And, yet, since I am swimming in a sea of Disney-Beiber-CallofDuty-Miley-Legos-XBoxLive-ness, I too often feel like a dipshit.

maniacsI remember being a teenager and just “knowing” that my folks were so out-of-touch.  They didn’t know ANYTHING about REALITY because they thought that 10,000 Maniacs were an LA gang and that Nirvana was Viking heaven.

Of course, my parents felt that their lack of knowledge of popular culture was irrelevant and that the real REALITY was, you know, mortgages and car insurance and W2s and that sort of thing.

I agree that personal finance is closer to relevant than knowing all of the stock characters on Saturday Night Live might be.  Nevertheless, I feel just a little silly and old when I realize how much there is that I don’t know.

galtLike this:

Who is Benedict Cumberbatch? (I know who John Galt is, but for some reason that doesn’t seem to matter to the people on Pinterest as much.)

Wasn’t “Dr. Who” a TV show in the 80’s?  Why is everyone talking about it now?

Name one song by Macklemore that isn’t “Thrift Shop.”  I dare you.  (Actually, don’t.  You probably can name 20 and then I will just feel worse.)

Who the fuck is ASAP Rocky?  (And why does one student keep insisting he is better than Tupac?  I never even heard the name ‘ASAP Rocky’ before, but I can tell you that it doesn’t matter.  There is no fucking way he is better than Tupac.)

Does anyone actually believe that Katy Perry, Beyonce and Miley Cyrus are feminists?

greeneAm I the only person on the planet who hasn’t yet read The Fault in Our Stars? (I’ve read almost everything William Shakespeare has ever written.  Aren’t I done reading things yet?)

At the end of the day, though, folks, I have to admit that I love learning.  So, if anyone out there can enlighten me regarding any of this or can share some wisdom with me about our world, I am more than interested in hearing about it.  Feel free to share the answers to these pressing questions in the comments section or pose a few of your own.

Thanks for reading!

Guest Post

Why I Do Not Think a Five Year Old Should be Labeled ADD

by Rachel Thomas

Our daughter is seven years older than our son and she started out in public school and excelled pretty much all the way through school. She is a very controlled, structured person and not very social because of it. She found that about grade five things were changing, the boys thought the girls had cooties and no longer wanted to play with her,and the girls just wanted to talk about boys and clothes; something she had no desire to do. So she sort of just pulled herself out of the social scene and generally had one friend at a time.

Our son on the other hand was extremely social and because he was customarily around women (his sister, grandmother, and mom) he knew how to treat the girls from the get go. He had a hard time sitting and staying on task and from the time he was in Kindergarten the teacher were telling me they thought he was ADD. Being the parent of only two children, one which was extremely controlled and calm, I had a hard time accepting this. He was a happy, funny, outgoing five year old who made friends easily. He was not a behavioral problem; he just could not sit in one place for too long.

My solution was to put him back in Kindergarten again to see if he would mature enough to be able to sit still but it did not seem to help. Plus the fact that he was in a private school with an accelerated curriculum did not help. The teachers told me he could not keep up and because they were a private school they did not have any programs or after school hours to give him extra help, which frankly puzzled me. I know there is a lot more to it than I am aware of but you would think that if you were paying for a school there would be extra help.

Anyway, I struggled with what to do about the situation. I was determined to get to the bottom of this myself and not just rely on the opinions of the teachers. I, like all parents, loved my son dearly and upon their suggestion of putting him in public school because they have programs and funding for needs such as his I plotted out a course of action. Since we did not have a ton of money I talked to as many learned people as I could and found out ways I could get help. I found that our local university had a program with professors and students studying learning disabilities. I wanted to be sure what we were dealing with so I decided to take him in for testing. It was such a good experience; everyone was so helpful and kind. They tested his eyesight, his hearing, and checked for any learning disabilities; he was six at the time. They told me he did not have any learning disabilities and was brighter than average in many areas.

Next I took him to see a psychologist to check him for ADD/ADHD. He put him through a series of tests and gave us papers with questions for Mom and Dad and teachers to answer about his behavior and abilities. He came out borderline ADD. I decided not to put him on the medications at the time. He stayed in private school through first grade and part of second when I realized he needed much more. In our area we can put our children in any school in the district with permission from the principal if they are not overcrowded or the student does not have behavior problems. We studied the schools in the area and found the one we thought would be best.

They certainly did make way more provisions for him at the public school. They gave him a quiet place to do his work away from the other students when necessary and gave him more time as well if he needed it. The teachers were more than willing to work with us to help. Again, they were sure he had ADD, something I am not sure of to this day but I can see how they would come to this conclusion. I knew how my son worked, how if he did not want to do something he would not do it, and if that comes under the title of ADD then I guess he is. I would be more likely to put it under the title of pig headed and stubborn but what do I know?

The second grade teacher made sure that he was directed to the best third grade teacher. At least she made a recommendation which the principal accepted. The third grade teacher was a jewel, very strict but very loving, which is something my son needed very much! I was actively talking to the teachers all the time and keeping up with what was going on. I wanted to let them know how very important my son was to me. I believe this is so important when it comes to our children and especially so when they are having trouble in school. She told me that she did not want my son to be pigeon holed into special programs and labeled for years to come. They had been sending him to reading specialists and giving him other tests to try and get him into the right special help groups. This third grade teacher knew he was bright, just like I did, and she also knew he was determined not to show it.

