Posts Tagged ‘children’

While I waited for my daughter to finish her breakfast so we could begin another school day Monday, I sludged through page after page of beautiful men in the latest issue of GQ magazine, confounded that such beautifully airbrushed creatures actually existed on this planet. Whew!  Quite an eyeful.

And then, BAM, it hit me, the editorial by Jim Nelson, editor-in-chief of GQ.  Someone expressed in a wonderfully delicious, acerbic style, what I had been thinking for some time. 

Let me connect the dots.  An “old-school” song came on the radio as I was racing to pick up my child from school recently.  Eminem’s “Slim Shady” song.  Perhaps you’ve heard it, yes? I had a general disdain for the song when it was popular a few years ago, because I love music so much and his type of anger didn’t do it for me.  But on this particular day, I was exhausted by the same ten songs on the radio stations, and I’ve given up on finding the stations that used to play Barbra Streisand songs (sigh), which have faded into endless nasal tunes by Rihanna.  Hah! How often does that happen in one lifetime — a sentence that mentions Barbra and Rihanna.  I’m on a roll…

I digress.

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cause I’m only giving you
Things you joke about with your friends inside your living room
The only difference is I got the balls to say it
In front of y’all and I don’t gotta be false or sugarcoated at all

I heard these lines, which I had never heard before.

And these.

And every single person is a Slim Shady lurking
He could be working at Burger King, spitting on your onion rings
[*HACH*] Or in the parking lot, circling
Screaming “I don’t give a fuck!”
With his windows down and his system up
So, will the real Shady please stand up?

Maybe I tuned it out when I heard the line about how every child will know what intercourse is by the time they’re in the fourth grade.  It just may have been too much for me to handle then. And it’s so easy to tuck our heads down and plow along, in denial of what’s right in front of our faces, aren’t we?

My daughter is in third grade now.

I thought to myself, now that I’m 43, I feel like a “Slim Shady” because I finally stood up to the system, finally stopped playing the fake mommy game, finally stopped giving a damn what other people thought of me, expected of me, or saw in me.  See, good Catholic girls who were reminded daily, Jonathan Edwards style, that Hell is just around the bend, learned how to be humble, how to adopt a Francis of Assisi state of mind…or else.  

I watched the movie, “Antwone Fisher” last night and it reminded me of my “Slim Shady” thoughts again, as I considered how Mr Fisher had become so filled with anger that it spewed out of him like a geyser due to the incomprehensible treatment by his foster family.  

Our childhoods are so powerful and etch deep grooves into our future adult personalities.  Today it feels like a cloak, a heavy brocade and lined cloak, pressing on my shoulders, that I long to toss off in a very Hollywood Oscar nominated film kind of style, and proclaim, “This is who I am.  I will not apologize or make excuses or say ‘I’m sorry’ anymore. I am Slim Shady too.” 

The very image of that in my mind gives me butterflies. 

Imagine my utter glee to read such a spot-on editorial by GQ editor Jim Nelson this morning. 

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In, “So Very Deeply Madly Sorry,” Mr. Nelson humorously delves into what he calls the “dawn of an apology culture — a strange, self-feeding loop of screw-up and regret that has us all riveted” (GQ 72).

It was brilliant.  I laughed out loud when he said, “As a country, we’ve never been sorrier.”  These words were so true. We suck up news pieces of government officials and celebrities who let their real thoughts slip, only to be forced into an apology by pressures from the people.  

Consider this:  if the federal government has task forces that spend millions of dollars chasing down internet pedophiles in this country, can we really expect that some of those pornography addicted men are not in public offices, and celebrities? I’m just saying. 

It’s a great piece.  If anybody in the world reads this blog, perhaps you should look it up yourself.  Apparently this is the March issue of GQ, not February.  I’m sorry. (Dope! — Homer Simpson voice).

Check it out.  

Now, here are two terrible confessions, which I’m NOT sorry about, even thought I did apologize for one of them.

1. Whenever a new GQ issue comes out, I secretly toss the old one to recycling, because…he never really reads them anyway.

2. To my last principal, who is an incompetent ass, when I told you to shut up, it was because you are indeed insufferable, and I couldn’t tolerate another second listening to your programmed administrative drivel.  And I’m not sorry, because, well, quite frankly, you deserved it. 

