school

Sorry, not sorry.

At the beginning of next school year, I’m going to implement an optional monthly mental health day for each of my children.

A day to recharge, rest, or catch up if they need it.

This will be a day that they can choose, and I will not question.  The same theory as when a child calls and needs a ride home because no one is sober, you pick them up, no questions asked.

A mental heath day in my opinion is about safety, just as is the call to pick them up, no questions asked.  It’s about promoting safety from stress, anxiety, and possible depression that can come from today’s school expectations.

I understand the other side of the  coin is schools not getting their ADA money on a day that I allow my kids to check out for a mental health day.  I’m sorry about that.  But I’m really not.  My kids give it their all, they put up amazing grade point averages.  I got straight A’s on one report card in 5th grade.  I don’t know where these three kids of mine came from, but they have a drive to succeed in school, and the numbers to back up allowing them to take one day a month if they need it.

I’ve read many articles recently about the anxiety and stress that school and homework can cause.  To be very clear, I fully support my kids teachers.  They have been amazing components in my children’s growth.  In no way are my feelings of frustration over the stress that school can induce directed at them.  I personally feel that the standards that are expected, and the workloads that come home are unrealistic and squeeze out many opportunities to live life outside of school.

So, in order to promote peace of mind in my children, I will give them a day in their back pocket to use if they are feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or just plain exhausted.

If one day can help to create a calm effect and a sense of support, I’m all in.

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If I were to talk to middle schoolers…

Middle school sucks.  Not the school in particular, the years of middle school life.  I know because I’ve been through middle school, watched one of my children go through it, and currently have one in middle school.  Kids are trying to figure out who they are.  Many start to make bad choices.  Others struggle with trying to keep on the right path.  Socially, emotionally, hormonally, things are on warp speed.  We’ve had our share of incidents through these years.  The incident I refer to below probably won’t be the last.  All is fine now, and my daughter does not know I’m writing about this, so if you my family, please don’t mention it to her.  Because of the stellar attention and actions from the administration at my child’s school, it was able to be determined that the student’s intention was not to threaten my child.  This incident in fact, opened a door to the student that may have never been opened in order to get some attention and assistance that was needed.  

If I were to talk in front of middle schoolers today, this is what I’d say:

My daughter was threatened by another middle school student last week.  I’m not going to go into the details about it.  The reason is because some of you may be scared hearing about what happened, and others of you may think ‘what’s the big deal about that?’  So, I’ll let you use your imagination.  Unfortunately, some of you may have your own experience with being threatened that you can relate to.

I feel that negative experiences at times are perfect opportunities to realize some positives.  So, I’m going to focus on some positives.  Some of these are general, some are specific.

Thank you to the student, who each day, walks up to my child and tells her something nice to make her smile.  Each and every day.  We should all be so lucky to have someone think of us and want to make us smile everyday.  You know who you are.  Thank you for your attention, and for making her smile.

Thank you to my child’s friends.  Both old and new.  Thank you for the laughter, the good times shared, or just sitting next to each other at lunchtime, those moments are important.  Friends are an extension of family, people my child can depend on.  Thank you.

Thank you to my child’s teammates.  No matter which sport, thank you for pushing my child, for picking them up, for constantly confirming what it means to be a team.  Being part of a team allows for a sense of belonging.  That is so important in life.

All of you here are a community. Your community became larger coming into middle school from elementary school.  Being in a community brings a feeling of needing to protect it.  When someone threatens a part of your community, you need to work together to make sure everyone is safe.  When you hear students talking about other students, and hurting them, or hurting themselves, that’s a warning sign. Even if you are hoping they are joking, it’s not something to take lightly.   It’s not your responsibility to decide whether something is or isn’t a ‘real’ threat to your community.  Parents, teachers, principals, counselors, those are the people you go to when you feel that your community needs to be protected from something.

YOU MATTER. Everyone matters. The person who is making the threat, they matter too.  Be proud of your community, and work to do your part to keep it safe.  You don’t ever need to feel embarrassed about something that you feel scared or uncomfortable about.  If you are not feeling safe, or feel someone else is not safe, those are real feelings, and always worthy of attention.  Your feelings do not have to match others.  If you are uncomfortable with something, tell someone.  YOU MATTER.

*You Matter is one of three essential messages used in the aMasongrace project @ amasongraceproject.com. 

Part 3: Our children’s reality, uncomfortably numb.

I was planning on publishing this in a couple of days, a recap of a conversation with my kids from last week.  But today, I subbed at my youngest’s elementary school, and participated in an ‘Active Shooter Drill’.  Laying flat, listening to the alarm, having administration bang on the doors to check that they are locked, all while meeting the eyes of little ones who some are nervous, some are still chatty, it’s hard to not get a little emotional that this is our reality.  I likened it to military, where God forbid anything like this ever happens for real, kids and staff would go on auto pilot and do what they have practiced, and practiced well.  So, I thought today was appropriate for the following post.