They called me into talk about our son and I listened. They wanted to put him in speech therapy for a slight lisp which was fine with me; that could not hurt. And then they told me they wanted him to go to a special reading class during school everyday, which I was assured was not a special education class. I was thrilled with that as well. When any topic came up on special education classes I told them I was not interested and then I brought in my paperwork from the university studies that were done on my son to show them he did not have learning disabilities. That stopped the conversation post haste and because I had his teacher’s support as well they dropped it. That year his grades came up one to two letters in each subject and his reading improved immensely. The extra help in putting him in quiet corners or going to the library in a cubicle to do his testing really helped. The extra reading help and the encouragement from a strong yet loving teacher was another great advantage for my son.

I am not saying that no child anywhere needs ADD medicine; I just do not think it is the end all and be all of answers for every child that can not sit still and does not want to do their work. I would be thrilled if someday they had a different class for boys than they do for girls or one for active kids versus the ones that can sit and be still because all of us learn differently and at different rates of speed.

What I am trying to say is that as parents we should do all that we can to ensure our children are put in the right programs and taught in the most effective way. If we do not get deeply involved they will get lost in the system. I know that we can not all afford expensive testing for our children on our own but I do know that if you do just a little research you can find free testing like I did at the local university. I did use insurance for the psychologist but I am sure there are ways to get a child tested outside of the school system so that you will have all the information to present to those special needs committees that you may be called in front of regarding your child.

Meeting with their teachers and being a participant in their education costs you nothing but time but lets the teachers know how much you care and that you have a desire to help and not let your child get lost in the system. Sometimes this will require a change of schools or it may require home schooling in parts of the country where there are no other options. But as for me my child is worth all the extra work and investigation into alternatives. He is now a young adult and has successfully gotten through high school and has even thanked me for getting him extra help with reading because he is a beautiful reader and feels sorry for those kids who are struggling. But at the same time he gets a bit miffed at me because he graduated at age nineteen because of his two year stint in Kindergarten. He asked me, “What did I do wrong? Put the wrong peg in the wrong hole?” And then he grins and it makes everything all worth while.

 

**Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for babysitting.net. She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to rachelthomas.author@gmail.com.

House of Lies

He’s a player.

Maybe.

It’s hard to tell, really.  And, I love him so much.  It can be very difficult to be objective about this and sometimes it is just really tough to decipher the truth from the lies.

He is my 5-year old son.

I think I have some of it down pat:

  • “Mommy, I am not hungry anymore.” = LIE.  If I offer you ice cream, you will magically find room in that tummy.
  • “I love you, Mom.” = TRUTH.  I am very lovable.

But, here are the grey areas I have recently discovered:

  • “You spend more time with my brother than with me.  Is that because you love him more than you love me?”

—Hmmm… well, the answer to that question is, “My love is not divided, but multiplied.  I will never love anyone or anything more than I love you.  And, I will never love anyone or anything more than I love your brother.”  But, I can’t tell if that little man is playing my sensitive heart because he wants me to spring for a new Minecraft app or if he is genuinely worried about where he stands in our family.

  • “I promise to put it back where I found it.”

—This is not a lie because he really means it when he says it.  But, it also isn’t true because whatever “it” is, it never ends up back where it was originally found.  So, this has me wondering whether this is a punishable offense for irresponsibility or whether it is evidence of the need to work on basic skills in memory and household obligations.

  • “You are an excellent cook.”

—This sounds nice.  I like to hear it.  But, I think I am being ego-stroked for ulterior motives.  My husband has taught the kids that they may not leave the dinner table until they ask to be excused, thank their mother for the meal and let her know that they enjoyed the fruits of her work.  Then, they have to clean up their plates and they may go play until homework or bedtime.  Now, my son may truly believe that I am his personal 5-star chef or he could be trying to score some points for extra playtime or the coveted statement of, “Don’t worry, honey.  I will clean up your plate.  Go play.”

I do have to say, though, that I am pretty wise to my children’s games for the most part.  I can tell when a bellyache is real.  I can differentiate between crocodile tears and the real ones.  I know you’re not really sleeping!  I see that your toys are not put away!

But, I do wonder when it is important to assume a child is being straight with you and when he is trying to scheme on ya.

Advice?

 

The People They Interview on the News Have Children

If you haven’t read everything I have ever posted, why the hell not?

good teacherJust kidding.

Sort of.

But, indeed, if you haven’t read everything I have ever posted, you might not know that I am a teacher in my spare time from being a mother.

I engage in the rampant arguing about the worth of the education professions mostly just in my own mind, but I did want to share something for all of the anti-teacher assholes who troll blogs and websites lurking and waiting for the opportunity to fill up precious lines of “reply” spaces spewing hatred and complaints about “overpaid” “babysitters” and worthless union stooges.

I suppose even those of you who are in support of your local (and not-so-local, too) teachers can listen up as well, though.

Everyone loves to talk about whether teachers are worth their salt.  Opinions are like assholes, though, right?  Everybody’s got one.

