Friday, September 25, 2009

The good and the sucky

Many people say my daughter is a "mini-me" of myself. Gee, could it possibly be the curls? Maybe. It's hard to see ourselves in other people, especially our children. When they are born we say 'she has my nose' or 'he has his chin', but now as first graders their personalities are complex and layered and life is more challenging and I am often left bewildered and taken by surprise. And, now with a school room full of twenty-one different personalities and temperaments, first grade presents all sorts of new emotions and opportunities for learning about dealing with them.

I feel like I've entered a new dimension of being a parent. As a toddler, it was a lot about keeping them safe and teaching them boundaries. As a six-year-old, it's more about life in the bigger world and all of it's endless challenges. It's sad to see their innocence lost a little bit every day, because, well, to be blunt, the world is full of people that suck. I won't even get into all the things that are awful right now in this country, and most of it stems from sucky people that are only in it for themselves. And, people might think that I suck for saying that other people suck. For me it's actually liberating to say that. I don't have to analyze why they are like that or what I did wrong - over think it as usual. If I realize that sometimes people just suck and there's nothing I can do about it, then I can let it go and focus more on being a good person so I can live with myself and keep stress at a minimum. Who knows why someone might crash into my car right in front of my house and not take responsibility by leaving a note? Maybe they were in a hurry to get home to their sick mother or they are scared because they don't have insurance because they got laid off a year ago and just lost their house...or maybe they just suck. Luckily, I have insurance and am thankful that they didn't crash into my house or my children.

So, when my daughter keeps getting upset because a boy in her class bothers her, my first instinct is to go up to that boy and say "LEAVE HER ALONE BACK OFF YOU BRUT!" to protect her and make everything okay. But, after thinking about it more, I realize that, while that might give me a split second of sheer satisfaction, I would miss an opportunity to teach her something about life. After all, if I'm upset with my boss my mommy isn't exactly going to show up and give him a piece of her mind. Instead I talk with my daughter about how to deal with this boy, or any other kid that is acting mean, like standing up for herself or just walking away. Maybe that kid sucks right now because his parents are divorcing or his older brother picks on him relentlessly or his diet is terrible...or he just sucks. There is nothing to be done about that and every class has a troubled kid or two. What matters is how my daughter deals with it - how she can be a good example and treat people the way she wants to be treated.

I recently saw a friends Facebook status that said how rude it was that she opened a door for someone and they didn't say 'thank you'. While her friends chimed in with sympathy and witty comments, I saw it a different way. Maybe the lady she held the door for just lost her beloved father to cancer or got chewed out by her boss or just got a traffic ticket...of maybe she just sucks. What matters is simply the act of doing something nice, which totally got lost because of my friend's negative reaction. I think about how a friend of mine recently came home to a huge bag of girl's clothes for her daughter on her doorstep. No note. No phone call. Just an anonymous someone being thoughtful without any need to get a YEA FOR YOU! in return. Now, isn't that more like it?

Sure, I get annoyed from lack of thank you's, too, I'm certainly not above that. Common courtesy can go a long way. What about the somber sales associate at Target that doesn't make any eye contact with me for the entire transaction? She might hate her minimum wage job and her crappy boss or just broke up with her boyfriend or is stressed about money...or she just sucks. But if I look her in the eye and ask how she's doing and wish her a good day then it can make my experience with her so much better. And, if I get a smile out of her then ding ding ding major bonus.

I'm not always at my best, like when I yell at my kids to hurry when I'm the one that made them late or when I wallow in martyrdom when I should be reaching out to people that want to help or when I go through the entire transaction at Target without looking the sales associate in the eye...or maybe sometimes I just suck. Ouch, that's hard to admit, but it's true. Or maybe I just need to be less hard on myself and be proud about who I am...the good me that doesn't suck...most of the time.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Magnetic message

After my rather annoying day at work (where the countdown has begun toward my final days there), frustrating traffic, my cranky mood, and lack of chocolate in the house (oh the horror!), my son enthusiastically tells me I must see what he has made for me. I am guided down the hall with giggles and smiles over to my bedroom door and this is what brings a tear to my eyes...a message from my cute boy to me, a woman on the edge of reason, made out of Magnetix:
All that negative stuff I mentioned before? Gone. Erased. Unimportant. Bye bye! I am instantly reminded about what really matters...and I let my sweet loving angel know it with a barrage of hugs and kisses and squeezes. He is so proud of himself as he whispers "Did you see the 'U'? It's made out of primary colors." He has absolutely no idea how much I need that right now, or, humm, maybe sometimes he instinctively knows me better than I do. Ya, kids are pretty neat like that.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Breaking down those walls

As my longtime wonderful hairdresser applies hair dye to my roots, she asks me how my kids are doing in school. I tell her they love it and so far they only say good things about their day. I mention how I love that their class is especially diverse this year, with classmates from many different nationalities, which is one of the huge benefits from attending a progressive (and very accepting) school that embraces diversity. They will be future peacemakers and leaders I tell you!

