Elementary, my dear…..

Our youngest has his “moving up” ceremony this week and our family’s elementary school years will officially end.  They started 15 years ago when Danielle joined her reception class at Hall School Wimbledon in the UK.   I remember standing on the stairs with all of the other parents wondering if my four-year old would be able to handle the rigors of full-day school.  The friends I made that year are still dear and close.  It didn’t matter whether we were English, American, or even Japanese.  Many families in that year were sending the eldest or only to school and our shared experience bound us together.  I did not think that a last week of school could be any sadder than the one I experienced at when we left the UK.  I was wrong.

Our nine years at Increase Miller have been wonderful.  Some things have changed but the teachers’ commitment to the children has never wavered.  Each of our children was treated uniquely and gained what she or he needed to flourish.   Danielle was only there for one year but her homeroom teacher made her feel as if she was the most special child in the room.  Our second daughter was there for three years and it is not an exaggeration to say that her fifth grade teacher changed her life and showed her that the world was her theater no matter what obstacles were set in her way.  Our older son learned that kindness and academics come before sports.  Being a jock certainly has an upside on the social scene, but he continues to remember that there is much more to be gained in school.

Our youngest is in a category all his own.  He is 11 years old, almost 5’3” with 44” shoulders and a body type that best resembles a brick wall.  His personality (and his heart) is as big as his frame.  He tried out for the fifth grade musical, “Jungle Book,” and he landed the part of Baloo the bear.  I just assumed he got the part because of his size.  He participated in every costume design workshop, set design workshop and of course, rehearsals.  Along the way he said very little about his part in the play and never asked for help in learning his lines and songs.  I grew increasingly nervous, as he is normally shy and avoids drawing attention to himself at all costs. He appeared on stage and the transformation was unbelievable.  He sang, he danced and he didn’t miss a cue.  Several teachers around me had misty eyes that matched mine.  Six years of nurturing by his teachers led to our son growing wings and soaring.

The tears are running down my face as I finish this blog.  The memories don’t belong to the children alone.  Along the way the teachers, administrators, support staff and custodians have become friends.  We shared news of graduations, weddings, babies and losses.

As a child leaves his elementary years behind he brings his memories forward and leaps to the next adventures.  I will join our youngest soon, but for now, I look behind me and mourn the passing of these years.   It is certain that I will miss them most of all.

Polka…no, Waltz….

You are all nice enough to read my blog every Monday and here I am paying you back by releasing one on a Tuesday. I offer an apology and an explanation.

The explanation is that yesterday I forgot that I was the adult and that the kids’ lives should not rule mine. I’ve always thought I was doing a good job of preserving my adult identity but sometimes I seem to lose the plot. It is not the fault of the children. We are the adults, after all.

My parents taught us that a couple should go out without the children at least once, if not twice, a week. Brian and I pulled this off for seventeen years until Danielle started high school. Five years later, we often find ourselves at games and other child-centered events on weekend evenings. Somewhere along the way, we adults forgot that children should see their parents going out with other adults and making being an adult a priority. It is our fault that we have allowed events to take place after 6 pm on weekends for our younger children. I even lost the battle for Sunday mornings during football season, a time that was seen as sacrosanct until this generation.

Meals have become another disaster. No one seems to be home at the same time, so a fresh meal is only fresh for a chosen one or two, depending on the night. Last night the three older kids did their best to put dinner on the table before I arrived home from the baseball field at 8:30. Things went awry and we ended up eating after 9 pm. I both congratulate my kids on their self-sufficiency and secretly mourn that I am not able to be in the kitchen on a regular basis to cook (which I love) for the people I love.

Education comes before all in our house, even sports. I completely respect that coaches, like Brian, volunteer many hours for our kids but I have always made it clear that if a child misbehaves, disrespects or does poorly in school, I will pull him or her from a game. Harsh? Maybe. Negotiable. No.

Our schools have “e-chalk”, a site where a student and his parents are able to see all homework assignments and scheduled tests and quizzes. I joke about never having been on the site, as I never bothered to receive a username and password. It is not that I don’t care, but rather the complete opposite. My job is to be a mom and a wife and a volunteer and a business owner. The children’s job is to be a student and a person of good moral character. I will spend hours helping them review for a test if asked, but otherwise, I expect them to do what is asked of them.

I drink soda, you kids may not. You have Facebook when you are 14 and I must be your first friend. You act inappropriately on the Internet and you will only be allowed to use your computer for schoolwork, in my presence. You want to keep your door closed at all times. Tough.

You forgot to tell me that you need a new white shirt for your concert. I will get you one ASAP. You lost your homework, your calculator, and your earrings. I may not replace those, but I will respect that you are having a bad day. You need help with a teacher. I will set up a meeting for the three of us. Someone hurt your feelings. I will say nice things while I secretly want to hurt that someone back.

This whole parenting thing is really just another type of dance. Some days we get all of the steps right and we leave the dance floor with unblemished feet. Other days, we don’t.

Yesterday, I danced a polka even though the music demanded a waltz. Today is another day.

Have a wonderful week.


Our older son turned 13 last week. We now officially have three teenagers in the house, at least for the summer. All of a sudden, it seems that I am answering more questions than I am asking, a clear shift in my parenting experience. Usually I ask, no one answers, I ask again and then I yell. This pattern has suited us all fine for 19 years. In an effort to spare many of you the angst of coming up with answers to teenage questions, here are some of the ones I have used recently, followed by what I really wanted to say, i.e. the truth.

Q: Why don’t you ever make anything I like for dinner?
A: If you let me know at the beginning of the week what you would like, I will
happily make it for you.
T: I hope your wife is a lousy cook.

Q: Why does he (the youngest) get better treatment all of the time?
A: I respond nicely to him because he treats me nicely.
T: I like him better, so there.

Q: Where are my clothes?
A: I put them in your room.
T: They are the only garments actually on a hanger.

Q: Where is my cup (you know, that kind of cup)?
A: I put it in your room.
T: Why do I have to know where that thing is all the time? I obviously don’t wear

Q: Where is my homework?
A: I put it on your desk.
T: Are you people lazy or just stupid?

Q: How long do I have to help you?
A: An hour or so would be great.
T: Until one of your limbs falls off.

Q: Why do you always say things to embarrass us?
A: I am not purposely trying to embarrass you.
T: Hee-hee-hee.

Q: Why don’t you like this outfit?
A: You’re so pretty that I want to see you in something that flatters you.
T: Because it is ugly and makes you look like a tart.

Q: Why doesn’t he like me?
A: Because he doesn’t know a great person when he meets one.
T: Thank God.

Q: Why won’t you let me stay out late/go to that party/hang out with him?
A: I don’t think it is the best choice.
T: Because I love you more than you will ever know.

I met a great guy the other day, Sam Lewis. He just wrote a book called “Don’t Be an Idiot,” a relationship book of sorts for men. You can find it online at: don’tbeanidiot.com. It would make a great Father’s Day gift!