Instead of opinion, I thought I would offer you some facts.

1.  Two days ago, I attempted to call the parent of a failing 14-year old student in my class.  She didn’t answer and I left a message.  She did return my correspondence, though, just a few minutes later with an e-mail.  She apologized for not being able to get to the phone in time since she was in the “laboratory.”

2.  In a meeting with a parent about her son’s poor behavior in class this fall, the mother smacked her son in the back of his head and told him to “stop be bein’ so ignant.”  I assume she meant “ignorant,” but even then, I could have used that example to prove the same point.

3.  During a field trip, a local businessperson spoke to a group of high school students, but apologized that she wasn’t normally very good at public speaking.  She said that she wasn’t very “ellocant.”

4.  In a meeting with a parent about why it was important to encourage a high school student to read her English assignments at home, the mother argued that the teacher (a colleague of mine) needed to “settle the fuck down” because there was no point of talking about that “Julia Caesar stuff like it was real or somethin’.”

5. At my former job, two parents were once called in to the main office to pick up their children who had been involved in a pretty nasty fight in the hallway.  In the middle of the office, these two mothers (adults, mind you) got into a fistfight of their own.  They were arrested by local police.

6.  At a park a few summers back, I was near enough to a family reunion happening in a pavilion nearby to overhear a group of what seemed like aunts and uncles teaching a 4- or 5-year old boy to say hilarious things like “back the fuck off me, bro” and “don’t be a pussy.”  They laughed raucously (which was the primary reason my attention was pulled in their direction to begin with).

sign7.  When a coworker called home last week to explain that a freshman student would be receiving a referral to our school counselor for masturbating in class, the boy’s mother yelled at the teacher (a coworker of mine) that her son “don’t do dat.”

Sadlly, I could go on.

But, I feel bad about the world right now, so I am not going to.

When I see a child for 42 minutes a day for 188 days in a calendar year, but he is exposed to all of THAT for much of the rest of the time in his home and in his community, I am not sure how to counteract the damage.  It’s like running at an exploding volcano with a sand pail and then having people traipse all over the internet later talking about what a fucking douche you were for not doing “your job” right in cleaning up the mess.

So, if you will excuse me, I need to go put my feet up, collect a giant paycheck and do my nails while your kids play Candy-Pet-Makeover-Farm-Saga on their iPhones until dismissal.

I’m Raising Your Boyfriend

When I first had begun my journey of motherhood, I was insanely frustrated by the fact that nobody was brutally honest about how hard parenting is.

1Now, I am pretty flabbergasted by how many people are coming out of the woodwork to talk about how hard parenting is.

I am actually a little pissed that I am not unique in a way.  But, I am also quite comforted to be reminded that I am not completely alone in my troubles.

I have two children:  two amazing, beautiful, kindhearted boys who are, without question, the most important and the  most phenomenal things in my life.  These two are very different and that always amazes me.  They came from the same gene pool.  They live in the same home.  They follow the same routines.  But, they have their own distinct personalities.

My firstborn is a pistol.  He is fiercely, triumphantly, vehemently independent.  He is also brave, gentle, giving, creative, smart and energetic.  But, for the sake of this post, I am just going to focus on the independence for now.

I am very proud that he is a free thinker.  No, seriously:  VERY PROUD.  As an academic myself, I have very high regard for individuals who pave their own ways.  He is an inventor, not a consumer.  He is a leader, not a follower.  That fucking rocks.

This quality made it difficult for me, though, to learn how to effectively parent.  I was really thrown into the deep end of the motherhood pool and left to sink or swim with this little guy.  As a tiny bean, he rarely wanted to do anything I told him to do:  ever.  This was very trying.  And, it was potentially dangerous as many of things I told him to do were merely for his own personal safety.

He is a little older now, though, and he and I have really gotten to know each other well.  I have always loved him with every bit of my being.  But, we are becoming friends now, too.  And, I can’t explain how awesome that is.  If you have a great relationship with your kid, though, you know just what I mean.

My baby is as happy as they come.  He smiles nearly incessantly.  And, he is so freakin’ laid back.  All. The.  Time.  He can’t be shaken (well, unless he has a new tooth coming in or desperately needs a nap).  He pleasantly goes along with just about any request I make of him.  He isn’t a mindless drone, mind you.  He is just so pleased to learn and discover and be shown the ways of the world.  He is excited to see and wonder and experience.

Toddlerhood is really rough.  If you are a parent, I am not really breaking any big news here.

For one child, the toddler period was filled with “No!” and “I don’t WANT to!” and “Aaaaaaagggggggghhhhhhhh!”

For the other the toddler period seems to be filled with “Okay, Mommy!” and “Hee Hee” and lots and lots of snuggling.

I love both of these children.  One is not better than the other.  I don’t wish one is, was, or would be more like the other.

But, wow.  This should be added to the list of Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a Parent: raising a young child is basically starting a brand-new relationship.  You may not be in love at first.  You each may do things that the other doesn’t understand or pisses the other party off to no end.  You may each say some things you don’t mean.  You may feel like walking out.  You may sway from love to frustration and back again many times in a single day.  You may disappoint one another.  And, it may take you both a very long time to really get to know one another deeply.

