Monday, January 14, 2002

January 14-18, 2002

JANUARY 14, 2002

My daughter's teacher paid me a compliment when we met after school last week. At least, I think it was meant as a compliment. We were talking about how my daughter was doing, and I was telling her about the things I was doing to help her at home, showing her books I was reading, going on a little about theories of teaching reading comprehension, and she asked if I had ever thought of going into teaching myself. Since I seemed so interested in it and all. She thought it might be one of those cases where one's hobby and one's career might be one and the same.

I told her what I tell myself whenever I get thoughts of being a teacher, which is: Honey, I just don't have the patience. She demurred that nobody has that patience with their own kids, but with other people's kids, you do. I'm not so sure. I taught an extra-curricular enrichment class at my children's school on four weekends last year, and there were some kids I could barely make it through 50 minutes with before wanting to send them to the principal, permanently. I don't think I have it in me to deal with 25 kids for six hours a day and actually be expected to make them learn. And if I did -- if I did have that kind of patience and fortitude and tenacious will to teach -- I'd probably use it to homeschool my own kids. I'm in awe of people who do that, just as I'm in awe of teachers who do it in an actual school building. I do a lot of things well, but I'm pretty sure this wouldn't be one of them.

Still, it's always nice to be asked.

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JANUARY 15, 2002

I got a nice compact package of the best and worst of my cute, jumpy, FAE 8-year-old yesterday, all in the space of an after-school hour. When I picked him up from school he was, as usual, at the very edge of self-control and about to leap joyfully over. He had six hours of pent-up impulsiveness and shouting to let out, and as usual there was no time like the present. No sooner had he told a brief story about his speech therapist and a radio than he decided that screaming the word "radio" at the top of his lungs over and over was the way he was going to let off steam on this particular day. As we stood waiting for my daughter to come out, people gave me that look, the one that said: "Can't you make that kid shut up?" And the answer, of course, is: No. I can shush him and threaten him and beg him and cajole him, or I can ignore him. Either way, he's going to keep screaming that word. Once he gets on a echolalic jag like this, he'll keep doing it until he's good and well done. I'm not sure he actually knows that he's doing it. Everybody in a mile radius does, though.

As it happened, I needed to bring the kids back to my office for a little while to finish up some work. Screaming "radio" in an outdoor schoolyard is one thing, screaming it in a busy office is another; would he get over it in time? As it turned out, he was perfectly fine. In fact, he was at his most charming. He watered a plant on my desk, then wandered off to find the office manager, who gave him a big box of keys that she'd forgotten where they fit. He found the lock that went with one of them, then enjoyed looking through a big book of formica colors. He went downstairs with her, met our new employee, checked out the man's nifty keychain and told him what kind of cars he drove. Then he came back up, in a pretty fine mood, just in time to grab some copies off the printer for me and get ready to go. The perfect office boy was he. Now why couldn't all those judging eyes from the schoolyard have been watching him then?

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JANUARY 16, 2002

My son brought home a little book today he'd made at school. "My VIP Family," it said on the front, and inside were phrases like "cooks me good food" and "reads me stories," with blanks to fill in the name of the family member who does so. I've learned not to expect too much with these "parent affirmation projects" -- wherein the teachers give kids an opportunity to write things that will make their parents feel all proud and loved. When my son's class did a project before Christmas on what they'd like to give a family member for the holiday, most of the kids wrote about giving Mom jewelry or Dad a new car. My boy wrote about giving his stuffed Scooby Doo dog some Scooby snacks. Then again, the first time my daughter said "I love you" to me, years after we'd adopted her at age 4.5, it was because of a Valentine's project of her speech therapist's. She was doing it because she was supposed to, not because she had a clue what it meant, but it sounded good all the same.

At any rate, I paged through the book with some trepidation, but my son managed to give everybody in his life their due. We got "Mom and dad tuck me in bed at night," with "tuck" here standing in for the more accurate "wrestle, wrangle and forcibly subdue." He filled in "Dad cooks me good food to eat," which will allow all his teachers to know the truth about how truly useless Mama is. He charitably put his sister's name for "plays games with me," entered that his teacher "reads me stories" (hey, I do that too! What am I, chopped liver?), and that his school aide "helps me" (and that she certainly does). So far, so good. The next to last page reads "Mom and dad love me," and darn it, that warm appreciated feeling does creep up on me. Then there's the end: "I love my family, too." To which my boy added "Scooby Doo." Can't get through a parental appreciation assignment without the Scoobster. But he's a pretty lovable pup.

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JANUARY 17, 2002

I love volunteering at the library at my kids's school, because it's a great way to spy. Sitting there in a roomful of books, blending in to the general school background, you sometimes get to hear and see things the administration probably wishes parents wouldn't. I've heard teachers yelling at students, and discussing certain ones in a most snippy manner. Today, though, I saw something that sent a chill down my spine: There was a fire drill, and the kids had to leave the building with such haste that they were not allowed to put on their jackets. And so I watched a school-full of kids line up in shirtsleeves in 40something degree weather. At least one child was wearing a T-shirt. My daughter, of course, had picked this day to wear a long-sleeved T instead of a sweatshirt. She'll be bundling up from now on, for sure.

Today the drill was very short, and the weather not bitter cold, windy or snowy. And sure, I see the logic of not going for the jackets: If the building is burning around you, there's not a moment to spare to pile up by the coat rack and find your personal covering. But at the same time -- brrr! What if it really was a fire, and they were outside for hours? What if it was 20 instead of 40? Would they really have them all out there jacketless? That, of course, is the problem with spying: Sometimes you find out things you'd really rather be blissfully ignorant of.

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JANUARY 18, 2002

I can remember when I used to have so much time for television. I remember having lots of shows I never missed, line-ups figured out for each night, "TV Guide" marked up with daily preferences, VCR set up for nights when I couldn't decide between a pair of programs. So much time, so much energy for entertainment. Before we were married, my husband and I pretended to like each other's favorite programs; after, the truth came out and we watched separately. Then came the kids, and little by little they have sucked up all that time and all that energy until now I can barely muster the interest to watch three little hour-long dramas, and I'm secretly happy when they're re-runs because that means I can fall asleep where I sit a little bit earlier that night.

One of the few shows I stay up for is "Once and Again," and I've pretty much managed to follow it through all its schedule changes and moves. Now it looks like I'll have one more night free, because the prognosis for ABC renewing it for another season, or even finishing out this one, is looking mighty bad. It's never exactly burned up the ratings, and whether that's due to the aforementioned schedule changes, or ABC's lackluster promotion of the show, or the viewing public's general lack of interest in a sensitive, meandering drama from the creators of "thirtysomething" on divorce, dating, and blended families (sadly, I rather think it's the latter), the network is in enough of a decline to want to cut its losses. Fans with a lot of time on their hands have launched a letter-writing campaign, and are waxing hot-under-the-collar on Mighty Big TV forums. And I can remember when I'd feel all up in arms about something like this, too. But now, I save all my outraged letter writing for child study teams, and the loss of a treasured program strikes me mostly as an opportunity for a little extra snooze time. Having kids changes you, don't they say?

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