School might be off to a stuttering, there is another day off next Thursday, but the middle schoolers are jumping right into the deep end with 9/11. Cecilia interviewed Michelle and I for an assignment about our day in NY twenty years ago. Cecilia has asked occasional questions before in the past. Ally was more aware this year and she seemed completely baffled by much of what happened. Aren’t we all.
I still don’t like to think of that day. Too raw. Too many horrible memories. Too many close what-if’s.
For the girls, for Ally, I’m afraid it was a bit of a rude awakening that the world is not made of glitter and choreographed dance numbers. There are mean, selfish, cruel and downright evil people out there in the world, too.
But not everyone. Not all people. I know there were many heroic and selfless acts that day, too. Part of parenting is not letting our past experiences and cynicism bleed into our kids. We can’t coddle them from reality. We need to prepare them, but also remind them that the vast majority of people are good. That most people will help if they can.
Friday night, after a long and affecting day of footage, memories, and questions, we watched Come From Away together. Maybe a little coddling isn’t so bad. Maybe the world is a little better with choreographed song and dance numbers.
When I was growing up, 90% of my time and energy was spent on sports. The other ten percent was used up with SimCity strategies and reading sci-fi novels. But mostly it was sports. Any sport.
The girls have zero interest in sports, at least right now. Not even if it involves glitter. And that’s fine with me.
My life is better and richer now with musicals, bubblegum pop, trombone, dance recitals, and crafts.
Being a parent isn’t easy but a lot of it is common sense. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t try to give them your childhood. Don’t close your mind. Adjust.
Typically as parents Michelle and I are pretty good at keeping one another afloat most weeks. If one is down, the other is up. It’s good teamwork or just a genetic survival mechanism. But this past week was a challenge. We could blame all sorts of things: school restarting, work, the ongoing pandemic, the news in general. Or just 2020 throwing its weight around and it had both of off balance.
Cecilia decided this was a good time to give me her opinion on my time management advice. She disagreed with it. I disagreed with her. Grievances were aired. I might be making this sound more civil than it was. If this blog had reenactments, it would make Lifetime movies look subtle.
We are both stubborn however only one of us is a parent. Michelle politely reminded me that I don’t get to throw up my hands. That’s not part of the job. I don’t even really get to have an opinion.
I might be tired and stressed and want to put my head in the vacuum until all these problems are over but there is no magical thinking as a Dad. Wishing and hoping does not change reality. Being a parent means you hold on long as you need to. Our feelings about it don’t count. Even if you think you could probably win an Emmy portraying yourself in Mike’s Window: Lies My Father Told Me…
This year we are not using any after-school care for Cecilia. She’s coming home on the bus each day. I usually still have calls or work to be done for a few hours once she is back. We are trying to treat this as an opportunity to further build her trustworthiness and make good on her word. In the morning, we talk about what she needs to get done each day.
I remember coming home by myself or with my sister. I believe if kids don’t feel trusted, they’ll have a tough time becoming independent and respecting themselves. I want her to have that independence. I really need her to have it. I can’t go through middle school again.
If she all does that? More freedom and responsibility. If not? More conversation, sorry, opportunities, to learn. I actually have more sympathy for some of these types of struggles versus learning vocab or geometry. I work with plenty of adults each day that completely lack time management.
On to Saturday where my own time management was put to the test…
If you live up here long enough you end up with a story or a connection to the marathon. A little over ten years ago, we were nearing Michelle’s due date and had one last wellness appointment with the doctor. As we were checking out, a nurse handed me a photocopied sheet of paper with hieroglyphics on it. It might have generously been called a map. It was mostly boxes, arrows and a few squiggles.
“They close the roads.”
“If you need to get to hospital during the marathon you’ll have to use the fire road.”
Thankfully, Cecilia missed the marathon by a couple days. Her birth was stressful enough without adding an off-road adventure. The map wasn’t needed but every time marathon monday approaches I think of all the parents nervously sweating out the start time for reasons that have nothing to do with running.
So Chelle-bration week has wrapped up. Cake has been eaten. Presents opened. Friends have stopped by. It wasn’t the original planned karaoke blowout, and while I did re-learn all the lyrics to ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire,’ I’m not complaining! Food, friends, and dominoes worked out just fine.
It might be all the champagne this week but we’ve both turned a bit reflective now that we are in the 40 club.
What exactly have we learned? A couple things, I hope. This is for the girls. Maybe they’ll read it one day. Or maybe Alexa will project it directly onto their brain. Too bad flash cards don’t work like that, huh, Ce!
The big fourth grade project is a report on Canada. This includes research, a typed presentation, and an artifact. One of the things I like most about Cecilia’s teacher is how she gives the kids the time and space to do things on their own. For better and for worse. Sorry, for better and for learning opportunities.
Watching Cecilia ‘type’ her slides was almost viscerally painful. Until she discovered dictation! We thought about stepping in but if we are going to let them figure things out why can’t she use all the tools on her Chromebook.
The toughest part for me to witness has been the design of the slides. I worked for almost 8 year as a consultant. I spent a lot time using PowerPoint. A lot. I would sometimes dream in PowerPoint. People would open their mouths and a perfectly formatted slide would pop out with their dialogue.
Cecilia’s slide dialogue would have been…difficult to read. She enjoyed different fonts. Explored different font sizes. Discovered rainbow fonts. She discovered Comic Sans. We had to have a chat.
As a designer, I will not let my child submit a report using Comic Sans. Time and space has its limits.