High Anxiety & The First Day of School

5 Last Songs on iTunes:

  1. Little Talks- Of Monsters & Men
  2. How To Save A Life- The Fray
  3. Just Like Heaven- The Cure
  4. Blackjack- Ray Charles
  5. Atlantic City- Bruce Springsteen

Midnight has come and gone but I am not smart enough to go to bed early. Spent countless hours running from place to place today and though my body is stationary my mind is still racing at light speed so here I am trying to decompress.

Six years ago I wrote a post about my son’s first day of school. Six years ago I wrote about a boy who was almost half the size of the one who is sleeping in the other room and shared some of my concern about his first day of school.

I blinked and the days that were the present became the past and now I am staring at the future I once wondered and worried about.

We registered for middle school today.

Middle school.

When I was his age we called it junior high except it didn’t start until 7th grade. This kid of mine gets to start in 6th grade, not that it really matters. At least I don’t see a huge difference between the two years.

What is Different Now

What is different now is that my little man is entering public school. After years of attending a Jewish Day school he is going out into the world. I have mixed emotions about this. His education was great but he was sheltered a bit and I expect that some of what he sees will surprise him.

Overall I am very confident in his abilities to get by, but I am still concerned.

This afternoon we had a discussion about some of the differences between middle school and elementary. I told him that now I have to rely upon his using his head and that common sense was very important.

We talked about sex, drugs and rock and roll, except it was a bit more clinical. I don’t want to scare him but I want to make two things clear:

1) I know something about all these things. I was a student so I am not unfamiliar with it all.

2) He can always talk to me about anything.

5 More Songs on iTunes:

  1. The Ocean- Led Zeppelin
  2. Come Together – The Beatles
  3. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Live)- U2 Live From Paris
  4. I Walk the Line- Johnny Cash
  5. (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay- Otis Redding

The Dark Haired Beauty

My daughter is going to a new school too. She’ll make her first foray into a public school as well. Part of me is really unhappy about this, but not because it is a bad school. Heck, it is one of the better public schools in town so that aspect of this is cool.

What bothers me is that her brother got to stay at the school longer. What bothers me is that it feels a bit like she caught the short end of the stick and that is not fair. I don’t play favorites and I want her to have everything her brother did.

But the decision to pull them is the correct one. It is financially necessary and she is ready.

My girl is a force of nature. When she sets her mind to doing something she keeps moving, pushing, pulling and working on it until it is completed to her satisfaction. She makes friends easily and she will figure this out. It will all be fine.

High Anxiety

My kiddies are nervous about these changes and so am I. Even though I am quite confident in them it is hard not to be a bit nervous. New schools, new schedules and new responsibilities.

New challenges and new opportunities come along with it. I see these things as being quite positive, but a father worries.

I am doing my best to keep them calm. I figure they’ll feed off of my energy and that should help, but it still feels surreal.

I can’t say that I don’t know where the time went because I do.

This blog you are reading holds an interactive chronicle of the past six years. There are tons of stories and a million snapshots of little moments in time in which I can read and return to the past.

But the past isn’t where I want to be, not unless I can pick very specific moments to relive. I have several that I would enjoy experiencing again, but that is not real.

And Yet Another 5 songs on iTunes

  1. Burning Down The House- Talking Heads
  2. Spinning Wheel- Blood Sweat & Tears
  3. Strange Days- The Doors
  4. Ramblin’ On My Mind- John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers
  5. I Gotta Feeling- Black Eyed Peas

Anticipation

Anticipation is what is making this hard for all of us.We don’t particularly enjoy this kind of waiting. Things will get easier once school starts and everyone understands what is going on. Once we see it is all working just fine we’ll collectively exhale and find more important things to worry about.

In the interim I am going to do my best to help them enjoy what is left of summer.

Linking up with Dude Write #8

There is No Relationship Between Your Bank Account & Your IQ

This is the sort of post that I thought twice about writing. Not because I am afraid to speak my mind but because it is possible that my words could have a negative impact upon my children.

I don’t really expect that to happen, but it would be foolish of me not to take a moment to consider whether there could be fall out. Excuse me for a moment while I take my customary two minutes to think about.

And we’re back.

My children are receiving a terrific education at the private school they attend. This makes me very happy because sending them there has come with a significant amount of stress.

