Friday, April 26, 2013


That's what this year has been for my 6th grader.  Icky.  While I remember my other three kids having the occasional issue around this age, I can't recall it being THIS protracted.  Seriously, this has gone on since the beginning of the school year.

Lest you think I am not aware of my kids' idiosyncrasies, and how they relate socially.  Don't.  I get it.  I especially get it with my youngest.  She's the one who has had the most freedom, mostly by virtue of being the youngest.  As parents, we are entering into the equivalent of "senioritis" with regard to parenting.  So, yes, we've been lax.  But I'll  be honest and say that I'm not sure exactly where or how that fits into her experiences this year.

She is at a 6th grade center.  ALL of town's 6th graders go to one school then next year they will be split up into one of two junior high schools.  I thought this would be a good thing as it would give her the opportunity to expand her friend base.  Up until this year, she had one friend, pretty much from birth, one really good friend from school and a couple of girls who were in a more popular clique where she would SOMETIMES be included, but that seemed to wane at the end of last year.

Within the first month of school the friend, from birth, apparently had taken up with a new friend and openly mocked my daughter on the bus, in earshot of other people but behind my daughter's back.  One of my middle daughter's friends, who had NO dog in the fight, passed on what happened and the middle daughter  texted me and said she was going to put a stop to it.  Now, given the contentious relationship my youngest two have, I actually saw her desire to stand up for her sister as a good thing but I also know that in confronting these girls, she would be seen as the aggressor  so I asked her not to.  Yeah, well, THAT didn't happen because as I have mentioned here, and here, and here, oh, and here, my kids don't always listen to me.  So, she confronted on the bus and said, "talk smack about my sister and you'll deal with me".  Is it actually possible to be horrified and proud at the same time?  No threat, just that she has her sister's back.  But here's the kicker (and you just KNOW this was coming right), first  they LIED flat out about mocking her, then they ran to the principal of the 6th grade center and reported my middle daughter for bullying.  And thus began my frequent visits to the principal's office.

LUCKILY, the principal is about the most awesome principal that there could ever be.  EVER.  He moved from the grade school my youngest three attended to the 6th grade center and I am well acquainted with how he works.  And as he has seen me volunteering frequently at the grade school, he knows I am an involved parent.  Which made this first meeting much easier than I would have expected.  We both put this down to a somewhat bad experience and hoped this would be the end of it.  Oh, it hasn't always been these same two girls.  And I'll be honest, some of this is on my daughter.  She wants to be in with the popular girls and simply put, they don't want her.  She's that kid who will do whatever they want of her, thinking it is her way "in" only to be disappointed over and over and over again.  And most of it has taken place out side of school.  She'll make plans with one of the girls only to find herself ditched while they all get together without her.  And I GET how she needs to own some of this, but some of this behavior is just plain ICKY.  Like calling a girl and having them pretend they don't know anyone by her name.  SERIOUSLY?  I'd have preferred that they had taken a much more honest but possibly brutal approach and said, "we just don't want to be friends with you".  BTDT.  I have the battle scars.  But it makes you evaluate what about them you were drawn to.  Was it popularity?  Was it common interests?  Or was it simply convenience.

My last trip to see the principal was the most harrowing.  We were back to the bus girls and apparently they had (all) been online with each other (KiK) and one asked my daughter if she considered suicide.  Then they brought it up on the bus.  THEN, oh so coincidentally, a note was left in my daughter's locker saying "kill yourself".  THAT.VERY.SAME.DAY.  She didn't take it to the principal, the principal just happened upon her when she found it and SAW her reaction.  You can't fake that.  Not the timing.  While the principal said he would investigate the note, discreetly, I said let's just see if this will go away on its own.  Then he brought up this point:  If HIS kid had placed the note in her locker, he would want to know.   I had to agree.

But I don't think most parents these days DO.  Want to know, that is.  I think most parents want to bury their heads in the sand about their kids' activities, which is why we have so many problems with this generation of children.  NO culpability.  Parents refusing to accept responsibility for their kids' actions.  HECK, parents refusing to accept that their kids MIGHT actually NOT be the little angels they think they are.  

No, I haven't heard anything further on the note although circumstances point to who is responsible.  For now, it's water under the bridge.

The next event was a sleepover with a newer friend.  The child got dropped off and the girls immediately hit the hot tub.  My husband came home and he took the girls to the Y so they could go swimming.  They were home for maybe half an hour when my daughter came to me in tears saying  her "friend" wants to go home because she's bored.  I was STUNNED.  Literally.  I had the girls come to the kitchen table and attempted to teach her friend how to play the card game golf, and while she played, she also spent the whole time texting.  I was never so glad to see a parent as I was to see hers, to get her out of my house.  The parent is lucky my husband was not there as he had some CHOICE words for the parent.

The latest incident with the youngest involved a birthday party she was invited to.  She came home on Wednesday with an invitation, written on notebook paper, for a sleepover on Friday night.  Of course, as a parent, the invitation was a giant red flag, but she assurred me that EVERYONE got their invitation on notebook paper.  But they got theirs earlier in the week.  I quelled that icky feeling in the pit of my stomach and said, yes, she could go.  Then Thursday she was told she was DISINVITED to the sleepover, although she could still come for the early part of the evening.  WHO.DOES.THAT?  And yes, this was "the popular" girls.  We found an alternative activity for her and she called and thanked the girl for her invitation but declined.

