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Yeah, I faked it

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I just want you to know I’m not one of those hockey moms

But sometimes I wish I was.

My daughter’s team was in a hockey tournament recently in Cornwall and alongside the usual pre-game superstitions (mostly her), chips and wine in bed (mostly me) and juicing up the Jambox (both of us), her team made it to the semi-finals of the tournament – a game that they , the Hungry Hippos,  sadly lost to hometown rivals, The Ugly Pucklings (the nicknames girls’ hockey teams give themselves is an entirely different blog post).

One of her round robin games saw them play a team from the Outaouais region just across Quebec border from Ottawa. It was not a pretty game. We tied 1-1 but not before our trainer had to tend to two Hippos who’d been checked by girls on this team (girls hockey is non-contact by rule but not always in practice), and saw the opposing team accumulate 8 minor penalties in one game. I’m don’t think my daughter’s  team accumulated 8 minor penalties in the entire season last year. To make matters worse, one of their team members accumulated 5 of those penalties, and the coach then saw it fit to nominate her for player of the game. Not only is that bad coaching and parenting, but let’s agree that that is bad everything.

It was one of those games that gives hockey a bad reputation. Thankfully, the game finished with no real havoc and no serious injury.

The havoc started when we got home from the weekend – when I get to talk about my stellar parenting.

I should have just let it go, but I was irked, and the game became the subject of our family dinner conversation on Monday evening.

“You would not  believe this team,” I shared with the boys. “Eight penalties in one game! Five to one player! And the coach gives her Player of the Game. Can you believe it?”

My son asked, “ Did you yell at the ref? Did you and another hockey mom go at it?”

That’s when it happened. I faked it. I faked the bad ass hockey mom.

“You bet I did! The refs were totally useless! And then you know what else I did? I stood up and yelled at the other parents. Oh yeah. I gave them a piece of my mind – and a piece of my hot dog. That’s when it really got going. I stood up and screamed “what kind of a goon show is this?” and one of the other hockey moms told me to shut up and then the coach of their team told me to shut up. Then, this other hockey mom and I got into it in the stands. Then you know what I did? I spit on her. Oh yeah. I spit on her. That b!tch was asking for it, you know it!”

They stared at me.

They know I did nothing like that at all. *Sigh*

“Well … well,” I stammered, “I wanted to do!” I said. “I’m totally going to do it next time.”

I’m such a rebel … in my dreams ….

“Ice cream, anyone?”
 

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The rest of your life starts here …

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campus tourA few months ago I wrote a post about my eldest son’s applications to post-secondary institutions. And now with a few offers in hand, my eldest son has some decisions to make.

Much to my son’s surprise (not mine), bit by bit those offers started trickling in and we carefully picked the ones we would go and visit. Unlike the parents of many university-bound kids, I chose not to take him on road trip visiting every single post-secondary school between infinity and beyond. Instead, I promised I would take him to visit those to which he received offers, and was most keen to attend. Never having been on a single university tour myself when I was applying, I did want him to make an informed choice.  Depending on the location of these choices, however, a campus tour can set you back the price of a school year’s tuition!

The campus tour is generally pretty standard: the major academic buildings, the library or libraries if the school is large enough, at least one dorm room, at least one dining hall or the dining halls, the sports complex, and all the major support services (academic, health, etc.). It is also possible to arrange more in-depth tours with various faculties and even arrange to meet faculty members or varsity coaches. I’ve quickly realized that a good university tour guide is more than someone who can walk backwards and talk at the same time – they can make or break a prospective student and their family’s first impression.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get the uber- energetic student or recent grad that could not imagine life without this university. As annoying as their enthusiasm and university loyalty can be, the tour will not end until you know everything about the school including the words of the favourite university drinking song or have the university’s motto emblazoned on your brain. Alternatively, you may get a less enthusiastic tour guide who appears to have better things to do than make converts of wide-eyed, naïve high schoolers, and who showcases themselves and their accomplishments inviting you to come the their university so you can truly be as impressive as they have become (doing university tours for a living).