Jim Nelson feels this new apology driven society has manifested from our “own issues about sincerity.”  Think about it.  Everything around us these days if superficial, from our Instagram feeds, to our Facebook posts, to our Snapchats.  I watched a moronic mother at my daughter’s multi-cultural festival on Friday snapping pictures of herself, while student performances were going on, and it looked like she was getting ready to post to some social media site all about what a great mother she was, standing in the back of the auditorium to see her baby girl that she was so proud of.  Yeah…to proud to put the damn phone down and pay attention to baby girl no doubt.

We’re obsessively driven to capture it all and it looks like we’re missing everything.  When will the real Slim Shady’s please stand up? Please…stand up.  

 

 

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When teaching literature to high school students, I often emphasized and tried to prove how literature is a reflection of life at a particular time in history. This is why I always began a course discussing how literature must be analyzed historically, socially, politically, in addition to absorbing it thematically and structurally.

Thus, it makes sense that sensitive issues will arise in the study of writings, especially classics of American literature, as well as periods in British literature. For example, many teachers are uncomfortable with reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Maya Angelou because of its raw glimpse into a society immersed in the evils of slavery, and all the derogatory wording used.

Ironically, it seems only rappers are comfortable with some derogatory language which people used historically to debase and denigrate slaves.

Nevertheless, some issues are critical and must be confronted in an intelligent and compassionate way. Today’s young people live in a society where anything goes. As much as we like to pretend our children are blissfully innocent, they know a WHOLE lot more than we think they know.

Sadly, Black History Month has become a dulled, dutiful event in the schools, which students gloss over and promptly forget  in the time it takes to pull a poster of notable Black folk off a bulletin board.

Kids are naturally curious and have questions. But despite the glaring nudity, profanity, and violence prevalent on every television station cable has to offer, we feel safer sticking our heads in the sand and pretending our children don’t have some inkling that life isn’t a “Little House on the Prairie” episode any longer.

The news link below features a situation in a nearby county, which is geographically where Raleigh sits, where a study of the civil war prompted a lesson for 8th grade students where they had to role play as though they were various figures who lived during that time period.

http://mediacdn.wral.com:1935/vods3/_definst_/mp4:amazons3/cbcnewmedia_wowza/57415-julia530-576×324-15-768.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wowzacaptionfile=amazons3/cbcnewmedia_wowza/57415-julia530.srt

According to the news segment, one student’s assignment was apparently to take on the role of a slave during that time. “I am a Slave” was the title of her graphic organizer, and eventual essay. Her mother was uncomfortable with the assignment and called the principal, who called central office, and it made the local news, resulting in it being removed as an assignment from the curriculum.

If I were the mother of an 8th grader, I would closely watch how the assignment unfolded and offer some enrichment at home for research purposes to help my child grasp the magnitude of slavery as an institution.

For instance, my local PBS station has recently featured documentaries about different perspectives on slavery and its eventual end in this country. We’ve been showing segments of it to our eight year old, who has been curious about slavery for the last two years. Her father took her and her older sister to see “Twelve Years a Slave,” which was so powerful my daughter was at a loss for words for a while (a rarity!). We discussed it at dinner for days afterward, and she had tons of questions.

It is interesting how many questions kids have, even 11th and 12th graders. I have been asked so many questions about life, real life, that the students didn’t feel comfortable asking their own parents.

Let’s stop pretending our children are naive and open the channels of communication with our children. Let’s have some dialogue and feed them some truths before they hear half-truths and ignorant garbage from others.

Maybe I’m wrong, but when kids are singing number one hits that have to do with anal sex, three-way scenarios, and a plethora of drug usage, do we really think they can’t handle some careful instruction about something we all need to learn from?

I can recall a wonderful student I taught recently in a British Literature class, and when we studied The Canterbury Tales, he came up to me privately and asked to not read or do his project on The Wife of Bath, who was known for her “worldly ways” with multiple men. He was a Jehovah’s Witness. Naturally, I modified his requirements for reading and writing.

Educators in general have been handcuffed from honest teaching and if parents were to work with them and ask questions, our children might be far more conscious and knowledgeable of the world around them.

Martin Luther wasn't afraid to tell some hard truths; people simply weren't ready to hear them.

Martin Luther wasn’t afraid to tell some hard truths; people simply weren’t ready to hear them.

The perils of living in a state like North Carolina are infinite.

In the last year, among other equally moronic actions, our fine governor, Pat McCrory, along with his legislature, decided to reject the Federal government’s assistance with extended unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed. Apparently, these leeches have been suckling the system, and are unwilling to take the abundance of jobs available in the state.

