Thursday, October 27, 2011

call security

Harv was at DIA this morning. And while I was on the phone with him, he witnessed (and I overheard) this scene:

An 18 month old having a temper tantrum on the floor of the airport. A loud one.
According to Harv, the Mom was quietly ignoring said baby, likely exasperated while waiting for her flight. Resisting in her core NOT to give in to whatever demands he had: He wanted his mom to give him candy like the boy next to him? He wanted to tug off the neighbor man's tupee? He wanted to take off his diaper? Maybe he just wanted to scream about the unfairness of life. Don't we all have those moments?
An older woman came over and told Mom to pick up the baby and make him stop crying.
Mom said, "no." I wish I could've seen the faces to describe them. I can only imagine the mom's look of shock: What? Are you flipping telling me how to parent here? You go pick up the screaming baby! And change his diaper while your at it!
But I don't know what the mom said, except "no." I wish I could have stood beside her at that moment and given her a high five.
The older woman went to get security. Yes, she did.
Then Security came and told the woman that she did indeed need to pick up the crying baby.

If parents are disciplining/teaching their children in public, good for them! I, personally, didn't often have the guts to do this, too embarrassed by the scene it would likely cause. I chose to pick up my messy and loud brats and soothe them (or threaten them). But if I wanted to teach them something, letting them have their tantrum instead of giving in to them would have been the better and quicker route.

Why has our country made it so hard for parents to discipline children? Do non-parents believe that children are not flawed creatures? I doubt it. Even all of my non-Calvinist friends believe in original sin, they just call it something different, like, evil. Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes around most 2 year olds knows the equation: screaming = getting what you want.

Now, as a teacher, I see the long-term consequences of this conundrum at the high school level. It becomes very clear which parents have towed the line and been brave enough to discipline their children. They produce children who don't argue with me when I ask them to do something hard, like say, take out a pencil. Then there are other parents who give a gentle, "you shouldn't do that again" to a child who has ditched two of my classes.

Consequences can be ugly. And painful. Like a screaming child. I think that our society should step up and allow parents to do this in public. I believe that all people should support parents who are doing the tough, front-line work of discipline. The older woman (likely not a parent herself, or if she is, I would bet money that her children are ugly people. Either that or she never took them in public) should have quietly ignored the situation. Or, she could have walked away if she hated the sound of a screaming child (often considered one of the most painful sounds in the world). Or, she could have tried to distract the child herself--sat down on the floor and tried to make her laugh by telling the child a silly story or showing her some archaic item out of her purse. Or at least asked the poor mother if she needed any help! Worst case scenario is that the child might have been so terrified of her that she would have become aware of the public setting and gone running back to her mother.

Instead, the message this older woman sent to the younger mom in the trenches is this: Do not interrupt my quietude (in the airport of all places) with your work of raising a child. Do the tough work of child-rearing (indeed the toughest job of all, why hasn't there been a parenting episode on "Dirty Jobs") somewhere else. We only want the benefits of a well-behaved child in our society; we don't want to witness the loudness and difficulty of the effort it takes to get there. And we certainly aren't going to help you.

I doubt that this woman cooks for herself, works out, or even admits that she farts.

Our Cloroxed and combed images that many seem to be so concerned about have hidden the difficult realities of life. We don't like to watch a meat butcher or how animals are treated before slaughter, but we love our steak... We cringe at the thought of a sweatshop with overworked and underpaid women and children, but we love our clothes, the cheaper the better (Walmart?) ... We hide our old people in deluxe nursing homes, close the doors while we poop, well, maybe some things should happen behind closed doors.

My point: We don't like the hard stuff. But we like to enjoy the benefits of other people's hard stuff.

And yes, I'm pointing my finger at this terrible woman in the airport, but (like always) three fingers are pointing back at me... what have I done lately to help women in distress? Single moms at their wits end? Homeless women? My students' moms... ah, yes. Reality check.

I think all humans should take responsibility for raising little ones well. We will all be grateful in the long run.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

awareness part 2

It turned to snow....
And now Fall and Winter have collided in a sloppy mess here in Denver.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


"Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness."
--James Thurber, American author and cartoonist


It is much easier for me this week. I have the entire week off and my kids are both in school (different districts). This has never happened before. Needless to say, I'm in a happy place. A place that has given me a bit more space to be aware.

Aware of...
-the rain that is about to turn to the very first snow fall of the season
-some objectivity to readjust the lens through which I view my current students
-some perspective as I visit old friends and old students today
-peace as I get to spend quiet moments throughout the day with Harv
-giddy joy as I have time to write silly notes for my boys' lunchboxes
-the irony of KD Lang playing on my itunes, singing about Canada with her smooth, compelling allure
-the mess of my pantry, the stink of my bathrooms, the tragedy of my kitchen
-a pull from the past, as Paul draws me into a new letting go, writing from his jail cell thousands of years ago
-the vital life force provided by kindred spirits, who, even without their presence or words, bring me smiles

Thanks for being one of them. Writing to you makes me feel as if we're sitting here together in my dining room.