When you bring a child into a family, you are meeting a new person and starting a new relationship with him or her.  All relationships have rocky spots.  All relationships have peaks and valleys.  This is no different.

messy handsYou may be blessed with the world’s most wonderful child.  He or she may be so “easy,” as parents say.  This often translates to a child who is generally quiet and obedient; a child who sleeps well and loves to try new foods; someone who never embarrasses you in public or has poop squish up her back while you are in line at the grocery store.  You may also be blessed with a “difficult” child.  He is often boisterous, physical, and messy; he has a mind of his own; he doesn’t care what other people think; he may be a pretty big personality.  Either way, you’re still blessed.

The first relationship our children have is with their parents.  Then, hopefully, they will go on to have hundreds of other successful relationships:  with friends, romantic partners, classmates, teachers, coworkers, neighbors, spouses, families and so on.  What we build with our kids follows the same pattern we’ve forged as we might have built any other relationship of our own in the past.  And, how we build our relationships with our kids helps show them the foundation for how they should create interpersonal relationships with others in the future.

This is yet another way in which we might inevitably to something to send them into therapy one day.

Nevertheless, with our best intentions, we move forward, getting to know these little personalities better and better with each passing moment.

How to Land a Nanny Job

My family is now on its fourth nanny in just over two years.  They all parted with us on good terms.  And, one of those we hired knowing that she’d only be able to work for a few months.

The-nannyHowever, with such turnover in this time, I now fancy myself a nanny-hiring guru.

I have interviewed, background-checked, e-chatted and met with…um...lots of potential nannies in my day.

In the time I have been scrambling through dozens and dozens and dozens of applications, letters of interest and e-mails, I have come up with some pointers for people who are currently seeking employment in personal in-home childcare.

1.  BE HONEST.  Now, this seems like a no-brainer.  But, here’s the deal:  If you can only work 3 days a week, you need to be honest about that.  If you do not have experience with potty-training a toddler, you need to be honest about that.  In other lines of work, an employer will train you to do most things.  So, like, if you apply for a job at a grocery store but have never run a cash register before, it isn’t all that big of a deal.  They will show you how whether you have experience or not.  This is not the case with childcare.  Don’t know how to change a diaper and you’re applying for a job working for twin 1-year olds?  You’re screwed.

2.  LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.  If you do not feel passionate about being a part of a child’s growth; if you do not truly love teaching and playing; if you do not have a deep interest in helping a young person to form his earliest and most basic understanding of the universe around him, just don’t friggin’ apply.  I am talking to you, Girl-Who-Only-Wants-A-Nanny-Job-Because-She-Majored-In-Philosophy-At-The-Local-Community-College-And-No-One-Else-Will-Hire-Her.  You better be clear about your intentions.  There is no busy working parent out there who wants to start this process of nanny-finding all over again in six weeks when you land a better gig at the Shoe Mall.  Get on the bus or get away from the stop.  Apply for nanny jobs because you want to be a nanny.  Period.

3.  BE LITERATE.  When you apply for a job you have found online or through any other advertising avenue, make sure to present yourself as a learned person.  Even if you are merely responding to a posting on a childcare website, make sure to write a full response to the posting.  Use capital letters and full words and sentences.  Use proper punctuation.  Do not use slang.  Address the job poster by name if you know it.  Even consider writing a formally-formatted letter and including an updated resume that highlights your childcare experience.  Do not include a resume you have left over from four years ago when you were looking for a job at accounting firms.  And, when you speak with your potential employer on the phone, you must sound professional and well-spoken, too.  I don’t want you helping my kid with his spelling words if you can’t string a coherent sentence together.  My five-year old should not have better grammar than you do.

4.  BE ON TIME.  EXACTLY.  In the real world, you should always be 15 minutes early for an interview.  This is not the case for a nanny interview, particularly if it is at someone’s private residence.  You should be EXACTLY on time.  ON THE DOT.  If you are even one minute late, your potential employer will notice.  If you are early, you are inconveniencing the homeowner.  Most parents have a to-the-minute schedule that is followed.  And, even if they don’t, if a baby needs a diaper change right before your arrival, mom may look at the clock, see that it is 7:23 and believe that she still has seven minutes to get the baby changed and cleaned up before you arrive.  If you come-a-knockin’ at 7:25, she is now elbow-deep in poop, the dog is barking (and this makes the baby cry), and she can neither get to the door nor open it with her crap-hands.  Now she’s flustered.  And, this is the emotion she is going to start your interview with.  Not good.

5.  IT IS AS IT IS.  If you are using a service that connects job-seekers with job-posters, most nanny positions, you will notice, have details listed clearly about the job expectations.  You should be prepared to live with everything the job poster posts before you contact him or her to move forward.  If I posted that my job pays $11/hour, do not come to an interview and waste my time when you know you will refuse to accept anything lower than $15/hour.  If you cannot be at work until 9AM, do not send me an e-mail telling me that you would be perfect for my job, but only you can’t start at 6:30 AM.  If you can’t start at 6:30 AM, then you are NOT perfect for my job.  Look, there are plenty of candidates who can and will meet every one of my needs.  There are more potential nannies out there than there are nanny jobs.  I cannot be coaxed into hiring a less-than-ideal candidate when it is a fact that a truly ideal candidate is absolutely out there.

