Tag Archives: School

How Do We Protect Our Kids In Cyberspace? The Old-Fashioned Way.

This essay originally appeared on BlogHer.

My son came home the other day and told me he heard from his college advisor that colleges now check out various social media sites to determine what kids are posting about themselves and others. I told him not to worry, his grandmother checks his Facebook page everyday to make sure he doesn’t post something he’ll regret. “I knew I shouldn’t have friended her,” he said only half jokingly. Continue reading

A Mother is a Phoenix

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This blog originally appeared on Blogher.

You quit your job to stay home and now your kids are launched (at least they are in school most of the day). You’ve volunteered for everything from class representative to PTA president. You’ve carpooled, you’ve brought snacks after soccer, you’ve attend yet another school play. You’ve been there for the braces, the training bra, the horrors of teenage acne. And finally, in the silence of night, you awake and realize that faint sound is the earth spinning seconds minutes hours days weeks months years. And suddenly, you are forty-five.

You don’t bother with the how-did-this-happen. You made your choices. Your regrets are  vague wisps rising from the ashes of what was once your sense of self. You know it is time to begin again, to lose the feathers like a bird reborn, break out of the cage and…

You mine your passions and know that the only thing left is to circle back to the beginning and ask who was I, who am I, who do I want to be. You have a long list of who you aren’t and a longer list of who you won’t be. You take your pen – you don’t bother with pencils, there is so no time – and make large bold Xs down the page. You won’t be President, you wont be CEO, you won’t be singing in Carnegie Hall, you won’t be finding the cure for AIDS, you won’t be changing the world for women and girls, their fathers and brothers. The list becomes far shorter than you ever imagined.

You begin again with circles – Xs have become too limiting – and create Venn diagrams of possibility. You love writing, sharing, revealing. You love building communities and bridges and wading in large pools of absolution, forgiveness, and unconditional love. You want to speak truth and realize you could be a storyteller – you’ve been living a life of fiction for years.

And so it begins. You start school, praying for second, third, fourth chances, all optimism and great hope. You love your classes, your classmates, your professors. You laugh when you realize you are just another spoke in the wheels of diversity – older, returning student next to young poet of color, memoirist in a wheel chair, writer from the center of the gender divide. Everyone has a voice and the harmony is the sound of what could be.

At home, you study beside your children joining them in a Greek chorus of complaints: Tests! Projects! Papers! You miss your daughter’s soccer game, again. You’re late for dinner, again. You reschedule dentist appointments; their teeth are clean enough. You yell at the cosmos and sometimes your husband. You are humbled, living life in child’s pose, arms extended, forehead to the ground begging for clarity. Is this what you wanted when you knew you wanted change? You wonder if, perhaps, it wouldn’t just be better to let this dream fade away.

And then you hear your daughter telling her best friend, “My mom? She’s done all kinds of things but now, she’s a writer.”   You realize you are no longer doing this for you alone. You must finish what you have begun because you need to teach her a mother is a phoenix and will rise and rise and rise.

One Special Day

This article originally appeared on BlogHer.

Last year this time we were sneaking in mid-day matinees between the back to school doctor, dentist, and ortho appointments. When I asked her if she wanted a new sweat suit (the daily de rigueur fashion statement of 7th grade) she said no, the one she had was just fine–ripped knees and all. She insisted on pulling her long hair back into a sloppy ponytail to keep it out of the way when she played soccer, softball, or basketball. She wore tank tops under her tee shirts to hide the “mosquito bites”  (her brother’s words, not mine) but that was the only concession made to her blossoming body. Boys? Tolerable at best and mentioned only if, on the rare chance, they beat her on the athletic field. Oh, what a difference a year makes.

My Favorite Athlete and Angel

My Favorite Athlete and Angel

This back to school season started with the hair consultation. Now thirteen and entering eight grade my daughter has decided it is time for a new look. Despite the fact that she has been growing her hair long for the past two years in order to donate it to Locks Of Love (an organization that makes wigs for children affected by the ravages of long-term medical hairloss), she decided enough was enough, it was time to cut it short and sassy. The hairdresser assured her there was plenty to work with and so I left my daughter while I did errands–picking up school supplies for my ten year old who hasn’t decided that he will only accept this mechanical pencil or that folder with the extra pockets. An hour later I returned and found my daughter was gone but an effervescent young woman stood waiting impatiently for me.