According to thinkprogress.com, the brilliant governor said:

 We had the ninth most generous unemployment compensation in the country and we were having a lot of people move here, frankly, especially in urban areas to get unemployment and then work other sectors and survive. So, people were moving here because of our very generous benefits, and then of course, we had more debt. So I think, personally, more people got off unemployment and either got jobs or moved back to where they were going or came from and quit the migration as much because of unemployment. We’ve seen this in other states where the benefits are very high, it could draw people from outside the state.

Seem a bit exclusive?

I recently watched the news report about the decline in the unemployment numbers, even though they do not tell an accurate story, and McCrory proudly reported the figures to the press, while explaining that it is partly due to people accepting jobs that they would have rejected otherwise while living a cushy life with unemployment benefits.  As one of those people who enjoyed the luxurious accommodations of the unemployment benefits of North Carolina, I stepped my feet out of the pedicure tub, and took a seasonal job at a retail store to help support my family in any way I could, after the savings ran out.

 The lessons I have learned have been eye-opening and depressing on many levels as it relates to society and humanity.  

Lesson #1  

The American Consumer Madness is a monster. The lines of people I have witnessed as I ran a register who buy so much garbage made in China, only to make sure they “look” happy and their children are happy (for a few minutes at least) with toys they don’t need, gadgets that make them dumber, and more clutter to fill a garage within six months, is staggering.  I have since begun to truly question every single purchase I make and asking myself, “Do I truly NEED that?” Will this must-have clearance item improve my life exponentially?

 Lesson #2  

Parents have confirmed what I have known for years but could never verbalize openly: they DO do their kids homework. I have helped hundreds of parents, educated, intelligent, and everything in between, find items THEY needed for a school project, while their child stood idly by, on their cellphones, or running around the store like heathens.  When I taught English, and a student wrote something in class that was at the level expected for a high school student, and then submitted papers that many New York Times columnists could not equal, it was very clear to me that someone else did the work.  

 As many have said before me, the damage that parents have done to this generation in enabling their children has crippled them for the future (and we wonder why there are so many school shootings lately) and created disconnected and morally corrupt adults, which will hurt our society on a scale that we are only beginning to grasp.

SO STOP DOING YOUR KIDS HOMEWORK AND PROJECTS. They won’t die if they actually have to do some work.  As I paid my way through college, I worked nighttime security with a wise man, who had nine kids (yes, he was Irish Catholic). He told me a story which has remained with me through the twenty plus years raising my own six children (yes, Puerto Rican Catholic). Whenever his children got into trouble of some sort, he immediately set them to work raking the broad expanse of their yard. There are few things in life which hard work does not cure, he would say. I employed the same strategies as a divorced mother of six. My kids know how to work a rake!

Lesson #3  

People are rude. And selfish. And self-absorbed. They walk through my store, picking things up, too lazy return them to their original location, and I actually heard one customer tell their companion, as he callously tossed aside items he no longer wanted, “I’m just giving THESE people something to do.” Ahh, yes. Should I have pumped his hand in gratitude, thankful that because he and his fellow shoppers trash the store every single day, it enables my manager to keep me on the payroll for my average earnings of $100 per week?

 Granted, there are the gracious, well-mannered shoppers who appreciate customer service, look me in the eye, and value my very knowledgeable assistance. These are the humanists who don’t just throw the money on the counter, who don’t say “keep the change” as if it were mine to keep, and don’t talk on their cellphones while I am scanning their purchases. I tuck these kind souls in my pocket and try to ask myself, “What would Mother Teresa do?”  

There are so many lessons that humanity teaches us as we interact with the world on a daily basis. Mostly, I have absorbed the good, the bad, and the ugly, and use it as a guide, as a reminder for myself, on how I am raising my last two children, and how I treat others in my daily travels.  

So, thanks Governor McCrory. Thanks for nothing, and thanks for everything. This too shall pass. And when the day comes that I can wave goodbye to this pseudo-progressive, exclusive, good-ol’-boy state, I will debate on whether to wave with dignity or resort to another less dignified yet digit-al form of nonverbal communication.

When did we stop teaching children humility?

I distinctly recall having it drilled into my head as a child that “children were to be seen and not heard” during events where adults were gathered. I recall the sting of shame if I dared to become too familiar with an adult and refer to them by their first name without the proper title before it.

So many things. These things created a social ecosystem which we understood as children, as it primarily established the boundaries of respect between us snot-nosed kids and adults.

But it has changed.

