January 16, 2014
I taught for five years, so I never wanted to be THAT parent. . . the complaining one. But lately, my concerns feel like they’re bubbling over, under pressure, to the point of explosion. In fact, it’s getting so bad that I, the person who swore I would NEVER consider it, am actually starting to research home-schooling and cyber schooling. Former public school teachers don’t usually go there. This one is about ready to go directly there.
Let’s start with the gym teacher. He’s the typical male middle school gym teacher, also the head football coach. I’m told by many parents that my kid just needs to get through his units. I had hoped for better than that. We pay a lot of school taxes. He’s the type of coach from the Grease movie, the one who drives the golf cart around sitting on his unfit butt, while he yells at the kids to do things their growing bodies shouldn’t be doing. Swim Girl has had to suffer through her second year of him this year. Last year, she ended up with a knee injury and months of physical therapy. Mind you, her injury didn’t result from her year-round swimming, but rather from gym class. Take a second to chew on that.
This year, this “teacher” (I use the term lightly) has had them doing a muscle “endurance” unit involving resistance bands. That’s all fine and good if the bands are the proper resistance and if he’s insuring that the kids are using proper form. However, neither of those two things are happening. This week, just days before her LSC Elite Meet, she has a giant knot in her shoulder muscle, resulting from his carelessness and lack of proper instruction and supervision. Both her coach and her PT were shocked at the obvious trauma to the muscle.
I don’t EVER do this, but today I wrote an email to him. I was extremely polite, and told him I would like her to avoid doing any exercises that could further injure her shoulder until . I told him that both her swim coaches and her trainer/PT told her she has a knot in her muscle and that she should avoid aggravating it any further. I offered to send in a lighter resistance band for her if he doesn’t have a light enough one. I avoided chastising him about the fact that when my daughter asked him for a study guide today, he barked at her “get it later” despite the fact that she was in gym class right THEN; and asking for a study guide would imply that she actually cares about learning and would like to study. The reply I got from him makes my freaking blood boil. There is absolutely ZERO concern for her health and well-being from her so-called “wellness” teacher. There was nothing other than a terse response, a statement to tell me that “the unit is now over” (because I guess that’s supposed to make me feel better), and then incorrect usage of the word “suffice.”I don’t know which part annoys me more. I was an English teacher; it’s probably the “suffice” part.
In the past month, my daughter has waited almost a month each time she takes a math test to get her grade back. It’s difficult to learn from your mistakes when they’re not even fresh in your head anymore. This, mind you, is AFTER Mr. BBM and I have had a conference with him. Another teacher has spent class time talking about murderers and rapists and how if they get a good lawyer, they’ll likely get off and get away with it. Nice. And yet another teacher has told her about how her father held a gun to her baby sister’s head when she was a kid. Because that is totally school appropriate. I’d LOVE to call them all out on all of this stuff, but I also know what that could mean for how my kid is treated the rest of the year. I have no expectation of professionalism when these are the daily occurrences.
I live in the district that has the highest test scores in the county, that does quite well when compared to other schools in the state and country; and here I am, seriously considering pulling my kid out of school. I was (and am with Sassy) so happy with the elementary school. I was even happy with the first year of Middle School. Is this year just a fluke? Do we just have “to get through it”? Will it get better? I thought being in the Gifted program would change things a bit. I thought she would be academically challenged. Instead she has read over 1400 pages this quarter (none of it at home) because she finishes everything early in school and has nothing to do.
The only thing holding me back from pulling her now is her art teacher, who happens to be amazing. But it’s becoming more and more difficult to ignore the inappropriate things that are happening in her school. I send my 12-year-old into their care every day; and I do not appreciate them discussing things in class that I would never consider discussing in front of her at home. If you’ve decided to home school or cyber school, I want to hear from you, and I want to hear all about it.
November 26, 2013
When my friend asked me to go to the Bryan Adams concert with her, I was beside myself with excitement. I spent many summers of the 80′s, sitting in the shade of our birch tree, blasting my Bryan Adams cassettes as loud as they would go. I may not be able to remember much I learned in school during those early years, but I recall every word of his songs. It’s funny how you don’t even know those lyrics are there, sitting dormant in your brain, until the song comes on and you’re right there, back in your childhood. It’s amazing, music’s ability to take you back to a much simpler time. The feeling that washes over your body and soul when you hear certain songs is like no other.
