Last Day of School .

As my daughter and so many other kids wrap up their last day of school for the 2011-2012 school year ..

I took a few moments this morning to say thank you to those who have been so gracious to us and walk the hallways one last time.

It’s cathartic to have moments like these as a parent .. to reflect on the year gone by, how much your child has changed ..

.. the people who have had such an impact, the things they have learned, the excitement of each day and the noise typically bouncing off the walls .. on the playground or a class out on the lawn.

Then see how empty ..

Put away neatly in its place ..

And how quiet everything now seems.

As a child, those sounds to me felt like freedom.  Freedom to sleep in for awhile.  Freedom to run.  To build forts, climb trees all day and go on lengthy, leisurely bike rides with friends.  It felt like it was time again for a fan in the window.  Chorus’ of crickets and frogs at night.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each day for lunch.  And popsicles.  Family reunions.  Packing bags for the summer vacation we always took in the car.  It just felt like change because I knew .. as I walked out of school each year .. that in a few months, it would bring a whole new class, set of challenges, responsibilities which thinking back, I always felt so ready for and that I was also getting older.  That was something I couldn’t wait for back then.  Sound familiar?

That was as a child.

As a parent .. school releasing for the year seems so bittersweet because I know it means in many ways, the same things to her as it did to me as a child.  But we also know now as adults, how quickly that time flies by.  And I want so very much, to savor each precious moment.

This is our last particular year at this school so we won’t be coming back.  Middle school awaits.  And unlike where I went to middle school, which was simply a walk down the hall .. in Madison, that means typically somewhere halfway across town.

There are so many we will miss.  Friends, teachers, administrators, staff.  Thank you all for the job you do and how much you care.  It shows.  It makes a difference.  And it helps set in place a wonderful foundation for a lifetime of learning and of caring about community.

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“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”  – Khalil Gibran

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We wish you the best .. and hope everyone has a wonderful, safe and fun summer!

6th Grade here we come!

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Drama ..

The Cowboy and I were standing there the other day .. when a little friend of my daughter’s came up to her just as the 5th grade graduation ceremony had ended .. and said, “Our other friend is mad at you again.  She is.  And she really doesn’t want to talk to you.”

I looked at her, not believing what I was hearing on some level.  Wanting to laugh on another.  I saw my daughters shoulders sag under the heavy weight of more drama between them all.

She looked at my daughter, waiting for a response.  Then she batted her eyes at me.

“I’m sorry, honey, what did you say?” I asked, as if I hadn’t heard the first announcement.

I had gotten to know this child a bit as well over the past year through both volunteering at school and at different events.  And, every time I see her, she gives me as big a hug as possible, I think in part because she needs it.  But also because she knows it irritates the bajeezus out of my own daughter, frustrated by someone who she would prefer is a friend, but who seems more often a foe, doing what she can as often as she can, to stir trouble.  There have just been ongoing issues and drama since the beginning of this school year.  And my daughter has tried her best, I believe to befriend her, as she was also once new in that school and knew what it was like to need a friend.

The little girl repeated herself.

My daughter, sounding frazzled, sad and frustrated replied, “What?  No she’s not.”

The three of them have been spending a lot of time recently with the guidance counselor trying to work things out.  Much of the school year has been spent negotiating this relationship, actually.  For some reason, the drama only seems to build, not wane.  And it doesn’t seem to matter what is said or done.  There is never any making it better.  Not for more than a couple hours anyway.  Often when I walk into school, people ask, ‘How is your daughter doing?’ because something else has happened that day.

I had done my best to stay out of it all year.  Be an ear for my daughter.  Help her think through how she might best handle the situation on her own.  But knowing she had cried over another apparent misunderstanding created by the third party the night before, called her best friend to work it out, clear up the notion there even was a problem, then seeing the effort right in front of me to stir it all up again .. I couldn’t help myself.

“Perhaps if (best friend) is still having some issues with (my daughter), the two of them should speak directly to each other, would you be okay with that” I said to her.

“That way you don’t have to be a go-between, which would probably make it easier on you …. and then they won’t have any miscommunications about problems that might exist that really don’t.  Otherwise, I think they have it worked out,” I said.  “Is that okay?”

She nodded her head.

“Great,” I ended the conversations.  We stepped to the side to take a family photo.

