No April Fools Here

Just because you don't like pranks doesn't mean you're not funny.

Just because you don’t like pranks doesn’t mean you’re not funny.

Dateline April Fool’s Day: I hate this day. I’ve hated this day since I was a small child. For some reason, of which I have no idea, I have always been unusually uncomfortable with surprises, pranks and the like. When I was small, I would lay awake at night worried about having one pulled over on me this first day of April.

Even now, as a grown adult I hate pranks. There is a radio station (in every town in America I’m sure) that does “Phone Taps” every morning where they call some poor unsuspecting fool and pretend to be someone who will inevitably make the poor recipient react like a fool on live radio. I get physically ill listening to these types of calls. I don’t know why I am s averse, but I’ve come to accept it about myself and know my limits without judging (most of the time).

This morning, two of my three woke up to tell me about the elaborate schemes they had planned for today to April Fool their friends. I said no to both. Not because they were potentially hurtful (they weren’t) but because I’ve been a teacher in a school on this day and I didn’t want my kids to add to the inevitable distractions.

While the older two decided how they were going to fool their friends in a mom-approved way, The Baby began his sometime ritual of freakish behavior. I didn’t catch on for quite a while, figuring he was just reacting to dad’s business trip and my late night meetings as unacceptable interruptions to his routine. Then I casually mentioned to The Girl how I’ve always hated pranks and The Baby burst out with “you too?” in obvious relief.

Then, thick-headed me, finally figured out (you know, with him telling me) that all the morning oddness was a direct result of the anxiety over possible pranks at school. Poor dude. I feel his pain.

We chatted. I told him what I was going to do today to quell my anxiety. He promised me he’d try the same. Somehow, just knowing he had company in the group of folks not in on the joke seemed to make him feel better. Apparently, aversion to pranks is genetic. Let’s hope dealing well with anxiety is too. At least for the teachers’ sake.


Parenting That Student

Photo: Microsoft Office

Photo: Microsoft Office

When I was a first year teacher I had a student that will forever be etched in my brain. Juan Carlo was at least a year older than the rest of my second graders and no less than six inches taller than all of them as well. He had an infectious smile and a limp from the Polio that he fought while he briefly lived on the streets in El Salvador before his dad and step mother brought him to the US. He spoke zero English and I quickly learned his Spanish wasn’t that great either. He had spent very little, if any, time in a classroom until the day he entered my second grade.

As you might imagine, a brand spanking new teacher and a brand spanking new student did not make for the best classroom mates. JC’s frustration quickly turned to angry physical outbursts that took up class time and for sure interrupted the learning of the other students. But no matter how many times he flailed on the floor or kicked desks or went screaming from my class, I knew, way down deep, buried under all that anger, was a sweet young man with the most endearing smile who could charm the pants of anyone  without speaking a word. Also, he had to be smart or he never would have gotten even that far. In spite of his outward behavior, I knew he was a good kid in a bad situation and I did my very best to help him realize that, and remind his mom  as often as I could because she was struggling right along with us. We all made it through the year, even if just barely. JC got placed in the correct school for his needs and I taught his younger brother two years later and learned that JC was doing fantastically. It was a long year of blood sweat and tears, but we all grew in unexpected ways from it.

Eight years later, older and wiser I stepped into an 8th grade homeroom with warnings to “watch out” for Tim. Tim was tall and lanky, much like second grade JC. However that is where the differences ended. Tim was successful, privileged and brilliant, smarter than any teacher in the building and very well aware of that fact. I remember sitting in an opening day assembly where the principal was going over dress codes and watching Tim untuck his shirt and lean back on the floor just as the principal was explaining the need to sit up straight and tuck in your uniform. I remember thinking this must be what the other teachers meant by “watch out for Tim”. He was a good old-fashioned wise-ass. That, I could handle.

I took Tim aside after the assembly and appealed to his intelligence. I said,” look, I’m new here and I don’t know anything about you but I can glean a few things from the purposeful uniform breach. You’re sick of being here. You know there are bigger and better things out there and you don’t want to hear one more word from the people in charge about why you have to behave their way.”