The concert on Sunday night was like that. My friends and I met for dinner, and we realized that our dessert conversation had lasted a bit long. After reading reviews of his “Bare Bones” concert online, I knew he was going to start with “Run to You,” so that’s pretty much what we did, from the parking lot to the theater. We ran to him. I wasn’t going to miss it.
Our local paper reviewed the concert and started off with the line, “Bryan Adams’ show Sunday night in Reading reminded him of cat pee.” Really? That’s the best opening you could come up with for the concert review?? Because the show reminded me of a simpler time, when singer/songwriters wrote songs about love that people could relate to and fall in love with. It struck me, while listening to his songs, that people don’t really write like that anymore. Love songs have really changed, and not for the better. Bryan Adams would never write a song about “twerking.” He seemed personable, humorous and completely down-to-Earth; he’s someone you’d like to sit down with and share a cup of coffee. Our local paper also said he imitated Bruce Springsteen. I’m thinking the reporter may have been a bit off his game, because he made it pretty clear he was impersonating Blake Shelton, not Bruce. Can I be the new concert reviewer, please?
Dressed simply and with a “no frills” black curtain backdrop with a projected skeleton in the background, Bryan Adams got the spirited crowd going from the start, his voice flawless in delivery. The man hasn’t missed a beat in all these years. With only a piano backing him up at times, the sound was still full and vibrant. The songs were delivered the way they were originally written. There were even a couple crazy 80′s girls there, screaming out to Bryan, “Can I get your number?” and making strange and inappropriate innuendo statements about “Summer of ’69.” My friends and I were busy rolling our eyes about those girls when Adams asked for a female volunteer, “a wild woman” who could dance.
It was an out-of-body experience as my comments about others suddenly turned into me standing straight up, waving wildly. I’m nothing if not a wild woman, and this girl can dance. And in fact, from previous posts, you all know my dream is to be a back-up dancer. So I stood there in the balcony, waving my arms and yelling out, “Bryan-UP HERE!” I had on what my sister refers to as my “Aerosmith pants.” I mean, how could I not be chosen? In the end, he chose a girl on the floor in the first couple of rows. I’m going with the fact that it was super dark in the balcony. I mean he probably couldn’t see me right?
If you are a fan of Bryan Adams and he’s coming to a city near you, you absolutely MUST go. He played so many of the classics that probably made you fall in love with him. It is a night out you won’t soon forget!
November 14, 2013
When Mr. BBM suggested we go to the JT concert for our anniversary, I was kind of surprised. I had imagined a weekend away, somewhere quiet, where we could catch up on sleep. Exciting, I know. But with a 12, 8 and 2-year old in the house, quiet and sleep are two things that are in short supply.
I spent weeks planning my outfit for the occasion. I haven’t had a night out in a big city in a long time. Clearly all the other chicks there thought high black boots were the way to go too. At least I knew I was still somewhat “with it.”
So we went to the concert and had an amazing time. There’s something about being a woman and knowing you’re breathing the same air as JT. It is instantly exhilarating. I couldn’t help thinking as I screamed, “Oh My GOD, he’s coming right here!” that perhaps this is not what Mr. BBM had in mind for our anniversary. Me, him and JT. . . and me screaming with utter joy when the stage began to move and he got closer to us by the minute. I left that concert completely “love-stoned.” No joke. Minus the beer-soaked jacket thanks to some klutzy girl sitting behind me, it was a night I won’t soon forget.
But instead of just enjoying the concert, there was this nagging feeling deep inside. I should have pursued a career in the music industry. I should have been a performer’s manager. I should have been a back-up dancer. Heck, I’ll be the girl that stands on the side of the stage and hands the man water when he needs it.
We spent the night in Philly and came home to our three awesome kids. Little Man followed me around 24/7 and kept hugging me and kissing me. Parting so I could go to the bathroom was almost too much for him. The girls picked up right where they left off with the sibling rivalry and non-stop arguments. Mr. BBM and I couldn’t help but look at each other occasionally and mouth, “let’s go back.” We rarely get a minute, let alone a night, to ourselves. It truly was amazing.
