The Park Bench

Every day while I sit in my car waiting for my daughter to be dismissed, I do my best to avoid looking into the park that is next to her school. I don’t like to watch the perfect little pre-schoolers running and playing in the playground while their mamas sit and chat on a nearby bench. It always looks so easy for them from the outside. So… normal.
I never knew what that felt like. By the time my daughter was old enough to play in the park, I had a demanding newborn to attend to. I don’t remember ever sitting on a park bench calmly watching them, even after they got a bit older. I always maintained eagle eye focus, ready to leap to their aid in a nanosecond. Ever vigilant and awaiting that spark in my son’s eyes that signaled he was about to run out of the playground and into the street. I never had time for easy chit chat with anyone. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, as I find it tedious and painful, but having the option would have been nice. To have had a choice.
I’m angry and sad most the time that none of this is easy. It’s a rare day that I’m not trying to put out a metaphorical fire for one or both of my children. It seems like even when things are sailing along, a torpedo strikes us out of nowhere. I always feel like I’m on high alert and at times, it’s overwhelming.

A week ago, Sunday, my son came to me and said that his mouth was hurting him.
He never complains of pain. Ever.
As all of his baby teeth have needed assistance from the dentist to come out because of their extraordinarily long roots, I’m always looking inside of his mouth. I’ve rarely looked at the base of his gums in the front. When I pulled his bottom lip forward to visualize the source of the pain, I nearly fainted. I was able to see the entire root of his permanent front tooth. The other secondary teeth were pushing it out of his lower jaw. The root of the permanent tooth was barely contained by the thinnest sliver of gum tissue.

I made an emergency appointment with the dentist for the next day. After a brief exam and an X-ray, she knew the problem was too big to manage with just a shot of anesthetic. He needed an oral surgeon to remove two teeth- one on the bottom and one on the top as well.
We went straight to the oral surgeon and scheduled the extractions for the following morning. Thankfully the surgeon allowed me to hold my son on my lap during the procedure. I was able to feel his breathing and watch his heart beat and oxygen saturation on the monitor. My son is such a brave little guy and within minutes, thanks to the IV sedation, both teeth were out.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of the story. We needed to take him to an orthodontist the very next day. Three different dentists had previously mentioned that my son would likely need a palate expander to make room for his permanent teeth. The orthodontist we saw disagreed. He also looked like he was about fifteen years old so I’m seeking another opinion. While I surely don’t want to put my son through that torture device, I don’t want him to lose his teeth either. Once again I have to make an awful decision and second, third, and fourth guess myself.

I’m tired. I’m so very tired of making difficult decisions.

If that were the only issue I could focus on, it would be a lot simpler. As life dictates, it’s not. Our boy is also currently finishing up testing with another specialist to find out why he can spell a complicated word, can write that same word, and yet can’t read that word. The doctor believes that he suffered a small stroke during his delivery.

A. Stroke.

We get the results at the end of the week along with a plan to scaffold his learning with additional supports. I don’t have a clue as to what those supports might be. I still haven’t processed the possibility that my perfect little baby quite likely had a stroke caused by an incompetent obstetrician during delivery.

My children are my life. I would walk through a hungry lion’s den on fire for them. I don’t have a single regret about having them. I love them more than I ever thought I could love anyone. They are my reason for living.
Once in a rare while though, when it gets to be so hard and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight… there isn’t much I wouldn’t give to be one of those mothers on the park bench.
Just for one worry free afternoon.

*** I completely suck because my daughter’s birthday post is still sitting in my draft folder, unfinished. It will be completed shortly. It was too wonderful to not write about (see? I’m not always misery and pain, I promise). ***

An Open Letter To My Child’s School

The following is a copy of the letter I sent to my child’s school this morning (minus identifying details of course).

An Open Letter to the Entire Staff of (my child’s school),

There are many words that one can use today but the word that I choose to use the most right now is thanks.

To all of you who work at (the school), I’ve watched you. I’ve seen you smile at our children. I’ve seen you reassure a child who is sad. I’ve seen you gently guide a child who has gotten into a bit of mischief. I’ve seen you even offer a hug to a distressed child when today’s society dictates distance. It makes you human. It makes you heroes.

I know when I send my child into your building for the majority of his day, that I am sending him off to be with people who love and care for him. I know that every one of you would protect your charges as though they were your own because in so many ways, they are.

