Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Night Before Nerves

 The transition from the end of the summer into the new school year has never been my forte. As a child, I would lay in bed awake the night before the first day of school nauseous with nerves. You never found out beforehand who your teacher would be, you just got who you got and hoped they would be nice. They weren’t always nice. I had moved into public school for second grade after starting out in a religious private school with uniforms and uniformed seating. Our desks were lined up in such a way that you weren’t close enough to any of the other students and could only look straight ahead at the teacher. When I walked into my new classroom in the middle of second grade I was amazed at how alive it was. There was color everywhere, on the walls, the clothes of the children, and the desks were set up like tables so that we could all face each other. My new teacher, Mrs. Lee was a tall African American woman with the friendliest smile I had ever seen. She was the sweetest welcome into a new school year that I ever had.

It went downhill from there. I had a pretty mean third grade teacher who would tell some of us, myself included, that maybe we belonged in the learning disabled classes, whenever we didn’t understand something right away. She taught the class how to macrame that year, and I just couldn’t grasp how to do it. She wasn’t patient enough to teach me, so I just sat there while my classmates all completed complicated looking hanging pot holders. She wasn’t nurturing, kind, and I didn’t get much out of that year except lower self confidence. In fourth grade, I had a better teacher, except once in a while out of nowhere she would scream at us. It began happening more frequently as the winter approached and shortly after that many of us began learning the smell of alcohol and that our teacher smelled of it many mornings. Eventually, she was let go, but it was almost the end of the school year by then. She could really startle the class, and it was pretty sad that we had an alcoholic teacher, but she was still better than the one before her in third grade. She was actually a good teacher when she was sober, and the class was all in it together. She didn’t single anyone out the way the third grade teacher had. 

I got a nice teacher in fifth grade but I think I was pretty shaken by then. I hated when summer ended, because it would mean that all freedom, and fun must be over. When some kids got excited about going out to buy school supplies, I dreaded it. It felt like the beginning of a ten month academic prison sentence. Despite my protest each fall, I did have to attend school. I didn’t like it, I didn’t want to go, but eventually I got used to it. I was never a great student, but I was social so I made friends and had fun with them. I made it through all twelve years and even graduated college. I wouldn’t say it was the life changing experience that it was for some, but I did it.

As a mother I have gone to great lengths to make sure that my children’s education will be a positive experience. Starting with preschools, I researched obsessively and spent an unhealthy amount of time learning about the many different philosophies and styles of preschool teaching. I thought maybe if I didn’t choose the right fit for my child that I would set them off on the wrong foot academically. I snapped out of that mindset one day when I took my toddler to the local park and saw a lovely group of teachers playing with their students at the preschool set right there next to the swing set less than a mile from our house. Friendliness, happy children, and convenience won out and we had two beautiful years at that school. We moved when my son started preschool, but I learned by then to use the same criteria when looking for a place to send him. His preschool was set on the same campus as my daughter’s elementary school and we were all happy that they were together. We chose where we wanted to live based on what area within our price range had the best public schools nearby. I involved myself, maybe a bit too much, in their elementary school, and with the exception of the post Covid year, elementary school has been a wonderful experience. It gave us a community of people who we now consider close friends, it introduced us to pretty incredible teachers, resulting in  both my kids getting a great education and leaving fifth grade with a sense of self esteem I couldn’t have even imagined when I was their age. 

Tonight, on the eve of the beginning of Middle School for my son, and tenth grade for my daughter, I want to wish them both a wonderful year. Our once sought after school district has had a bit of a bumpy ride post covid, but there is so much good worth fighting for, and so many new principals and people in new positions that it is promising. We almost pulled our daughter out of the high school last year in hopes of finding something better, but no place we looked didn’t come with its own new set of problems, so she stayed. It wasn’t perfect but she did so well and accomplished so much. My son who starts tomorrow at a huge public middle school wishes he could attend his elementary school for one more year first. I have the same wish, but there is no getting off this moving train and they have to grow up, even if I don’t want them to. He is nervous, overwhelmed and unclear as to how it all works. My single one and only goal for the evening is to not pass on any of my anxiety to him. It is to remember, and to remind him, that this feeling of being afraid is temporary. He will be confused and lost the first few times he tries to find his classes, and that is okay because he won’t be the only one new to the school. He will be uncomfortable with what he needs to remember, who he needs to remember, and where he needs to be. I will remind him that discomfort will go away as soon as he gets used to being there, and that in time he will adjust. I will remind my daughter that high school feels like the most important thing in the world to her right now, but that it isn’t all of who she is. No one finds high school easy, and that she has navigated it with grace so far. I will remind them both that no matter what happens at school, their home life will not change. We are here to let them be heard, hugged, and helped whenever they need it.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Taylor Time

 My daughter is a fan of Taylor Swift. She loves her music and knows all of her songs. She wasn’t a super Swiftie, but when she heard last fall that Taylor was going on tour she wanted to get a ticket. She looked into the pre-sale tickets and found them for $150 each. The cost of concert tickets in general have gone up significantly in the past few years and we also couldn’t think ahead nine months to when the concert would be. So we made a fatal error and told her to wait. Little did we know that the prices for tickets to this show would rise so quickly or that there would be a major fiasco with scalpers buying tickets to jack up the prices so much. 