He looked at me shocked and I could tell he was taking a minute to formulate an appropriately obnoxious response to a situation he had never found himself in before. He simply answered, “yeah” and that’s when I made him a deal. He had to promise me to just play the game for one more year. I told him to keep his head down, his mouth shut and do what’s asked of him because I know it was easy and quick. In turn, I promised never to lecture, to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was a great and smart guy and to let him write whatever the heck he wanted in my class as long as I could use it to teach the others without him being embarrassed or pompous (for the record, he was neither).

It worked. I got through that year with Tim not only without any trouble, but with compliments from other teachers and his parents about how he’d never complained so little about school in his life. I’m no teacher of the year, but I am someone who respects students for who they are at their core. This kid was smarter than us and he needed to be treated accordingly. He still had plenty to learn, but he needed to be met where he was in order to be taught. He’s one of my favorite students to this day.

Right now, as a parent, I am faced with raising a kid whose got a little bit of Tim and a whole lot of JC. I have to admit that teaching this kind of kid is a whole lot easier than parenting this kind of kid. My instinct is to quit the whole deal and homeschool. I know that’s not an answer. So we will do the work. We will see the specialists. We will make changes, we will implement the strategies and we will try not to let this thing beat any of us. I will pray for accepting teachers and parents of classmates. I will throw myself at the mercy of whoever has a solution. Most of all, I will try to be like JC’s mom and Tim’s parents and love and support my little bugger no matter what trouble he may cause.

Because, in the end,  that is the most important job of all.



Disclosure: The names in this post have been changed. However, in over ten years in a classroom, there were many JCs and Tims. Names don’t matter, people do.

A New Kind of Travel

BridgeI love to travel. In any way, shape or form, I love going places different from where I live for any reason at all. I always joke with The Husband that I have a gypsy soul because I get cranky if I stay in one place too long. I especially love traveling alone. When I’m alone, I get to be whomever I choose to be in the city du jour.

I’ve always loved it, but especially after kids I began to relish my time away. Traveling is the time where I can literally feel Mom Cris slide off my body and Regular Cris slide back on. Usually, somewhere around 30 miles from home I feel a piece of myself return that I have longed for since 2002. The Girl that was so sure of her decisions beacusewent to the gym and actually made appointments for haircuts. The Girl who had a glass of wine with friends on a random Wednesday. The Girl who did what she wanted when she wanted and mostly didn’t have to worry about anyone else. I miss that girl and I usually jump right back into her high heels when I travel.

This trip has been different. Don’t get me wrong, I still felt about ten pounds lighter somewhere around the Delaware Memorial Bridge. There is still a spring in my step as I go from activity to activity whenever I darn well please (or at least when my school schedule tells me to). But for some reason this time I can’t fully immerse myself in the current world and still have one fingertip back at home no matter what I am doing here.

I’m not sure if it is because it’s during the school year and so my kids are more spread out than usual. I often go places in the summer where I can get one person to come and take care of the kids until their dad gets home. In the past, I’ve worked for myself so I can create the schedule I need for my time away. Simple stuff. This time, there were more moving parts. With a boss and a blog, kids and sports and dogs and the house sale to manage, it was almost more work to get here than it is to be here and I’m in class from 8-6 every day!

It is like somehow, with all of the roles I play, I couldn’t leave any at home. I am here, as The Girl With Only Herself to Worry about, but that girl has others to worry about away from here so she’s just never really on her own. Or maybe, let me try a different perspective. Maybe the fact that I didn’t so readily shed my skin this trip means that this rolling stone is a little more content to stay in one field. Wouldn’t that be a revelation for my gypsy soul?

Luckily, I have a few more days away to ponder this. Guess I’ll see how I feel around the northbound bridge.

Your Daughter Isn’t The Only One


Last night my son had a rare weeknight basketball game. It was a makeup game so not the usual gym time that the boys inhabit. When we first arrived there was a girls’ team practicing on the court. They had a female coach and they were about as good as you’d expect 7 year old girls to be at basketball. They were also full of spirit and working their tails off at whatever their coach instructed them to do. In other words, these girls were nothing but full of promise.

We arrived first and we stood on the sidelines and watched their full-court practice. I assumed they’d get off when it was time for the game to begin. Elementary gym time is at a premium and you don’t waste a minute of what you’re given.Continue Reading