Category Archives: Teen Years

An Open Letter to my Daughter’s School District

I am a college graduate with a good secure job so I feel that I have an objective view, although how objective can anyone be when the conversation involves your own child? So I ask that you excuse my passion.

My daughter is not high risk or learning disabled. She is personable and bonded with her teachers, enough so as to get them to occasionally let her off the hook for things. She worked harder at avoiding work than doing it. She was at times bored. She doesn’t care for sports. She speaks English and she’s smart but not a self-starter, nor a high achiever, unless it is in something she passionate about. So where does she fall? Through the cracks, that’s where.

The ultimate goal of California high schools is to pass the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam.) It was mentioned frequently in the taped school updates on my answering machine at the end of the day. I think my daughter got 100% or close to it her sophomore year and she celebrated. While it always feels great to get a perfect score on anything (and I gave her some time to enjoy it), I told her that she is getting her perfect score on the lowered expectations of other people. I said she should aim higher than getting a great score on an exam that rewards the testers on being able to pass the maximum number of kids with a minimal amount of knowledge. Her goals should reflect the best of her.

I have nothing but admiration for the teachers. They work ridiculously hard for what they earn in money and respect. However, except for a few absolutely amazing ones, although all were very intelligent in their career choices, their knowledge of human psychology is lacking, and for that I blame the school district and the required prep courses for teachers.

You may say that teachers are only part of the equation and they need parents to work with their kids. And you may say you are doing the best you can with a minimal budget. I am a single working mother who has taken advantage of counselors, psychologists, paid tutors, used free library and museum offerings, made myself available at any time for homework or special projects, and driven everywhere and anywhere I could to help her, and I would do it all over again. Yet I feel I have dragged her through every semester for the last six years. I am exhausted but I will still admit I am not the perfect mother. Will you admit that you still have a long way to go?

I believe my daughter will go on to love education again, and I expect she will approach it with her own expectations, not lowered or compromised. She will survive your school, but is that the legacy you strive to leave?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Life, Teen Years

Earthquake Central

Summer is almost over and the Great California Shake Out earthquake drill approaches. Everyone in the state, from secretary down to the smallest kindergartner, “ducks and covers” at the exact time of 10:16 on 10/16 to prepare for the next “big one.” It seems like just yesterday I found myself sitting, hardhat and all, on the floor under my desk, thinking about how late I am in updating my emergency stash and hoping the “big one” wouldn’t beat me to it. I also remembered about how much of a time-suck this is for me.

I have earthquake bags in my car, at work, and in two closets at home. These bags contain 5 year water (yuk), freeze dried food (double yuk), and things like clothes, flashlights, emergency blankets, and toilet paper. Inside one of them is a gas turn-off tool to shut the gas down in case of leakage – something you can find hanging at most Southern California checkout lines and my girl knew how to work with it since she was just a little thing.

In the front hall closet, there is a list taped to the inside of the door listing the most important things to remember. It does triple duty for fire, flood, and earthquake and it needs updating since we’ve lost and gained some pets since I wrote it. The only possessions on my list are my grandmother’s vase, little E’s cherished stuffed dog named Sammy, photo albums, and a laptop – in that order. Anything else I can grab is gravy and my firebox will hopefully keep my important papers safe until I can get to them. As we always say, “things” are not that important when your life is at stake.

There are two hardhats in my closet, two in the car and, of course, a couple at the office. I have a bin in the backyard with inflatable mattresses and other survival gear, and a portable fire pit packed up in the garage ready to go.

You can’t pick up any of our weightier knick-knacks because they are “quakehold-ed” to the shelves (Christmas decorating is a nightmare) and nothing is on my uppermost wall shelf because I can’t find anything nice that won’t injure someone when it falls. Bookcases and wall units are bolted to the walls, and TV’s lashed to their entertainment centers like lifeboats to a ship. I have nothing heavy on the walls near our beds, and any tall furniture is purposely angled to hit something else before the floor – ninth grade Physics wasn’t lost on me!

Every year at daylight savings time, I am supposed to check, and usually replace, all the batteries that go into my numerous bags and bins –it’s built into my annual budget (don’t worry, I recycle.) And let me tell you, I am conservative in the area of preparedness. My friend has a generator – try replacing those batteries a couple of times!

Finally, my daughter has known for a long time where to go and what to do in the event of the “big one.” She has been practicing at school and at home for most of her life. For example, she knows that her uncle is the designated out-of-state phone call, don’t go after the animals because they will find their safe corner, avoid the kitchen – it’s a deathtrap – and hide under the dining room table with your arms around the legs because it will walk away.

If any of my non-west coast family ever comes to visit, training sessions are available.

1 Comment

Filed under Personal Life, Teen Years

Telling Tales

It was teacher conference time and I walked into the classroom for the lowdown on my sixth grader. I always expect to hear tales of drama and angst concerning my tween girl and Mrs. K. was ready with one of her favorites:

E came running in one day, pony purse in hand. (Yes, she carries a purse with a little pony in it. Doesn’t everyone?) Throwing her arms in the air, she cried “Mrs. K., Mrs. K., I’ve washed my hands, can I hold the gecko?!” (I was thrilled that someone or something could get her to wash her hands so things were looking up.) E continued to talk about how she begged her mother for a gecko if the eggs hatched and how her mother said no and (now envision the index finger moving up and down in your face) “Not another living thing is coming into this house unless it’s a man for me.”

