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Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Children Really Deserve

During the holidays, the main focus of my son's life is presents.  He's three.  He just doesn't understand the deeper meaning behind all of it, regardless of how often I try to explain it to him.  Part of the blame lies with me, as well.  As a parent, I see how amazing my child is, so when I'm at Toys R Us filling the cart to the brim, I tell myself he deserves all these presents.  Truthfully, I know that this is just stuff.  But, it got me thinking about what it is that our children truly deserve from us as parents.

I'm not talking about toys, clothes, healthy meals, or even shelter.  I'm talking about the things we give to our children each and every day that doesn't cost a thing.  What do they deserve from us in terms of time, attention, patience, etc.?  I don't believe that we owe our children our entire existence; we still need to maintain a sense of self and spend time doing things that we enjoy or we lose who we are.  An unhappy parent usually makes for an unhappy child.

In that same sense though, we do owe our children a fair amount of our precious time.  Our children deserve to know that they are important enough that we are willing to drop everything - even if it's only for an hour a day - to give them our undivided attention.  My child deserves to feel that he is a priority in my life, not an inconvenience.  I owe him the courtesy of listening to him when he talks to me, not just brushing him away or telling him I'm too busy.

I don't want my kid to feel special in the sense that he thinks he deserves an award, a trophy, or even a high-five for everything that he does.  But, I want my child to know that - on a daily basis - I am incredibly lucky to have him in my life.  He deserves to know that when I make choices, I take into consideration what is best for him as well as for myself.  My choices don't just affect me, and I need to remember that.  I also feel that it is my job to show and encourage my child to make good choices and to think about how his own choices might affect the people around him.

My actions and my attention show him I love him and that he is important - not my wallet.

Monday, December 26, 2011

If teachers got to evaluate students

You might be reading this and thinking, "But teachers do get to evaluate students.  It's called a grade."  Well, you're right, and you're not.  You see, teachers do get to evaluate their students' performance in class by giving them a grade, but we have to be able to justify this grade based (usually) on points and a grading scale.  I can't just say, "I feel this student is a C student," and slap a C on the report card.  It just doesn't work like that.  I have to be able to show test grades and final exam scores that support the grade I've assigned the student.

But, I'm talking about a different kind of evaluation - the kind all students are asked to fill out regarding their instructors at the end of the semester.  These evaluations ask important questions like, "Did your instructor explain the material clearly?  Was the grading system clearly explained to you?  How often did your instructor incorporate technology into the course?  Do you feel you will be able to apply the skills learned in this course to the real world?"  All answers are given by filling in a bubble on a scale from 1 - 5, where 1 means "No or never" and 5 usually means "Awesome!"

Now, I'm fine with those questions, even though I think students quickly bubble in answers without reading the questions just so they can leave early.  What I pay the most attention to, however, is the "Comments" section.  Before handing out evaluations, I tell my students that I actually read (and take into consideration) any helpful suggestions they might have.  And, once in blue moon I actually get one.

Usually, however, I get helpful comments like:
"You shouldn't assign homework."
Great idea!  You'll be completely prepared for your tests if you do absolutely no practice problems.  I mean, everyone knows that the best way to learn math is to just sit back, relax, and watch someone else do it.  Heck, I've watched Aaron Rogers all season, and I'm pretty sure the Green Bay Packers are going to draft me.

"You should offer way more extra credit."
Terrific idea!  But, you  know what's a better idea?  What if, just for the hell of it, you came to class?  Or, you could do your homework?  Or, I know this sounds crazy, but what if you studied for your test?  This way, you wouldn't need any extra credit because you might actually have a clue as to what you are doing.

But, my favorite comment of all time: "You should have a day where we all come to class dressed like our favorite number."
Um, I don't even know what to say to that. 

I imagine that, if in addition to giving a grade instructors also got to fill out an evaluation for each student, they might go something like this:

"Johnny got an A- in the course, but his attendance was horrible.  He only came on test days.  Although he passed all the tests, he never did any homework.  I think this might be due to the fact that he mentioned being drunk on the day he took his placement test and placed into Algebra even though he took Calculus in high school."

