Oct 14 2014
When my very bright son’s grades started to plummet, we decided it was time to find out what was going on. In an attempt to help him, we subjected him to a sleep study, neurological exams, academic exams, and psychological testing. At the same time, Joey was struggling with skills for the standardized tests, so he was taking multiple practice exams and being pulled out of class to work with a reading specialist.
He was patient, and handled them all like a champ. Occasionally he’d ask about the testing. We’d give him a simple but truthful answer, and move the conversation along by talking about Minecraft.
After a few weeks, his questions started to change. Instead of asking what the tests were all about, he started to ask if there was something wrong with him, or if he was different than the other kids in his class. I noticed his self-esteem wasn’t doing so hot, and at homework time there were tears. He started to call himself stupid. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 4 2014
Every September, from the time I was 8 until I was 17 (I skipped 1st grade and half of 2nd immigrating from the USSR), my mother would ask me, “This year, how about you don’t try teaching the teachers how to teach?”
Unluckily for her, every September, I declined her advice. As a result, I spent a good chunk of my education either sitting in the hallway outside class, charged with thinking about my behavior, or next to my parents, as they were called in by teacher after teacher to discuss my behavior.
Because my behavior was… not good. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 11 2014
“Our entire sixth grade class is going to Six Flags for the end of the year trip.”
A familiar feeling of anxiety overwhelmed me. I wasn’t concerned about the venue. I believe that 11-year-olds deserve plain, simple fun after a year of hard work. I had no concerns for their safety. I am not an overprotective, helicopter parent.
My anxiety stemmed from the fear that the school wouldn’t agree to take my son Amit. Once again, his excitement would be quickly transformed into disappointment, frustration, and anger. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 9 2014
My third grade daughter is finally getting excited about the idea of me leading a mini-seder for the 3rd and 4th graders at my kids’ Episcopalian school next week. As my daughter has struggled with whether she will agree to “assist” me, I have wrestled with determining the best way to significantly portray the powerful story of Passover to a group of 9 and 10-year-olds of various religious backgrounds in 30 minutes.
When I discussed this with the school chaplain, I was pleasantly reminded that all the children actually already know the Passover story as they recently finished learning the story of Exodus.
Music to my ears. Now I could focus on the excitement of this action-filled story, in which God shows his glory through the burning bush (wow!), the 10 plagues (gross!), the splitting of the sea (awesome!) and against all odds, the liberation of Jewish people (yay!). We will look at the amazing symbolism found on the seder plate (oh, how kids love symbols!), taste some Passover foods (matzah, haroset (nut-free of course) and bitter herbs), hear the four questions and some great musical numbers like “Let My People Go.” In addition to instilling the kids with the “flavor” of Passover, I would like to impress upon them that there are important lessons to be learned from the Passover story that apply to their lives today. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 24 2014
My 6-year-old drops F-bombs.
To be fair, it’s usually on a bus or subway, and the context is, “MY MOM SAID FUCK! EVERYONE, MY MOM SAID A BAD WORD!” It’s often bellowed with a mischievous glint in his eye, prompting snickers from fellow commuters. It’s how he acquired his nickname “The Bad Word Police.”
I just shrug, because context is everything. It’s more upsetting to me if my son tells someone to “shut up” than if he mutters an expletive to himself as his Lego tower collapses. The values I try to emphasize in my child is that words can hurt people and should be used in ways that are thoughtful, responsible, and appropriate–i.e. the classroom is NOT an appropriate place to drop F-bombs (once he said “damn it” in class and it landed him in timeout. He never swore in school again). Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 13 2014
“[The father] has dreamed about [the son] every night since the event, dreams of pervasive sadness rather than fear; he had told me that he could not be afraid of his fate as [the son’s] father, even of being murdered by his son. Recently, though, he had the worst nightmare of his life. He was walking past a door; a figure in the door began shaking it violently. [The father] could sense hatred, anger, ‘the worst possible evilness,’ and he could see upraised hands. He realized it was [his son]. ‘What surprised me is that I was scared as shit,’ he recounted. ‘I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. And then I realized that I was experiencing it from the perspective of his victims.’”
These sentences would make any person’s blood run cold. Andrew Solomon’s recent piece in The New Yorker about the psychological anatomy of Sandy Hook mass murderer Adam Lanza is a compelling, horrifying read. Well aware that his son had psychological issues, Adam’s father Peter walks Solomon through various meetings with psychiatrists and many, many attempts to defuse the ticking bomb of Adam’s profound unhappiness, until it was too late and Adam murdered his mother and the children and staffers of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 11 2014
My first experience with Valentine’s Day was a perplexing one.
At the age of 7, I arrived in the United States (from the Soviet Union) with my parents on January 19. I started school. Less than a month later, everyone in my class gave me a flurry of pink and red cards, some of them heart-shaped. I didn’t have anything for my classmates, and I didn’t exactly know what was going on, in any case. So I came home and taped the cards up on my bedroom walls, like decorations. For the rest of the school year, people would periodically give me other cards, this time not necessarily in pink or red or heart-shaped, but looking enough like the first set that I dutifully went home and taped them to my walls, too. It wasn’t until I learned to speak (then read) English, that I realized the latter were birthday party invitations I had never responded to, and that the former were for something called St. Valentine’s Day.
It was a Jewish Day School, by the way, but, in subsequent years, I got with the program, never giving a lot of thought to what the whole experience is like from a parental point of view.
I’m a parent now. And here is something else I’ve learned about Valentine’s Day. It is even more complicated than I could have possibly imagined. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 25 2013
As in all parts of the country, cars in California are used as vehicles–so to speak–for brandishing school pride. Graduates of USC, UC campuses, the many Cal States, Stanford, and other places of higher education give nods to their west coast alma maters.
Yet now there’s another genre of institution affiliation symbol, one that starts much earlier than college: elementary school. And not your garden variety “My Child Is an Honor Student” genre of bumper sticker. Those are downright quaint in the context of current parenting culture.
Instead what I’m noticing around town generally falls into two categories: stickers featuring model public schools, i.e. those with high test scores and an active support network, often charters, or fancy private schools. In all honesty, I find public school pride way less irksome, and if anything, it’s often an important symbol, given the ravaged state of public education in this state. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 12 2012
Though our kids typically take the bus to school, not long ago I was one of the many 4th grade parents on the elementary school campus.
Parental chauffeuring was necessary in order to safely transport book projects from home to school. As I walked down the hallway, I was treated to an eyeful of lovely, highly-decorated, well-designed dioramas. Sophisticated and polished. Ones that looked NOTHING like the one Lilly had made. Read the rest of this entry →