Days later though, as I drop off the dry-cleaning and pick up ingredients needed for dinner, organize Little Man’s toys and go about the business of laundry, the feeling lingers. It’s clearly a JT hangover. The concert was incredible and I can only imagine how cool it would be to be a part of it, day after day, night after night. Can you imagine what it would feel like to be a part of putting on that production? To be a dancer within feet of such an incredible celebrity? To be one of the behind the scenes people who makes it all happen?
Swim Girl and I were having a conversation in the car the other night about it. “Do you wish you were doing something different?” she asked me. It’s a tough question to answer. I think every stay-at-home mom who made the choice to put career aside for her kids would jump at the opportunity to do something extravagant, to go on a worldwide tour. I’ve been thinking about my choice a lot lately. There are things we’d like to do with our house, places we’d like to travel, but we can’t right now. I would never want anyone else raising my kids. We’ve certainly made the sacrifices so that I can be home when they get home from school, so that none of them ever had to go to a daycare setting. But it also meant putting aside the dream of being a big-time magazine editor or writer, navigating the streets of NYC with ease. Also, that whole dream of being the next Madonna, but better and without the gladiator boob contraptions.
So I have it all figured out. JT needs to hire and train me as a back-up dancer (social media genius or even as security!). I’ll need a bus all my own, equipped with enough beds for my family, and internet access so Mr. BBM can work from the road. I also need a nanny. I’ll home school the kids during the day; we’ll travel the world and consider that a year-long field trip. At night, I’ll pop my strawberry bubblegum on stage while my kids chill in the trailer watching Disney movies or finish up their homework. Yep, I’ll be “That Girl,” the one who has it all. Who says I can’t?
September 24, 2013
The other night, we took my Mom out for dinner for her birthday. My sister, Mom and I went for manicures and then waited at the bar of the restaurant for the rest of our crew to show up. We got in a conversation and somehow, my volunteer position as the President of my daughters’ swim club came up.
“Yeah, you should quit that,” my sister said. ”Little Man is little and he needs you.”
“He gets me,” I protested. “It’s a lot of work, but I do it at home and it’s not like Little Man is being neglected.”
It wasn’t the comment that bothered me, as much as the fact that my Mom and sister had clearly had discussions about how my volunteer position should be eliminated. This is my third year as Co-President along with Mr. BBM of a thriving USA swimming club. In one year, we moved up almost 400 spots nationally. We added 15 more kids to our roster this year and had to turn many away because we simply don’t have the lane space. This past summer, we had enough swimmers in attendance at Junior Olympics to have relays in three age groups. And the relays did well. Twelve of our girls came home with medals; two of our swimmers made the Zones team. In the relatively short time of our tenure, we made major changes to our staff, applied for and received 501c3 status in less than six weeks (which our accountant says is virtually unheard of), and frankly, I’m just getting started.
What bothered me is that it was implied that because there’s no payment for what I do, there’s no value. I disagree.
Yes, I sometimes complain about all the work because there is a LOT. OF. WORK. I spend a minimum of 40 hours per week updating our website, sending out emails, sending in meet entries, and doing things to make our club a better place to swim. I’m tireless in my efforts; and yes, I sometimes get very frustrated with circumstances and people. Because OH. MY. GOD. can people be a pain in the butt sometimes.
But when I’m at the pool, and I see our coaching staff working together so well, and I see our swimmers achieving things they wrote on their goal sheets at the beginning of the year, it makes it all worth it. Every. Single. Moment.
Selfishly, I want this club to be the most amazing place to swim in a 100 mile radius for my kids. I want college coaches to take notice of the swimmers we’re churning out. I’ll stop at nothing to make it that way. But the pay-off is that this year, we have 99 swimmers that are benefiting from our amazing coaches. These 99 kids are all “my kids” in so many ways. Their successes and achievements are my successes and achievements. And just because there’s no payment for what I do doesn’t mean that it’s useless or lacking value. I do what I do because it’s a labor of love.
And it’s worth it. . . for my kids and for every other kid who swims at our club.