We put it aside and didn’t think about it for a few months and then Taylor began her Eras Tour. Along with her friends, my daughter started getting excited about the idea of going to her concert. We had a budget for what we would allow her to spend on a ticket and there wasn’t a single ticket that fit in that budget. These tickets became one of the most expensive concert tickets in history. I couldn’t quite make sense of it. Why did it cost so much? Why was the fandom for her so big? I’m not a huge fan of hers. I appreciate her talent, her dedication and her endurance (she sang over 40 songs for over three hours) but her songs just don’t resonate with me the same way that they move so many others. 

A week before the concert was coming to LA, I took a road trip with my daughter and her friend. On the way they began playing Taylor Swift and as song after song played, I listened intently to the lyrics and the music. I knew many more of the songs than I thought, I even knew enough words to sing along with the girls. I just didn’t feel swept away the same way some music can do that for people. I am in the minority there though as so many people are smitten by her, so many! Even as someone not super into Taylor, it was impossible not to feel her influence over the city as she started her tour. Every post on Facebook and Instagram had photos of people at the show. Every comment under the photos was about how there weren’t enough words to describe the experience of going to this show. Parents who took their kids said they were in awe as they watched torn between keeping their eyes on Taylor or on their kids faces as they watched Taylor. Friends that weren’t into Taylor went along with their kids and came out a fan. It was hard not to wonder if I was missing something.

I watched all week as my daughter tried desperately to find available tickets, but there were a lot of people also looking for tickets and a lot of scalpers taking advantage of that. The prices just kept going up, while the possibility of her getting a ticket went down. My husband drove her down on the last night of the concert. Trying to keep her expectations in check we told her the chance of getting a ticket was a pretty big long shot. We did say though that there was a good chance that if they got close to the stadium then maybe they could still hear some of it from the outside. That wasn’t what she wanted to hear, but I knew that she knew the window of opportunity for seeing this concert was practically closed. She got all dressed up, put on sparkly make up, and left with her one friendship bracelet that she made. They got down to the stadium and gave it their best shot to get in. There were definitely some tears at the realization that the mind boggling, life changing experience that all of her friends were all still glowing from wasn’t going to be experienced by her. She then literally turned herself around and joined the thousands of people who parked themselves as close to the stadium on blankets and folding chairs to experience the concert from the outside. Was it everything she hoped to see? No – but was it magical, yes! People from all walks of life, all around LA joined together to listen to the music, and absorb the energy that vibrated from the stadium. Together, they sang, danced and came together joyfully. The concert tour has brought in over five billion dollars, only a privileged few can afford to get that ticket, and despite not loving Taylor Swift, she is bringing people together in a way that we all so badly need. I have seen photos of Beatlemania, I have lived through the storms of desperation in the eighties for a Cabbage Patch Kid and have seen people on the brink of their sanity for the second coming of Christ. This Taylor Swift phenomenon is up there with those. Despite the craziness that comes with fandom, she is bringing a lot of sweetness that has been missing for a while now. Even on the outside of the concert my daughter was asked to trade friendship bracelets, just a sweet trend that comes with a Taylor concert. I know that the production of this concert was something spectacular to see, but so was what was happening just outside its doors. We just didn’t have to take out a second mortgage on the house to experience it.

Thursday, May 4, 2023


It has been months since last I last wrote. In May of 2022, the four of us got Covid, and our lives were turned inside out. Our tests eventually were negative and we were ready to leave our collective diagnoses behind, but it wasn’t quite ready to leave me specifically. I wasn’t sure what hit me, but after some research, I learned about the symptoms of long covid and the side effects it can leave in its wake. I got brain fog, anxiety, depression, and dealt with a hormone imbalance. I was hit pretty hard and was not myself for quite some time. My children and husband seemed to bounce back a bit more gracefully than I did, but what I went through took its toll on all of us.