So now begins my son’s decision-making crunch time. He has ultimately has about three weeks now, to make his decision and pay his deposit (as you can guess procrastination runs in our family!). In that time, he will reflect not only on the wisdom of all that he has learned about these respective universities, but also on the words of wisdom of the tour guides.

I hope he took good notes!

 

They love me …they love me not …

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There it is …

The deadline is looming…

Just a few days away…

We can see the “Submit” button from here…

Just have to click it and we’re done …

admissions officeI’ve been helping my teenage son complete his post-secondary school applications.  It wasn’t that long ago that I remember filling out my own university applications.  Actually, I do remember now – it’s been over three decades since I even looked at a university application!  Oh well, those applications – they were some great memories.  

I can’t believe how streamlined the entire process is now.  This whole world wide web online application thing is pretty nifty.  Since Canadian schools are the only ones on his radar, there are no SATs to take or scores to submit, so the application itself is fairly standard – at least for the Ontario universities.  What it lacks in applicant differentiation, it makes up for in efficiency and simplicity!  We entered his OEN (Ontario Education Number), his student number, his high school code, then pointed and clicked our way to the Submit button.  His application to Manotick Co-Operative Nursery School back in 1999 wasn’t even this easy – and that involved an in-person interview – because arranging an interview with an alumnus would have been over the top, right?

Now comes the hard part:  the waiting.  This I do remember being extremely tedious.  What follows, God willing, is the equally challenging task of deciding which post-secondary institution I want to visit on a regular basis – I mean – which is the right environment for my son.  Of course, the task of paying for that choice – er –  opportunity of a lifetime – is also still a task at hand as well. As I was saying, God willing …

I’m not sure about my son, but I found the entire university application process so easy, that in fact, I told him that I was thinking maybe of applying to university all over again myself.

Silence.

“You’re kidding, right?”

Of course I’m kidding dear!  I can hardly leave your father in charge of redecorating your bedroom, now can I?

Bring on those offers, Admissions, I got my paint chips all lined up!

paint chips

Dictum for Dummies …

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On my agenda this week are parent-teacher interviews with those who teach my two high school-aged kids.

Send wine.

A plus logoIn the early years, I would look forward to these joyous occasions as they reinforced my confidence in parenting. That was back when comments like “he always demonstrates consideration for his peers by helping during work, play and clean-up time” or “correctly recognizes most of the letters of the alphabet at random” were noteworthy accomplishments. I really pine for the days when U meant Usually. Nevertheless, the importance of communication between parents and teachers should not be underestimated.

I’ve had school-age kids now for approximately 14 years now (if you include pre-school) (please do) so I’ve endured enjoyed my share of parent-teacher interviews with the educators of my three kids’. The typical interview (which is a funny term, really; I come away feeling less like I got a job and more like I got served) is only 15 or so minutes, but I find teachers are not always so quick to cut to the chase about my kids’ strengths and weaknesses and tend to approach the truth from all angles. I usually look at Life, and my kids in particular, through rose-coloured glasses so it took me a few years to realize that “boisterous” was not a critical learning proficiency and “distracting” was not a compliment on their appearance. There are subliminal messages buried in those comments when read backwards. I’m just kidding about that – my kids have never been taught by Satan. Well, not since  that brief but disastrous homeschooling experiment anyway.  I am now doublespeak-literate and consider myself to be edu-lingual. I can now set aside the Dictum for Dummies book for I am now well aware that when a teacher informs me,

“He has such an extensive vocabulary” it really means he needs to stop swearing within earshot of the teacher.

“He has a strong future in medicine!” it probably means his penmanship sucks or his body is about to be donated to science (dead or alive).

“She is a gifted and prolific debater” means she needs to shut up once in a while.

“Attention to appearance and personal hygiene is of vital importance” means he should to take a shower after PhysEd … or  … hall passes are reserved for emergencies of which hair-brushing is not considered to be one.

“He is exceptionally creative!” means he came up with yet another stunning excuse as to why his homework wasn’t done.

