Half a Century

Today, December 1, my dear husband Gilberto is celebrating an auspicious birthday. He probably would prefer that I don’t spill the frijoles about the number, so I’ll just tell you that it is only fifty percent of a century.

If you know my husband at all, and you aren’t bad at math, you will probably be surprised to hear this. He really doesn’t look like he’s that age (that ends in a zero and begins with a number that rhymes with jive).  I’m awfully proud of him, because he does look younger than those years. He’s got great skin, thick, gorgeous hair, and huge, expressive eyes. Everything I wish I had, quite frankly. Jealousy is pushing me to publish his true age, buy some giant number balloons, or perhaps hire a sky-writing airplane. But I’ll try to restrain myself a little, because someday (a long, long four years from now), he’ll be deciding how to celebrate my own half a century mark, and he may be tempted to steal a few of my ideas.

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Gilberto is pretty much a classic introvert. He likes spending time off at home with his family, and requested a small family birthday dinner. But, even so, he is the kind of person that has already made an impact with his life.

Gil is an wonderfully talented musician. He has been a part of the incredible quality of live music our bay has to offer. I am always very proud of the contributions he makes here to the entertainment scene. I am happy that he is able to do what he loves every day, and I am glad that others have an opportunity to experience his gift.

But the impact he has made and continues to make with his life is so much more than just great music. He is guided by a strong belief system that leads him to love everyone around him, and to show that love by helping others when they need it. And people have really needed it. Everywhere he goes, he somehow finds sick people, hungry people, addicted people, sad people, lonely people.

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To illustrate, on one of our first dates we came upon a child who was playing with his friend on his friend’s bicycle. He fell onto the exposed, broken bicycle handle. He stood up and grabbed his stomach, because he had punctured it open. Gilberto ran to him, scooped him up, and told a man driving by that he would need to take us to the hospital, which he did. In that moment, I decided this was exactly the kind of person I would be spending a lot more time with (I am accident prone).

After we were married for a few years, he went for a walk with my father. They were gone a long time. When they came back, my father emotionally described coming upon a homeless man who was passed out on raw alcohol. He told me that Gilberto spent a long time feeding the man and talking to him, trying to find out where his family was. They gave him a pair of shoes (my dad’s). I smiled and remembered exactly why I decided to hook up my wagon with his.

To be honest, I could fill a book with things he does for others.  Every time he goes to work, he comes back with a story of someone he met, and the problems they shared with him, and ways he thinks he could help them. I have known this man for nearly twenty years, and there are few days that go by where he isn’t reaching out a hand to someone else, whether it is a person on the street, a student in his music class, or our own children at home.

For fifty years (sorry honey, I need to make a point), the world has been a better place because Gilberto Luna is in it. I feel so fortunate to have shared in eighteen of them. Please join me in wishing him many, many more.

 

My Boy is Fifteen

This week I celebrated the fact that I have kept a human being alive for fifteen years. The fact that I have done this, despite accidentally killing each and every house plant I have ever met, is really quite an accomplishment. This boy is alive and thriving and has me to thank for it. And, I guess on a fairly significant level, he has his father to thank as well.

For example, my husband stopped me from applying the ear drops orally when the boy had an ear infection (in all fairness it was the infection that caused my sleep deprivation). He takes him for a drive when he’s been talking back and my eye begins to twitch. He brings pizza when I truly cannot cook another food item for my growing, hangry boy.

So yes, my son, with a great deal of fatherly support, has survived fifteen years with me for a mother. And it wasn’t easy, let me tell you. He had his own ideas about how to live, and few of them were any good, especially when he was two and thought that sitting in the middle of the street was the best way to see the garbage truck up close.

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Throughout the years he’s had a number of bad ideas, like sand-eating and running in the road and turning anything into an object of impalement. But there I was, heart in my throat, grabbing him up and listing species of animals that do their toileting on the beach. I think it was easier back then, because, even though I had to be in decent physical shape, I could put my body between him and the sharp objects.