I received treatment for what I was going through, but it took some time to find what worked. It was a challenging time and one that shook me to my core. I could not have gotten through it without the help of my husband, my family, and my closest friends. I am so grateful for the gems of people that I have. They fill me up daily and I treasure them. Today I am much closer to being on the other side of all that illness. I am shaky and not so trusting that it is over. I struggle with having faith that it is all behind me, but I am taking one moment at a time, and enjoying each of those moments so much. I love my life and the people in it, so I am doing what I can to take that all in every single day.

My children had a tough summer right along with me, as my availability to attend to them diminished. Everything they knew about their day-to-day changed quickly. My husband stepped up and helped take over. It was a big change for all of us and it was not an easy adjustment. As a family, we found our way eventually. We shielded the kids from my hardest moments as best as we could. As an individual, I fought my battle and in time found myself again.

My daughter started high school and it has been quite the experience so far. She goes to our local public school, and it is not without its flaws. It is very big with over 2,000 students and it felt like she was so little to be heading into such a big school. The classes are fairly large and I think we all felt a little vulnerable sending her off that first day. There are many parts of her experience that haven’t been great, but there are also many parts that have been fantastic. She has a few supportive teachers that she loves. She has been meeting a lot of new people, and she adores the arts program that the school has. 

The school musical is Les Miserables, which is quite ambitious for a high school. Many students came out to audition and she was hoping she would just get to be in the cast. She got the part of Young Cosette and was so happy. She loves being part of such a talented company of students. The quality of the production is so high that it is quite difficult to believe that it is a school production. The cast and crew came together and worked hard on this production. The experience has been such a gift that I think many of them, including my daughter, will be quite sad when it is over.

In addition to doing the play, she gets to participate in the fantastic arts program the school has to offer. She is learning filmmaking, scriptwriting, and takes theatre classes. Given that high school is still a group of adolescents trying to find their ways, there is often more drama off-stage than on. She has dealt with a fair share of difficulty with “friends” and friend groups. She has fallen out with someone she thought was her best friend, and with that comes feeling quite misplaced within what she thought was her friend group. I have my own opinions on what she should do, and when she should move on, but it is not my place to advise her on all of that unless she comes to me. Even when she does ask for advice though, it is her experience and in her time will handle it the way that feels best to her. As sucky as it all is, it is spot on developmentally and completely age appropriate. It pisses me off and I am often hurt for her, but she is definitely handling it all better than I ever could.

My son is ten right now and in his last year of elementary school. He and his friends are loving being the big fish as fifth graders. He has a big group of about ten friends that played together on a  flag football team for a few months. He loved being part of a team, especially since it was made up of his favorite crew. He went to practices and games weekly. The whole season they played they only lost one game early on to this team that was slightly older and very strong. This did not deter or discourage any of them. In fact, they got up early every day before school and practiced flag football in the park together before the school bell rang. The team grew so tight and so strong that their game scores were often so high, while the opposing team would have zero points. When it came time for the final game, the Superbowl, they were faced once again to play the one team that beat them. The teams were very well-matched skill-wise, but the other team was older and much bigger than them. For a while, no one was scoring and the only thing going up was the tension of all the parents on the sidelines. Finally after what felt like so long, my son’s team scored a point. It was a remarkable game and a fantastic win for our boys!

He felt successful and accomplished being on that team. It built up his self-esteem, and his friendships with all of his teammates, and I believed it helped him navigate his anxiety as well. He learned that it is okay to be afraid and that you can still do what you need to do despite your fears. Even if he was scared before a game at times, he still played well and gave it his all. He is at times moody and stubborn as all boys his age can be, but despite that, he is also so affectionate and loving. He still skateboards which results in me being both extremely impressed and terrified simultaneously. He is a good boy and still feels like a little kid to me. His cheeks are still round, soft, and kissable. He is still easy to please between playing ball with him or gifting him something sweet. He still has such innocence that comes out in the questions he asks. I am holding still and tight to these moments with him as I know soon enough he will grow, and likely to be much taller than me.

My husband is remarkable these days. He is juggling managing artists, maintaining the investments we have made, as well as finishing up his masters degree in psychology. He has been a solid A student and writes these incredible papers that impress not only me but also his professors. He has not had an easy year either, and I am so grateful to him for holding my hand through the darkest of times. 

We are both very active in our community. We step in with politics and get involved when we think it’s necessary. We share that passion and I am proud of some of the actions we take together. We both very much value our family time, whether it is with our extended family or our own. Our family is a priority. I appreciate the relationship that he has with his three sisters. Their parents have been gone for a few years now, and they stuck by one another not only to get through their loss but to be loving and supportive of one another day-to-day, every day. He is close with my family as well and that means a lot to me. He is also a dedicated father to our two kids and goes above and beyond to show them just how loved they are. He and I are both quite communicative with our kids and even with a teenager in the house, we hope the sharing they do with us doesn’t go away.