Friday, October 28, 2016

At What Cost?


*This post is in no way a response to E1's school. I love E1's school and we continue to have a positive experience year after year.

**This post is in response to all the comments and behaviors I have witnessed and continue to witness as an educator, a parent, and a community member.

At What Cost?

Nothing but the best for my kid.
Failure is not an option.
If at first you don't succeed, try try again.
Work Harder.
Be smarter. 
Stop rushing.
That was a careless mistake.
Was this really your best?
Did you study as much as you could?
You may not play outside, you need to work on your school work. 

The pressure on today's children is more than before and while we want to blame education for these demands, we, as parents, should hold up a mirror to our face and take the responsibility.

In certain areas of our country, children apply to preschool. Apply?  I don't even know how the hell you do not get into preschool because I just wrote a check for both E1 and E2. Their preschool years were different because they are different. E1 loves to learn, is curious, and strives for perfectionism. E2 is happy to play with her friends, gain independence, and learn social skills. Quite frankly, E2's preschool years are much happier than E1's were.
Even in the preschool years, there is competition. Parents compare when their child began to read, add, subtract, etc. to other children in the class. Parents compare athletic ability at that young age too. The demands put on a four year old child nauseate me.

Then, as luck would have it, our children grow up and enter elementary school. From day one the pressure and comparison begin. What reading group are you in, what math group, who is in your group? Depending on the answers, parents hire tutors in kindergarten. We live in a world where 5 year old children have tutors. The children that have tutors are not the children with learning differences. They are children who are developing normally, but not at the speed of today's schedule. A schedule that may or may not be developmentally appropriate. An academic schedule that continues to be debated.

If "regular" pressure was not enough, we have the coveted Gifted and Talented Program - the holy grail. The GT program says, "My kid is smart and I am a rock star parent." Words cannot express my disdain for what has become of this program. The GT program, initially designed for the truly gifted learner, a program designed for learning differences, has become a program of arrogance.

A gifted child has a brain that learns differently. A gifted child requires a specialized curriculum designed to engage the type of learner the gifted child is. The gifted child requires hands on experiences, project based learning, and a critical analysis of what they are learning.

The GT program does NOT mean more worksheets. The GT program does NOT mean faster paced. The GT program is NOT a place for the elite, biased parent who believes their child is better than regular. Just because your child makes good grades, does not mean your child is gifted.  If the words elite and biased offend you, I am not sorry. Do you think no one heard you say your kid is better than those students? Do you think no one heard you when you said your kid belongs with better behaved students? There is a reason some GT programs are known as the "white flight." If you are pissed off, good. You should be. The GT program needs an overhaul.

To the parents that tell their child they are smart for being GT - you're an ass hat. First, not every parent tests their child for GT so there could be unidentified children running around on the playground. Second, each district and/or state tests differently so the validity of your gifted exam is crap. Third, why did you say that to your child?? Do you think they needed the affirmation? And what happens to your precious, smart GT child when they make a bad grade? Are they no longer smart? Should they no loner be in GT? Bravo on creating a crap-tastic environment for your child. GT does not equal smart. GT means requiring different learning strategies because the GT child learns differently.

The GT test, which many believe should not be administered before 3rd grade, tests more than intelligence. It tests critical thinking skills, logic skills, and problem solving skills. A child can be gifted and suck at academics. Then what? What in the world is the school supposed to do when the precious GT child is failing?? Food for thought- your program is ill designed if it is filled with nothing more than accelerated work.

To the child going around telling other children they are GT. First, I want to punch your parents in the face. Second, someone needs to teach you about bragging and how quickly you will lose friends. Third, all you are doing for your school is earning them more funding.
To the teacher that thinks she earned the 'right' to teach GT over regular, retire because your educational philosophy makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork. You signed up to be a teacher and teach any child that enrolls in school. There is no earning a "better" class. You can, however, earn the respect of all your students, parents, and administrators by being a kick ass teacher regardless of the labels of your students.

To the school who places their strongest teacher in the GT class, I have two middle fingers for you. What kind of ass backward policy is that? Your strongest teachers belong with your most struggling students to help them achieve their highest potential. Struggling students are not dumb. They are students who have not been reached and if you have an amazing teacher, she/he belongs in the class with the students who have yet to be challenged and who have yet to be asked to meet high expectations.

A child's potential is not defined by a test. A child's future is not determined by a test. A label does not dictate what becomes of a child.