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Nowadays, if he wanted to eat sand badly enough there isn’t much I could do to stop him, since he’s almost a head taller than I am. But I’ve been able to turn him into what you could reasonably call a germaphobe. So in some ways, I’m glad he’s fifteen and much more reasonable most of the time.

But in other ways, I feel like there are more dangers out there for him, and there’s less chance of me being able to put my body between them and him. When he was two, I could see the stick, but at fifteen I can only guess at what could hurt him. Now, he can find trouble and heartache with just one click of the mouse on his laptop. He can make choices for himself that will have lifelong consequences.

Sure, I’m not helpless. I have parental controls and I am fairly adept at nagging. I set rules and I talk to this kid until I have said all of the words. I listen and try to keep my face calm no matter what he tells me.

But there are so many days when I want to pull him into the ol’ DeLorean from Back to the Future and make our way back to the sand-eating days. Because even though he’s taller and smarter and unlikely to lick a floor, he’s so vulnerable. He’s still much more innocent that he could possibly fathom. He’s just so good. And he doesn’t deserve to have his heart broken.

I know it will break anyway, because that’s how life works. And I know that I’ll try to scoop up all the pieces the way I scooped him up and got him out of the middle of the road. I also know that I won’t be able to fix it the same way.

And really, someday he will be grown up and do most of his own fixing. All the lessons about sharp objects and staying out of dangerous streets will have to be enough as he grows from boy to man. I hope they are enough. And, if they’re not, I hope he knows who to call. Even if it’s his dad.

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Bullying

Bullying is a topic that comes up frequently in both parent groups and in educator groups. And it should, because it can really impact the social-emotional wellbeing of children who have been on the receiving end. There is data to support that the effects of bullying are felt by the victims, the bystanders, and even the bullies themselves. We definitely need to be concerned about bullying, and avoid taking the stance of:

“Kids need to learn to handle tough situations! How will they deal with people if they don’t learn when they are young!”

Or “Oh kids will be kids! Everybody’s mean sometimes!”

Or “well I was bullied, and I turned out ok!”

What I say to that is:

a) Kids need to learn that victimizing people is wrong. They need to know that we are going to help them when they ask for it. They must learn when they are young that bystanders have power that they can use for doing the right thing.

b) Kids don’t have to be mean sometimes. Or anytime.

c) You actually didn’t turn out entirely ok, did you?

Our school has taken a strong stand on bullying, and requires all staff to be educated on identifying and dealing with bullying behaviors. We have a specific protocol that we follow closely when bullying has been identified. And, most importantly, we work hard to create an environment where bullying is much less likely to take place.

One small way to do that is by creating a community where kids don’t need to sit alone at lunch. We all know kids who eat alone. These are new kids who don’t know anyone, or kids who don’t quite fit in the usual mold, or kids who have stuff happening at home that they don’t want anyone to know about.

When a child sits alone and is socially isolated outside of school, they are much more likely to be singled out as a bully’s victim. If they have no friends, they have no one to stick up for them. And most bullies don’t care to deal with groups of kids, or really anyone with a lot of social currency.

Your child may tell you about a lonely kid: “Oh so-and-so always eats alone. He doesn’t like anyone. She says weird things. She thinks he’s better than us. He never talks.”

Yep, those are the ones. They often seem different and, even more often, indifferent. This is probably because they don’t want anyone to know that the isolation actually gets to them. It’s a coping behavior, one that most people would employ in a similar situation.

You should definitely help your child understand more about bullying. You should teach them what they should do when they are being bullied. You should help boost their self-esteem. You should absolutely report it to the school when they have been the victim.

But if you really, truly care about bullying in your school and/or community, you will also teach your child to eat with the lonely kid. You’ll tell them to choose an isolated classmate for their project partner.

You’ll teach them that they can stand beside that kid and tell someone else to stop the bullying behavior. You’ll tell them about the power of the bystander, and show them how to use it.

The other day my husband was approached at the school gates by a new parent to our school. His son was new to our son’s class. He told my husband that he really appreciated how our son had been sitting with his boy every day at lunch so he wouldn’t have to sit alone as the new kid.