"Johnny failed this course because he only attended class five times the whole semester.  He didn't score above 50% on any of his tests.  He claims he had a hard time understanding how I explained things.  I told him that was odd since he never actually saw me explain anything."

"Johnny ended up with a C- in this course even though he could have done better.  Personal problems and attendance issues mostly contributed to his not reaching his potential.  Hopefully, his grandma will die fewer than three times next semester, and he'll be able to attend class more regularly."

"Johnny failed the course even though he attended class regularly.  He may have been more successful had he actually paid attention, taken notes, and asked questions rather than spending the entire class period playing with his cell phone."

While filling out these evaluations for every student would be a lot of work, I think it would provide students, administrators, and future employers with valuable information... but that's just me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The first Christmas concert was a smashing disaster.

Earlier this week, Gavin had his first Christmas program at daycare.  I was informed by the daycare director that it would be the "cutest six minutes" I've ever experienced.  Afterwards, there would be punch and cookies, and all of the children would get to sit on Santa's lap.  For weeks, they had been practicing songs during music time.  I would occasionally hear Gavin reciting "The Chubby Little Snowman" and "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas."  Even though we live almost an hour away from daycare, there was no way we weren't going.

Even though Gavin fell asleep on the car ride there (and woke up a wee bit on the cranky side), he seemed in a relatively good mood when we got to daycare.  We dropped him off with his preschool friends and teachers and took our seats.  I was a little nervous for him, curious about how he would do in front of all of those people, and I secretly hoped it would go much better than soccer class did the first few times.

The teachers brought the children out one-by-one, and when it was Gavin's turn, he was full of smiles.  He went to his spot and stood their quietly while the rest of the kids came out.  I thought, "Hey, this might actually go well!" 

Here is a short video clip of the very first song that they did.  As you can see, it started out well . . .

Even though he was mouthing the words, he was doing all the motions and participating . . . until the last ten seconds.  The next five songs looked exactly like the last ten seconds of the video - Gavin's hands covering his mouth the entire time.  He wouldn't sing, just sat there with his hands covering most of his face. 

I'm not sure where things went wrong, but I am thankful because things could have been a lot worse.  He could have been the kid that:
- rolled around on the floor behind all the other children as they were singing.
- was crying so hard that his mom had to come get him off of the stage.
- picked his nose the entire time.

After it was over, I asked Gavin why he didn't sing.  His response: "Because I was tired of singing, Mommy."  Oh, okay then.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I'm a sucker

Lately, it has been brought to my attention that I'm a sucker.  A fool.  A push-over.  For who?  Well, my kid, of course.  He clearly has me wrapped around his sticky, syrup-covered finger, and why shouldn't I be?  I mean, he's cute, he's funny, he's clever, and . . . he's naughty as hell.  But, as smart as he is, he's already figured out exactly how to circumvent my "I'm so mad at you I don't even want to look at you right now" mode.

Ridiculous Thing I Do #1:
You know how kids get all crazy and wacky at dinner, and then they try to chug their milk which consequently leads to them doing that half-cough half-choking thing?  Well, Gavin does that at every single meal. I'm not even exaggerating.  At one point in time, I must have patted his back while he was choke-coughing (even though it is completely NOT helpful to the situation) because now I have to do it every time.  Every.  Single.  Time.  If I don't, he tries to pat his own back, which is just so pathetic that I give in and pat it for him.  Seriously, it's just a sad sight - his face turning all red, eyes watering, while he tries with little to no coordination to slap his upper back.  It's gotten to the point, however, that he often fakes cough-choking as an excuse to get up from his chair at the dinner table.  And, I gladly pat his back and send him on his way.