6.  JUMP IN.  If you are fortunate enough to be granted an interview at someone’s home, recognize that this is not for the purpose of talking with you about salary requirements and discussing your educational background.  This is a parent or guardian’s way of seeing how you interact with the kids.  If the kids don’t like you, you’re done.  So, jump in.  Hug and play.  High-fives are always good.  Even bring your favorite age-appropriate children’s book and ask the kids if they’d like to read with you.  If you see a dropped toy, pick it up.  If the kids are on the floor, but mom is on the couch, get on the floor.  Your real interview is with the little ones.  Smile.  Be fun.  Be energetic.  Ask the kids questions about their favorite games, toys, books and pets.  If you see a runny nose, go get a tissue.  This gives your potential employer a sample of the nanny you will be when he or she is not there.

7.  BE DEPENDABLE.  If you live in a state where cars must be inspected, make sure that you are up-to-date.  Have your car tuned-up and checked out before driving to a potential employer’s house.  Make sure it is clean.  If this is the vehicle in which you will be transporting children, you need to make sure it is dependable and clean to set parents’ minds at ease about allowing their babies to get into a potentially lethal weapon with you at the helm.  And, along with this idea, you should, again, be on time, dress conservatively (no baby tees, no minis, no shorty-short shorts, no stilettos, no overflowing boobage, etc.).  Look like a respectable person.  Drive a respectable (or at least well-cared-for) car.  Keep your driving record clean.  Get a background check through your police department and be ready to hand over the results to potential employers.

8.  TAKE CARE OF YOU.  Don’t smoke.  Don’t post hussy pictures of yourself on Instagram.  Don’t talk about keg stands on Facebook.  Don’t do anything that can get you arrested.  Eat well and let employers know that nutrition and fitness are important to you (as you will be in charge of their children’s well-being quite a bit).   Get in shape if you aren’t already.  I hate to think about discrimination, but if you don’t seem like you could run after my 2-year old and catch him, you’re no good to me.

9.  SEND A THANK-YOU NOTE AFTER YOUR INTERVIEW.  In any line of work, if you interview with someone face-to-face, you should send a handwritten thank-you immediately after your meeting.  It is classy.  E-mail is not the same thing, either.

10.  BE WILLING TO GO THE EXTRA MILE.  Every parent who is in a position to hire a nanny is doing so to alleviate some of the pressures that exist in trying to juggle things like career, family, volunteering, community engagement, school, etc.  The nanny who lands the job will ultimately be willing to do more than just sit and stare at kids all day.  Consider offering to do children’s laundry, prepare meals, do grocery shopping, vacuum, dust, walk the dog, etc.  Consider offering to help keep family mail, papers, records, schedules, etc. organized.  Referring to yourself as a “Nanny and House Manager” is helpful, too.  It might even land you some more money.

Of course, these ten rules don’t guarantee you a damn thing.  There are no guarantees in this world, of course.  But, I have found that candidates who are able to offer the “total package” really are in the minority overall.  While I mentioned that there are a gazillion nannies looking for jobs, you will absolutely stand out if you are professional, passionate, educated, driven, energetic, punctual, caring, classy, organized, clean, and healthy.

Happy job hunting!

Ways I will judge you

I am not terribly likeable in person.

It’s okay.  I’m cool with that.  People who get to know me learn that what appears to be a proclivity toward stuck-uppitude is actually a little anxiety and a whole lot of self-consciousness.

Just because I tend toward the shy side in small groups doesn’t mean that I am not just a little stuck-up, though.

For example, I will make fairly irreversible judgments about…

1.  Your ability to use “THERE,” “THEIR” and “THEY’RE” correctly in writing.

ttt

2.  Whether you are out in public wearing an anklet.

Anklet under nylons with open-toed shoes= even more judgment.

Anklet under nylons with open-toed shoes= even more judgment.

3.  Whether you open the door for others.

4.  How firm your handshake is.

5.  Whether you drink any type of wine (sparkling or otherwise) that is pink in color.

Even better:  pink wine in a box.

Even better: pink wine in a box.

6.  Whether I can say the words “oligarchy,” “cerebral,” “phantasmagorical,” “echelon” and “fuck” in your presence without feeling either condescending or chastised.

7.  Whether you have read a book – in its entirety – in the past 6 months.

8.  How nice your teeth are.

smile

9.  Whether you ignore your children when they attempt to run around among all the tables at Olive Garden.

10. How much very personal information you post about on Facebook.

tmi

What about you?  Anything you see in others that you just can’t help judging immediately?

And it has come to this

It is possible to be lost in a familiar place

To be both empty and full.

Sometimes it just happens that way.

And there might be a moment that passes by on a cloud

With a whisper and a breath like honeysuckle in August.

It might be possible to realize that it is all sort of a joke

That isn’t really funny

When you’re the only one left in your neighborhood not

Riding a bike to Whole Foods, toting reusable cloth bags.

And they don’t make bikes that come equipped with sidecars

For your munchkins (of which there seem like there are so many that you might as well sell your house and live in a shoe).