Now, my boy is a teenager and thus tells us nothing, so we didn’t realize he had been taking on that responsibility. But apparently he had been not only eating with him, but spending all the breaks with him showing him the ropes, as well as texting with him after school to coach him through unfamiliar assignments. His response when we asked him was to shrug and say “Well that’s what I’d want if I was new.”

Good grades are wonderful. Getting into a good college is fabulous. But raising a child who cares enough to sit with the new kid? Yeah. That’s some proud mom material.

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Viva Mexico!

This weekend we will celebrate the Independence of Mexico, and I’m happy because this year it actually translates into a long, lovely weekend. Last year it landed inconveniently on a Sunday, so we had to celebrate and then return to school the very next day. It’s always amazing to me that there aren’t laws against such travesties of human justice, but there aren’t, so let’s all just be grateful that time is on our side this year.

I love this holiday because it’s a day where Mexico shows off (more than) a bit. Sure, Mexican celebrations are very often quite colorful and flashy, which is one of the reasons why I live here. But on September 15, right before midnight, she just lets her gorgeous hair down in an avalanche of exuberant noise and splashy fireworks.

Now, if you have young children, “right before midnight” might mean “the celebration in the afternoon at their school”. You may have to tell a perfectly forgivable white lie; that Mexico is closed by 9pm and they have to go to bed. And that’s because otherwise September 16, the real holiday, will be ruined by overtired little persons.

If you DO take your kids to the celebration on the Malecon, just understand that the noise, crowds, and late night might create an overwhelming sensory situation for them, and thus for you as their primary caregivers. But that’s ok, because if it’s going to be one night where Things Get Ugly, it might as well be on such a very special night.

I’m glad to celebrate this country, who has given me so much, and who asks so little in return. Mexico demands a bit of tax, a bit of patience, and quite a lot of red tape. But that’s nothing compared to what this place has given me in return:

  • My husband, a son of Mexico and the best guitar player I’ve ever met in real life. He’s the number one reason I couldn’t quite leave all those years ago. Truth be told, I would stay anywhere he was a citizen, but I do believe that Mexico has made him one seriously super human being.column, summer3
  • My children, who are Mexican and proud of it. They were born here, and, when we visit family in Canada, you can certainly tell. They don’t mind hearing a bit of noise and they really do like to make some too.photo viva mexico
  • They have given all of mankind the best food ever. Because of Mexico, we can eat a little piece of heaven right out of our very own hands. And it’s not just tacos. It’s enchiladas. It’s quesadillas. It’s tamales. Shake a stick and you’ll hit somebody’s favorite meal. So be careful with that stick. Mexico, you are delicioso.viva mexico4
  • Sunsets and beaches – Yes. You can find these in many countries. But will you hear mariachi in the background while you watch a sunset so frightfully golden that you worry you might have accidentally died and gone to heaven? Can you jump into the ocean at midnight and not worry about some kind of cold-related illness? viva mexico3
  • People – the great, beautiful, loving, steadfast people of Mexico. These are the people that persevere through war, famine, injustice. They are the people who know when to work, when to rest, and when to party (with all the good food). They are the people who have given me hope for the rest of the world, because they know the value of family and they know how to enjoy this life we all get to live.

The Mexican people make Mexico. They are the greatest gift of an already fantastic country.

To the people of Mexico and to all of you here reading this: celebrate this delicious, beautiful, friendly, absolutely tenacious nation. Long may she live, and long may I live within her borders. Viva Mexico!

 

To My Children Returning To School

I believe in you. I believe in you like every mother who sees her baby as the most beautiful in the nursery; as the mom who feels a burst of pride over the gorgeous natural curls, the eyelashes that go on forever, the delicate rose-shaped mouth. I believe as the mom who saw you read early, who heard you sing like an angel from a very early age, who showed off your drawings on her Facebook profile page. I believe because I see your talents and abilities, your gift of humor, your musical skill, your writing ability.

