Thursday, September 14, 2017

Busy

With two schools, three kids playing on four soccer teams, and two working parents, life feels busier than ever. Tobin made his middle school soccer team, which means he stays after school most days until 5:30 for practice or games. All three kids play league soccer, which involves Tuesday and Thursday evening practices and one Saturday game. I work two part-time jobs, only one of which involves me going to an office. But I’m also still going to a PTA-related meeting almost weekly, which will make a given weeknight all the more hectic. September has been full of evening meetings for Matt, too.

Yesterday evening ended up being one of the less hectic ones this week, but the lead-up to it was plenty busy. I took the kids to school then went home to prepare for an 11:00 meeting in Raleigh, 45 minutes away. I had taken the day off from my office job, so I could attend this meeting at the law firm I work for (albeit, usually, remotely). My meeting was short and put me back in Durham by 1:00, but I had to run by Costco. I got home with about an hour to spare to eat some lunch and check emails, then the kids started arriving home around 3:00. All the kids. Tobin had a rare day off from soccer. While they did homework and played, I made a pot of chili for dinner. Matt got home from work at 5:15, when I headed out for a school meeting, leaving him to feed the kids.

I pulled in the driveway around 7:00 and saw a smiling Tobin running around the backyard. He was playing touch football with Matt and Evan. When I walked in the house, I could hear Lauren’s voice from the playroom, engaged in some sort of chitty-chatty, imaginary play. The evening had a more relaxed feel, because the kids had been home—not rushing in from somewhere, scrambling to take showers and get in bed.

We’d done it. We’d made it through another very full day. And everyone was pretty happy. I don’t love being this busy. In fact, Matt and I try to plan the kids’ schedules so they’re not too busy—e.g., only one sport per season . . . with the exception of school sports, which is a new thing for us? But the current fullness of our lives highlights so many things I am grateful for: healthy, able bodies; sports; community; a true partner in parenting; two vehicles; a big yard for football; jobs; good schools; and even enough hours (in some days) to make good food for my family.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Influence

I've enjoyed watching T grow into increased independence as he has begun middle school over the last few weeks. Still, I admit it's pretty easy to fall into the trap of worrying about "influences" he'll encounter. The Internet adds a level of uncertainty and potential danger that I hadn't really thought about before. Part of me understands the decisions parents make to reduce their children's exposure to the world and the specter of "bad influences."

For a long time, the "talk" that I worried about having with T was "THE TALK." We've had a few discussions about adolescence and sexuality, but the talk that I found myself surprised by was one we had a few weeks ago as ugly scenes unfolded in Charlottesville. We were watching sports (surprise) and passing mention was made of white supremacy and white nationalism. T asked about them, and I found myself trying to explain a fearful mindset I myself don't really understand. As I tried to think about how to frame our discussion, I found myself wondering about people T might encounter who would influence him to think wrongheadedly about race and his own whiteness. I found myself thankful that we live in a community and attend schools where integration, diversity, and immigration are practical realities, not theoretical abstractions. When I can cite friends of ours as examples of people those in Charlottesville would label "undesirable," the absurdity of so many represented there presents itself.

I tried to think of how my own parents guided me through their worries about "influences." I think the first time I was aware of the word "boycott" was when my dad announced that we wouldn't buy products advertised on a certain radio show. I remember a fleeting disappointment that we weren't going to get Snapple any more, but as I think about it from a parental perspective, I understand wanting to reduce exposure to vitriolic, extreme views about the world. I don't know if boycott is the way to combat such things, but I'm thankful in retrospect to have had parents who talked to me frankly the best they could about race, class, and politics.

I've resolved to try to do the same as a parent. As a public school teacher, I feel like I hear a lot from parents, other teachers, and the community regarding concern about "bad influences." Coded language about "good school/bad school" binaries often dances around the racial and socioeconomic makeup of those schools. Having gone to a high school myself that many expressed polite (but implicitly racist) concern about, I feel like I understand that code better than some. My line as a teacher on influences has always been basically this: I agree that influence should be a great concern. I'm mindful that influence is both good and bad. I've seen students seemingly "led astray," sure, but I've also seen students make constructive, positive changes and decisions based on the positive influence of their peers. I'm concerned that parents who make decisions ruled by fear of otherness, difference, or the potential for bad influence are possibly removing their own children from an opportunity to be good influences themselves, or at least to more realistically see the community they live in.

I'm thankful for the good influences in my life, and for what I hope has been an opportunity to be a positive influence in schools and my community. As a parent, I hope I can keep my instinct to overprotect and shelter within a rational framework so our kids can learn and succeed and fail and grow to be influential members of their own communities.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Change

Haircut

This week has been full of change for all of us, but especially for Tobin. He started a new school and cut off two years' worth of hair growth. Cutting his hair was something he'd contemplated for a few months. He finally pulled the trigger last weekend. Since then, he's spent a lot of time looking in the mirror and rubbing his head, adjusting to the different feel of it all.