The actual conversation in the car after I picked up my children from school:

My 4th grade daughter:  We have a new way to act if we are on the playground for the stranger drill.

Me: Oh?

4th grader:  Ya, you don’t lay on the ground anymore, you run zig zag around the playground, or to the school to see if a class is open.  It makes it harder for someone to shoot you.

Me: Um, ok.

4th grader:  And someone asked a silly question, they asked what if the bad guy broke the window in the door and then just reached in and opened the door?

Me: Oh, I don’t think you need to worry about..

10th grader son interrupts:  Oh, that can totally happen, he could break the window with his gun and then just come in and start shooting then.

Me (in cold sweats, and clearly the only one in the car uncomfortable with the conversation):  Stop this conversation now please!

4th grader (totally nonchalant, with absolutely no emotion):  I totally think the old way was better.  You just lay down.

Me (calming down a bit thinking that I liked the old way too)

4th grader:  Because then you’re laying down and they just shoot you and it’s over.

Me:  Ok, that is it, no more of this talk, I can’t do it.

10th grade son and 7th grade daughter:  Snickering.

Me to my 10th grader:  Do you have drills?

10th grader:  Um, no.  Maybe we had a fire one last year?

What is going on?!!!

All 3 of my kids are in the car, chatting away like we’re talking about a recent movie seen, or what type of toppings they would order on frozen yogurt, and with each sentence stated by one of my kids in their calm, matter of fact voice, this is me:

And I could not make up this next part if I tried…  Playing outside later that night, my 9 year old says ‘hey mom, this is how we are supposed to run if there is a stranger on campus drill at school.’  And she proceeded to run across the grass, pretty much having fun, in a zig zag pattern.  She then wanted me to try.  As I had to almost laugh that I was going to run the ‘stranger zig zag pattern’, I rationalized that I was playing with my kid, so that’s good right?  After my zig zag debut, my 9 year old gave me a look like ‘ya, you’re a goner if it ever happens.’  So, I lost in the game of zig zag pattern stranger running?  I have no words…

Maybe it’s good that they are so matter of fact with all of this.  But it blows my mind still.  Again, glad that there are procedures in place to make our kids safe, and so thankful for my kids schools and their teachers.  But I have to almost laugh at the panic it creates in me, while my 3 kids are in an almost zen place when discussing this topic.

In case you missed it, here is why this post is labeled as number 3:

  1. Our children’s reality, uncomfortably numb (1)
  2. Our children’s reality, uncomfortably numb (2)

Our children’s reality, uncomfortably numb.

Today, day 3 of the new school year, I experienced my first real ‘lock down’ of a school my child was inside of. There were no children walking out of the school during pick up time, which was strange. My friend who’s daughter I drive home along with mine texted me to ask if there was a lock down at their school. What? As a matter of fact, there were 4 police cars down the road I was parked on. I called the police department after it had been 10 minutes since my daughter and her friend should have been in the car, and they stated that the lock down had just lifted. The lock down was due to police activity near the school. I am very thankful for the quick and proper response the school gave, yet it was still unnerving to say the least. As every day, I am thankful for the schools my children attend, and the wonderful teachers that are with them each day. Still wish this wasn’t their reality though…

You can't argue with crazy

On the way home in the car just now, my 3rd grader talked for 15 minutes about the lock out drill they had at school today.  She said they have a new code word, and that today, one of her friends was in the bathroom when the drill (so, so, thankful it was a drill) occurred.  If you’re in the bathroom, she told me, you stand up on the toilet and stay quiet.  There’s a whole different protocol if you are outside on the playground, or in the hallways.  She must have said 9 times how sorry she was for the friend who was in the bathroom when the drill happened.

Ok, a couple of things:

  1. I am numb that this is our reality.
  2. My freshman son asked why in the world they have those drills, I explained they have to be prepared, because this type of thing has happened…

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4 Reasons I don’t like the kids’ Spring Break

Overall, Spring Break is awesome.  Of the three 2 week breaks my kids get in their school year, the Spring Break is probably the most needed.  In October, they get a 2 week break, and it’s great, I feel a sense of ‘Oh ya, this is what summer felt like.’  The 2 week break at Christmas time is always nice, festive, and busy.  Then, there’s the 2 week Spring Break.  It’s needed.

The kids can feel the summer just around the corner, they’ve been working hard, and this 2 week break is well deserved!

Awesome weather, day trips, overnight trips, sleep overs with friends, and movies were had over this Spring Break.