I recently had the chance to work with a small group of kids aged seven through twelve on some techniques for the hottest toy/fashion accessory for kids called the Rainbow Loom. Our family had discovered it months before the craze hit the world and I advocated for it strongly for it’s excellent non-digital occupation of time, fine motor skill learning, mathematical reinforcement, etc. Youtube (an amazing learning website!) offered a plethora of bands to make, from beginner to advanced. Fantastic!

What I thought was going to be a fun, relaxed environment of like-minded aficionados of the Rainbow Loom turned into an uncomfortable scenario as I was confronted with elitist show-offs who had apparently never been taught respect in their young lives.

The children — not one in particular — called out questions randomly. They expected to be waited on and catered to, even if it meant neglecting the other child being helped. They didn’t listen to the proper instructions, choosing to do it “their” way, causing the technique to fall apart. They mimicked and blatantly laughed at my hand gestures and comments.

I felt like an aging grandmother (which I’m not yet) at a Skrillex concert in the park. Suddenly Rainbow Loom and it’s ingenuity felt stale and lifeless.

How sad to see bright young children with such poor social skills. Even more disturbing is the thought that if you multiply them by 100 or even 1,000, these are the faces in classrooms across the country. The faces of kids who don’t have a clue what the causes of World War II were but are certain that they know more than my careful instruction could provide because they glanced at a video for a few minutes and after all, aren’t they the generation of uber-technology and at-your-fingertips information?

As I reflected on my distaste for the situation and made another glance upward in gratitude that I no longer teach, I wonder if we even know the damage we are inflicting to our country’s future. I also remembered a great read called There are No Shortcuts by a Mr. Esquith (I think), a teacher in California (I think) who made tremendous strides with his elementary school kids in education. These fourth and fifth graders were studying Othello and other Shakespearean plays, concepts and literature far beyond their years, and the author/teacher’s basic foundational premise was that there were no shortcuts in life, as the title offers. I wonder whether our youth today will one day realize the same.

Perhaps there’s something to be said for the old school methods after all.

Happy Veteran’s Day.

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This week has been a sludgy kind of week, as I battled with a croupy kind of cough and heavy duty sinus pressure that caused painful headaches.  Whew!  I think this cold got me because I ran out of apple cider vinegar.  If you have never taken apple cider vinegar, YOU NEED TO START IMMEDIATELY!  It will transform your life.

So I was up late last night and caught the last half hour of a documentary called “American Teacher.”  It focused on four or five different teachers and their perspectives on living as a teacher.  The one that struck me the hardest featured a woman who became a mother and could only afford six weeks of maternity leave, and then had to pump breast milk every two hours and went frantically searching for an office or room she could use to pump.  As a mother who nursed six children, I related to that chaos.

Furthermore, she explains how tired she is all the time because her newborn gets up often; plus, she has all the demanding lesson planning time which is an ongoing process.  I did that too.

When I consider all the behind the scenes work that goes into being prepared for each day as a teacher, then the endless grading, and data entry of grades, and bulletin boards, and lesson planning, that so many teachers do each day of a school year, it really makes me want to slap the stupid people who have the audacity to tell teachers to quit complaining because we have so much vacation time off and puffed up pensions.  Little do they know…

In any case, watching that short piece of the documentary brought back memories of the decade I spent in the classroom and the classroom spent in my home, which dominated every moment of my life, or so it seems.

In the five months since I stopped teaching, here’s some things I reconnected with:

Instead of telling the kids the obligatory, “That’s nice honey,” when they pointed out the rainbow, I put down the grading and we enjoyed the beauty of the rainbow together.  Like the rainbow, their childhood is fleeting and I won’t get it back again.

I reconnected with nature and took a deep breath.  As I pondered the majesty of the world, I remembered my insignificance and for a moment I convinced myself that the world would function just fine even though I wouldn’t be doing my contribution to society any longer through the vehicle of teaching.

As the summer gave way to fall, I went on a hayride with my family in an attempt to lift my spirits, and despite the darkness of my mood, I found that there is indeed sunlight and grace through even the darkest periods.

I spent some time watching five and six play on a playground.  I marveled at the ability that children have to make “friends” so easily.  The natural bookish introvert that I am would never dream of hopping on a see saw with a perfect stranger.  Over and over, I watched my seven year old naturally blend with a group of her peers and within minutes they were screaming and laughing, and running around the playground with wild abandon and an easy camaraderie.  Ahh, if only it were so easy for adults.  When do we lose that gift?