I believe in you as the mother who has seen you fail, who held her breath when you fell, over and over, before you ever took your first step. I believe as the one whose heart broke when friends walked away from you, when children made fun of your glasses, when they called you names. I believe as the mom who saw you make some mistakes, who found you a math tutor, who sat through meetings with the principal. I believe because every time you fell you stood back up, no matter how long you lay in the dirt, breathless, tears tracking the dust on your cheeks.

I believe in you as the mother who worries too much; who sometimes has a good cry in the bathroom, who puts her hands on your uniforms as she folds them to just will all that love into the fabric. I believe as the mother who packs your lunches with all of your favorite things, who waves goodbye with a huge smile but turns away very quickly. I believe with every ounce of hope and faith that is in my body, because what child would not succeed when loved so very much?

I believe in you because I am in your mother and in spite of it. I know you are brilliant, beautiful, strong and resilient. You are young, but you have met many challenges. You have overcome some of them. You have been overcome by others. And that’s ok, because you’ve learned something every. single. time.

You are fearful sometimes, and you don’t believe in yourself very often these days. But I want you to know that I believe in you like no one else. And that should mean a lot because I know you like no one else, too.

When you come to me and lay your head on my shoulder and tell me you can’t, that you are afraid, that it’s just too much, I’ll listen. I won’t judge you, or nag you, or tell you you’re wrong. I’ll just believe in you like I always have, like I always will.

Wellbeing for our Youth

I have had some very interesting talks with friends and family regarding the state of mental health in this day and age. Most of the discussions have centered on the growing concern with the social/emotional health of children and adolescents. Certainly the numbers seem to reinforce our worries: 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders worldwide. Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and three-quarters by mid-20s (WHO, 2017).  As a parent, I have often come across the statistic that suicide is the second or third highest leading cause of death for adolescents.

The odds that teenagers will suffer from clinical depression have grown about 37 percent between 2005 and 2014, according to a study by researchers at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Once you hear alarming statistics about mental health and children, it’s natural to seek answers to questions like: Why is there a growing trend in mental health issues in children around the world? What can we do about it?

Well, the why is actually fairly complicated. One of the reasons appears to be that researchers simply didn’t think that children or teenagers were capable of being clinically depressed and only in the last thirty years has it been accepted as an appropriate diagnosis. It’s sad to think of how many teenagers genuinely suffering from depression were accused of just being moody and uncooperative.

Social media in particular and digital media in general is often blamed for the rise in mental health issues, as is the modern family dynamic, genetic factors and societal pressures regarding appearance. I could go on here. There are a multitude of possible factors, and there probably isn’t just one to blame.

And, as far as it concerns us here in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the factors aren’t necessarily where we need to focus. As a community who cares deeply about our youth, what can we do to combat what many see as a mental health crisis? Can we make a difference?

I am a teacher and parent at the American School of Puerto Vallarta. If you don’t know much about our school, I can share that we are a school that strives for excellence. Our program is rigorous and has high expectations for our students.

However, social-emotional health and happiness has always been a priority, and should never be separated from the goal of academic success. If you cannot relate to others, you cannot collaborate effectively on school projects. If you eat lunch alone every day, you cannot feel like a valued contributor to your classroom family. If you are desperately unhappy, all the A grades on the entire planet and all the scholarships to Cornell University are not going to mean much.

Our school has taken a stand on becoming a leader in sustainability in our community. For most people, that means things like recycling and using water responsibly. And we definitely work hard on those areas. But it also means focusing on wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle. A big part of wellbeing is mental health.

With that in mind, and among a number of social-emotional initiatives, the American School built a Wellbeing studio this past spring. It’s a small building with floor to ceiling windows facing our early childhood wing. There’s a gorgeous view of grass and trees, and will also include, from time to time, some pretty joyous moments of happy children playing.

We will offer prenatal yoga classes, baby and mom yoga, adult yoga, toddler gym and mindfulness classes in the morning. Also on our schedule will be yoga and meditation after school classes for children of all ages. This is a way to support our children, youth and their families in the Vallarta community. It’s a way to promote emotional and mental health in our young people. It’s a way to tell them there are many people who want to see them happy and thriving.

If you or your child would like to join our Wellbeing Studio program, we invite you to inquire at wellbeing@aspv.edu.mx. Help us work towards a healthy future for all of our children.