Teachers, secretaries, therapists, and school leaders should never have to consider themselves in the role of first responder. And yet in today’s world of disturbed individuals, we all need to be prepared for everything.

Today I say thank you – to every single employee at (the school). Thank you for practicing drills to keep our children safe. Thank you for offering kindness to our children and demonstrating kindness with one another. Thank you for putting our children and their safety first.

Thank you for the peace of mind I have knowing that my child will be as safe as possible in his classroom today because every single one of you makes it so.

With gratitude and respect,

TenaciousCee

Note:
I received the following email from the principal of the school later the same day-

Dear Mrs. —–

Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge my staff. Your letter was beautiful and heartwarming. I had a full faculty conference today after-school and I read your letter aloud to my staff.

Safety and education are our two main responsibilities! As you know, we take both of them extremely seriously.

Thank you!

(name withheld to maintain his privacy)

The Schools Are Failing Our Kids

As a parent, I’ve watched the NYC public school system change rapidly over the last few years. I’m both saddened and frightened to say that I feel those changes will be detrimental to the majority of today’s students.

Our government is so determined to keep up with the Chinese that we are forgetting that it is just not possible. The change in the school system that includes lesson plans geared towards the top fifteen percent with the hope that the rest will “catch up” is a disgrace. Unlike China, we don’t have the employment opportunities for those who simply cannot keep up in the academic world. We don’t have – nor will we ever again have factories and areas of industry for those who just can’t cut it in school to fall back on for gainful employment. Our labor laws and minimum wage salary have priced us right out of a production industry and there is no going back. Those in Washington who are trying to sell you a different story are LYING to you. Don’t believe them.

So what IS happening inside of our children’s classrooms these days?
Well, for starters, our children are expected to know how to read basic picture books by the end of kindergarten. They will also soon be required to sit for mandatory state testing. Those who cannot keep up will be held back. Kindergarten has always been optional. Now parents are seeking out academic programs for their three year olds in the hope that they can keep up by the time they are five. How wonderful to discover a fear of failing at the tender age of FIVE.

Fiction is also being phased out in favor of non fiction. The theory is that since most of what we read in our adult lives is theoretically non fiction, we no longer need an imagination. Our children will no longer require the creativity inspired by great authors such as William Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.R.R.Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, and of course Dr. Seuss. We are raising robotic, literal minds now. Check your creativity at the door, please.

What was once ninth grade mathematics is now fourth grade algebra. Buckle your seat belts, parents. You are embarking on Mr. Toad’s wild ride.

So what might happen to our children when faced with insurmountable pressure? Well, we will have to just wait that out but I have a few predictions…

1. Burnout.
Our children will be under so much pressure to succeed that only the most competitive will do well. Many of the rest will find themselves so stressed that by the time they are ready for college, they will be too exhausted to attend. I also fear that the drop out rate will increase as a result.

2. A World With Less Beauty.
How can we ensure the future of such things as visual art, music, dance, theater, and literature when we teach our children that those things are nothing more than extraneous variables?

3. An Expanding Lower Class.
Without extra help and expensive tutoring, many of our children will be lost in the educational cracks. What happens to those kids who can’t succeed in high school and go on to college? They surely won’t be able to qualify for most jobs. Most civil services jobs now require a college degree. How are individuals who struggle with their education supposed to gain employment in civil service? Quite simply, they won’t. Then what?
No cops.
No firemen.
No paramedics.
No transportation.
No sanitation.
No parks.
THAT’S what.

Our education system has been broken for a long time but these new developments have it spiraling downward at warp speed. The control group for this educational experiment is OUR children. As parents, we need to be the change. We need to insist on change. Our children deserve that much. We need our voices to be heard in unison because pressuring our kids like this is not the answer to our economic problems. Our kids deserve to enjoy the process of learning. They should be filling their minds with possibilities and stretching their imaginations. After all, weren’t some of the world’s most innovative discoveries imagined first? What happens to our future when we crush that at such an early age?

I don’t have the answers on how to fix these problems. I have some ideas but it will take more than just my voice to make a change. We need to join together for the sake of our children and their future. I’ve spoken off the record with teachers who agree with me about everything I have posted here. If you agree, start a discussion of your own with other parents. Get more on board with this. We have the power to change things if we come together to make it happen. Let’s make our voices heard so that all of our children will have a bright and successful future.