While I’d like to say if for no other reason to be happy the school year ends tomorrow, it might be, that we can move past the social challenges of 5th grade.  The time when it seems the drama really kicks in.

But, sometimes .. people get stuck in 5th grade ..  

You know who I’m talking about .. those who always need a little drama, or when there is none, are more than happy to stir it up.

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drama

[drah-muh, dram-uh]

4.  any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results.

………………………………………

The Cowboy and I were talking a bit about two particular issues that have come up where that is the case.  In just the past 48 hours.  Funny thing is, typically the person who loves to create it is quick to point out its not them, but you that is the problem.

And if you would just cooperate ….. the world would be a much better place.

As adults, you would think we should know better than to engage.  But it’s tough .. you feel like the little boy or girl again in 5th grade.  Exasperated it seems there is nothing you can do to fix a situation.  Because, in my opinion, there is no ‘situation’ other than the one someone is creating for you.  Exhausting.  Who has time for that?

Apparently many.

The Cowboy says it helps him to step back and think about what someone’s motives might be .. to best deal with any drama, as some people are motivated simply to get what they want.  They need to feel, regardless of whether or not they are actually in control, in control.  They need and want that power.  And unless one takes a deep breath and stands still long enough to recognize it, we get swept up in it.  Great insight, Cowboy (according to the following article.)

http://drthema.blogspot.com/2010/11/dealing-with-high-drama-people.html

The mother of my daughter’s best friend .. as we spoke the other night about future play dates .. mentioned she thought that was the case with the other little girl.

That the drama she is creating between our girls is her way to have some control in a world where she feels she has little to none.  A point that just absolutely makes me feel sad for her.  Sad especially, that she would see that as a solution versus just being a good friend.  That creating drama is her way to be able to not only have others possibly need her, but it might also be where she feels in the midst of chaos she can also come in and be the hero and fix it all, too.

Whatever the challenges we face .. be it 5th grade, making friends, finding our way, changing interests, changing bodies, new schools, new classes and creating our own good space in life .. or a new job .. adult friendships .. perhaps a relationship or a marriage..

May drama only be a class you take or a reference to one of the first three definitions according to Webster’s:

dra·ma

[drah-muh, dram-uh]
noun

1.  a composition in prose or verse presenting in dialogue orpantomime a story involving conflict or contrast of character, especially one intended to be acted on the stage; a play.
2.  the branch of literature having such compositions as its subject; dramatic art or representation.
3.  the art dealing with the writing and production of plays.
Best of luck, dear sweet girls .. in 6th grade!

“No …”

It seems one of my daughter’s favorite words recently has become ‘no’.  Like, I’m not even sure sometimes she realizes she is saying it or that she could stop should she choose .. because no matter the consequence it just keeps blurting out of her mouth.

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“Little said is soonest mended.” – George Wither

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Perhaps the above quote is why the stink eye my dad would shoot us .. even just the thought of him coming home and being told what we had done, was the fastest way for us to break out of whatever bad behavior we were exhibiting as children.  And instead of fights and punishment, we could all move on to throwing around the football together at the park next door, laughing and treating each other with respect .. or the chores we had been asked to do with no grumbling .. until mom called us in for dinner.

Back when I was a child …” I’ve found myself saying to my daughter more than a few times lately.

Boy I used to really get it for back talk.  Hand across the face.  The butt.  Grounded.  I think I have mentioned somewhere in all of these blog posts so far, I spent much of my young adult life alone in my room.  Grounded.  No radio.  Just me and myself.  Sitting there staring at my posters of C. Thomas Howell, Motley Crue and Ratt.  Come to think of it, it wasn’t all that bad.  Just kidding.  It stunk.  All that time alone in a room with nothing to do.  Plus, we had to walk 10 miles barefoot through the snow uphill both ways to get to my room, I’m pretty sure.  But I’m better for it now.

While all of that is running through my head as my own daughter pushes her limits, and I’m thinking, ‘what did she just say to me?’ ..

Externally, we work to find the appropriate tone of voice, the right volume, the right consequence and nip it in the bud.