Things aren’t perfect right now.  I feel at loose ends, my independent spirit has been thwarted, justice has not been served and soon I will be completely broke.  But I am going to continue to take deep breaths and hang on to my faith that this is the road I am meant to travel, and I will figure out my next step in due time.

Thanks for reading.

 

Earlier this summer, as I began the ritual of camps for number 5, I was waiting to pick her up, along with several other parents.  We had the same look on our faces, akin to the look a person has on their face as they prepare for an injection of Novocaine.  (By the way, how is it that we have landed on other planets but can’t find an easier way to numb the gums?)

The shock of the day began with a cute tow-headed boy and his lovely svelte blond mother who were seated nearby at another picnic table.  It went something like this:

“You’re so stupid!  I don’t even know why I listen to you!  You don’t even know what you’re talking about!  Just shut up already!”

Is your mouth hanging open now?  No?  Maybe you’re not surprised at all, considering the state of this country.  It doesn’t matter how often I see this, I’m still profoundly disturbed when I encounter things like this.

Before I share mom’s response, let me preface by setting the stage.  This is Chapel Hill.  Home of the Tar Heels (crap).  It has the highest property taxes in the state of North Carolina.  Only the best of the best, the wealthiest, classiest, and most educated people live here.  Let’s not forget how progressive Chapel Hill people are as well.

Whatever! (My students would be proud to see me be so avant garde here!)

In Chapel Hill, children are bright, well-adjusted, two-parent loving, bible thumpers.  Their understated yet over-priced clothing is a testament to their right to belong in this upper echelon of society.  Enough said.

So, mom crumples up into a ball of embarrassment, turns her head away from her handsome son, probably in an effort to hold back tears, and they proceed to give each other the silent treatment.  I shared this scenario with my mate. He said, “The kid probably treats  her like that because that’s how the father talks to her too.”  I don’t know if that’s true or not.  But I know this:

If this is what it takes to raise good kids, in a good neighborhood, surrounded by good people, then give me an urban, crowded, loud, crime-ridden town any day.  I don’t want my children to grow up with this sense of entitlement that is pervasive around here.

Side note:  One day while still teaching, I was talking to my doctor about blood work results, when a foreign exchange student from Sweden waltzed into my room (my lunch period) and sat down to read a book.  I looked at her as though she must have fallen and bumped her head, and asked her if she needed anything, to which she replied, “No, it’s just too noisy out there.”  THE AUDACITY.  The NERVE.  How dare she assume she could take such liberties, and stroll into my classroom without knocking or asking if it was alright to sit there?  I didn’t even know her.

I completely agree with this quote by John Rosemond, a parenting expert:

What’s happening in America today is parents are emphasizing their relationships with their children instead of leadership.  Anyone in leadership will tell you, you cannot have a warm, fuzzy relationship with people you are in charge of leading. 

His parenting approach is no nonsense, realistic, and perhaps a bit traditional in comparison of the last few decades of “be your child’s friend” garbage.  This is a huge part of the problem in education today.

I may sound harsh here, but I have told my own children the following life and death mantras too many times to count:

1. I wish you would try to talk to me like that…or roll your eyes at me…or twist your neck at me…or dare to even raise your voice above a whisper.

2. ‘I don’t know’ is not an answer.

3. If you ever think you’re too big for a spanking, rest assured, I will stand on a chair and take you down if necessary.

Truthfully, I was disgusted by that mother, repulsed by her weakness and at the same time, afraid I would remain in this Stepford-like town for so long that I would succumb to the “let’s all be friends club”.  As a “former” teacher, I stand firm that a good number of the children’s problems stem from parents who are afraid to be parents. They’re so afraid of screwing up the way THEIR parents did that they’re inadvertently screwing their kids up.  Wait, I think I just screwed myself up!

To that end, here’s a recent picture of my three baby boys and a family friend, (the other half, the three girls were running around elsewhere) in an epic Nerf Gun Battle Showdown.  My role was simply the countdown to annihilation person and photographer.

Aside from the obvious violent subtleties, aren’t they cute?

I just spent an hour trying to figure out how to rotate this and I give up.  All suggestions are welcome.  I clicked on the edit photo icon in the top left corner but all it allowed me to do was crop.  I’m using the desktop today and it’s getting arthritis.  Sorry.  Anyway, that’s half the volleyball team of mine.

Parents, it’s time to wake up and stop being your children’s friend.  Stop giving them everything; you’re making it so hard for those of us who can’t.  Step up, put your big girl panties and boxers on, and stop ending your orders to your kids with, “Okay?”

I’m off to Fedex!  Ciao!