That is not because their education is inferior but because it costs a boatload of money to send them there. Unless you are interested in listening to me rant don’t ask me why they haven’t gone to a public school. Had there been a good choice it would have happened but because we live in a land of misguided priorities we’re more concerned about making sure that Tom isn’t able to legally wed Dick.

God forbid that happen because if we made it legal Tom might find little Dick and do things with it that I am not supposed to write about in a family blog. And we all know that the best way to prevent something from happening is to say no or declare it illegal. It works so well.

Anyhoo, education is of paramount importance to us. Your material possessions can be taken from you, but your education can’t. So when the time came to send the children off to school we chose the private school because at that time there wasn’t a good public school option nor was it possible to move.

Private School Challenges

The second most irritating part of private school (tuition being the first) is that fundraising needs push big donors into positions of prominence and influence. I understand that it is important to keep them happy. There is no doubt that my children have benefited from some of the money that they have donated to the school.

However it is also certain that some of these bigger donors have used their financial influence to wield some control upon policy and that isn’t always a good thing. The fact that there are lots of zeros in your bank account is not indicative of your prowess or skill in the field of education. A fat wallet doesn’t mean that you know a thing about how to run a school or that you have a lick of common sense.

So we sometimes find that volunteer positions aren’t necessarily filled by those are most capable and best able to fulfill the responsibilities of the position. We find that money sometimes makes people behave in a manner that is reprehensible.

I don’t care if you have money. It doesn’t matter to me whether you have more less than I do. All I care about is who has the greatest ability to positively impact the school. End of story.

Yet I find myself arguing with idiots, buffoons and mean girls who are in a category all their own.

Private School Fundraisers

Private school fundraisers are a great example of the problems that certain elements can create. If you were to have a hypothetical auction you might reach out to various businesses and ask for donations of products/services that you could auction off to raise money for the school.

The smart school would reach out to businesses by presenting this as marketing opportunity. Don’t tell them that if they don’t provide a donation that the school won’t have a computer. Tell them that they are reaching a very affluent group of prospective consumers and that this group will be made aware of where the donation comes from.

When you do that they can view it as a business expense. You are helping them with the advertising/marketing efforts. That is something smart business people are interested in.

Alas some people are so provincial and so insecure they use that big bank account to prevent common sense from ruling the day. They tell you that they would never think of using eBay to run an online auction because they think it is trashy. Of course they haven’t ever used it nor does it make sense to them to expand the pool of prospective buyers from a few thousand into the millions.

Sour Grapes

Of course I don’t have any personal experience with this. I would never suggest that certain people gained their influence by lying down upon their backs because that would be too subtle. I would be far more graphic because making them sputter is much more fun.

And if I did any of these things for real people would suggest that I was angry merely because of sour grapes. Sigh, they just don’t understand that while I may be selfish in regard to my children my selfishness benefits their children too. Because the nifty thing about raising more money for the school is that it goes to all of the children and not just a privileged few.

Oh well, sometimes there really isn’t a relationship between your bank account and your IQ.

Mean Girls Come From Mean Moms

She was a five-year-old girl with who carried around a 31 year-old attitude that she called mom.

She walked over to me and said, “you are fat” and then asked why I didn’t have nicer shoes. I smiled at her and said that she made a good parrot. Her eyes grew wide and she asked me what I meant. I told her that I was sure that she tried very hard to be like her mom and she nodded. I said that I bet that she listened carefully to everything that her mom and said and that mom had talked about the other moms and dad and she nodded again.


Barefoot Dancers

She walked over to me and said, “you are fat” and then asked why I didn’t have nicer shoes. I smiled at her and said that she made a good parrot. Her eyes grew wide and she asked me what I meant. I told her that I was sure that she tried very hard to be like her mom and she nodded. I said that I bet that she listened carefully to everything that her mom and said and that mom had talked about the other moms and dad and she nodded again.

I laughed and she asked me what was so funny and I told her that cheerleaders weren’t smart enough to understand why it was funny. She looked up at me and said that she wasn’t a cheerleader but that her mommy had been one. I feigned surprise and said that I didn’t know that. We spent another moment or two talking and I told her that people who are mean to others sometimes  grow up to have no friends and that it was more important to learn a lot in school than to marry well.

Most of that went over her head and that is ok. I know that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and I am certain that her comments came from her mother. Part of me felt badly about planting those seeds. She is only five and it is not her fault that her mother thinks that the measure of people is made based upon their looks and financial wherewithal.  Some people are blessed by birth and others work hard for what they have.