As you can see, I’ve gleaned quite a bit from the report cards I’ve read and interviews I’ve attended.  Considering I have about 110 report cards and some 38 interviews or so on which to reflect upon, perhaps there is a market for certified comment decipherers.

Another interesting report card observation:  did you ever notice that the space on report cards for parent/guardian commends on student achievements, goals, and home support shrinks from a full page in grade school to about an eighth of a page in high school? Does this have anything to do with the fact that a smiley face emoticon takes up much less space than a diatribe? Or that a big thumb’s up at the conclusion of a parent-teacher interview really just about says it all? Always keeping us on our toes, those teachers 🙂 !!

Dare to share?  What’s the best teacher comment your child received?

report card

 

The Beard of Zeus…

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Here is The Rule* I have with my daughter:  she’s not allowed to talk to me after 9:30pm.  The Rule exists for two reasons:

  1. It’s past her bedtime; and,
  1. I’ve learned the hard way that nothing good comes of a conversation between us after 9:30pm.

Naturally, she is permitted to say “Goodnight, Mom” from her bedroom, or “I love you – you’re the best mom in the whole world” or “By the way, the fire has now spread to the living room”, but I’m a little low on patience and empathy after 9:00pm and we both know it’s just better if we just disperse and converse in the mornings or after school/work, when our respective dispositions have not yet deteriorated.  Many a post-9:30pm discussion between the two of us has ended up with her being grounded until she’s 18 and me locking myself in the bathroom drinking wine on the toilet.

Besides, the late evening is my time to decompress, read and snore.

The other night she was in a particularly chatty mood about some epic middle school wrongdoing and I had to politely remind her of The Rule.  She sighed sadly, but off she went and that was the end of that.

As consolation, I woke her 10 minutes earlier than usual the next morning and whispered, “Wanna chat while I get ready for work?” and she jumped out of bed with an enthusiastic, “Oh yes, Mom!”  You know, surprisingly, the three males who live in this house have answered that very same question completely differently.  Odd.

We worked through righting the wrong that was the concern the night before (without any alcohol or any removal of privileges, I might add).  I then heard all about the unit on Mythology she is now studying at school and how she is part of a class skit.  She quickly adds, “Don’t worry, Mom, it’s a class skit, no parents allowed.” reminding me of my other maternal failing:  my developing irritation for school plays.  So I ask her what part she has in this skit.  “Oh, I’m playing Zeus” she says “Father of all the Gods.”  I’m about to commend her teacher for dismantling some gender stereotyping, when she quickly adds, “… and I need to make a white beard.”  This makes sense – Zeus had a pretty boss beard, and so should my daughter (for the skit).  “Sure thing, Cookie, when is your skit?”  I ask.

“Tomorrow”.

Why do I even ask …

I’m on my way to work; I have an afternoon appointment immediately after work and am then taking my son to his baseball game.  I won’t be home until 9:00pm which is dangerously close to the time of The Rule.  But really, how hard can this be? Cotton balls, Bristol board, glue, scissors, elastics.  Piece of cake.

“I’ll see what I can do, Muffin”.

I really do miss the days of Three Martini Lunch.  Not that I’ve ever had a Three Martini Lunch in my life except while on vacation.  Still.  Would be nice.  Working moms are single-handedly responsible for decline of the Three Martini Lunch because we’re out buying Bristol board, cotton balls, glue – and most likely toilet paper and ketchup.  Just once as a working mom, I’d like to have a Three Martini Lunch.  Come to think of it, just once as a working mom, I’d like to have a lunch where I actually eat lunch.

Nevertheless, the purchases are made and the Gods of Olympus gaze favourably upon me today, for the baseball game ends early and I am able to get home in time to deliver materials for the beard of Zeus before the hour of The Rule.

Though her creation is looking a little more Suessish than Zeusish, I still think she’s going to make one mighty Zeus.  As it sits on the kitchen counter to dry, she inquires, “Mom, do you know how to make a toga?”

