Growing up ain’t all it’s cracked up to be – for the Mother

Getting old sucks. Can we all just agree on that? Joints get achier. Skin gets looser. Lines form. It’s just a big ol’ mess. Sure, it’d be tougher to run a mile now than when I was 18 (if I ran at all, that is), but getting older isn’t all bad. Whenever I get a little down about the sands of time slipping through the hourglass, I can always look at my children and know that I’ve helped mold two people I could not be more proud of. They’re tolerant, compassionate, empathetic, decent, and just all around good human beings. So at least there’s that, I say to myself as I find yet another grey hair. These two are my crowning achievements, my purpose in life.

And, goodness, how fast time does fly! My son graduated high school 7 years ago and it feels like yesterday. Now, just like that, my daughter is graduating this week. It feels like that time passed in the blink of an eye. If there’s one thing I can criticize both her and my son for (and trust me, I do), it’s that they can both be rather disobedient. I told them years ago to stop growing, to just stay little, but they refused to listen. So, here I am, once again at the threshold of another child receiving a diploma. If they would just listen to their wise ol’ mother, we wouldn’t be in this mess again. On the contrary, we’d still be happily shopping in the Garanimals section of the department store with nary an argument on color or style to be had. Alas, time waits for no man. Or mother.

my baby

On top of graduating, my daughter also turns 18 in a few days. I know, right!? How dare she!? It’s quite the milestone and I wish the world for her. Not just in a philosophical “best of luck” kind of a way. I mean literally, I want her to have the world. To explore. To see new things. To travel. To meet new people. To let life be an experience with the entire world as the garden she frolics through. She is no doubt destined for great things, but I want her to delight in the path she chooses, to walk it with a profound sense of joy as well as purpose. Neither she nor her brother have yet to disappoint. I don’t expect either to start now.

not such a baby any more…

So while it does suck getting old, it’s kind of worth it when you see what you’re letting loose on the world.

President Who?

I visited my daughter’s school the other day, and spent some time in the science classroom where she is taking AP Physics. AP Physics. Advanced Placement. I’m not bragging. That’s relevant to the story. You’ll see why in a minute.

It’s always interesting to see what inspiring or educational posters or other media have been placed on the walls of classrooms to ignite the interest of students.

I have to admit I was a bit shocked to see a framed official Presidential photograph of Gerald Ford on the wall, half-hidden behind some kind of cardboard cubbyhole arrangement. If it had been in a history classroom, or even a “general” classroom, I would have understood, but in a science classroom?

I asked the teacher about it because you know me…can’t just let something like that go by.  And it turns out that the photo has been there forever, apparently – long before this teacher’s time. It seems no one has ever thought to remove it. Certainly this particular teacher hasn’t.

Occasionally, students are curious about it she said. Some of them actually ask her who it is. And she has to explain that it’s Gerald Ford, who was President from 1974 to 1977. I’ll repeat. She has to explain who it is. In a high school.  In an advanced placement class. See? I told you it was going to be relevant.

Now, admittedly Mr. Ford did not particularly distinguish himself as President (though truth be told, it’s not as if sought the position), but his connection to Richard Nixon should be memorable — it was due to Nixon’s Watergate scandal that Ford became President in the first place AND he later pardoned Nixon, as I’m sure you’ll recall, and Jimmy Carter became President after him. And yet none of her students know who he is!

Seeing things like this just has me wondering several “Why’s?”

I bet that photo has been on that wall for decades. Probably since it was first released. Why has no one ever upgraded it to a more recent President? If it has no significance in a science classroom, why not just remove it instead of putting things in front of it? Or replace it with a more science-y photo. Galileo perhaps (since we’re going with unrecognizable figures in history)? Or maybe Nikola Tesla. Or hey, there are always the standbys of science: Newton and Einstein.

And just why don’t high school students, especially those taking AP Physics, recognize a 20th-century President anyway? I mean, it’s not like it’s a photo of Millard Fillmore or Franklin Pierce or some President they have no reasonable right to know.

There’s an old joke which is apparently a pretty new joke as well. Ask a kid today how many Presidents there have been in our history, and they can name George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and – hopefully! – whoever the current President is. And that’s it. I know, sad joke.

There are a lot of problems with our school system, and that ancient and unrecognized photo of President Ford is just the latest example of it.

 

President Ford

The Locked Door

Like many of us, my daughter suffers from anxiety. Being a teenager there’s what seems like a never-ending list of reasons why her mind could be thrown into a tizzy. Her main source of anxiety comes from school. No, it’s not the academic workload or fretting about standardized tests that hammer home the fear that how you perform will shape your future. She’s an Honor Roll student who excels in the classroom. What she finds stressful are the crowds, the thronging mass of other teens jostling and ricocheting off of each other in the hallways. It’s an everyday, unavoidable occurrence between each period (unless they build her a network of secret underground tunnels, which I don’t think is quite in the school’s budget). Not to mention the annoyance of sharing classroom after classroom with kids who basically do not want to be there and who do not share the same tolerant mindset she has for her fellow human beings.