So, my hairdresser goes on to tell me that when her son attended elementary school in Glendale, it was on the track system, meaning an all year (overcrowded) school with different groups attending at different times of the year. She goes on to say that the school separated the students into different nationalities so that each track was predominantly one racial makeup. Her son attended the Armenian track, while the Hispanic kids another track, etc. And, the school made sure that the teachers who taught the track were the same nationality and geared the education toward that group. As my jaw is dropped in disbelief, she goes on to say that in junior high they integrate all of the children, so suddenly the students are expected to be with each other seamlessly and peacefully. So, needless to say there were constant fights and bullying and racial problems. Gee, duh!? Keep them separate and teach them their nationality is superior, then suddenly mix them together and expect harmony? Not going to happen.

When I pick up my little students today, I find out that two moms came into the class today to speak about Ramadan that's going on right now. According to my kids, the month long observance is about not eating and practicing patience. They talk the whole ride home about the eating part, which I guess is pretty fascinating to them. After all, my starving children go two hours without eating and they are famished and begging for food (I occasionally throw in the classic guilt line "did you know children are starving in Ethiopia?", but it goes right over their heads). But, I understand, as a woman that needs her protein or I get the shakes, I feel huge respect for people with the dedication and will-power to go all day (sunrise to sunset) for a month without food or water. Amazing.

Anyway, I tell them that if they decide as grownups that they want to be Muslim, then they can celebrate Ramadan and find out what that's like, but in the meantime it's nice to have friends that you can ask if they have any questions. My daughter replies "No, that's okay. When I grow up I want to celebrate Kwanzaa".

**picture above is a beautiful piece of the Berlin Wall at the Ronald Reagan Library that we visited this summer

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Slowing down and smelling the brownies

It's a regular school day, except I'm running late. I hate being late and rarely ever show up anywhere late. However, I'm distracted and struggling this morning with thoughts of a funeral that I'm attending in a few hours. The funeral service is for a young man, one of my husband's closest work friends, and it's horribly sad and my mind is all over the place. I manage to make breakfast and lunch for the kids, shower and dress, put on my makeup, make sure my kids are presentable, and drill sergeant them out the door (go! go! late! late! hustle! hurry!). Only, when I walk around to my side of the car that's parked on the street I find this:
and the soooo very thoughtful present the $#@%&*^!!! hit-and-run driver left behind:

Now, normally I would get kind of upset, eat some chocolate, take pictures, call my husband, more chocolate, call the cops, call my mommy, scour the neighborhood for the $%^&^*@! offender, call the insurance, then overdose on more chocolate and sugar. But, I can't do that. We are late for school, husband is already at the funeral, I am going to a funeral, mom is on a cruise ship somewhere in Greece, and, gasp, I am out of chocolate. Uh huh, even my emergency stash is gone. I stay calm and do what I have to do, after all, no one else is responsible for handling this but me. It can all wait until after the most important event of the day - the funeral to honor a well loved man.

When I get home, I deal with my car stuff. I can't believe it that my car just got fixed a month ago after a co-worker parked her big suv into my passenger door. Ya, it sucks and I'm not happy about it and I can think of a whole list of things I'd rather spend the $500 deductible on, like the camera lens I want so badly or my new guitar or a new tv to replace the old one in the bedroom. But, oh man, thank goodness I have full insurance and don't have to pay $2500 to fix my car. It's all just extra "stuff" anyway. That a-hole hit-and-run driver could have just as easily crashed into my house or my children's room, or what if we were in the car when it happened? Or getting out of the car? I certainly could go on and on about the alternatives that are far far worse. But, at some point I stop myself and think about all that I do have instead. It feels much better. That list of "blessings" is way longer than my $500 wish-list for sure. And, making my favorite amazing yummy gooey chocolaty homemade brownies helps a wee bit, too.