Tuesday, February 25, 2020


Mean-iacs is a silly word we use in our home to describe someone when we think they're being mean (think maniac meets mean). Sometimes though, we use it when referring to the kid's "friends" at school, when they say unkind things. This year my kids have been coming to me more often than in years past with complaints that kids at school are being mean. I know it is just the age and phase they are in right now. A second grade boy and a middle school girl might be two of the hardest ages. Kids can be mean. I have seen it in my own childhood: I was mean at times, my kids have been mean too. No one escapes it, and it's a phase of childhood that hasn't evolved much. What has changed though is my approach to helping my kids.

When my daughter was little, I read books about empowering her to tell her peers when they upset her. If a friend said something upsetting, she was taught to tell them that what they said wasn't very nice, or to let them know they hurt her feelings. Another approach I tried was just listening, validating their feelings and then letting them navigate the next steps on their own. I also tried to guide them when they came to me, but stopped asking it about the issues the day after. I didn't investigate or interrogate them. The issue may have been upsetting the day before but it might be over for them, even if I am still upset about it. No matter what I did though, no single response I have equipped my children with ever really worked.

This year my daughter, who has always been on the diminutive side and never been bothered by it, is bothered by it now. She doesn't wish she was taller, she just wishes the girls who have been making comments about it would stop. She has asked them and they apologize but then they do it again a few days later. My son is experiencing just some typical, age-appropriate bout of snarky, but it is frustrating none the less. He will share news on joining Cub Scouts, or skiing his first black diamond run and a kid will say something like "who cares?!" He doesn't cry about it at school, but he comes home hurt. I have been trying to support them with my arsenal of tools, but now it's time to toughen them up a bit. I am giving them sarcastic comebacks, and I didn't think I would ever use it with my kids, but my inner Queens is coming out.

When I was nine, I was hanging in the basement with a few kids from my neighborhood. Allen, a kid my age told me I was too slow to run with all of them. Without saying a word, I stood up and punched him in the gut. This accomplished nothing good in the moment and I actually got hurt when I was punched back, but I stood up for myself and Allen never said anything like that to me again. I am in no way telling my kids to punch, hit or even touch anyone on the shoulder. I am going to suggest though that they start speaking up and out a bit more. They are smart and quick and when all else fails -- try something else. If someone asks my daughter how the weather is down there, she should tell them its hard to breath because they are taking up all the air. If someone responds to my son with a "who cares?" he should tell them he does. If they don't stop, I will suggest they walk away, but maybe just maybe kids will learn when to stop being hurtful. Maybe I take it even harder than they do, but I know they aren't too happy with the tools they have had so far. I have to give them a few more options though before they turn all bridge and tunnel on their friends.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

What's Best

When my daughter was a toddler, I was friendly with a group of moms who bought into the LA scene so much. It took me a while to realize that we didn't have much in common beyond the fact that we all had babies at the same time. It went from being a great support to have women going through the same challenges of motherhood together, to feeling like I was back in high school, hanging with the snooty click. They were all so serious about getting their babies into the best preschools. They had clear ideas of what they wanted for their children and what was the "best." I eventually came to my senses that this group was not for me, but I learned that this city feeds off of impressionable people. If you are in the market for a preschool in this town, there are books, coaches and classes that make you feel like if you don't choose well, your child might not get into college one day.

That experience made me so frustrated. I was determined to find a reasonably priced, clean, fun preschool that didn't have a curriculum that included Singaporean math for my then three year old. I decided that I loved play based Waldorf, Reggio styles, and so I set off on a mission. I found a great place and started her a few days a week in the summer just to get a feel of the school. During week two, the school announced they were moving and my whole plan collapsed. I had to find a plan B, and quickly. I ultimately chose a pretty low frills preschool, that wasn't defined by any one style. It was reasonably priced and set in a beautiful park near my house. Convenience wins, every time for me. It wasn't at all what I had planned on but it ended up being wonderful.

When it came time to plan for Kindergarten, I once again had an idea of what style of school I wanted to send her to. The only problem though is that my plan didn't match her. I wanted her to play, sing songs, and sit in a circle. She loved letters and begged me to teach her how to read when she was four. She was eager to learn in a more academically driven environment and I had to let go of what I wanted. My idea wasn't a fit for who she was at the time. Time and time again I need to be reminded of this as a parent.

Last year, at the end of first grade for my son, I learned that one of my daughter's favorite teacher was moving into teaching a second grade class. I loved this teacher because she was outside-the-box, and had a unique way of teaching. We are not allowed to make requests to the principal, but I couldn't help myself and I begged. She had explained that the classes had been made already, but she assured me I would be happy with who he got. I assumed she placed him with the other second grade teacher that was a bit more eccentric and had her won style. I was hoping for someone who tailored their teaching to each individual style. When I finally saw who he did get, I was so upset. The teacher was a nice person, but she didn't fit any of these alternative styles. At that point we had to accept what he had and hope for the best.  By the end of the first day of school, I saw a change in my son. He had gone off to school scared and crying, but came home so content and happy about his new teacher. I was once again wrong about what I thought my kids needed. His current teacher is exactly the right fit for him. She is calm, gentle, kind and patient. She is also solid, clear and a fantastic teacher. She provides the right balance of structure and silliness. The class listens and respects her and she listens and respects the class. I have been so pleasantly surprised at how well this year is going for my son. He is excited to go to school each day. I love that I was so wrong about what I thought was best for him.