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Our Pet Rescue Story

We found our sweet Lucy through an organization called MexPup. One of the group’s founders, Patty Marchak, heard that we were looking for a little dog to complete our family, and found us a little mixed beauty with a rescuer in Sayulita.

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Lucy’s first day

Six months later, we found Max under our car, tiny, dirty, and trembling. I coaxed him out from under the car, scooped him up, and then realized that I couldn’t just leave him beside the road. The whole family made a decision then and there, and he ended up with a safe place to live from that night on.

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Max’s first day

We did the right thing in both cases. Both dogs needed a home and good care. Sure, they came with baggage. Lucy is terrified of loud noises like fireworks and thunder. She cowers when she senses we are angry, even though we have never laid a hand on her. She wasn’t patient with the children at first, expecting the same rough treatment that she had gotten in her previous life.

Max wasn’t house trained, never having lived in a house. He refused to walk on a leash at first, because he was so scared to be out on the street. He is aggressive with dogs he doesn’t know, adopting an “attack or be attacked” philosophy. He is afraid of car rides, and trembles and whines when we go somewhere in a vehicle. He fears most humans that he meets on the street.

But our family is populated entirely by dog people. We all love dogs at least as much as humans, and then some. We loved on these dogs from the moment they crept cautiously inside our home. The children were gentle and showed them that they had nothing to fear. We took them on short walks and stayed with them during those scary thunder storms. We crossed the street when we saw other dogs coming. We fed them on a schedule so they knew they would eat every day. We let them come to us for pets and cuddles. If we had to leave them, we left them with people they knew and loved.

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They became family so quickly that we don’t remember a time they weren’t part of it, and they took on roles that I truly believe were ones born of deep gratitude. Lucy spends most nights dozing on and off in between her customary security patrols around the house. If I ever have a bout of insomnia, I can count on hearing her padding around the house every couple of hours; checking in on each sleeping child, and then heading back to bed.

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Max is our comedic relief and our intermediary in teen communication. If my kids are having a surly kinda day, I adopt Max’s voice (deep and cartoon-y, naturally), and we have a chat that usually ends in everyone laughing and Max’s head tilted all the way to one side (clearly wondering what kind of cracked-up humans he’s landed himself with).

Both dogs have been in our lives during some truly traumatic moments: the passing of dear friends, several fairly serious health crises, etc. And in all of my memories of grief and fear and pain, there’s a dog pressing his or her body into my lap, offering the kind of silent comfort only a compassionate friend can provide. When there’s a sick child, there’s a warm little friend resting quietly beside them. When there are tears, there’s a friendly tongue attempting to wipe them away. When there are fears and insecurities, there’s a furry body, always offering its protection regardless of the threat.

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When you rescue an animal, you are showing your kindness and compassion to a helpless creature who needs protection. You are quite possibility saving their lives.

But, as our family found out, they will save you too, over and over again. You may rescue an animal from very dire circumstances, but I can guarantee they will rescue you in more ways than you could ever imagine.

Contact the SPCAPV if you want to find out.

Teens on Holidays

Being a parent with kids on vacation is not the same as being a parent with kids in school. It’s like manning the telephones at the electricity company during a blackout or being the guy twenty feet up playing around with live electric wire: sure, you both work for the same company, and both jobs are tough, but one is life or death and the other is just handling people’s bad moods.

My kids are with me every day, all day. They are not motivated to go out and do stuff unless it involves buying things for their entertainment. They don’t want to learn more, and they are old enough and smart enough to sniff out a Learning Experience no matter how beautifully I dress it up in nachos and ice cream.

Plus, I have been a mom for nearly fifteen years and I am too jaded to spend hours trying to drum up fun things all day long. Also, as I recall, my parents didn’t bother trying to find fun things for me and my brother on our summer holidays. We had to do this weird thing called Entertain Ourselves.