You know what determines a child's success?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Twelve years ago today I delivered our still born son.

Twelve years ago was a dark, sad time that I really did not think would turn around.
Twelve years is a long time ago.

In the last twelve years, I have grown as a person in all areas of life. The best thing that happened in the last twelve years? E1 and E2. I never thought I would be a mom.

This morning, while drinking my first cup of coffee, my husband asked me a simple question.
(My next blog post should be discussing the fact my brain does not work before my second cup of coffee.)
He simply asked, "Are we going to the cemetery today?"
My response, "I did not even realize it was October 26th."

At first, you would think I would feel guilty for not realizing today's dreadful date. Years ago I would have felt guilty. Today, I do not.

I thank G-d each and every day for the blessings in my life. I understand that from Eli's death came my health, my daughters, a strong marriage, and a new outlook on life. I understand that while I still cry thinking about all the hell we went through, the tears do not express regret. I understand that my life is filled with so much joy - a joy that would not exist had it not been for Eli.

I do not need to count down on a calendar to remember the day that forever changed me. In fact, visiting the cemetery is at the bottom of my list on how to honor Eli's memory. My husband finds solace in visiting the cemetery. I do not. I do not feel closer to my son while standing at his grave. He is not there. For me, the people who have passed on, are everywhere. They are in my heart, my thoughts. They are there when I need them.

I do not need to visit the cemetery on October 26th to remember and honor Eli. I remember and honor him daily. Even on the girls' worst days, I thank him. I am here because of him. The girls are here because of him. Our lives are the way they are because of him.

Today, a few people will text me and my husband and I will go to the cemetery. I will cry when I approach the grounds, cry standing at the grave, and cry as I leave.

However, the tears will stop much faster than years past.

My tears used to represent all that had been lost.
Now, they represent all that I have gained.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Category 5

Preschool, speech, OT, and softball practice for E2. The icing on the cake for her this Tuesday is all that is accompanied with a sinus infection. Damn germy kids. You would expect E2 to melt down each Tuesday from this crazed schedule, but she does not. She is not typically our meltdown child.

E1 is our meltdown child. When you love as big as she does, your anger is a spot on match. Hell hath no fury like E1. Seriously. Her meltdowns are caused by lack of sleep and poor nutrition. We know this for sure. With age, her meltdowns have lessened, but every now and then they blow through here like a category 5 hurricane.

Tonight's dinner was spaghetti and meatballs. E2 decided she just wanted the meatballs and some broccoli. E1 decided she wanted a meatball sub and broccoli. During our 10 minute drive home from softball practice E1 decided to forgo the sub and have the same dinner as E2.

And scene.

Dinner is served. E1 looks at me and starts crying with anger saying she wanted a sub. I explained the conversation I heard in the car, she says I misunderstood, I apologize, and remind her to watch her anger and tone. At this point, a meteorologist would tell you to go to your safe place. Unfortunately for me, E2 was in the middle of the storm and I could not run from the hurricane. E1 loses her shit. Screaming, crying, she refuses to eat, this isn't what she wanted, and then the kiss of death, a pet peeve of mine if you will, she pushes her plate across the table.

Oh E1, you know when I am super mad I don't yell. I move swiftly and quietly like a fox. I took the plate, placed it in the sink and excused her from the table. The screams, cries, continue while hate filled words of I don't want to live here fly out of her mouth. CATEGORY FIVE. I quietly take E2 by the hand and whisper to her that we are going to have a picnic in my room. I tell E1 to go upstairs and get in the shower. As our picnic began, I hear E1 screaming about not taking a shower, not living in this house, and she is hungry.

E2 and I discuss our days, our favorite things, and have a pleasant picnic of meatballs and broccoli in my room. We head upstairs for bath time. I go to check on E1 and for the second time this week, she has found items in her room (books, stuffed animals, pillows, comforters, etc) to barricade herself in her room. Getting smarter, she even locked the Jack & Jill bathroom door that leads to her room.

Oh E1, apparently you forgot what I told you the last time you did this.

Swiftly and quietly, I use my gorgeously shellaced nails to unlock the bathroom door. I walk quietly into E1's room, take out my trusty screwdriver, and take the door off the frame.

As I am removing the last screw, she comes out from her hiding spot in her closet. Simultaneously, my husband is staring at me as he literally just got home. All in a day's work, I tell him.

