Monday, October 29, 2012

My Definition of Stress taking the cat to the vet in the middle of a hurricane. She got in a fight with Mike Tyson, from the looks of her left ear. Just in time for the Storm of the Century. Why? I ask the Universe, and the Universe says: just messin' with ya.....

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Electronic Bubble

When I was a teenager (she said, cackling in her dotage), I had half a dozen friends who hung out at my house frequently, just as I often hung out at theirs. That put me on speaking terms with approximately 15 or 20 adults I might not have known otherwise. One of my friends had a mom who was a company nurse at Delta Air Lines, who gave me the name of the a good doctor--my first grown-up doctor, not a pediatrician. I knew that the parents of another friend were straight-arrow religious fundamentalists who were really going to have trouble when their son came out of the closet, assuming he ever did; I knew the father of another friend, a lawyer who probably drank too much. It was an early introduction to the wider world--and my friends got something out of knowing my parents, too. I still remember the time my dad proved to a hushed assembly of teenagers that he could, in fact, shoot a housefly out of the air with a rubber band. (He really was phenomenal. My dad, that is. Not the housefly.)

The reason all this happened was that we did not have cellphones, and texting was not an option. My kids, however, have cellphones--according to the Pew Research Center, 75 percent of teens between the ages of 11 and 17 do--and, as most teens do, they text incessantly. They are in such constant contact with their friends that when they get home from school, actually having friends over is the last thing on their minds. Why would you want to hang out with somebody who is already (figuratively speaking) hanging out in your back pocket?

The result is that I don't know my kids' friends the way my parents knew mine, and that feels like a loss. It's one more way in which we are electronically tethered to each other, yet lonelier than ever.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Talking in Code

Karen Tumulty had  an interesting piece in the Washington Post today about how the tag line on some of President Obama's latest ads against Mitt Romney ("Mitt Romney. Not one of us") is using a kind of racial code--one familiar to anybody born south of the Mason-Dixon line before, say, 1975. "One of us" used to be a favorite phrase of white politicians in the South, and you didn't need a graduate degree in political science to know that it meant "us white folks need to hang together." Now, Obama's critics are saying that his use of the phrase is an example of divisive language.

They're missing a bigger message. For a black candidate to co-opt this hoary old phrase of racial divisiveness for his own purposes--which, in the ad in question, is to argue that Obama is a better representative of the working class than Romney--is actually a kind of political jujitsu. It's appropriating a tactic that has been used against you, and turning it to your own advantage. Who'd have thought we would live to see the day a black President would borrow a tactic from the days of the old White Citizens Councils? Or that instead of race, we are now a country divided by class?

This Is My Life

I realize most of my extensive (ahem!) readership thinks that I am dripping in jewels and jet-setting off to have dinner with Daniel Craig most of the time, but no: most of the time I am trying to navigate between the teen's and tween's desire for privacy and my own desire not to have the county come condemn this place. This morning I found stuff in their bathroom that was so gross I cannot describe it even on the Internet, 10 bath towels, an entire bag of trash--and this:

And I was composing a blistering note in my head to said kids, and planning to supplement this with an after-school lecture, when I looked up and saw a nice drawing made by my Tween and addressed to my Teen, with this:

Maybe I will let them live.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Five Things Parents of 2e Kids Want Teachers to Know

I am always seeing columns from or about teachers, advising us parents on how to get along with them and make their jobs easier. That's fine as far as it goes, but as the parent of two 2e kids (that's "twice exceptional" in the latest educational jargon, meaning they have super-high IQs coupled with some kind of learning problem--ADHD, in our case), I've been aching to speak my piece to teachers. After a decade or so of dealing with them on this issue, here are my thoughts:
 1. We are on the same team. 
Just because I ask you to alter your routines sometimes, it doesn't mean I am criticizing your methods. If my child needs a daily reminder to write down his assignments, and a double-check to make sure he's done it correctly, then your policy of "the homework is written daily on the blackboard" is simply not going to work. It may be time-tested, it may work for most kids, but it won't work for MY kid--because he has ADHD, or an auditory processing disorder, or Asperger's, or a visual impairment, or dyslexia, or whatever the challenge is. His inability to consistently remember assignments isn't due to laziness and it's not a moral failure; it's just a brain glitch he has to learn to compensate for. When I ask you for this help, it's so I can help YOU on my end--first, by making sure he does his homework, and secondly, by creating and reinforcing organizational habits he'll need the rest of his life.
2. Just because you are the teacher, it doesn't mean you are smarter than I am.
I respect the education you have, and the work you put in to get it. I respect the skills you have. So give a little respect back. Don't give me patronizing lectures about how children need a "daily routine." For God's sake, a daily routine is the freakin' holy grail around here, don't you think we know that?  We have lists and reminder sheets and watches set with alarms and cellphones set with alarms and Google calendar and reminders on the refrigerator and agenda book checks and every gadget known to man, just trying to get to that elusive "daily routine" goal And some days, even with all that, we still don't make it. Some days we wind up like my kid did a week or so ago sobbing on her bedroom floor, "I'm NOT done! I'm NOT ! There's always something I've forgotten and I never know what it's going to be!" Every time I hear "You just need a daily routine," I want to scream.  Please. Would you tell a parent of a kid with asthma that the kid just needs to run more wind sprints?
3. My kid takes time. 
If I don't show up for ever PTA meeting, I'm probably at home, wrestling with homework. If I don't come in with cupcakes for the class, or volunteer to put up a bulletin board or chaperone a field trip, it's probably because I am up to my eyeballs with a to-do list that has piled up on me because I am running ragged getting my kid to various therapy and doctor's appointments or social skills class or occupational therapy or trying to make it to the speech pathologist, or.....You get the idea. I know school needs parental involvement, but my kid needs me more. I'll do what I can, I promise, but all that stuff you send home about selling gourmet pizzas door to door is going straight in the trash. Sorry.
4. Just because you are the teacher, it doesn't mean you know more about my child's condition than I do.
You have 30 to 100 children to keep up with every day. I have one, maybe two. And even then it's a part-time job for me to keep up with articles and list-serves and bulletin boards and new information that might help my child. Unless you are a full-time special ed teacher, it's highly unlikely you read up on this stuff. What you learned about my kid's condition back in college or grad school is very likely to be outdated and/or incomplete. Accept the articles I may drop on your desk from time to time--and I won't do it often, because I know how busy you are--as just my way of saying, "Here's something that may help both of us." Refer to #1: we are on the same team.
5. I appreciate the challenges my child poses for you
Contrary to what you may think, my child IS actually trying to behave in your class, at least most of the time. You should hang out at our house after school hours, when there are tantrums and tears over homework, and assignments that should take half an hour actually take two. There is nothing you can tell me about my child's inconvenient traits that I don't know about already, times ten. I realize that teaching him is immensely harder than teaching the straight-A kids. But inside that "odd" or "different" kid is an amazing brain which really wants to learn. I've learned to think of my job as Samurai Parenting, and I pat myself on the back for being able to pull it off most of the time. The challenges these kids present can, in the end, make you a Samurai Teacher--more skilled, more empathic and with a whole array of tools to help you reach all kinds of learners. Someday, when my child has managed to get through college and is holding down a job and maybe even using that creative brain of his in ways that benefit the world, you and I will know that we helped plant that seed in a place where it could grow, and I will know that I could never have done it without your help.