Parents in Denial March 12, 2013Posted by alwaysjan in Parenting, Teaching.
Tags: Difficult Parents, Education, Humor, Parents in Denial, Teaching, Third Grade, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents
Saturday morning I woke up with my stomach churning over a conversation I’d had with a parent after school. No harsh words were exchanged (unlike my first year of teaching when a parent flipped me off in front of a class of second graders), but the parent looked at me incredulously when I said her child was still having the same issues as he had on Day One. Another Parent in Denial
But there’s something I need to come clean about. Before I became a teacher 10 years ago, I, too, was a bonafide Parent in Denial. If only I’d been a teacher before I became a parent, I wouldn’t have been such a pushover when it came to my sons’ lame-o excuses. My boys were angels! So any teacher who tried to tell me otherwise was obviously not used to dealing with a creative genius or a real boy.
How bad was I? When my younger son was accused of throwing an apple across the lunch area outside and hitting the custodian in the head, I insisted that it couldn’t have been him because I’d seen him throw in Little League and his aim wasn’t that good! And I believed this with all my heart.
The “apple” incident was just one of many. There were phone calls. Meetings with tribunals of teachers. Suspensions. Sometimes the police were involved.
My sons are now 30 and 26 and they are decent, hardworking young men whom I’m now very proud of. So, imagine when several years ago my accused “apple thrower” blurted out, “Mom, you know all that stuff they said I did in middle and high school?…well, I did it all.”
By then I was teaching and I had to hang my head with shame. To think I had been THAT parent. Not always, but there were a couple of rough years when I’d questioned a teacher’s motivation, competence, and even demanded that my son be changed to another class. Because of me, there were some teachers who woke up on Saturday morning with their stomachs churning. Karma?
A colleague posted What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents on Facebook. It was just what I needed to read on Saturday morning. At a time when the average new teacher leaves the profession after only 4.5 years and “parent disrespect” is cited as one of the leading reasons, I think this is timely indeed. Read it and see what you think.
The Village People Save Halloween October 18, 2009Posted by alwaysjan in Holidays, Parenting.
Tags: Halloween, Halloween at the Hotel Chelsea, Halloween Costumes, Halloween in New York City, Halloween Nostalgia, Halloween Parties, Parenting, Trick-or-Treating
Halloween in New York City in the 1980s was a tough call. The big draw was the Village Halloween Parade. But how many gay guys can you watch prancing around dressed as poodles in costumes made from pink plastic bags? (The answer is quite a few!)
The trouble was that my sons, Taylor, who was in third grade, and Ian, who was in Kindergarten, were eager to go through that American rite of passage called trick-or-treating. In Manhattan, that meant going from deli to deli and getting a piece of candy or maybe having a slice of cheesy pizza dropped into your bag at the local pizza parlor. Not quite the Halloween of my childhood.
When I was a kid, Halloween was a pretty simple affair. You carved a real pumpkin and it always had triangle eyes. None of that artsy stuff you see nowadays. If you were hard up for a costume, being a hobo was always an option, but that was before there were homeless people. You could wear your dad’s shirt and carry a stick with a bandana tied to it. Now those same bandanas signal gang affiliations. Sigh. Word traveled quickly as to which families were handing out the “good stuff.” I’m talking homemade popcorn balls and caramel apples (before they had razor blade fillings).
Fast forward. We were living at the Hotel Chelsea on West 23rd Street. Built in 1883, the hotel is 10 stories tall and has an ornate wrought iron staircase winding through its center. The residents were mostly “artists,” (code word for eccentrics). We moved in the year after Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend Nancy. There were residents who swore the elevator always stopped at the first floor, even when no one had pressed the button, because that’s where Sid had lived.
At the Hotel Chelsea, it was pretty much Halloween year round. We once walked into the wrong apartment once and found ourselves in a casino. It’s not like the boys could go from apartment to apartment trick-or-treating. No, we would have to bite the bullet (the silver one intended for werewolves) and throw a Halloween Party.