This girl is one of a small group of girls that are part of my daughter’s class. They all started together in preschool and have continued on together into elementary school. I don’t know if I would say that this girl is the queen bee of the junior mean girls but she is certainly a board member. I watch and listen and know that she is being raised with values that are anathema to me. I watch and listen and see that she and the junior mean girls are a minority. The majority of the kids are great but there are always a few.

Sometimes I watch and am fascinated by how different the interaction is between the boys and the girls. There are mean boys. There are boys that aren’t nice but to me the distinctions and differences behaviorally are huge. Sometimes I wonder if what I consider to be mean/rude is caused by a misunderstanding. I wonder if there is a gender issue here because I feel like I follow the boys line of thought. I feel like I can see a clear line and even when it doesn’t make sense, it makes sense to me.

But girls are different.

And in my daughter’s class I see mean moms raising mean girls. The mean moms don’t like me very much. We have had some words this year and they didn’t like it. I teach my children to be civil and try to do the same. It is not always easy for me. I like to get the last word in and I hate apologizing. Sometimes I fall short, but I am usually aware of it.

The senior mean girls collective is angry because they sent out an email that was supposed to be an end of the year wrap-up and I asked a few questions. They don’t understand why I pointed out that we fell short in a few areas and I am told that they think I am an “asshole.” I tell the mom who passed that along they don’t understand the meaning of the word unless its is wrapped in gold. She asks me why I responded as I did and I tell her that it is about setting the tone for next year.

It is not adversarial nor one upsmanship I am after. Rather I want to make sure that some of these issues won’t come up next year. I want to make sure that the parents who won’t speak up know that if they do they will be supported. And come next September when school resumes I expect that the senior mean girls collective will do a better job of communicating with other parents and will have less influence.

At least that is what the fat guy with the ugly shoes hopes will happen. Time will tell.

When Mean Girls Grow Up

Unfair

There are some mean girls in my daughter’s class. Little girls with big attitudes who have been over indulged and have a sense of entitlement that should embarrass their parents. But the parents are not embarrassed because their daughters are only mimicking their mothers. They watch and learn. The comments, the gestures and the tone of voice all carbon copies of mom. I would really like to give them the benefit of the doubt. I would like to draw a distinction of some sort. I would like to say that they aren’t mean girls, spoiled maybe, but not mean.

But I can’t and I won’t because they are mean. They learned long ago how to exclude others and how to sneer at those that don’t meet whatever superficial criteria they have created.  I am at the school frequently and I see them on the yard. I have volunteered inside the classroom and seen them there too. I see them. I watch and take notes of who I don’t want my daughter to play with. I am judgmental and intolerant of this. I don’t care if you drive a Range Rover or a Mercedes. Your money means nothing to me and in many cases it is not yours.

I know because I have been a part of the community for years. I know that grandpa is funding things. You should be proud. You are a thirty something housewife who hasn’t ever worked and you have managed to use your money to buy some influence. It is the downside of attending private school and fortunately you are a minority. A very small minority to be precise, but your sense of entitlement doesn’t allow you to sit back and watch. You volunteer and are active too but that is because you want to feel important.

Being a part of the school is important and the parents play a vital role. But there is something to be said for being a nice person. I can’t help but wonder if you were a mean girl who grew up to be a mean woman. Last week I ruffled feathers because I sent out an email calling some of you on the carpet for behavior that I found to be intolerable. I am not bothered by confrontation. Your money doesn’t mean anything to me and frankly my children don’t play with yours. If they did I might have been more careful because my children don’t need to suffer because of my issues.

But that is not the case here. I almost feel badly for you and your mean girls collective. Someone forgot to tell you that email provides a nice paper trail. Someone forgot to teach you how to blind carbon copy or BCC others. Someone forgot to tell you speaking about others on campus isn’t smart. I don’t need magic powers to hear your words, not when I am standing around the corner.

I sent that email expecting to be forwarded. I intentionally copied everyone because I am documenting your nonsense. If it was possible to ignore you I would have, but you know that in this case it wasn’t. And now you know that I am not kidding when I say that I removed the filters from my mouth.  Someone needed to tell you that you are mistreating others. Someone needed to hold you accountable. I am not a hero. I am not noble. I am just the curmudgeon of the class. You didn’t know that before, but now you do.