And, it is even harder being cool enough to have mojitos after work with the gang

When you have to leave a paying job for a thankless one from which you will never retire.

But, you were never really cool, anyway, and there are very small people in your life who remind you of that every chance they get.

frazzledYou sway from tired to wired depending on whether coffee or Xanax were easier for you to reach.

You hear a bump in the night and are more certain that it will soon be followed with the sounds of someone stuck upside-down in a trash can, inches away from a crib

Than you are that it is someone in the rumpus room trying to steal your big screen.

‘Cause you can’t afford a big screen, anyway.  You’re saving for Disney.

And it has come to this.

So it goes.

There was a time when you’d be lost in Vonnegut at midnight.

And before that you’d have been lost in the bottom of a filthy mug

In a place you’ve since forgotten, but you still remember that it was too sketchy to risk sitting on a chair or, you know, touching anything.

But, now you seem to have forgotten what midnight looks like,

Except, of course, when it comes into your world because of an emergency

And the connector of those circumstances and these

Is someone else’s vomit on your feet.

So it goes.

You’ve tried and tried to hide and cry alone in a bathroom for Just. One. Goddamn. Minute.  PLEASE.

But there’s never not a knock at the door.

So it goes.

I believe I can see the future
Cause I repeat the same routine
I think I used to have a purpose
But then again
That might have been a dream
I think I used to have a voice
Now I never make a sound
I just do what I’ve been told

So it goes.

 

 

Is it June yet?

Tgood teacheroday, I shall further my rant about teenagers.

In case, you haven’t caught up with my blog in a while, or…um…ever before, you might not know that I am a high school teacher and a proud momma of two little ones.  I have always said that I do not understand kids at all until they turn about 13.  Most other parents likely cringe at the thought of their children going through the teen years, but I honestly have no idea what to do or say to most 3-year olds.  I just don’t have that piece of DNA in me that makes me want to sit on the floor and play with Play Doh.

I “get” teenagers.  I don’t always like them.  But, I get them.

However…

It is nearly June.  And, if you have never taught you don’t know how much you just kinda want to get away from these kids by this point in the year.

I spent some time in a “real job” in an office.  I hated it.  HATED IT.  But, I have to say that I never wanted to get the fuck away from my coworkers with quite the same desperate passion as I truly want to get away from students after 9 months together.

Indeed.

Indeed.

My coworkers never complained that “someone farted.”  And, they never broke my box fan during a before-class wrestling match that involved a disagreement over a purple pen.  They also never surrounded my desk and yelled my name at me over and over again even though I was clearly talking with someone else.  Their parents never called me to scream at me, threatening to have me fired since they “pay my salary.”  I never broke up a fist fight between my coworkers.  My office was always air-conditioned.  I got an hour for lunch at my office (not the 12 minutes I end up with by the time I microwave leftovers, find something to drink, go down the hall to the lounge and sit down).  I could pee whenever I wanted.  I never had to repeat what I wanted others to do, like, a MILLION times.  My day started at a normal time, not 7:06.  No one ever threatened to slash my tires.  No one ever looked me in the face and said, “I am going to fucking kill you, bitch.”

Now, don’t get me wrong:  I 100%, without question love my work.  There is absolutely nothing I would rather be doing.  I did some soul searching while at that terrible office job.  I bought a book called “What Should I Do With My Life?” in the hopes that it would tell me what to do with my life.  It didn’t help one damn bit.  But, I did end up back in a classroom and it was the best goddamn decision I have made in a very, very long time.

ftsMoms and dads may complain about their children.  This does not mean that they do not love them.

I happen to have 102 children.  I complain about them all the time.  But, I do still love them.

But, now it is your turn to deal with them for a few months.  Get me outta here.

Surviving Teendom

Teen angst.

Ugh.

We all went through it and yet somehow no adults seem to have figured out yet how to get the 12-19 year-old crowd to know for certain that

  1. You are not alone
  2. You are not ugly.  People who call others “ugly” are being ugly.
  3. Not EVERYONE hates you.
  4. There’ll be sad songs that make you cry.  They don’t freaking help anything.  Stop listening to them.
  5. Do not call, text or drive past your ex’s house or person.  It’s not helpful.
  6. School isn’t about algebra and sentence diagramming.  It’s about life.
  7. Your haircut is stupid.
  8. Reading books gets you farther in life than the “right” shoes, purse, belt or phone ever will.
  9. Punctuality matters.  Really.
  10. If you learn how to shake hands and look someone in the eye you will do well in both your private and your work lives.
  11. You should be the girl/guy who can be introduced to Mom or else you will never be good for anything other than a fling.
  12. It is not true that no one understands you.  We totally understand you.  We WERE you.  And we know you’re acting dumb so get over yourself.
  13. Swearing has its place.  Grown-ups do it, too.  But it isn’t for street cred.  It is only as a legitimate expression of emotion, amplitude or art.
  14. Yes, family is more important that friendship.  We’ve all had friends who were practically family, but that entire 8th grade clique of yours isn’t going to be with you when you’re 59 and your mother dies or when you lose your job with no explanation after 32 years of service.
  15. 99% of what matters to you today you will not even be able to remember in 10 years.
  16. Skinny jeans are not for everyone.  Find your own style that makes you look your best.
  17. You won’t die if you put down the electronics for a day.  Interact with humans, for crying out loud.
  18. Your mom will eventually prove to have been right about, well, everything, ever.
  19. It’s called a “waistband” because it goes around your thighs.  Just kidding.  You look absurd.
  20. Your poetry is probably not that good.