I do not give a rat's ass what caused the meltdown. Maybe it is the fact that she is tired from our week long trip to Disney. Maybe she is tired from her day. Maybe she is coming off the sugar high from the candy (which I said no to) she ate during softball practice. Maybe she is premenstrual at the age of 8. Maybe an alien took over brain. I DON'T GIVE ONE OUNCE OF CRAP as to the why.

NO ONE in this home is allowed to shove a plate across a table, scream, say hurtful words, and then barricade themselves in their room without consequence.

After discussing her behavior and acknowledging she made a mountain out of a mole hill, my hungry and door-less 8 year old is in bed.

And I am off to meet a friend for a beer.

Friday, October 14, 2016


Families are complicated. It doesn't matter if the family has adoption, inter-faith, divorce, death, sickness, financial issues - it all makes families complicated.

My family is no different. I am the youngest of two, but really four due to divorce and a second marriage. I was two when my mother married my step-father and my brother and I gained two step-sisters. At 39 years old, I can tell you it makes me mad to type step. They are my sisters. He is my father. It is easier for me vs my siblings to say this because I have no memories of any other way. I do not remember my mom and dad together. I do not remember just my brother and me. My step-father always lived with me. My step-sisters always lived with me - I do not remember it was every other weekend. They seem to me to have always been there. This was my family. My parents and my siblings.

I do not talk to my "real dad." Not one bit. Not at all. Nada. Zilch. Our relationship was volatile at best and by the time I was in 6th grade I had had enough. I sat in the lobby of a courthouse in 6th grade prepared to tell a judge I did not want to visit my dad and step-mom anymore. Luckily for me, I never had to testify and the judge ruled in my favor. And that was that. I stopped going.

My dad continued to see my brother - awkward, much? My dad continued and still continues to put my brother in the middle of our 25 year long struggle, can you say douche bag? My dad did not come to my Bat-Mitzvah. He did not want to help pay, so my mom invited him as a guest, but he was not called to the Bimah. Wrong? I don't know. All I know is he wasn't there. My dad offered me car at 16, but only if I drove to his house every weekend to hang with my step mom and learn to cook and sew, vomit much? My dad called on my 18th birthday to tell me I was a bitch. He did not come to my high school graduation. He ignored me at my brother's college graduation and even refused to talk to me at my brother's wedding. This guy is a class act. By the time I graduated college, we were not speaking - not even enough to argue. The silence was blissful to me and as I became an adult, I worked through my serious daddy issues and truly moved on.

Fast forward to my wedding when my mom invited him. Not me. He showed up and the next day I found out all the shit he spoke about me and my husband. Did my mom do the right thing? Sure. Did my dad, nope - but this time it wasn't shocking and it wasn't hurtful. It was his dark reality that he created.

Now, 27 I am pregnant and sick with CML.  My phone rings, it is my dad. He apologizes. Tells me he wants to be a grandpa and cannot imagine me dying. Months later, I lose the baby and start treatment and thank G-d, go into remission. My dad stopped calling.

So now, I am a mother of two amazing girls. I made the attempt to have him in our lives. Not for me, but for my daughters. Who am I to decide who their family is? At ages 8 and 5, it has been almost a year since he ignored my family of four at my nephew's Bar-Mitzvah. He came into our lives for the happy moments and as soon as the water got rough, he ran.  My nephew's Bar-Mitzvah was the last straw. You can shit all over me, I can take it and dish right back. But when your then 7 year old granddaughter says hi to you and you turn your back, you're fucking lucky I didn't kick you in the nuts and bitch slap you.

About a week ago, E1 asked about my dad. Bless her heart, she finally has all the divorces (there are a lot), second marriages (and thirds), cousins, step this, crap figured out. I can barely keep up with our family tree. That shit should be written in pencil so we can easily erase a mistake.

Anyway, she asked why we no longer see him. FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK. I explained to E1 that just like people get sick in their kidneys, liver, etc, people can get sick in their brain. I explained that I truly believe he is sick. Sometimes sick people make poor choices. He makes poor choices. He gets angry at me, his daughter, when I do something he doesn't like and then he won't talk to me. I further explained that I firmly believe no parent should stop speaking to their child. I explained that every single day I love her more, even on the days she makes me angry and that I would never ever stop speaking to her. I let her know as the parent, I have to make tough choices. Choices that are in the best interest of her. I told her it was my choice that we no longer see him. I chose to remove a person, a toxic person, from our lives. I chose to spare my daughter the hurt that comes from someone giving and then taking away their love. I chose to stop trying. I chose peace.