May 24, 2013
On Sunday, I bought Swim Girl a new dress for her National Junior Honor Society induction. She tried on a bunch of dresses and chose the one she liked.
Today, she put the dress on and took a good look at herself in the mirror. I don’t know what happened between Sunday and today, but whatever it was, wasn’t good. She started complaining about how ugly she looked, how everyone would make fun of her. The dress, a simple shift dress in greens and blues, looked pretty on her. She looked exactly like a 12-year old girl should look. . . her age. She felt it was too loose around the waist and wanted something to tie around the dress. The waist-tie to her white sweater was nowhere to be found, so with five minutes until we needed to leave, I ran upstairs and searched my closet for something that might work. I found a sweater that tied in the front and brought it down to her. I also grabbed a bunch of pretty barrettes that matched the dress, bought at Charming Charlie’s a while ago.
I helped her fix the sweater and put a carefully placed barrette in her hair. She stood in front of the mirror and said, “I’m so ugly.” She attempted to rip the barrette out but I insisted she wear it. We told her to put her chin up and be happy. This was going to be a big night for her! She moped all the way to school.
We arrived at the school, grabbed a program and found seats. Just as I was settling in, Mr. BBM says, “She’s not in here. She’s not in the program.” I scanned it myself and found her nowhere. Another Mom suggested that maybe she was put with the wrong grade. She wasn’t. I told Mr. BBM he better go tell someone. I imagined them reading names out of the program and my poor Swim Girl standing there, never being called.
Mr. BBM found the principal, told him and he was immediately off to tell the presenters to add her name. After he came back, he announced that a couple kids had been left out of the program, but that they would be printing new ones for all of us tomorrow. He speculated that these kids had turned their papers in late. I know Swim Girl turned it in just two days after her acceptance, a week before the due date.
The ceremony began and the NJHS officers were the main presenters. When it was time to read the names of the 6th graders, they called the names so quickly that the kids were practically running across the stage. When they said Swim Girl’s name, they butchered her last name beyond recognition. It’s not that hard of a last name. It’s five letters for God’s sake.
She made her way across the stage, shook the officer’s hand and waited in front of her guidance counselor for her certificate. He scrambled for a bit, looking through the pile as the presenters continued to rattle through names at warp speed. Eventually he told her he didn’t have one for her and she left the stage empty-handed. I could tell she was devastated. The girl should not ever play poker.
I felt a knot in the back of my throat. My Mom looked like she was going to cry, and I just wanted to stand up and scream that it’s just not fair.
I’m sick of my girl getting the short end of the stick. I’m sick of her being treated like a door mat by some of her supposed friends, and I’m incredulous that the school where she is subjected to snide comments by rude kids is now also the school that called her onto stage, only to send her away with nothing.
When the ceremony was over, one of my good friends came to talk to me and to hug Swim Girl. She had watched it like everyone else. She whispered something in Swim Girl’s ear which prompted a feeble attempt at a smile. As we stood there and I had to start chasing Little Man, the guidance counselor came over and began apologizing to my friend, thinking she was Swim Girl’s Mom. My friend pointed out his mistake and he turned to apologize to me. He said she’d have her certificate tomorrow morning, and I nodded and said “thanks.” I hope my non-poker face told him the whole story. I’m not happy. It’s an oversight that never should have happened, especially when you’re dealing with the already fragile psyche of a middle school girl who already feels like an outsider, the forgotten child, the ignored friend. He couldn’t have picked a worse time or kid to forget.
I’d like to tell them exactly what I think about her being forgotten. I’d like to scream, yell, and let them know how irritated and disappointed I am that they did this to my daughter. But what’s done is already done. Nothing can take away what happened, or how she felt; and there’s nothing that’s going to make it better.
I encouraged her to run for an officer position within the NJHS. That way, she can help to insure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone else. But right now, her confidence is completely shattered, and that’s not going to happen unless we figure out some way to repair it.
Swim Girl has been begging me to home school her the entire year. I’ve told her “no,” on many occasions and expressed to her how important it is to be part of the school, how she wouldn’t have access to her amazing art teacher, or events like this. I just lost Exhibit B in my case for her staying there. Instead of being a night to remember, it’s one she’d like to forget.