Monday, September 30, 2002

September 30-October 4, 2002

SEPTEMBER 30, 2002

I always make a big effort to understand the stresses underlying my children’s behavior, and to deal with it accordingly. For my son especially, behavior is communication, and I try to always get the message. Many, many times I hand out “get out of bad behavior free” cards when it’s clear that factors outside the child’s control are making it impossible to get and keep a grip. So why can’t I ever get one of those cards myself?

Last week, I had terrible hayfever problems. If I didn’t take medication, I was constantly sneezing. If I did, I fell asleep where I stood. The inability to take a breath without serial sneezes took a toll on my temper, and I’ll admit, I was impatient with all around me. Now, if this was my son, wracked with sneezes, I would forgive him any amount of misbehavior. But does he return the favor? No! The more impatient I get, the more in need of patience is he; the shorter-tempered I become, the more temper-trying he gets. Then, of course, I have his meltdowns on my head.

I know, really, I do know and understand and accept that my son needs emotional equilibrium from me in order to keep his own. And most of the time, I am up to that task. Most of the time, it makes me feel good to be the one who sets the tone for our family life. But when I don’t feel good, it’s a heck of a burden. Certainly, nothing to sneeze at.

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OCTOBER 1, 2002

A fairly amazing thing happened last night when my daughter and I finished her nightly homework assignment of free reading: She liked it. She liked the first chapter of a new book so much she thought she might like the whole book, and she was interested to find out what was going to happen next. Not so much that she wanted to read the next chapter right then, but it's a start.

Her teacher this year in 5th grade is making these reading assignments in the hope of doing just that -- finding the book that will make a kid say, "Okay, maybe this reading thing isn't so bad after all." At least so far, this has been at the expense of a big comprehension push on the stories in the reading textbook, which is fine by me. My daughter is on her third novel since the start of the school year, and that's a bigger achievement than getting a good grade on an essay test.

Of course, by "novel," I'm not talking "Harry Potter" here. Her teacher steered her toward a couple of short books with short chapters and plenty of pictures, and seems to have hit it just right. I'm trying not to hope for too much, but it sure would be nice to see my girl get excited about reading -- or at least not face reading with unmitigated dread. We'll take it one chapter at a time.

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OCTOBER 2, 2002

My son is in love with one of his summer-camp counselors, which would be cute if she wasn't a married woman with children of her own, and if he wasn't so entirely obsessed. He has her picture by his bed and talks to it regularly, he has an invisible version of her who lives in his room, he insists on hanging around outside of school until he sees her arrive to drop off her son, he wants to know if she'll still be alive when he's a grown-up, and if he can marry her then. If he had a car, he'd be a stalker. ("And knowing him, it would be a very nice car!" said his love interest when I mentioned that to her; so at least he's got a girl with a sense of humor.)

It's a little creepy, but really, I guess I should be glad that my kids are targeting older, unavailable members of the opposite sex for their crushes instead of either harassing or hooking up with classmates. Obsessive attractions with classmates could be hazardous, however they play out; while the likelihood of my son getting into any trouble with that nice mom in the red Jeep, or my daughter with Regis Philbin (her particular crush object), is pretty slight. Still, I'll be glad when my guy stops bellowing the name of his beloved across the schoolyard every morning. Last thing I need is her son challenging him to a duel.

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OCTOBER 4, 2002

I went to a class parents’ meeting at my kids’ school this morning. It’s embarrassing to admit how much I live for stuff like this. Even though class parenting mostly just involves calling people at 6 a.m. to ruin their day with the news that the schools are closed, I love having any kind of role in my children’s school experience. I would hang around the school all day if they let me. I would even clean the classrooms (but don’t tell the custodians that, okay?) As it is, I count the days to the next meeting or the next library session or the next teacher conference. It’s true, I’m obsessed.

So it’s hard for me to understand why some parents might not be. You only have to take a look around half-empty classes at Back to School Night to know that some folks are, to put it nicely, disengaged from their children’s school experience. I mean, Back to School Night, people! They let you in the school! You get to sit at your child’s desk! You get to find out if their teacher speaks clearly, looks nice, smells bad. How can you resist? I suppose there are people who have conflicts -- work, child care, transportation -- that keep them from being able to show up. But, you know, if they asked me nice, I’d go to their kids’ classroom, too. I love this stuff!

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