E1 took the news well. She didn't question my decision. She understood. Children can handle uncomfortable topics. They can handle them when you are honest. Parents tend to stay away from uncomfortable topics. I have found that if you are honest and use child appropriate words, children can handle pretty much anything.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Everybody's A Winner

Trophies....Everyone gets one.
Everyone is a winner.
Everyone is amazing.
Everyone is great.

In this day and age, feelings are most important. We should not make children feel badly so everyone gets an award. This concept annoys the piss out of me. Some kids are phenomenal athletes, some are high achieving scholars, some are excellent nose pickers and some are amazing tantrum throwers. What they all have in common is all they get the same award. At the end of the school year, the end of a sport season, they all get the same trophy. We are all the same. No one is better because that reality hurts feelings.

I call bullshit. May the best player win. May the top student receive the award. Survival of the fittest. You want a trophy? You want an award? You want recognition? Work harder to be better. This everyone wins is crap.

I promise you I thought this way and in some respects I still do, but now I see the other side. I still believe children must learn their strengths and weaknesses. They must learn how to lose. They must learn others are smarter, faster, better at something than them. They must learn to rise above personal failure and strive to do better.

But, I am not sure at what age they need to learn this.

E1 is the award winner for academics and even gets praised on the tennis courts. She's "that kid." And the award for excellence in reading, math, science, etc goes to....E1. I'm her mother and while proud, it is enough already. Her shit actually does stink. The good news, all these damn awards do not go to her head. Unlike her mother, self esteem is not her strength. While she humbly accepts these awards my heart breaks for the student that worked his ass off to learn to read, or to learn to add, or learned to share. Where are the awards for these children? Aren't they worthy of feeling good about themselves? This year the excellence in academics award is only given to those with averages of 93 or better in each subject. Holy shit balls. That's a challenge! That is some serious academic excellence. What about the student that has a 92.3. Poor schlub. She doesn't get the excellence award. Hot damn. When did a 92 not scream excellence? Yes, I recognize this thinking is what lead us down the path of everyone is a winner. Awards separate the men from the boys. I guess I should count my blessings that E1 is "one of the men" and no longer worry about "the boys" on awards day.

What truly caused me to look at this topic differently? To really see this from another perspective? E2

E2 is the child with no awards. She is the sweetest, most hard working child I know. Because of her delays she is not the smartest in her class or the best athlete on the field. E2 is not great at softball. She is barely good. What she is, is learning. Motor planning delays and playing a sport is like trying to get oil and water to mix. Language delays and playing a team sport is like trying to shake a soda can and open it without the soda exploding. Playing softball is the MOST challenging thing E2 has ever experienced.
She cried when she missed the ball at bat.
She cried when she could not field the ball.
She cried when the players on her team ran faster for the ball.
She cried when it hurt her legs to squat for so long.
She cried when she did not remember the players' names so telling her who to throw the ball to was pointless.
She cried when she did not understand the directions of what to do.
She cried. She cried. She cried.
So what did we do? We practiced every single day. Every afternoon, in our backyard (so no one would see her) we played softball. She practiced and she learned. E2 can catch a ball in the outfield. E2 can throw the ball to girl X. E2 can throw the ball to first. Hell, E2 can throw the ball! E2 can squat, run, and believe it or not - she can hit that fucking ball with the bat! Holy shit! E2 can play softball! Is she the best? Nope, not even close.

Did she deserve the trophy? YES. HELL FUCKING YES. E2 deserved the everybody is a winner trophy because damn it, she is a winner. She accomplished something huge and damn it, she deserved to be recognized for it. She deserved that trophy for trying. She deserved that trophy for improving. She deserved that trophy because she accomplished a team sport that is difficult for anyone to learn, let alone a child in PT, OT, and speech. And let me tell you, her smile when she received that trophy was AMAZING. E2 showed her sister her first trophy. E2 showed her daddy. E2 showed me a million times. E2 slept with the trophy. E2 put the trophy in the playroom so everyone could see it. E2 carried around her trophy for two days while she said, "This is my trophy for softball. I won."

"I won."

Did she win? By some standards, ones I believe in, she did not. By other standards, ones I believe in, she did. I do not know when you should stop giving trophies to all. I do not know when children should learn they are not great in everything they do. I do not know the answer.

That trophy gave E2 something a mother's love, a friend's love, a relative's love can never do because love is blind.

But a trophy? A trophy shows everyone, "You are a winner."