An Open Letter to Kids’ Cable Channels (I’m Looking at You, Nick)

Recently, you changed the schedule. Spongebob had been coming on all summer at 7am.  And then all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

Can I just ask one thing?

Why is it that you give adults all kinds of warnings when you are going to move an adult show to a new night or time, but you give absolutely no warning to the kids?

TVMaybe your test-markets are saying to try something new.  Maybe you think kids actually want to watch some cheesy disney-esque sitcom at seven in the morning.

All I ask is that you give us a heads up.

When you don’t, we spend a week dreading mornings.  The Boy refuses to go to camp or school, or quickly packs up his stuff and takes it out to the truck, insisting that he and The Man leave an hour early because Nick changed the schedule, and Spongebob isn’t even on anymore.  Ever.

(And could I even hope to try to find it on On Demand? Nope.  Then after a week, it suddenly appeared on On Demand, but 2 of the 5 episodes were in Spanish… So helpful, Time Warner Cable.)

Miraculously, Spongebob came on again at 7am after about two weeks. And then… just as fast, it wasn’t anymore.

All I know is that if NBC did this with Grimm on Fridays in season, or if AMC had done this with Mad Men, they would have a riot at their doorsteps.  Why is it fair to do it to kids?  Especially kiddos on the spectrum who depend on their schedules to help them make sense of this world.  When you change things on them, when they can’t count on Spongebob to be on at 7am like always, this world can be a scary place.

All those child psychologists on your payroll, and not a single one of them could figure this out? You’ll have a much more lasting impact on your audience if you actually treat them like real people.

The Man, The Teacher

Can I just start this post off by saying I know how incredibly lucky The Boy and I are? I know there’s a lot of single mamas out there with kiddos with special needs, and I know that loneliness, and that feeling of hopelessness that you may never find someone to share your joys and burdens. I write this post in gratitude that life, circumstance, karma, or whatever or whoever you may think had a hand in it, helped us get to be this blended family of three.

The Man is a natural teacher and kid magnet.  Whenever we go to the beach, he picks out a couple of kids who show even  the slightest interest in his surfboard, puts them on, gives them a few pointers and lets them fly.  And after about 10 minutes, a whole beach-full of kids wants a turn.  Our little neighbor often comes over to see if The Boy wants to play, and just as often ends up “helping” The Man with his projects around the house, wearing his tool belt, and learning how to use a power screwdriver, under the closest of supervision, of course.

He shows me how to do stuff all the time.  I put windows into our trailer flip all by myself, you know, and I didn’t know how to do that before I met The Man.

He was the one to teach The Boy to ride his bike.  He taught him how to pee while keeping his trousers up.  He’s taught him how to surf and mow the lawn.  The other night, The Man had brought home some m&ms for The Boy and had told him he could have them when he was done practicing the tuba. But when The Boy and I ended the practice session, I was frustrated.  He is so freakin’ smart that he thinks it’s funny to play it incorrectly and doesn’t know when to stop joking around and get work done.  This is something we’re working on, and this lesson just didn’t go right. I was tired of everything and decided to go to bed early.  The Boy quickly grabbed the m&ms and headed to his room.  In his mind, he was done practicing which meant he could have them, while The Man and I both agreed that you only get rewards when you do things the right way.  I gave up and headed to bed, very aggravated and  unwilling to fight anymore.  The Man stepped in and I could hear him speaking to The Boy through the bedroom door. He came to bed and said he had explained that we needed to save the m&ms for when he actually got the work done on the tuba, and asked him to think about it, and also suggested that when he returned the m&ms to the fridge, he needed to come and tell me he had done so.

I was so impressed. The Man had calmly explained the reasoning and left it in The Boy’s hands to do the right thing.

Not five minutes had gone by when we heard a knock on the bedroom door.  The Boy entered to tell me he had returned the m&ms, and I assured him he could earn them the next night by completing our work on the tuba. He wasn’t happy about it, but he wasn’t melting, either, and he had made the right choice, guided by The Man’s words.

This is something that would not have occurred if his dad had been around.  This is something that would not have occurred if I was still doing it all on my own.  This occurred because The Man is a good teacher, and a good parent. I am grateful.

On Being Busy

English: bocce courtA friend posted a link to this opinion piece, “The ‘Busy Trap'” by Tim Krieder of the New York Times.  Go ahead and click it.   Read it and then come back.  I’ll wait…

Did you really read it or are you cheating?  No, it’s a thought-provoking read, and will give you some context for what I’m about to write.  Go ahead.  Just be sure to come back.