Other parents, who were equally desperate for something to do on Halloween, quickly RSVP’d. We enlisted the help of some of the hotel’s residents, some who we only knew in passing. I was willing to buy the candy for them to hand out, but they insisted they would to do it. But what it they flaked – or OD’d?
I ordered a sh*tload of plasticky crap from the Oriental Trading Company. Skulls, spiders – Typical boy stuff.
I made a huge platter of spaghetti with eyeball meatballs (olives) along with vampire repelling garlic bread. Jake’s mom, Arlene, who was a caterer, arrived bearing the most incredible cupcakes I’d ever seen. They had black frosting and a green plastic witch’s finger protruded from each one.
We set up games out in the hallway. Stick a skewer into a bowl of flour and try to hit the lady apple. (What a mess that was!) There was a little fishing rod with hook on the end of it so kids could try to snag a skull ring out of a jar. This was all time filler until the main event. Finally, it was time to go trick-or-treating.
I shouted out an apartment number and a dozen children raced up the stairs with parents trailing behind. From floor to floor they raced, maybe ten apartments in all. The last stop was at our friend Susan’s. She was a teacher and lived in the penthouse. I expected candy. Instead she’d gone all out with spooky lighting and a scary soundtrack. Her apartment was already a jungle filled with terrariums of exotic animals. When she had the tarantula walk across her shoulder, the kids were mesmerized. But then, so was I. This was the grand finale. But wait, there’s more!
My husband’s office was across the hall from where we lived. It had a wrought iron balcony that overlooked 23rd Street. Flying high on sugar, the kids tied rubber bugs to fish lines then dropped them down to street level. When someone walked by, they’d jerk the line to make the bug jump. When unsuspecting people were startled, they laughed hysterically.
Everyone swore it was the best Halloween ever. And it was. A motley crew of people who wanted to create a lasting memory for children made it happen. Yes, it takes a village – Or in this case, the Village People.
Moxey, whose blog Middleground is on my blogroll, wrote a hilarious post about her own ambivalence about Halloween and the inevitable Costume Drama in outfitting her eight-year-old son, Spawn. It’s a fun read. This year, the party is at her house!
Photo Credit: Spooky Spinner by Mark Williams at markrosswilliams.com
I, Santa Claus December 7, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Holidays, Parenting.
Tags: Christmas, Christmas in New York, Family, Humor, Is Santa Claus Real?, Life, Parenting, Santa Claus, Telling Children the Truth about Santa Claus
My son, Ian, was in the third grade when I, Santa Claus, was exposed. Only weeks after Christmas, Ian approached me with a bewildered expression on his face, clutching a piece of paper. “Why do you have all my letters to Santa Claus?” he asked point blank. Oh s**t! He’d found our cache of letters the boys had written to the big jolly man.
The frozen look on my face said it all. “You’re Santa Claus?” Ian asked incredulously. (Yeah, like I couldn’t eat a plate full of cookies.) “I…I…I am,” I stammered, and my son burst into tears. Before I could begin to explain how this ruse worked, I saw my confession’s stunning ripple effect. Still wailing, Ian choked out, “And the Easter Bunny?” I nodded. More tears. “And what about the Tooth Fairy?” At this point I was so busted that I merely hung my head. Ian locked himself in his room and a tsunami of tears followed. What my son didn’t see were my tears.
You have to understand. As a child I loved Santa Claus. Just at that age (third grade), when everyone else was muttering something about Santa being your parents, I received a pair of roller skates from Santa that were the wrong size. This was proof that Santa WAS real. My parents would have known what size to buy me. But with so many children in the world, I could forgive Santa for not knowing my exact size. This mistake bought me (and my parents) another year of me being a “believer.” To be honest, I don’t even remember when I finally figured out Santa was my parents, or if we even talked about it. Maybe it was so traumatic, I’ve supressed the memory. But I tend to think I finally realized that it was a bit of a stretch that some jolly fat guy could deliver gifts all around the world without routing them all through Memphis.
When our first son, Taylor, was born, we were eager go play Santa. It’s the role of a lifetime and we played it to the max. We were living in New York City and the city is magical at Christmas. One year friends invited us to their block association’s “Visit from Santa” event at a small park in Chelsea. It was freezing and we huddled together stomping our feet to try and stay warm while awaiting Santa’s arrival.
