Friday, August 12, 2016

Katie's incredible first day

Katie's first day of kindergarten

Katie loved kindergarten. First and second grade were OK, but by third grade she started having trouble getting along with her less-mature classmates. By fourth grade she was so frustrated with most of her peers she started asking if she could be homeschooled or go to a private school with a more diverse age range of classmates. She does well with older kids, whom she admires, and younger kids, whom she adores, but she tends to expect too much maturity from her peers and loses her temper with them when they treat her, or others, disrespectfully. 

Katie's first day of first grade

She's an only child who never had the opportunity to squirm out from underneath her older sibling's fart-infused hand over her face or learn how to ignore a younger sibling's whining. All the kids outside of school she hangs out with-- her friends with mutual interests and maturity levels, and her cousins who are also sensitive and well behaved--adore her. It's easy not to lose your temper around adoring fans. It's more challenging to keep cool around people who are crammed into the same underfunded four walls day in and day out with you, not because you have similar interests and temperaments, but because you are the same age and live in the same geographic boundary as each other. 

Katie's first day of second grade

I don't believe in making rash decisions, though. I think it's a good life lesson to build your social skills by learning how to deal with annoying, uninteresting, and foolish people. There are a lot of them in this world, and some day Katie might work in an office with one or two of them. When my co-workers annoy me, I can't just stomp my foot and shout "leave me alone" even if it's how I feel. I want Katie to flex her flexibility muscle. Life is not about always getting your way. Life is about figuring out how to make the best of difficult situations.

Katie's first day of third grade

So, I didn't give in to her wishes to stay at home and read and watch V Sauce on YouTube all day, which let's face it, is what she'd do if I were her full-time teacher at home. That and play Animal Crossing City Folk til the nerves in her wrists and fingers start to tingle. I encourage my kid to face her challenges head on in the real world, but for the most part I offer her few challenges at home. Her dad tells her to do the dishes and pick up her trash and put away her laundry from time to time, but I have difficulty dictating to another person things I so thoroughly suck at myself. I want Katie to feel like her home is her refuge from a difficult world. That doesn't mean I want to keep her bubble wrapped at home like a modern day Rapunzel. I want her to learn to fight the good fight out in the real world and I also want her to know that her home is her comfy place whenever she needs a break.

Katie's first day of fourth grade

At the advice of her therapist, we had Katie tested for giftedness. She exhibits many of the signs. She passed the test with a circus cannon shooting kaleidoscopic colored clowns into the air. She especially scored well in the areas of creativity and innovation. Which is the new buzzword in the education crowd. Her school this year was renamed Apache Innovative School after it had been known as Apache Elementary since before even I was born. The idea is that kids today don't need to learn how to sit still and obey and never think for themselves. We're not raising future factory workers. We're raising future innovators. Our schools need to reflect that change in our society.

Katie was accepted into the gifted program. She starts next week. I don't know if this change to an "innovative school" has made such a difference or if just knowing that new opportunities await her changed her mind, but when I asked how her first day of school was today, Katie said, "It was incredible."

I hadn't heard those words outta this kid's mouth in years. I'm certain there will be good days and bad days ahead. But what a wonderful way to start the new school year.

Katie's first day of fifth grade

Saturday, August 6, 2016

I Love Becky's Mom...No Seriously

My mom is in the hospital with an infection. She's the kind of person who doesn't like a fuss to be made over her. She's introverted and modest about her talents and traits. She's hilarious, often unintentionally so, and one of the smartest people I know. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Look at what one of our guests wrote on our bathroom wall:

Mom doesn't know it, though. I've spent my life trying to figure out how to convince her. I'm bossy and opinionated. But she doesn't listen to me. How did my mom, who is conflict avoidant, manage to give birth to the likes of me?

But she did and I'm grateful for it.

My latest creative obsession is Prisma. It's an app you can use to change your photos into various styles of art. One of the things I've learned from my mom is that when I'm fearful or nervous a good way to alleviate some of the anxiety is to create works of art. Since Mom has been growing frailer, my worry has grown. It makes me feel better to dabble in some creative expression. I chose an old faded photo of my mom and me when I was nearly three sitting together at the table, having a conversation after lunch. Because the photo is faded it evokes memories of the many lunches and tea parties Mom and I had when I was a kid. This faded photo is a glorious metaphor for my faded, fuzzy, lovely memories. Memories of my mom and me hanging out together as a kid. I love this photo, so I turned it into art.

You don't have to have a Prisma app or old photographs to turn something into art. All you have to do is appreciate something, to value it, to love it, to hold it inside you and want it to last. I'd argue that Mom's best work of art has been my brothers and sisters and I.

Go, tell my mom how much you appreciate her. Wish her well. Send her healing vibes. Even prayers, if you're into that whole thing. She is. She'd appreciate knowing how much she's appreciated in this world.