But what is that anymore?  The right consequence?  Punishments many of us had, like spanking are just too cruel and controversial.  (Kitzie and Kellie, really?  Norwegian spanking paddle and bread board?  At least they had cooler names than ‘wooden spoon’, ‘the belt’ or ‘the hand’.)  A slap on the face, well that you just can’t do either anymore.  Soap in the mouth?  Do we question if that is still acceptable too?  I’m not saying do any of these things.  But I am saying, it seems more often than not we do little to nothing as a consequence for poor behavior out of fear its wrong – versus doing something.

And it seems because of this, there is growing concern we are raising a generation (if we haven’t already) of sassy, spoiled brats.  Is the the case?  I don’t know.  But I certainly am not wanting nor willing to add another to the mix.

How to solve?

It seems buying stock in soap is still a good idea based on answers to an informal little poll I took this evening.  Ivory, one of the more popular choices, at least from our parents generations.  And none of this liquid soap stuff.

Grab the bar and start chewing.

But besides setting a good example, having high expectations and not tolerating back talk from the get – go .. which I believe is easier said than done, we’ve all got to find that magic little ‘something’ that resonates as a consequence with our kids.  And make that work.

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There is a perpetual flow of new information (books, magazines, web articles, bloggers,  friends with opinions, counselors, etc) coming out that talks about what works, what doesn’t, how to handle .. what’s normal, what might be ok or what shouldn’t be tolerated and what will happen if you do.

A book I have heard many others reference as a good resource, including counselors and psychologists .. is called “Getting to Calm“.  I have the book and my dear child, in the event it may come in handy, I will save my copy for you.  🙂  For anyone else this might benefit, here’s the link.

http://www.gettingtocalm.com/

As I was perusing the web tonight quickly on the topic, found this page too which seems to offer some good thoughts, observations and action items.

http://josseybasseducation.com/uncategorized/back-talk-excerpt-from-the-big-book-of-parenting-solutions-101-answers-to-your-everyday-challenges-and-wildest-worries-by-michele-borba/

We hopefully all find a solution that fits, works and that we want for our own family, based on not only what the experts might recommend, but from our own personal bias of history .. the things we vowed we would never do to our kids because we remember all too well what was done to us.

Or, because while we hated it, it worked.

Buena suerte ..

A lover ..

“Honey, can I ask you a question,” I say to my 10-year-old this past week.

We were driving home after a full day of work, school and a running program she had and we were talking about the day.

“Sure,” she replied.

Her class had put on a poetry reading earlier that day for all the parents.  I was fortunate to be able to be in the audience.   One by one, the kids went back and forth, reading the various poems they had each put their heart and soul and 5th grade humor into.

“I loved your poetry, you did such a great job today,” I told her.  “It was fun to hear how you think about life and some of the words you use to describe yourself .. and how much you think of mom and dad.”

It really was.  She and her entire class did a great job, and they thoroughly seemed to enjoy the project and the fact we were all there to listen to their final works.

“I’m curious though.. ” I added.  “What did you mean in your ‘I Wish’ poem when you said you wish to be like me and that means you want to be a ‘lover?'” I asked.

Part of 5th grade poetry project

I heard the words come out of her mouth at the time.  But I wan’t sure if I should be flattered or mortified.  I just went with it and flashed her a smile as she looked back and forth between her dad and I.

I needed to understand her meaning .. what she meant by that particular word.  What it meant to her I was a ‘lover’.  And then I could decide whether or not I needed to further react.  I’ve always tried to be affectionate where it’s appropriate (because I think it’s important she see what a healthy relationship can look like), respectful in any relationship and discreet at all other times.  But had something happened I didn’t know about?  Had she seen something I should be concerned about?

As we all know .. that does happen.  (insert laughter)

At that moment though, that particular afternoon, I had to put it in the back of my mind and get back to work.

Fast forward to our ride home again in the car .. and having the chance to ask her about it.

“It means that you love everyone.  You are nice to everyone.  Even when they are mean to you,” she said to me.  “I want to be just like you when I grow up.”

“Really?  That’s how you see me,” I asked her.

“Yes … you are just so nice to everybody.”

Sigh of relief ..

Now, if I can just pass that piece of knowledge along to the other parents who might be wondering what her definition of a ‘lover’ is too …

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I was talking later with the cowboy.

“Your are a lover,” says the Cowboy, laughing.