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Must Instagram the beautiful sunset

However. I have always carried a life-long mantra with me in my heart that goes like this: “Enjoy them now, in every stage, because it goes by faster than you realize”. I have never had to cling so tightly to this particular thought until the teen years hit. I’m clinging so hard that I’m pretty sure my brain is turning white. But, by jove, I’ve held on to it for fourteen years, six months, one day and 62 minutes, and I’m not letting go now.

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extremely rare and unique image of teen holding broom (accomplished through the dazzling promise of a Teen Cave Makeover)

So I’ve come to the realization that I cannot change anyone’s attitude except my own. I can’t force anyone to have fun, or give me a hug, or keep their eyes unrolled. I can’t make them appreciate art, or listen to classical music, or do a guided mediation with me (at least willingly). But I can smile, and I can turn on my music, and I can hug their stiff, eye-rolling bodies (Mom Privilege). And so I will. You know what else I’ll do this summer?

  • Use all my spa certificates that I got as teacher’s gifts. Because if I’m the only one who has decided to go out, I might as well do something I like. Facials, Massages, Pedicures, all free. My very own Trifecta of Joy.
  • Watch television. Yes, I am going to watch TV. I’m going to watch the shows that I like and I am going to ignore the comments that The Good Doctor is for moms who drink Pinot Grigio. Cause guess what? I am, and I do. And that doctor is a good one.
  • Leave breakfast items within easy grabbing distance. I don’t have to cook. It’s too hot and no one likes anything healthy right now unless it’s blended into a smoothie with a back hoe bucket full of sugar.
  • See some art, write some stuff, eat some ice cream. I don’t need to put my interests on hold if no one wants to make a cool homemade lava lamp out of alka seltzer tablets with me. I can do Big Girl stuff. And little girl stuff (I ate a magnum ice cream bar around the corner to my house so they wouldn’t see me and ask for their own. Real mature. Real fun too)
  • Ask them what they want to do. Yeah, I might be waiting for awhile, pencil hovering patiently above my To Do writing pad, quizzical, friendly look pasted on my features. But eventually I know they’ll come up with something fun for at least one of them, even if it’s less fun for me.

Hey, all of you electricity workers out there, take care of yourselves. It will make you a patient parent, a fun parent, a better parent. Sure, you’ll get the occasional zap and fall off your ladder, but you’ll be able to get back on. And, eventually, you might just have a bit of fun.

In this together, PV

Hey Vallarta parents. I bet right now you’re hot, sweaty and less than your most sparkly selves. I bet you’re using more than an affordable amount of A/C, and just kind of hoping/wishing that CFE takes groupons. I bet your children, fresh out of school, are already taxing your final thread of fortitude.

I bet they know it and that’s why they’re doing it, because they aren’t exactly their regular sparkly selves either. It’s hot, it’s summer vacation, and we’re in this until a) they go back to school or b) you decide to join a penguin colony in the Antarctic (my current fantasy).

Also, unless I need to remind you, you have to get your kids back to school in this pressure cooker, because things aren’t going to cool off much until at least November. Sorry, but it needed to be said.

I’m there with you, and I feel your pain. I have two teenagers who are genuinely bored with all the things. On top of that, we do not use our A/C because we are not millionaires. I want to list everything that is hateful and unpleasant to me right now, but it would be such a long list. And that’s because when my brain is in a state of such intense heat, I’m going to find even rainbows and butterflies to be the absolute worst.

So. I’m going to ask you all to join this community of parents who Suffer Through and try to make the best of things. I’m going to ask this because I feel like, when we aren’t comfortable, we are quick to judge others for their parenting flaws and slow to notice that we haven’t prepared a meal for our own family in six days.

When you observe a mother giving in to a toddler in aisle six, for example, assume that child has been weeping and sweating simultaneously since 5am and mom just needs a moment of silence before taking up her cross again.

When you see a parent stocking up on Pop Tarts at 65 pesos a box (for about six tarts), assume that their fridge has broken down due to the intensity of the cooling work it is undertaking when it is 34 degrees and 75% humidity. Kids need to eat, and by crikey we still have a toaster.