I pause to think…

Yes, to make a really effective toga you must wrap yourself in a relatively clean, white bed sheet, walk across campus in aforementioned attire, attend a party hosted by fraternity boys of dubious character with questionable intentions, drink lethal amounts of really bad keg and wake up in a different bed sheet altogether with only a vague recollection of the last twelve hours.

“Mom?  Do you?”

“Hmmmm, I’m not sure that I do.  Go ask your Dad.”

The Rule is subject to change without notice

When the Principal calls: A love-hate relationship with Call Display

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 On a good day, I view Call Display as a sophisticated technological development that allows me to avoid annoying telemarketers or my mother-in-law.   However, when I see my one of my kids’ schools come up on my call display, there is a shortness of breath, a cold sweat, nausea, light-headedness, and general discomfort in the centre of my chest.  If you have also noticed that these are the warning signs of a heart attack, then you and I are drinking from the same glass of wine.

Do you remember when there was a time when there was no Call Display?  I do – and at this point I feel the need to point out that caller ID was only instituted by most telephone companies in the ‘90’s, okay?   I remember running for the phone so that my mom didn’t get to it first prompting a million questions about my social life and another million comments about my friends’ appalling lack of proper telephone etiquette.  Ah yes, the good ol’ days.  There was only one phone in the house and it was attached to the wall, a far cry from the more contemporary scene in which no one answers the phone because,  a) anyone I want to talk to would call me on my cell phone, or, b) I couldn’t find the phone, which launches mama into her butt-up-in-your-face performance of digging a popcorn kernel-encrusted phone out from under the family room couch cushions.

However, if your reaction to the school’s phone number coming up on your call display is slowly drifting from the “Oh my God! Oh my God!  Oh my God! What happened?! Oh my God! Is he ok?!” – type reaction …

to the …

“Uh-oh…this cannot be good.”- type reaction.

Then you and I are sharing the same bottle of wine.

Either way, I usually pause briefly to wonder if I should let it go to voice mail, then take a deep breath and answer it anyway.

Gone are days

    • of the nursery school director calling me to inform me that Junior’s extra supply of potty-training pants was running a little low.
    •  of the kindergarten teacher calling me to request my artistic talents for the annual Christmas pageant.
    •  of the primary school teacher calling me to inform me we were the proud parents of a Public Speaking Champion.

    Why are these days gone?  Because they’ve been replaced with the words, “I’ve suspended “so-and-so”  for “such-and-such”.  I’m telling you right now  my patience at preserving their anonymity for fear of contravening the Young Offenders Act is really wearing thin and I SWEAR I’m going to start using their real names!  Not that it matters – they don’t read my blog anyway unless I write something about bacon.

When you consider what some of my high school teacher friends have to put up with from their students these days, you gotta figure that a call from a high school principal is just one step closer to a gift-wrapped shirt, standard- issue, monogrammed with a 10 digit-number.

I never got in trouble when I was growing up (Shh! Work with me!); not with the law, not with any teacher and certainly not with any school principal – unless you bring up that time in grade 6 when I faked sick to stay home and watch The Bay City Rollers on The Richard Dawson Show and my mom ratted out on me (honestly, could we not have just kept that in the family?).  I may have been a smidge deceptive but any danger of my deviating from the set path of perfection was governed by the sheer terror of my parents’ punishment, which was infinitely more fearsome than whatever the Principal could possibly impose.  Can it be I am just too soft on my kids?   I have already tried locking them away and forbidding them any human contact whatsoever but that only serves to torture me!

Sadly, I was a little overdrawn at the Bank of Compassion  when my daughter relayed to me her tragic “Principal’s Office” story to me yesterday.  She was angry, accusatory, critical, shamed, remorseful, frightened, repentant and sad, all in a span of 15 minutes.  When all was said and done and moistened (as in my shoulder), the only thing left to say was, “You know better”.

Does she?

Do they?

I hope so.  We shall see what penalty her principal shall impose, because  I actually have not yet entirely ruled out locking her away and forbidding her any human contact.