Well, her anxiety recently got worse due to a safety precaution her school is now taking, or rather, a teacher’s explanation of it. The semesters changed over this past month so classes and teachers also changed. On the first day, a new teacher of one particular class explained that she keeps one of the two doors to her classroom locked because they are the first classroom in the hall and if a madman with an Uzi comes into the school guns blazing, it will be more difficult for him to come busting in their room, spraying rounds. Now I’m all for keeping kids safe. That I have no problem with. I question the teacher’s sense in explaining the reasons behind the locked door, but apparently she felt the kids were old enough to take the news and process it accordingly.

However, this brilliant educator of children went on to voice her opinion that since the door was just a flimsy little piece of wood, the shooter could kick it in rather easily or else simply shoot through it. And what with the second [unlocked] door only about 10 feet down the hall, if the gunman wants to get in, one silly locked door isn’t going to stop him so “either way we’re all screwed anyway.”

I’m just not sure what the hell this teacher was thinking divulging this info to the kids and putting this heinous idea into their heads. She could’ve just said, “I keep that door locked at all times” and end it there. They don’t have to necessarily know it’s to slow down a psycho with a semi-automatic assault rifle, because once that possibility is raised, it can be a little difficult to erase.  Then, by all means, let’s take away even that tiny bit of a safety net by saying it’s completely useless.

This possibility, that someone could be kicking into the classroom at any given moment (because sadly this is the world we live in now)…let’s just say that has not helped my daughter with her anxiety whatsoever.  And she can’t be the only one. Kids nowadays have so much to be anxious over and this is just one more thing to stress about. School, much like home, is supposed to be a safe place. Only it isn’t. You think kids don’t know that?  They know it more than anyone else.

The school itself locks all of its external doors which is a good thing. They do what they can, as most schools do, and that makes me feel better as a parent.   I just don’t quite understand the teacher’s need to give such tragic disclosure. We know why cars have airbags and don’t need commercials showing someone flying through a windshield. We know why we own fire extinguishers and don’t have to be shown pictures of people burning alive.

All I’m saying is that while I appreciate the safety measures being taken I think spelling out the potential consequences can be a little unnecessary – especially given the teacher’s added personal commentary. It seems to me that adding stress to an already stressful situation (high school) could be a little counterproductive to the whole learning experience.

Facebook Cliques

Sometimes I feel like none us of have ever actually left high school. The same lunchroom politics that influenced our “coolness” junior and senior year are the exact same ones that still come out in many social situations to this day. Take Facebook for instance. It’s just one big online lunchroom. The cliques that have organically developed as we all get more and more intertwined with the social media bazaar seem much like the groups I would see in my high school cafeteria when I tried to find the “correct” spot to sit and enjoy my PB&J.

At one table would be the bullies, the jocks, the guys who thought life will always be that awesome, that they’d always be revered as a god amongst men, and are now stuck in a suburban hell of their own making desperately pining to be 17 again, which is pretty sad when I sit and think about it. These are the hyper-aggressive people on Facebook that attack others by writing uncalled for things on their walls condemning their political views, religious stances, or just about anything they can grasp onto that will demean their “friend” and puff up their own chest a bit more as they hope for a fleeting whiff of the bygone glory days.

Then you have the gossip mongers. Remember them in high school? The girls who would whisper and giggle in the hallway as they played their own game of telephone to spread the news about who made out with who in which basement the night before (but don’t tell anyone because if his girlfriend found out there’d be drama…which they all secretly want of course). On FB these are the ones who post inappropriate pictures of others or call out people unnecessarily. Or they gather in their little clutch to discuss what Sally was wearing in that awful profile pic…and just what was she thinking with that hairstyle!  Or how Johnny’s new business that he just posted about isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (or so they heard) even though they have no idea what it is that Johnny even does for a living. They’ll post (and tag) someone in a photo from a casino night knowing that the person in the picture told their significant other they were going camping for the weekend. They set down the powder keg, light the fuse, then sit back and enjoy the fireworks show of their own creation. I mean seriously, you’d never guess these were grown-ups.

Of course not everyone is stirring up trouble on Facebook. You have the do-gooder clique as well. In high school these would be the people who would come by your lunch table asking you to sign up for a car wash on Saturday morning to raise money for the library restoration or volunteer to clean up the cigarette butts and broken bottles under the football bleachers or help out at the animal shelter….future great advocates.  And the news they now spread on Facebook is commendable.

But like with everything, some took it too far for their own personal reasons….the over the top go-getters.  These were the people who loved organizing completely unnecessary study groups at their house and were members of every single school committee possible…mostly because they enjoyed telling others what to do.  Facebook has their own version of this crowd as well and it’s quite transparent that they just want to get attention and prove that they’re better human beings than the rest of us. OK, fine, you’re better than me at life, alright? Now will you leave me alone?

Good for you. All of you. You bullies, you pot stirrers, you over the top go-getters. You all make things more interesting for our Facebook feeds. But let’s remember that by and large most of us on Facebook are just like most of us were in high school. We’re just trying to get by, man. Leave me alone and let me eat lunch with my friends in peace. In Facebook speak: let me just read a couple posts, see who’s pregnant, post some news, write a couple of messages, and get the hell out of there. Just minding my business, folks. That’s all I want. Is that too much to ask?