Wish we were. Love to you all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I don't mean to brag, but, I haven't been cussed out at work for over a week. To me, this means I'm doing a pretty good job. Amazing how things change when you lower your standards a bit.

My new job has forced me to confront the exact opposite segment of society that I was dealing with at the fancy, private high school the past few years. And I do mean opposite in every sense of the word: race, parent involvement, income, brands, language, test scores, which, by the way, are entirely predictable based on race in our country. Why is this? I am on a mission to figure it out. When I do, I'll let you know. Then I'll publish a book and earn millions of dollars. Because of course so many rich people are dying to buy a book that tells them how to fix the racial disparities in our country. I'm quite sure there would be a long line during the book signing. I'd certainly be interviewed by Bill O'Reilly, and of course Katie Couric, and I'd finally be able to afford those Frye boots I've been wanting for years. I digress into fantasy land.

I have one simple solution: pay attention to your kids.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it may just be THIS SIMPLE. Now, how to put that into chapters, I have yet to discover. But it may look something like this:

Chapter One: Feed them. Preferably healthy foods. At least not fast food. Most of the time.
Chapter Two: Talk to them. Often. Daily. Hourly, if you are in the same house.
Chapter Three: Read to them and with them. Go to the library. Often. And then talk about what they're reading instead of watching TV.
Chapter Four: Give them chores and responsibilities. And then have the balls and discipline to hold them accountable for them.
Chapter Five: Provide blank paper. And markers. Give them space to create.
Chapter Six: Put them to bed on time. And make them stay there.
Chapter Seven: Make them do their homework. Do it with them. Or at least be beside them.
Chapter Eight: Be interested in their life. For God's sake, don't have children if you can't do this part.
Chapter Nine: Hugs and kisses. Lots of them.
Chapter Ten: Pray. For wisdom and guidance and patience and joy.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I fail at many of these. I am often guilty of letting my boys watch a flick so that I can sneak outside on my patio to have a smoke with my glass of wine. Yes. I do this.
But. I like to think that I do most of the things listed most of the time. And I do Chapter Ten every day.
I'm not claiming to have great kids or be the best parent (though I'm in contention every year for Parent of the Year, especially since watching my sister's six week old twins a few weeks ago and setting one on the couch to go to the other room to get the other one and then hearing a thump. She fired me.)
I'm just sayin, though. The kids I'm dealing with didn't get much of these much of the time. They're a hurting group of kids that has learned how to survive by inflicting their hurt on others. And I'm slowly figuring that out. Trying to love them and not be totally drained emotionally at the end of the day. But, honestly, it kind of sucks most of the time right now. My goal is to get to a place where it only hurts some of the time.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Does this even need commentary?
This is a picture of a priceless piece produced by my then-1st grader. When I first saw it, I was worried that he was having an affair with his teacher, since she complimented his work, and commented on the size. Call Social Services! Then I quickly remembered that his teacher has the same sense of humor as my full-length mirror: unrelenting and rarely in use.
Then I realized that she was writing stock answers on all of her papers. Yes, that was it. Surely I know this trick well. But. Then I became paranoid that I had unknowingly missed an equally disturbing comment on a recent paper I'd graded. Oh, the therapy this child needs. An exhibitionist! In my house!
Finally, I read the top of the paper where he finished the sentence with "collection" followed by a period.
Yet another lesson on the importance of punctuation. Or lack thereof.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

life without a computer

A few weeks ago, I asked Thys to come and look at a screen on my computer (my new Macbook, which I love more than, well, chocolate). And on his way to the viewing, he tripped (have I mentioned that this child falls on his face while eating dinner? Regularly?) Oh, and he had a large, full glass of water in his hands. Yes. Said water landed on the most important part of my Mac: it's crotch. Done. Goodbye.
I confess: I almost cried.
The not-so-handsome boys/men at the Mac store (which, I've learned, you need to make an appointment to see several hours ahead of time) said that they "liked my smile" and decided to fix it for free. For free. The paperwork suggests that it costed more than $800. And. I am fundamentally opposed to warranties. Or maybe just cheap. So I am one lucky gal. With a great smile. Thank God.
All this to say, I have been computer free for a few weeks. But I harbor no pain. Now that it's back.
Life is good.
But, since I can, I must vent my weekly frustrations:
-If one more single (and by single, I do mean a human without dependents) person complains to me about how BUSY they are, I will punch them in the stomach.
-One of my uber-annoying colleagues called me, "homey" today. She about got a punch as well.
-I asked a student to put away his earbuds the other day, and he said, "F*** you, Bitch" At least he got my title correct.
-Then, I asked another student to take a quiz, (I know, I know, I am so unreasonable) and he replied, "this is bullsh**"
-I don't exactly love my job right now.
-But. I have my Mac back. Life is good.

Male and Female (the goldfish) were recently flushed. Thank you Disney for creating the movie, Flushed Away, which gave my story about a happier place below ground much more credibility.

Trying to keep it simple here.
Brian, junk post coming soon. Stay tuned.
Peace out, homeys. (I don't even think I'm spelling that correctly)