Sigh.

I’ve said it before:  sarcasm  and chardonnay are gonna get me through the teenage years.

And if they don’t help, I happen to know a really good cardiac surgeon.

Race to Nowhere

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A group of friends and I recently attended a screening of Race to Nowhere, a documentary intended to raise awareness on the way our children are educated.  Roughly 90 minutes, this documentary highlights the negative impacts of the pressure parents, educators, the government and students themselves place on students in their quest for achieving good grades and getting into the best universities and colleges.  Though succeeding in sports and in school can be a good thing, the unintended consequences can be anxiety, depression, panic attacks, misuse of drugs (particularly stimulants and depressants), cheating and even suicide.  The documentary begs viewers to ask themselves the fundamental question:  are we really going about preparing the next generation for healthy, productive lives the right way?

I wish I had taken notes as at the end it summarized strategies for each:  school administrators, parents, teachers and students.  Discussing it with my family at the dinner table, I felt some guilt in the “reward systems” I’d established over the years for academic achievement.  I confess to bribing my son with a laptop for achieving 2 consecutive semesters of an over-80 average and buying my daughter a new hamster for getting straight A’s (okay, I get that these rewards vary drastically in their scope but it’s relative after all!).  Watching this documentary,  I felt pain for these kids whose lives have been turned upside down in this quest for excellence.  I felt anguish for the mothers who agonized over the guilt.  I felt the frustration of educators whose optimism seemed doomed in the face of government pressure and board-mandated curriculums.

Since I’ve been too busy lately to write, I haven’t had the time to post my feelings about this documentary immediately.  Perhaps that was fate, for that post would have been a heartfelt emotional plea to ban organized sports, outlaw homework and curtail household chores for the evils of “the system” in stealing my kids’ childhoods.  Over the week, some perspective has since bubbled to the surface of my cauldron of anxiety.    My oldest son has often asked me, “When was the last time your boss asked you what you got in high school Math?” and I can truthfully respond “Not once”.  But I have been asked on more than one occasion, “when can I expect that presentation for [insert anything here] or “can I please have you review this by this afternoon?”  There is the need in our children’s lives for some structure, order, a healthy dose of discipline and the need to exert some effort from time to time.

Part of me wanted to immediately ban all homework in our house and the incessant interrogation of “did you do your homework”, “how’s that project coming along”, “why did you get a C on this test?” etc., etc., etc.  I actually don’t think my kids’ teachers or coaches are hard on them at all.  I don’t think I’m that hard on them for that matter either.  Or is it possible that we happen to function in our own little bubble of balance.   Not that I don’t stress over their future, their grades, their sporting skills, their social lives, their clothes, their choice of friends, their choice of music, their more than occasional lack of initiative, their excessive gaming and TV viewing, their adulation and obsessions with really stupid people (imho), because I really do lose sleep over those things, and so do they.  Just not every day and not every night.

We can’t always look for the easy route for our kids.  Yes, ABSOLUTELY, it’s critical to monitor for signs of excessive stress and anxiety in our kids (and their friends, as it does take a “village” after all) as they forge their path through the school years.  But the truth is, school shouldn’t always be a breeze, and shouldn’t always be a social club scene.  We DO have to somehow equip our children with the means to cope with what is difficult, rather than just take that right out of their path.  How many days does anyone wake up with nothing to do and nowhere to go?  It’s not often I go to work and have nothing to do.  There are plenty of days that some stressful situation or uncomfortable discussion presents itself for which I need to know how to navigate. 

I recognize the need for balance.  Even though the documentary highlighted individuals who are stressed to the max because of school and because of organized or school-sanctioned sports activities, it is not representative of my kids (at least not now, though my oldest has only just started high school).  Rather than do away with homework and scheduled activity, it’s time for the parents to take charge and know when their kids have had enough – and that is difficult because you can’t always rely on kids to tell you they’ve had enough.

Whatever your point of view on this, I encourage you to see the documentary!

Race to Nowhere

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