“It’s your best quality and your worst enemy,” he added.  “It’s your worst when people use it to take advantage of you, because you automatically love everybody.  But I don’t want you to change.”

All very sweet.  I’m grateful that is how some others see me.  Most importantly, my daughter.  I just don’t see why there is reason to treat others in any way other than with kindness and respect.

“How did you get to be that way, do you think,” the Cowboy asked.  I don’t ever remember a time I didn’t feel that way, that it was important to treat others kindly.  But it probably stemmed from always feeling like my role was that of peacekeeper at home growing up, now that I think about it.  That’s how I remember it anyway.  Right, wrong or indifferent.

All I want my child to know and that I hope she learns more quickly than I did .. there are exceptions to that rule.  The exception the Cowboy so eloquently pointed out above.

Being too nice can come back to bite you if you’re not careful because people will take advantage.  If there is one thing I would wish for my daughter it would be that she’s better at recognizing that than I am as she gets older – and nipping it in the bud.  While I still have some work to do, I have gotten better about it.  And I have made some important decisions in my adult life because I’ve come to realize … knowing when to let go or walk away sometimes, means treating yourself as kindly as you strive to treat others.

 

It all comes back to .. (finishing some thoughts)

“Sometimes the best thing you can do as a parent, is keep your mouth shut.  My mother just listened .. and let me talk.  What a gift that was.” – Diane Keaton this morning, on the Today Show

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What are the most important lessons your mother taught you?

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I have seen the topic quite a bit recently in the news .. especially as we approach Mother’s Day.  I’ve been asked that particular question by friends recently as well.  And, it is a question I have been pondering myself, always have, but more and more as I work to navigate the ever changing waters that are motherhood.

Especially through divorce.

I have been trying to write for the past week, without much success, about some of the challenges facing us at the moment.

Much of it is relatively small in the grand scheme of things ..

 .. like making sure we’re out the door each morning in time to get to school on time.  Or .. navigating the increasing mood swings she’s having as she heads toward her tween years.  (This will be fun to write about).  Responding – or not to the occasional tantrum (of which we have not had one since that dreadful first night of spring break).  Listening to her constant push for a later bedtime as she gets older and balancing that with her need to get enough sleep.  Listening to her ask for anything that means more responsibility.  Yet struggling with how some of the most basic things she needs to do and is reminded of, she can’t somehow seem to get done.  Her being upset with me as I ask her to leave the cats alone and instead focus on her homework.  Not allowing any talking back and providing appropriate consequences when she does.  Keeping track of my jewelry, clothes or shoes ..as she can now fit into most of them… stuff like that.

I realized only this morning, just how similar a size we now are .. when I grabbed her rainboots to run out to the car.

And they fit.

As she grows and things are changing rapidly, some of these conversations and reflections will be easy and somewhat fun to write about.  And for her to have to reflect upon.

The problem is ..

There are bigger issues and conversations happening behind the scenes right now that are tough.  And are very big picture.  And that should stay behind the scenes, for now.

Especially because, we all know, that even in marriage parents don’t see eye to eye.

So what do you do, what is best to do, when it comes to divorce.  And your child’s future.  When you have two separate homes.  And two very strong, well meaning opinions that can’t quite merge.

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Going back to the original question above, one many seem to be asking in their lives at this particular moment:

I believe the best advice I ever got from my own mother .. that I am relying on to get me through some of the smaller challenges of the day to day and of raising a child .. never came through actual words.

It came through her smile.  And her laughter.  Her ability to do both in the face of chaos.  And as Diane Keaton so eloquently stated this morning about her own mother, it was my mom’s ability to listen and respond in a way that, even if it was unintentional at the time, would ultimately help me take responsibility for my own actions and grow.

I’m not sure laughter and a smile are going to help on some of what is before us ..

I’m hoping there will be occasions however, where it won’t hurt either.  And in the meantime, I look forward to always working on my listening skills.

 

It all comes back to being a mom ..

It’s been kind of a rough week on the home front for a few reasons.

One, I’m pretty hard on myself when I don’t feel like I’ve been the best mom I can be.

Two, sometimes so are others.  Hard on you, that is.  Certain that – if put in your shoes they could live your life and do the job better.