I waited for the teacher to stop laughing and wipe away her tears. Then I told her that yes, it’s a true story, and she could probably guess how my daughter came by her flair for drama.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Life, Teen Years

Poker Face

When dealing with a girl-child, you need to keep your wits about you, not tip your hand. I have been doing that since Little E was a baby and I’m exhausted. Keeping from getting sucked into the big argument, making them think some task is their idea, and turning a nagging sentence inside out to become offhanded and subliminal as it proceeds down from the brain and out of your mouth – all part of living with a girl. My question to the gods is this….where do we learn this if our mothers used it on us? Did we absorb the parenting style? Maybe we don’t learn it. Maybe it’s innate, like breathing ………or shopping.
Granted there are minutes of relaxation when things run smoothly you think she’s grown more mature. Then the moment is over and you are again the worst mother in the world. Yes, sometimes we need those small victories to re-energize and steel us for the next round, when discussing yet another pet, yet another new dress for a Friday school dance, or a new cell phone with all the bells and whistles.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Life, Teen Years

Time Flies When Drama Unfolds

Yes, it’s been another year and, yes, I promised to write more. I won’t try to catch you up the same way I did last time. Suffice it to say the year held more drama than the last, and not all about my darling daughter. My broken ankle unleashed an emotional tornado filled with highs and lows never experienced in our home before. I think when mom is down and out, life is not as secure as it once was and much lashing out ensued that second semester. With patience and work, we came through the darkness into the light with minimal damage. Summer school is a must this year to fix the credit deficiency created by tanking Chemistry. And French 1B will be retaken in the Spring. However, an ease has settled between us and arguments have narrowed to just the subjects of picking up clothes and choice of TV (“How many times do I need to see this episode?”) A new maturity has moved in to organize and refocus her days. Taking ownership replaces the head-in-the-sand method. Requests for DVDs, CDs, and theme parks aren’t on her list this summer. She now asks for money for battered textbooks so she will be prepared for the new year, and talk of college has replaced the moody silence. Most meaningful for both of us….I can say “yes” more than “no.” We can all breathe again but I must keep my wits about me. After all, 16 is coming up and a teen is still a teen. But for now, I will enjoy this clean air left by the dark heavy showers that rolled through our home.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Life, Teen Years

Another Door

Suddenly a year has gone by and junior high school is over. Let me catch you up:
Buses, lunches, stolen iPod, friendships tested, lunch table, A’s & B’s, late homework, tests, web design, great teacher, no one asked her to dance, tears, too much paper, homework not handed in, teacher hates her, status reports, C’s & D’s, tutor, counselor, hates PE, loves dancing, new friends, working hard, B’s & C’s, trip to Disneyland, awards night, summer break. Whew! It was actually harder than it read.
After dropping her off at her first high school meeting, I am thinking I felt the same as when I was driving away from the first day of preschool. The only difference was that 10 years ago she was sobbing, and this time she was saying…”Mom! I don’t need you to walk me in. Just go!!!” Girls are tough, they are sometimes hormonal and lean (heavily) towards the dramatic side, but watching her grow has been my idea of an all time great movie – thrills and chills, leaving me wanting to watch it over, again and again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Life, Teen Years

Recession and Homework

It seems the recession has hit eighth grade. At least that’s my best guess. After the third semester of  junior high school spent dragging my kid over the June finish line, my nerves were frayed and sensitive.  I mean, really…. what is the big deal with completing and actually handing in homework? Yes, my Pisces kidlet is the “floating through life” kind of girl but there is just so much yelling, grounding, and electronics banishment I can do before my Capricorn tendencies start me towards a better way – or at least an explanation or something to help me understand and reformat my approach. There just had to be a reason.

I put a label to it one night when I asked her why she didn’t care. All I got was a shrug but it was added to my mental list of reasons and stuck. She just didn’t care. I started to look towards moms and dads in my same orbit to form a hypothesis and help me understand why evenings and weekends were just so tough. After mentioning my issues, I found sanctuary. They all had the same problem to varying degrees and listening to most of them was like hitting replay on my evenings. These families were all different, some with dads, some without. A grandma lived in one house. Commuters and stay-at-home moms. The common thread was always the same….why don’t the kids care? Validation meant at least now my mind could move forward instead of floundering every night in Algebra hell.

Let’s cut to the chase on this, and remember, this is strictly subjective. A couple of teachers had told me that, after the last round of budget wars, some carry upwards of 40 kids in classes, with a possibility of more. Add to that furlough days and reduction of class help. With those kind of distractions, kids who don’t become involved are just left behind. Teachers just don’t have the time to connect with them all. So normal kids like mine who lack the competitive streak need the spark at home, or they will be lost. My mission is now clear, and turns out a little more cerebral and less combative. Well, still combative, considering hormones. But my thoughts on this are more ordered and have direction. However, the computer is still locked up until the next progress report.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Life, Teen Years

Life is in the moments.

Moments can be humorous, most especially when you look back. For a single working mom, living in each moment is sometimes frustrating and frequently lunacy. Writing it down is therapy – it makes me laugh and helps me to move forward. By sharing these slices of my life, I hope to just lighten your day and help you to find comfort in the fact that you aren’t the only one sticking to the kitchen floor.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Life, Teen Years