So what is there not to like about the kids’ Spring Break?  Let’s just say it all goes down the weekend before school resumes:

4.  The return of making school lunches. School lunches are my nemesis.  My son is in the 9th grade, and has never, ever, bought a school lunch.  I’ve tried to coax him into trying the school lunch ‘look, they have pizza!  You like pizza!’  No go.  Both girls tried the school lunch once.  Not that I necessarily want them eating the school lunch, I just always thought buying school lunch would be a nice break from having to make lunches at home.  Now, the job of getting a break from making lunches at home goes to pizza dinner the night before, resulting in pizza in the kids lunches the next day.  Oh, but don’t be fooled, that’s only for 2 out of the 3 kids because one of them doesn’t like pizza.  All three kids like different things.  I try to get my act together and make lunches the night before so I have a sense of accomplishment in the morning, but that certainly doesn’t always happen, and the morning turns into throwing things into a lunch box and convincing myself and them that it qualifies as lunch.

3.  The return of waking up early. The Spring Break held many wonderful memories.  One being multiple days of a quiet, resting house past the 8:30 AM mark.  This first morning back wake up is not going to be pretty.  I hope I have enough Pop Tarts to make the morning a success.

2.  Homework over Spring Break. My kids are not the ones from fairy tales that come home and get their home work done so that it’s out of the way, and they can enjoy their break, work free.  Nope.  The Friday before we return to school, after having two weeks to work on homework, what we have is me trying to wrangle wild horses to sit down and complete their homework.  Sayings such as ‘You should have gotten this done within the first two days of break.’, or ‘If you would have done a little bit every couple of days you wouldn’t have all of this to do right now.’ or ‘This will not be happening again, you waiting until the last minute.’ (even though it totally will) were what was coming out of my mouth.  Out of the kids mouth were ‘This is so unfair!’  or ‘I can’t do it!’, or ‘I want to wait until Sunday!’ (no way).

1.  Complaints about returning to school. The whining, complaining, and even crying about returning to school is overwhelming.  To set the record straight, my kids have excellent teachers and go to great schools.  It’s not the schools, and it’s not the teachers.  My kids just like being at home.  About Friday, when homework had to finally be tackled, is when the complaints about returning to school started.  And by Sunday night, they were in full force.  The crying from one child lasted for a long time, and in the end I heard voiced between sobs, ‘But I am going to miss you mom.  I’m going to be away from you for 6 hours.’  It caught me off guard, and that is a memory I will hold in my heart for a long time.  Truth is, I’ll miss them for those 6+ hours too. Here’s to the final push to summer time!

Our children’s reality, uncomfortably numb.

On the way home in the car just now, my 3rd grader talked for 15 minutes about the lock out drill they had at school today.  She said they have a new code word, and that today, one of her friends was in the bathroom when the drill (so, so, thankful it was a drill) occurred.  If you’re in the bathroom, she told me, you stand up on the toilet and stay quiet.  There’s a whole different protocol if you are outside on the playground, or in the hallways.  She must have said 9 times how sorry she was for the friend who was in the bathroom when the drill happened.

Ok, a couple of things:

  1. I am numb that this is our reality.
  2. My freshman son asked why in the world they have those drills, I explained they have to be prepared, because this type of thing has happened at schools.
  3. He asked why someone has to stay in the bathroom, why can’t they go back into the class?  I explained that if there was a ‘bad person’ on campus, they wouldn’t see the kids feet if they were standing on a toilet, and if they tried to open doors, they would all be locked.
  4. This is the normal for my kids.  My normal was a fire drill and an earthquake drill.
  5. am truly thankful that my kids are prepared for this atrocious possibility as best that they can be, and that they have the utmost caring and professional teachers I could ever ask for.
  6. I am numb that this is our reality.

My youngest went on to tell me that our friends that live on the East Coast ‘have a cool way they do their drill.  They get in their cubbies behind their backpacks so they are hidden.’  That boggled me, their stranger drill was ‘cool?’  And this has been a discussion among child friends?

Numb.

She then told me that she would not be able to handle it if she was the one in the bathroom and not in the classroom if there was the stranger drill.  I realized this was a moment I had to take ahold of and I firmly said ‘You would be able to handle it.  If it ever happens, and it WON’T, you will stand on the toilet, and keep perfectly still and quiet until you hear the signal that the drill is over.’

Numb.

Right before we got home, on the lighted freeway signs was an Amber Alert of an abduction that happened earlier today in Southern California.

Sometimes the reality of possibilities are too much to handle, I’m on overload right now.

It will pass, and smiles will be had later this evening I’m sure.  I wish I was still thinking about Pop Tarts and silly things to make me laugh.  But for this moment, I’m numb that this is our reality.