All of a sudden we heard a jolly, “Ho ho ho!” We looked up and there on the rooftop of a three-story brownstone, illuminated against a starry sky, stood Santa waving! I got goosebumps. I was five years old again. I was a Believer! Moments later, Santa emerged from the front door of the brownstone with his bag slung over his shoulder. He passed out advent calendars filled with chocolates before disappearing into a waiting Cadillac. It was only later, I found out that Santa was actually a Jewish guy named Morty. Morty was so overjoyed that he’d married off his last daughter, he asked if he could play Santa that year. That’s what I love about New York.
When Ian was born the next year, his big brother Taylor was only too happy to fill him in on Santa’s penchant for cookies and his elusive nature.
On Christmas Eve, the boys would write their letters to Santa. When they finally drifted off to sleep, we went to work. I snarfed the cookies then wrote a letter from Santa on parchment paper with a calligraphy pen. I even burned the edges so it looked like something out of a storybook. Before Richard and I went to bed, we pulled out the fireplace screen just a tad and made big sooty footprints over to where the cookies had been. It was a crime scene worthy of CSI.
One year the stockings looked so adorable hanging above the fireplace that Richard took a Polaroid. The mirror hanging over the fireplace reflected the flash and the image blurred. It actually looked like a being of light was moving toward the fireplace. In the morning we excitedly told the boys how we’d heard a noise and rushed out to the living room just in time to snap a picture of Santa. Taylor was determined to contact the National Enquirer because he knew they’d pay lots of money for a “real” picture of Santa. “Finally,” he announced. “We have proof!”
Taylor figured out the Santa thing by the fourth grade. We were living outside Seattle by then and he seemed nonplussed. He said it explained why Santa always gave gifts out of the Hearthsong catalog. That year Taylor helped set up the stocking for Ian and enjoyed watching his little brother delight in seeing what Santa had brought on Christmas morning. After we moved back to LA, Taylor continued to play along. Wink, wink.
So Ian’s heartfelt tears were like a knife to my heart. This wasn’t how I’d imagined it. But how much of life isn’t? So what did we do to help our traumatized son deal with the TRUTH. Taylor finally lured Ian out of his room and we all went to see a movie – a violent movie. All I remember is it was rated R and there was lots of shooting, which as we all know, Santa wouldn’t approve of. Ian walked out of the theater and the storm had passed.
Ian is now 22 and loves to retell the story about finding Santa’s letters. The funny thing is his favorite thing about Christmas is still coming out to see what Santa has left in his stocking. (We tried to phase the stocking out when he was 17, but he wouldn’t hear of it). So I told Ian if I, Santa, still have to fill a stocking then he has to write “Santa” a letter. So Ian writes a letter giving me (I mean Santa) an update on his college grades, and I, Santa write a letter back, but don’t bother to burn the edges. And I still get to eat the cookies!
My Son – Who Happens to be Gay November 22, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Life, Parenting, Politics.
Tags: Civil Rights, Equality, Family, Gay Marriage, Gay Rights, Gay son, GLBT, Health, Homosexuality, Keith Olbermann, LGBT, Life, Parenting, PFLAG, Proposition 8, Transgender
I have two sons. My younger son, Ian, happens to be gay. I didn’t set out to have a gay son. But then Ian didn’t set out to be gay, and to be honest, it came as a shock to him as well. He was confused about why he felt “different.” And he struggled alone. Even now, I can’t imagine what that was like for him when he was only nine and had a crush on a boy in the fourth grade.
When Ian was 14 and a half, we were sitting in the doctor’s office, and he announced he was gay. We laugh now remembering what happened next. I blurted out, “Oh my god, I hope my parents die soon!” This was because my parents had left their church in the Midwest over the issue of gay unions. My head was spinning. Driving home, I was in a fog. I’ve always had gay friends, but my son? My eyes brimmed with tears. Why me? What I remember most is what my son said next. “Mom, I’m the same person I was before – it’s just that now you know.”