Seriously, it has been a whole year of this.  At conferences, I spoke to her teachers to see if THEY see some issue with her that I'm not seeing and they all seem somewhat baffled because she seems to get along well with most of her class mates.  Her biggest issue is that she is too concerned with what is going on around her (well, DUH) than she is with her school work.  But relationship wise, they don't see it.

And I don't know if a lot of what she is relaying to me that happens in school is exaggerated for my benefit (although truthfully, the only thing that I THINK is exaggerated is that ALL the boys at school hate her), or if that is how she actually perceives it.  Either way, it's not a good environment for her.

Now I'm struggling with what exactly are our options.  I've done a cursory look at some charter schools but the deadline for those that COULD work for us was in JANUARY.  For next year.  And I'm not sure if running away is the problem.  But this is such a tough time for kids this age.  I'd consider home schooling but I simply do not have the patience.  Yes, this is MY character flaw (one of a great many I assure you).  Plus, she is a child who CRAVES social interaction.  I don't think online opportunities would be a good solution for the same reason.   

So, yeah, this school year has been ICKY.  ICKY. ICKY. ICKY.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Fifteen years ago today, I lost my mother to brain cancer.  It was a Wednesday (don't ask me why I remember the day) and we were all just headed out the door for dinner when the phone rang.  And I knew before I answered it.  Not because I was expecting it, but I just KNEW.  My world tilted as my sister relayed the news that the cancer on her brain stem had shut down all her involuntary reflexes, coupled with the radiation having destroyed her immune system. And she was gone.

Unfortunately, with most people who have cancer, you have to accept that losing them is a very real possibility, so it wouldn't be fair or accurate to say it was unexpected.  But her death was proceeded by a series of events that one would never choose (if you even could) but makes sense when you look back in retrospect.  I was pregnant, and due April 10.  I miscarried in early September.  My parents came out in October.  My mom's medical issues were identified in December, shortly after I became pregnant again.  In early January, my parents suffered through a horrific ice storm which knocked out power for a week (in upstate January) and caused massive damage.  The actual diagnosis of brain cancer didn't come until late January.  She went through radiation in February.  I flew home in mid March, helping my dad cope with the repercussions of the radiation.    My dad and I came up with a plan to get her eating and drinking (she was suffering dehydration). She seemed to bounce back and was excited about another grandchild (I was about 4 months along).  She had plans to do some crocheting for the baby.  When I left after a week, I thought things were going well.  My sister was due to arrive in another week and I thought my dad could cope in the interim.  When my sister arrived, things had taken a decided turn for the worse, the cancer was growing again and was radiation resistant.

Sometimes the game of "what if" is hard to avoid.  What if I hadn't miscarried?  Would I have been released from my Drs care to return to NY to spend that last week with her?  Would I have been able to attend her memorial 4 states away?  No one ever enjoys having to choose between equally horrific circumstances, so maybe there is a reason why we don't always have to.  If you're willing to dig for it.  To this day, I consider myself blessed.  Blessed that the series of events had allowed me to have that last week with my mom.  Where we were able to talk and plan and I cherish that time.  Deeply.

I actually gave the eulogy for my mom at 4 months pregnant and having traveled 900 miles by car to do so.  It wasn't easy either because my mom wasn't "typical".  Or maybe she wasn't what I would define as "typical".  My mom came from a kind of "git'er done" mentality that didn't really  reflect the Carol Brady persona I wanted her to be.  She was the type of person (with my dad) who let us make our own mistakes and forced us to live with the consequences.  They would tell us, "we will come and pick you up any time, any where.  Except jail" and I have to tell you, that sticks in the back of your mind when you are evaluating 'do I really want to'?  And not surprisingly NONE of us have ever gotten CLOSE to a jail.  Go figure.  With them, no meant no. I recall being hit once, at about 14, for being completely disrespectful and completely deserving it.  Mom was the type of person who nudged.  She nudged you in a direction and let you figure it out.  She was supportive in the way that a foundation of a house is supportive.  You know it's there, keeping things right, but you don't really pay heed to it.  And I think that's the way she wanted it.  I acknowledged all of that in my eulogy.  And I accepted that I am who I am because of who she was.  I think she would be proud.

So, goodbyes are never easy. Even when there expected.

Tomorrow I get to do it again.  This one has been scheduled for 3 months, so I knew it was coming.  My oldest and only son leaves for basic training for the Air National Guard tomorrow.  Lest you think that I am the least bit upset over him serving his country, don't.  And yes, he went away to college last fall without much ado, but this is different.  This is where I fully expect my son to become a man.  Fundamentally changed without my input.  That's HUGE.  He also is making a sacrifice.  He's taking time away from his education to do so, and with the sequester in progress, uncertain if the promises made to him for that sacrifice will be fulfilled.  I've explained to him that even if they do not come through with the tuition assistance that was promised, he still needs to look at his service from a character and integrity standpoint and be proud  to serve his country.  He understands and agrees.

Still, doing all the right things for all the right reasons doesn't make it any easier saying goodbye.  Yesterday in church, we've been in a series called Fearless and yesterday's message was on the Fear of Challenges.  The pastor spoke of fear and faith (the story of Peter stepping out of the boat at Jesus's command to walk on water).  When you fear, look to your faith.  Don't gaze at your circumstances and glance at God, but keep your gaze on God and glance at your circumstances.  Because with faith, God will handle your circumstances.  So that's what we did.

And now I'm holding onto Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

So, tomorrow I'm going to paste a happy face on and drop my son off at the airport.  With my mom in my heart,   I'll say goodbye to him and hold onto the knowledge that I'll see him in 4 months.  And I'll keep my gaze on God.