Three, it’s been an insanely busy week.  One where I’ve had much more on my plate than usual.  And usual is already ridiculous by most people’s standards.  On top of it, I haven’t felt well.  I do believe my nose is bleeding at the moment from blowing it so much, darn this cold/sinus infection/whatever it is.  So I’m sure I’m looking good to boot.

I sincerely don’t mean in any way to complain.

Everyone around me is sick.  Busy and hard on themselves I think at times, knowing if they had more time to do it all, they could do any of it better.  Some, I know are far more sick and challenged than I am at the moment so I try to rise everyday thanking the good Lord for whatever level of health I do have.

Just stating the facts.

But, everything this week:  event-wise, situation-wise, health-wise and otherwise, has come back to the whole issue of parenting for me and what I want for myself and my (and my ex’s) daughter.

Big picture stuff.

And big picture can be tough when you and your spouse or ex or whoever else might be in the picture .. can’t seem to ever get on the same page when it comes to even the little things.

(It sure is interesting, though trying to get it all worked out.  Thoughts to be shared perhaps, later.  For now, the Cowboy and I are off to solve the world’s problems over beer and a fish fry.  Isn’t that where all good problems are solved?)

Name them all?

I was going to write tonight about another topic related to marriage/divorce and some of what lies in-between .. because more good spinoff topics seem to keep coming up via (not even the Cowboy anymore but) friends, the more I write on any of this it seems.

But quite honestly, I just want to change the subject.  At least for now.  I need a breather because I’m relatively depressed after hearing from more friends that weren’t at all a part of the crazy mix last weekend .. Friends who are also struggling either personally or in their marriages.  And for some reason, having never read my blog before, they happened to log on this past week, digest the past couple of posts and reach out to let me know it was in some way helpful.  Which should make me feel good.  But I feel awful knowing any of them are hurting.  So .. I’m going to temporarily change the subject.

Come to think of it .. you know what else I might do?  (I’m always dreaming up new ways to further run myself ragged…)

What about creating some sort of ‘buck-up’ boot camp where we run everyone through a ‘things could always be worse’ series of events .. so whenever we might need a boost that our lives really aren’t that bad .. and we should appreciate even the crap we get from whoever it is when we come home each night .. (For me, that’s literal.  I come home to the dog that I have to walk each night and follow her with a baggie so that she can poop and I get to pick it up .. or the cats.  I hate cleaning out litter boxes.  But I hate the smell of litter boxes that haven’t been cleaned out even worse.  That may be obstacle, hmmm.  #3 I’m thinking) it is there to remind you.  Or, perhaps all it will do is prove to you, things are that bad and you’d rather scoop poop and run through a field of electric shock than go home.

People actually do pay good money to do that these days.  It’s called a mud run.  Look for one near you.  Sign up.  Toughen up and let’s get going on some positive changes in your life.

Sorry.  Tangent.

The whole point of what’s above is to say, I’m skipping relationship topics tonight.

In exchange …

I have a quiz for you.

(Insert cheer!  Or, collective groan.  You, of course get to choose.)

This is how I have spent the past couple nights now, with my daughter.  Studying states and their capitols.  There has been hand ringing, tears shed, some elation when she gets them right but mainly frustration that she gets any of them wrong.  If not what the state is or where, it’s how to spell it.

As she was struggling still with Connecticut and seemingly at wits end, I told her, “Try not to stress so much.  Just do your best and picture in your mind what you’ve written down time and again to practice.  Or, just write it down and then go back and sound it out to be sure you’ve spelled it as correctly as possible.”

She looked at me, I believe, still feeling rather defeated.

“Chances are,” I added .. “You’ll do better than most adults if we gave them the same quiz anyway.”

Her eyes flew wide open.

So there.. my challenge to you.  And, her challenge to me tonight.  Well, hers and ‘the boys’ .. that’s what the neighbor affectionally calls his stepson.  Despite the fact the two go to different schools, they have the same quiz tomorrow.  They were testing each other for a few minutes this evening.

Name them.  Can you?

The 50 states and capitols.

Not just name them, though.  Can you also get them in the right place?

Have fun .. good luck .. and in case a little music might help put you in the right frame of mind:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_HeLofy7IE   I had never heard that before this week. You?

Here’s the deal:

No matter how you do on the test, referring back to the assignment a couple days ago .. if you only talked nicely about your significant other today, you get an A+.