“Please don’t tell Dad,” Ian asked. My response? “That’s like asking me not to tell your father the house is on fire!” So he told his dad who was surprised, but ultimately okay with it. Then he told his older brother who shrugged. “Just don’t expect me to go riding around in one of those gay pride parades.”
Ian felt such a sense of relief to be able to be honest about who he was. This was the same kid who had written “I’m gay” in Sharpie on the back of another boy’s jacket in middle school. Talk about confused self-loathing. It wasn’t easy for him though.
Ian, who’s outgoing and always had lots of friends, thought once he came out, other students at his high school would come out as well. He waited…and waited. There was one other boy who was extremely flamboyant, who Ian wanted nothing to do with. Ian had played Little League baseball and considered himself a jock. His attitude was, “If I want to hang out with a girl, I’ll hang out with a real girl.”
Looking back, I can’t believe how brave my son was. Yes, he took a boy as a date to the prom. He was confident no one would give them a problem as Ian is infinitely likable and has a wicked sense of humor. No one did, but I held my breath. As a parent, I was frightened that someone would lash out at my son, verbally or physically. But being young, Ian was convinced he could change the world – or at least people’s opinions – one at a time. And to his credit, he did and continues to do so.
Meanwhile, my husband and I found PFLAG ,Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians And Gays. (I should note that at the meetings I attended there were also families with transgender children.) We met so many incredible people at those meetings. People came because they too had family members and friends who were gay. Those who’d been attending for awhile always described being able to acknowledge their child’s sexual orientation as an amazing “journey.” It was painful though when parents who’d just found out their child was gay came to a meeting. Some were still in such a state of shock or denial they couldn’t speak. But the important thing was they showed up. It was the first step on their journey.
There was a Chinese woman who wanted to know if there were herbs that could turn her son, who was in his 30s and a doctor, back to “normal.” There were African Americans whose childhoods were so interwoven with the church, they felt ostracized in their own community. And there were people who’d gotten married because, “I thought if I got married and had a family, it might make IT go away.” They’d come to the conclusion that telling a lie is easy, but living a lie takes a toll on one’s soul.
Eventually, I couldn’t keep The Secret any longer. After a year, I broke down and told my parents their grandson was gay. They were in shock, but they love Ian. Several years later when they were visiting, my father said to Ian, “Someday when you meet the perfect woman…” He caught himself. “I mean man,” he said. Ian was overjoyed as he adores his grandparents.
My son has never been interested in the club scene. “That’s not the way you and dad raised me,” he said with such earnestness, that my heart ached for him. He talks about “when I have a kid.” He has that optimism that comes with youth. It helps that we live in Southern California. Ian is still put off by “girlie” guys and was critical of people who are transgender until he saw the movie Transamerica. He watched it again the other night and said it made him cry. So even he has been on his own journey of understanding.
My son is now 22. He goes to college and he, and his boyfriend of a year, live with us. The other day he asked, “Mom, at what age are you considered a loser if you still live at home with your parents?” I told him with the economy the way it is, this might be as good as it gets. But we’re all okay with that.
I really don’t give much thought to my son being gay anymore. It’s just one part of who he is, but certainly doesn’t define him as a human being. I was disturbed though when he came to me last night and told me how upsetting it was when several young men chanted, “Yes on 8!” when he and his boyfriend walked by. Ian is a peaceful person, and it was all he could do to not say something. And of course, you always think of just the right thing to say afterwards. But hate, even though Ian knows it stems from ignorance, still hurts.
So when my friend TIna, who also has a gay son, emailed this morning that she’s going to attend a peaceful march tonight to protest the passage of “Yes on 8,” I said count me in. She and some of our friends marched last weekend. They sent me pictures of them holding their placards. What impressed me most was that most of those who showed up didn’t have a gay child. They were there because they thought it was the right thing to do. They believe in equal rights for all Americans.
So now it looks like it’s going to be a gay day. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday night. But the stakes are just too high. We’re not talking about one of THOSE people. We’re talking about my son.
One of the most eloquent and impassioned commentaries I’ve seen on this issue is “Keith Olbermann’s Response to Prop. 8.” To view his commentary, please press the following link. Peace.