If, one day, we can find a way to convince the young buckaroos of these facts, peace will reign.  Doves will soar above the mountaintops.  Rainbows and angels’ songs will permeate all the lands.  All will be right with the world.

 

Parenting a “Difficult” Child

I am a teacher.  And a mom.  So, my days are full of “Be nice!,” “Go get a tissue!,” and “Keep your hands to yourself!”.

And, mind you, I teach high school students.

But, I am also the mother of two spirited little boys.  The older of the two is in preschool right now.

Now, I am going to sound like a total asshole here pretty soon.  Feel free to stop reading right now if you are easily offended.

In my career with high school students, I have tackled subjects from eugenics to Descartes to anitdisestablishmentarianism.  We’ve discussed psychology, faith and String Theory.  We read Shakespeare and Hawthorne and Orwell.

"Your little 'angel,' Prudence, colored on the wall today.  You don't LET her do that at home, DO YOU?  Please make her stop coloring on walls."

“Your little ‘angel,’ Prudence, colored on the wall today. You don’t LET her do that at home, DO YOU? Please make her stop coloring on walls.”

Now, I do not believe that my job is necessarily more important than that of an Early Childhood educator.  I don’t even know enough about Early Childhood to even speak intelligently about what it is that they do all day, though on more than one occasion I have snobbily remarked that they pretty much just pass out crayons.

But, my experience has led me to conclude that teachers of children of the ages 4 to about 7 just may try to blur the line between authority figure and parent a bit more than I find comfortable.

Whew.  That was better than I thought it was going to be.  First Grade teachers everywhere are probably a little pissed, but I am proud that I managed to keep my assholery to a minimum so far, though.

Let’s dissect a bit, however.

Personally, I do not feel as though my child’s teacher has the right or the responsibility to help me to “learn” to parent “correctly.”  Now, believe you me, I would love to tell a few parents of a few ninth graders I know about how to do a better job at home.  I’d probably be fired for saying some of the things I’ve been thinking.  So, I am not sure why the teacher of a preschool student, for example, should be offering “advice,” either, really.  In fact, I find it to be pretty inappropriate.  And, frankly, if I want your fucking opinion, I will be sure to ask for it.

In the past year, my son’s teacher has done a phenomenal job of developing curriculum, keeping academic rigor high, and allowing him to develop intellectually to his own potential.  She has also managed to send me “helpful” articles, suggestions, and daily “updates” that discuss the minutia of his behavioral “issues.”  She has also lassoed our part-time nanny into picking him up early from school on days (which I have paid — a whole lot — for him to be present) when she finds his behavior too trying.  Two days ago, she called the nanny 15 minutes into the school day to warn her that she may be calling to have our son removed from school that day.  She did not end up requiring him to leave, though.

Before I had kids, I always sort of wanted parents of my students to know when their kids were real dicks.  I’d write down the blasphemous, racist, insensitive, vulgar, sexist bullshit they would spew word-for-word on detention forms.  I wanted to quote those little snots.  I wanted parents to know that they were raising animals.  I wanted some smug mom to know that her baby wasn’t the angel she thought he was.

Sounds right to me.

Sounds right to me.

Now, as a mom, I now realize that we all know that our kids aren’t perfect.  We all realize that WE aren’t perfect, either.  I suck at math.  But, I am pretty bomb at Wheel of Fortune, for example.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

So, I feel now as though a child’s perceived weaknesses need not be recapped, reiterated, written about, reviewed and discussed freaking constantly.

TEACHER:  “Your kid doesn’t really always play very nicely with others.”

ME:  “Neither do I.”

And, yet I find myself concerned about the potential stigma for my child and for me if he should be labeled (albeit secretly in a faculty lounge somewhere where ladies in holiday-themed sweaters, gossip about MY kid, repeat the crazy, out-of-context weirdness he learned from his father and me, and share strategies on where to buy the best scented ink-stamp pads) “difficult.”

"You know, Little Felix has not been able to take turns being 'line leader.'  I totally credit your inadequacy as a parent in this scenario."

“You know, Little Felix has not been able to take turns being ‘line leader.’ I totally credit your inadequacy as a parent in this scenario.”

Am I parenting a “difficult” child?  I don’t think so.  He is his own little man and his ideas don’t always mesh with mine.  His needs and desires don’t always align with mine.  His interests don’t always connect with mine.  And, every teacher isn’t going to think he is fabulous (just like every teacher isn’t going to think he’s a ghoul, either).

I go on the Super Nanny website.  I have “house rules.”  I set boundaries.  I have clear and pre-defined consequences for negative behaviors.  I have instituted a positive behavioral reward system.  I have consistent expectations and have regular talks about respect, kindness, teamwork, sharing, calmness, taking turns and showing love.  My husband is very much a co-parent in all of this, too.  My kid is absolutely getting a united front before him.

We’re doing things right.