A Midnight Snack- Private School

If pain builds character than I am eminently qualified to be just that…a character. I say that because I have sampled all types of pain from the migraine headache that drives you insane to the exquisite torture of having your heart ripped out and devoured before your eyes. You sit there reading this and ask, WTF does this have to do with private school and midnight snacks. You beg me to get to the point and as I always do, I answer the bell.

You see, my children are enrolled in private school and have been for years. And each year I find myself sitting up at night wondering why I insist on sticking my hand in the garbage disposal. Each year I wonder why I think that this year Lucy isn’t going to snatch the ball from me at the last moment. Is it ego? Is it male bravado? Is it one third hope, one third faith and two thirds stupidity. (Yes, I know that it doesn’t add up, read the stupidity part again.)

I share this with you for selfish purposes and not because I like self deprecation. I am not a stupid man. Ma and Pa Jack passed along an ample supply of intelligence and a solid dose of common sense. Not to mention an enormous amount of tenacity, perseverance and an ornery disposition. Yes, I am stubborn. So I write these things down to remind myself that the definition of insanity is repeating the same action over and over again while expecting different results.

My children love their school and are receiving an outstanding education. I think that it is far superior to the one that they would receive in the local public school. I don’t trust or like that school which is why this public school graduate has been sending his children to private. But there is a significant cost tied to their education.  There is a price that I am paying that extends beyond the simple finances. There is an albatross around my neck and a chain on my leg that we call tuition. Each year I lose my mind trying to figure out how to keep them there.

I am proud to say that they have been there for as long as they have. You can lose a lot of things in life but you can’t lose your education. We have given them a gift that is priceless and I am grateful for that. But the physical wear and tear of trying to keep them there has taken a toll. There are consequences and I am afraid that the chickens are coming home to roost.

Sometimes during these late night writing sessions (it is almost 1 AM) I think about my paternal grandfather. It is almost five years since he died and there is not a week that has gone by in which I haven’t thought about him. Grandpa never went to college. He was an avid reader who read constantly and was well informed about most things. But he was known in many ways more for his street smarts than book. I suppose that it is not entirely fair because it diminishes his intelligence and he wasn’t stupid.

One of the many things that I miss about him was his advice. In the interest of full disclosure he was among my biggest cheerleaders. I could do almost no wrong in his eyes. That doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t tell me if he thought I was being foolish and stupid. He just did a better job of couching the vinegar in his criticism than my father did. One of these days I have to consider whether I think that was beneficial or not.

Anyway, I have been thinking about grandpa quite a bit. I have a list of things that I wish that I could tell him about. He would be so pleased to see how well his great grandchildren are doing. Not to mention that grandpa was a fabulous story teller. He was a true artist who could keep your attention and interest without much effort. He was far more masterful at bobbing and weaving his way through the story than I am, but he was 55 years older than I am so maybe there is still hope for me.

I really should have shown him this blog. I really should have let him into this world because he would have loved it. And I would have too. I would have laughed with him at some of the stories here and smiled when I talked about the sleepovers at his place. He would have smiled when I talked about the midnight snack. Every time I slept over I would tell him that I wanted to meet him in the kitchen at midnight for a snack. He always said that he would and I always went to sleep expecting to wake up a few hours later for one.

So here I am, some 30 years or so later, sitting at my dining room table. The boy who asked his grandfather to join him for ice cream or cookies of whatever it was that kid wanted is grown up now. There is no sleeping bag waiting for my return now are my parents expected to be here in the morning to pick me up for my soccer/baseball game. Instead I am staring at spreadsheets and bank statements wondering if this is the year that we pull the children. Instead of dreaming of home runs I’ll be dreaming of a new home because I think that it is probably time to move.

I am still worried about striking out but this time the team I worry about letting down is far more important. But if I close my eyes I can see myself rounding third base and running for home. Grandpa is standing next to my dad screaming for me to run through the catcher and that is what I am going to do. It is a real memory. He was bigger than I was, but I was a 12 year-old boy who was supremely confident and had a head full of steam. I can’t tell you if the ball got there before I did but I know that I knocked it out of his hands and ended up safe at home.

The question is, can I do it again or will I get caught this time. Guess I won’t know until the play is over, but it is probably fair to say that I’ll add to the scars and battle wounds that I have already collected. Got to run now and prepare to add build some more character.