When you watch a child telling a parent a joke, and that parent doesn’t laugh, he or she isn’t ignoring them or discouraging them from a career in stand-up comedy. It’s just that they have heard the same joke every three hours ever since school ended and Lord help us, it wasn’t funny the first time. They can’t laugh anymore. They truly truly can’t.

When you come upon a little girl supposedly watering the yard (so as to not be inside the house asking lots of questions and telling more jokes), but is just spraying herself and clearly not using water responsibly, I mean YEAH, like, we get it but please cut her mom one strand of slack.

When you see families in line for movies, or sitting at a restaurant with devices, or in the video arcades playing games and absolutely NOT communicating with each other, could you maybe just assume that the adults have spent the last week trying to get people to talk to them and play cards and swim laps? Can you try to imagine that this is just one of the many ways that they are spending their Family Together Time? Can you just feel for these parents who love their children but need to be indoors with some cold air and positivity?

If you can do that for me, I promise you with all my heart that I can do it for you when your kid drops their ice cream into my lap, or cries through my dinner on my first date night in a month, or shows up at the grocery store wearing (only) a cape and boots. Because we’ve all been there, and we’re all still there. Sometimes we forget, and then we judge. But if we just give it a try, and even shoot out a smile to that poor suffering parent, we can make a difference to somebody’s day. Maybe it won’t even feel so hot (just kidding, it totally will).

 

My Girl Graduates

Today is a big day for my daughter. Today she graduates from primary school. We have been planning for it for a very long time, and it’s involved a lot of elements that weren’t included in my son’s big day last year. For example, all sixth grade graduates need to wear black pants or skirts and shoes and white tops. For my son, this involved buying:

  • The first pair of black pants that fit
  • The first white dress shirt that fit
  • His dad’s black shoes

For my girl child, it’s been a bit more complicated. I don’t know how many of you have been shopping with a teen girl, but let me tell you this: there is nothing they enjoy more than  picking things out, trying them on, rejecting them, and getting angry with you because you thought they looked really nice (and the fact that you are obviously lying).

For example, the black skirt involved multiple, agonizing searches for just the right circle shape that covered more than the essentials, and in the end a tearful request to a talented seamstress to whip up nothing less than a miracle.

The first white shirt was unacceptable, as was the twenty-ninth. Finally, feeling eerily calm, I stepped away from the issue and sent her with her stepsister and her father, because a) her stepsister is twenty and considered the only cool person in the family and b) her father was (until that point) completely unaware of the difficulty of shopping with a teen girl and therefore naively happy to help. She came back with a lovely shirt that everyone thought was great and, most importantly, was chosen by her sister.

The shoes. Well, that was pretty easy. All it took was telling her that the black ballet flats at H&M were the only ones approved by the school principal (sorry Miss Nancy, I did what I had to). At that point, I just needed to not be in the mall anymore.

After that, there were Hair Considerations. My girl has this beautiful mane that she inherited from both her jet-black haired father and me, La Rubia. Her hair is this lovely light brown shot through with natural blond highlights for which most folks pay a month’s worth of tacos. It is, however, Completely Wrong because apparently it has frizz, so we must anti-frizz.  I longed for last year when The Boy got a fifteen minute trim which needed a gob of gel that he certainly didn’t care about.

rhythm grad 5

But we made it through somehow, and here we are today making our final adjustments on the custom made skirt and the virtually invisible kink on one hank of hair. And suddenly I can’t breathe through the mother-sized lump in my throat, because she’s breathtaking and mature and suddenly ready for high school.

This little girl who twirled around my living room in a pink satin tutu (and that’s all), this sweet one who pretended to make me tea, this beloved creature who only wanted five danonino yogurts for every single meal all through preschool; this girl is going to high school.

She’s old enough to be lovely and poised, but young enough to have no idea that she is. She’s old enough to know about makeup and high heels, but young enough to be ok with not using them (yet). She’s old enough to spend hours planning this whole Look she’s got going on, and young enough to twist my heart to see her looking so hopeful that she got it right.

You’ve got it right, my girl. I’m so proud of this growing young lady that you are, and I’m so certain of the great things you will do. Now let’s go get that diploma.

rhythm grad 4