Ridiculous Thing I Do #2:
Gavin has been using forks and spoons for at least three years now. At least.  But, I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I find myself feeding him - like a baby.  Of course, a lot of the times it's with something that difficult to eat - like spaghetti - but often it's not.  Did he suddenly lose mobility in his hand and is thereby unable to physical feed himself?  No.  I'm just a sucker.  Honestly, it's just faster.  And a hell of a lot less messier.  And even if it's not, I often get puppy dog eyes with a sad plea of, "Can you just feed me like a baby, Momma?"  How can I say no to that? Especially when it's shortly after he's said, "Oh, Momma, I missed you so much today," when I pick him up from daycare, or "I just love you, Mommy," when I take him out of his car seat.  It's like preemptive manipulation!

Ridiculous Thing I Do #3:
So, remember how I got a puppy?  Well, that didn't turn out so well.  But, I'll save that story (which I plan to call "Why My Dogs are Assholes")  for another time.  Long story short, we had to find Charlie a new home.  But, I felt bad.  I felt like I was all like, "Here's a puppy, son.  You like him?  You love him?  Good, because I'm getting rid of him!  Take that, kid!"  So, how did I cushion the blow of giving away one of his dogs?  I spent $100 on toys.  I came back from dropping the puppy off with a Lego set, a DVD, two coloring books, a paint set, and lord knows what else.  And, this is not the first time I've done guilt-purchasing.  In fact, it's probably the 200th time I've done it.  Gavin, you're having a surgery, but I bought you a toy!  Gavin, you have to get a cavity filled, but I bought you a toy!  Gavin, you had a rough day, but I bought you a toy!  It's ridiculous and send the totally wrong message, but he forgot about the dog for awhile...

So, yeah, I'm a pushover.  And, I think I'm fine with it.  I mean, if anyone is going to be a sucker for my kid, it might as well be me, right?  Yes, this is what I tell myself in my sick, sick mind to make it totally justifiable.  And, I'm okay with that, too.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stop arguing with me!

Lately, I've had this reoccurring thought:  I wish I was three so I could know everything.  Clearly, three is the magical age where you know all there is to know about life and the world.  How do I know this?  Gavin told me.

As always, he's full of questions.  Why is it dark?  Why is that the moon?  Why is the sun going down?  Why is it December?  Why isn't it snowing?  These days, however, it seems he only asks me questions so he can argue with my answer.

Gavin: Mommy, who ripped open all of the presents under the tree?
Me:  Arnie.
Gavin:  No, I think it was Danion.
Me:  No, it was Arnie.
Gavin:  No, I think Danion did that.
Me:  It was Arnie.  Stop arguing with me.

Me:  Gavin, don't forget that tomorrow is show-and-tell.
Gavin:  No, show-and-tell was today.
Me:  No, today is Wednesday.  Tomorrow is Thursday.  Thursday is show-and-tell.
Gavin:  Today was show-and-tell.  Today is Friday, Momma.
Me:  Today is Wednesday.  I'd be in a much better mood if it was Friday.  Show-and-tell is tomorrow.  Stop arguing with me.

Gavin:  Where do we live?
Me: In our house.
Gavin:  No, we live on Earth.
Me:  Touche.
Gavin:  Huh?
Me:  Never mind.

Gavin:  Momma, I want to go to your work.
Me:  You've been to my work.
Gavin:  No, you never took me.
Me:  Yes, I did.  It was a little while ago, but I took you.
Gavin:  No!  You never took me!
Me:  Yes, I did.  Stop arguing with me.

Gavin:  I want to put on shorts.
Me:  You can't wear shorts.  It's freezing.
Gavin:  It's not freezing.
Me:  Yes, it is.  It's like 25 degrees outside.
Gavin:  It's not cold, Mommy.
Me:  You're nuts, and you're not wearing shorts.  Stop arguing with me.

Obviously, he knows more than I do.  I'm clearly confused about the days of the week.  I can't remember when show-and-tell is.  I fabricated a story about letting him come to my work.  I cannot tell the difference between hot and cold. And, I seem to have magically invented the fact that The Beagle loves to tear up wrapping paper more than he loves to lick my furniture incessantly.

It's a good thing I have Gavin to straighten me out.  At this point, I'm thinking why even bother sending him to school.  He already knows all there is to know.  Maybe he can just get a job instead.