I have to say that as I read it, I recognized my old life, to some extent.  When I was a teacher, there were always committees and leadership opportunities, and I rarely said no.  This resulted in sometimes three meetings after an already long workday, and barely any time or energy left for my son.  From the time I was in college, I was a do-er and you would often find me on the board of some group, or chairing some committee, and my planner was my lifeline.  I always had rehearsals and meetings scheduled, often into the wee hours of the morning.

And I also recognized my old students.  The kids who were at the dance studio every day after school until well past a normal dinner time, and when they weren’t taking classes, they were teaching them.  The kids whose hockey schedules ruled their lives instead of school and friends.

And the kids of friends.  Those friends who find it hard to say no.  The friends who made a conscious decision to sign their kids up for competitive activities (big parenting hint: “Competitive” anything will rule your life, and leave no bones).  And who say this “saying no stuff” is easier said than done.

It is.  I was there once.  And I get it.  We want our kids to succeed, we want them to be involved.  We don’t want them to be loners or losers.

My kid isn’t involved in much of anything, which is actually a blessing of his disorder.  Team sports are not and will never be our thing, thank goodness (I know his dad has always felt otherwise, but not me).  He loves to just ride his bike around the small neighborhood we live in.  Or mess around on his computers.  If I had the money, he might take swimming or Tae Kwon Do, but only if he wanted to.

I wasn’t either.  I was a brownie for awhile until our troop leader quit.  And I was in band, but it wasn’t like competitive marching band of today’s standards, with rehearsals 2-3 times a week not ending until 9pm.  I was on parks and rec basketball once.  And softball one other time.  And I took flute lessons once a week.

The rest of the week, I was free to play with my friends in the neighborhood.  Sometimes we played school (can you guess who instigated that?), but often it was tag (remember tag?), and around dusk it was Ghost in the Graveyard.  Guess what?  Our kids don’t even know how to play those games anymore.  Because they don’t have the time.  Between piles of homework from schools trying to jam more curriculum into a 9 month school year, and all of these scheduled activities they are in, no wonder there are so many young people growing up depressed.

We need to make ourselves a priority in our own lives.  If you (and/or your kids) are so busy and stressed that you don’t have any time in your week to just sit and think, there is something seriously wrong.

We need to take a page from our parents, and their parents, and all the generations who came before.  When people age they generally downsize to a smaller house or apartment (less maintenance and upkeep = more time with your family), get rid of the belongings (see George Carlin on “stuff”), and spend their time doing what they wish, or even nothing at all.  They may sign up for a low-impact Zumba class, or head over to the senior center for a round of Bocce Ball with the boys.

But it’s not Competitive Bocce Ball.

Leaving School for the Last Time

As I mentioned last week, my resignation went before the board, and I was finally able to tell my students that I was leaving.  I wasn’t quite sure how to do it, but I just started speaking, and was honest with them.  They didn’t make it easy for me – there was a lot of screaming and howling (middle school behavior leaves much to be desired), but I was able to get through it without breaking down.  There were a few that were in tears, although I think a few more had suspected ever since I got engaged.  They know enough about me and my personal life to put two and two together.  I got many, many hugs, and lots of that look they have when they are thinking hard about something – you know, the “processing big news” look.

flowersOur year-end concert was this past Thursday, and again, I wasn’t sure what to say.  In the classroom, I’m more able to articulate, but put me on a stage, under lights, with a microphone, and I’m not as comfortable.  The kids performed well – I know they were doing their best for me, knowing it was my last one.  At the end, one of my eighth graders, one I never would have guessed would grab the microphone, stepped up and read something she had written for me.  As she read, multiple kids came up to hand me bouquets of flowers, and then there was no stopping the tears.  So many kids came up for hugs, and I hugged each one individually.  A few told me how they felt about me, and my class, that it was the only reason they liked coming to school, and such…  It was all very sweet, and a touch heart-breaking.

I know they are concerned about what will come.  A multi-year class is never the same with a new teacher.  I know they are sad, and a bit mad that I am leaving them (some are probably glad, too!).  I just keep trying to explain to them that sometimes you have to do things that are good for you, even if they don’t seem like they are good for anyone else.

I am still getting random hugs, and messages written on my white board, disappointed looks, and a few quickly-wiped-away tears.  The eighth graders have asked me to come to their dance, a rather big hullabaloo the evening before the last day of school.  Normally, I don’t, but I might pop by this year.

These kids represent 16 years of kids who have taught me so much about themselves, and human beings in general.  I’m a better person for having been a teacher, and I really wish John Q. Public could teach for a day so they knew what really happens in schools, from the teacher’s perspective.

It is time for me to go, however.  I’m so glad these kids have made it a sweeter experience.