And, now I see that many, many, many parents of the “difficult” children I have taught were doing things right, too.  It wasn’t my fault as a teacher that a kid failed a class or misbehaved in school any more than it was the parent’s fault.  Our kids are all given tools to survive in the world.  They choose, willfully, if, how, and when they will use them.

You are not parenting a difficult child.  Neither am I.  And, don’t let a teacher, healthcare worker, therapist, or judge tell you otherwise.  But, when problems seem consistent, something we’re doing to manage our children’s behaviors and abilities isn’t working.

And, you should feel free and welcome to ask the appropriate experts for their advice on how to approach things in a more meaningful and potentially successful way.

But, no one really should feel the freedom to provide you with that “advice” if it is not solicited.

Feel free to tell your teacher that you would love to have a phone call at work if your child is, say, bleeding from the head, projectile vomiting, fist-fighting in class, or making terroristic threats to other youngsters.  He or she should not call you at the office, though, to tell you that your daughter seems to need more structured playtime, your son should learn to share his toys, or your twins cannot stop pinching each other.

And, as a teacher, it is my JOB to deal with your crazy kids between the hours of 7:36 and 3:06.  It is unacceptable for me to tell you to come get your kid at 8:00 because I just can’t deal with her anymore.  I am paid to deal with her.

Labels are always wrong.  Except on Campbell’s soup.  We need those.  I don’t like surprises.  But, labels don’t belong on our kids.  Unless I ask you how you’d label him, you should keep your judgmental attitude to your damn self.

We all know that there are crappy parents out there.  Some of that bad parenting MAY cause some of our schools to contain horrifying little monsters.  But, we should be clear that it is not a teacher’s job to judge a parent’s worth or ability.  We can THINK anything we want as teachers.  But, under no circumstances should I share my opinions of your shortcomings with you.

Even though more parents than I can count have shared THEIR opinions about MY teaching shortcomings with me…

Yes, it’s my kid.

Off Duty Mom is proud to feature a special “Hooray for Mother’s Day” special publication!

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Guest Post by Stephanie Friant

You know, the one who starts poking the boy next to him during the end-of-year school show.

The one who has six different projects going on at the same time – then corrects me that it is only three.

The one who pulled the fire alarm at church because he wanted to know what it does.  (Special thanks to Fireman Luke who then handed out stickers.)

And the classic, after dumping all his books on the floor trying to find one particular story, his response to why he hadn’t picked them up was:  “I told [my little sister] to do it.”

He keeps me running.  I have spent so many days trying to get one step-ahead of him, but rarely ever get there.

I hope and pray that I can love him enough that the world will continue to be an adventure, a safe place.  Yet, I also know that at some point, I will be running miles behind him.

He has been, is, and will always be a gift.

He has stretched my mind and heart and spirit in ways I never thought possible.

This being of joy, love and unpredictability has transformed my world, allowing me to embrace the beauty of the unknown.

He is part of me and completely separate.  He is a mirror highlighting all my shadows, yet loving me regardless.

He will always be a bit of a mystery to me, yet in my own way, I get him.  I understand him as only a mother can – a being who miraculously made room for himself inside my own body, and now continuing to make room for himself in the world.  He is of my flesh, and will always be of my heart.

Stephanie Friant is a wife, mom, and friend with a calling for professional ministry.  She loves learning, writing, being outdoors, and helping others on their spiritual journeys.  Stephanie lives with her family in the Twin Cities and retreating to the cottage in Northern Michigan.

An ode to my mother

Off Duty Mom is proud to feature a special “Hooray for Mother’s Day” special publication!

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Guest Post by Jayde-Ashe

I am not a mother but I have a mother.
She is the most motherly mother that a mother could be.
My mother got no choice when they handed out children.
No, instead, my mother got me.

Not a daughter created within her own image.
Not as patient, and gentle, and respectful as she.
A moody child, impetuous, precocious and whiney.
Dismissive of all but the most desperate plea

To behave, sit still, slow down and be careful
To stop pulling away and attempting to flee.
To stop making decisions, always the wrong ones
To protect, and respect, and maintain dignity.

Never once did my mother embarrassingly ask
The question my father asked 13-year-old me.
What the most precious thing that I owned in the world was.
9 letters, 3 i’s and beginning with v.

Never once did my mother fail to be there
When I came back to her grasp in distressed agony.
Upset, disabused and completely forsaken
By a world who was not as forgiving as she.

The path that I chose was as far removed from
The path that she trod, as it could possibly be.
Yet the mother I love refused to pass judgement
On the daughter she raised so diligently.

She listens, reflects and makes gentle suggestions
Pointing out that which I fail to see.
For my youth, and my ignorance, my self-righteous beliefs
Obscure my vision continually.

And for that my mother is the one person in life
Who I admire, and respect, so effortlessly.
A person I now always strive to be like
Though I fail every day, absolute guarantee.

I am a 26 year old wanna-be writer, poet and publisher, enjoying a year of shameless unemployment. I am new to the blogosphere but I can foresee endless potential for procrastination already.  I love coffee, wine and gin, not necessarily in that order. But they are all an essential accompaniment to my other love, a good book.  Most of all, I love my mother, and I’m not ashamed to say it. She is the coolest person I know.

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