“Don’t you love it!” she squealed and I did. So did the two teenage boys who walked past on their way to the nearby ice cream store, skateboards in hand, ipods in their ear.  They turned back not once but twice and it was all I could do to keep myself from chasing them down and threatening their lives for the unseemly thoughts obviously ping-ponging across the expanse of their neanderthal craniums. Was this the future? Please God, stop time. Take me back to the past when scrapped knees and bruised feelings were all I had to deal with. This, this ominous future; I am not prepared.

Now, she explained, she needed an outfit to go with her new haircut. Getting my daughter to go shopping had always been a challenge but here she was begging to go and even had print-outs of the styles she liked, the look she wanted to capture. I couldn’t say no. Off to the mall we drove and three hours later emerged with three new bras (bras, not tank tops!), two dresses (dresses?!), and even a lacy top to go with her recently purchased pair of skinny jeans. Who was this person sitting in the car beside me? Where was my daughter? I wondered both delighted and frightened by the seemingly sudden change.

The coup de grace came a day later when she begged to go with me to get a mani-pedi; she even offered to pay for half the cost with savings from her summer babysitting job. My husband demurred. “This is just too much,” he declared that night as we lay in bed pondering the change in our little tomboy. And part of me agreed, this new obsession with beauty was concerning (mani-pedi today, designer clothes tomorrow?). But I couldn’t resist her. She rarely asks for anything and when she does, she is always so level-headed and reasonable, it is hard to argue. She knew the mani-pedi would be a small one-time luxury not a weekly occurence. Perhaps, I argued, she was using this as a way to tell us she is moving into a new phase, blending both athlete and angel. In short, taking the next step on the not so long road to growing up.

But, the next morning as I watched her choose between “Meet Me at Midnight” and “Pretty In Pink,” I realized she may be moving into a new phase but I am not so sure I am ready. My daughter and I have always been close. Each day she has come home from school or camp or whatever activity has kept us apart and given me the “blow-by-blow” detail of all she saw, said, learned, and laughed about. I know her favorite song (“The Climb” by Miley Cyrus) and why she loves playing goalie for her soccer team (“In the end, it all comes down to me and that ball.”). I know she loves to dance because it feels like flying and that her favorite ice cream is coffee with rainbow jimmies. I know her best friend’s secrets because my daughter trusts me to never say a thing. I know she dreams of being a dancer and a scientist and maybe even a poet (“Can I be all three?” “You? You can be anything.”).

One day though, in the not so distance future, I won’t know these things. She will tell others before she tells me. She will, rightly, have her secrets and will guard her privacy. She will yell at me to “Butt out!” and will storm to her room and slam the door. She will miss her curfew and will get her first ticket and will do things she will regret. Some of which I will know about, others I won’t even be able to imagine. She will travel far distances to create space between the woman I am and the one she will become.

But today, she sits next to me, some fingers painted black and others pink, laughing at a photo of Lady Gaga and her outrageous outfit (told her Madonna did it first) and asking my opinion on the newest trend: padded shoulders (told her been there, done that!). When she turns to me and asks if we can get some sushi, telling me she’s having fun and wants to continue our special day, it is all I can do to hold back the tears and say yes, my beloved daughter, let’s extend this day, our special day.

Those Lazy Days of Summer

This blog post can also be read on BlogHer at http://www.blogher.com/those-lazy-days-summer

Lazy Days of Summer

In less than twenty four hours I will have my kitchen back and my quiet mornings with tea and the newspaper and my voice. You see, I lost my voice as I do every summer yelling at the kids to get ready, turn of the TV, stop Facebooking, Tweeting, IMing, texting (didn’t know those were verbs), clean up your room, pack your suitcase, don’t forget your bathing suit, unpack your suitcase, go outside, and have fun god dammit! I hate summer. I hate the lack of routine that requires me to fill their days and the guilt that comes with realizing I am not providing my children with a meaningful, life altering experience that will a) get them into the college of their choice and b) keep them out of my hair. My mother can’t relate. She just sent us out the door, poured herself another Tab and vodka, and spent the afternoon lounging around with friends. She loved summer. Continue reading