A lot feels different this week as we get up earlier to leave the house earlier to take the kids to two different schools. Tobin has definitely been tentative and nervous about going to a new school. But it helps that he's at a small school with lots of friends from elementary--especially with his best friend since first grade in his homeroom. I am thankful for these constants in the midst of change.

Change is inevitable. Sometimes we choose it--like T did with his haircut. Other times, it's just an expected next step--like moving up to sixth grade. Still others, it's something that surprises and overwhelms us--like a natural disaster or a scary diagnosis. I've tried this week to be thankful for the opportunity to experience something new. Change can be scary, but I've learned that I can be fearful AND grateful--with an open heart. I've said that in different ways to the kids this week: "It's okay to feel nervous. You're going to learn some new things." I'm thankful for new opportunities . . . and also looking forward to when this "newness" feels more routine.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

School

Next week, we kick off another school year after a full, fun summer. This week, we attended an open house for T's school, found out officially that Lauren has our first pick for teacher, and watched Tobin work out with the soccer coach with an eye toward trying out for the middle school team.

I had a really good feeling about T's middle school at the open house, and know a few of the teachers there personally. I'm thankful to feel confident in the school year the kids are about to begin. As I prepare to teach at my own school this year, I've tried to be mindful of the words, deeds, and environments that have put me (as a parent) and our kids at ease about the classroom. I hope to put my students and their families similarly at ease next week. I hope to be a welcoming, mindful teacher for all the young people I get to meet, and I hope to be a support to other teachers in my department. I hope to honor the spirit of Maria Montessori in my own teaching: "We teachers can only help the work going on, as servants wait upon a master." I am thankful for the schools I attended, the teachers I had, the school my children attend, and the teachers they have had.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Five

Lala's first ride on the Tabacco Trail

This week is our last of summer break, because Matt heads back to work on Monday. The kids will start school the following Monday. It's been another summer spent making memories. The five of us have spent a lot of time together: in our car, with family and friends, and in and around our home. Being home has been a little different, since I've been working part-time. Matt and the kids have logged more hours together and gone on a few adventures without me. But at the end of each day, it's the five of us.

Last night at the supper table, as we sat around eating quesadillas and leftover chili, I found myself struck by the liveliness and joy of our conversation--each kid jumping in. Sure there have been times when we've been annoyed with each other with all this togetherness, but in this season, I appreciate how well my kids seem to enjoy each other.

Five years is the span of age between Tobin and Lauren. When she was a tiny baby, their relationship was all sweetness. As they both grew older, the differences in their personalities emerged: he's a rule follower, and she is not. They can argue quite passionately. But it feels like something has shifted again this summer. Tobin seems more amused by Lauren than annoyed by her. Lauren seeks Tobin out to show him her latest LEGO creation or to get tips on a video game. He seems especially keen on encouraging her these days.

As summer ends and the school year begins, the five of us will go our separate ways, spending many hours of the day apart. But at the end of each day, we come home. And maybe we'll listen to The Avett Brothers, as we often do, who might remind us: "Always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name."

Hiking hand in hand

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Records

When we drove to Louisiana, we rented a car with a Bluetooth interface for music. T sat with me a lot, and was really interested in who sang what, what kind of music it was, and when the music was made. He made some fun discoveries of music he liked, and only one he didn't (he's not a James Brown extended-cut fan, for the record).

Since we came back, a regular ritual has been playing records on our turntable during the day. I choose one or let the kids choose, then we listen to one or both sides, sometimes as backgrounds music, sometimes as the main activity. It fills me with all kinds of good memories, and it has been fun to see all three of the kids engage with music and vinyl. I'm thankful for memories I have of listening to and learning to love music, and I'm thankful to be making some of those memories with my own kids.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Beach

view for 2 weeks

Earlier this week, we arrived at a beach house to share the week with two other families: six adults and seven kids. Our friends Kari and Adam flew in from Colorado. Our friends Danielle and Mattison drove down from Cary. Our kids have enjoyed the ocean, playing board games and hide-and-seek, and lots of snacks. We adults have enjoyed shared meals and drinks and long, late-night talks.

Next week, we'll spend another week at a beach house just nine miles away with five other families (12 adults, 14 kids) hailing from Colorado, Boston, Maine, and even Toronto. I imagine it will have a different feel from this week, with twice as many people, but I think there will be lots of similar feels: enjoying being together and watching our kids play.

I am struck by the abundance of amazing people who have crossed our paths and remained in our lives, even though we almost all live very far away from each other. This week, we're spending time with friends we met when I was in law school. Next week, our group of friends centers around connections to Riverside.

I am thankful for these people, their friendship, and the opportunities to make memories together this week and next.