Open House for the First Child and The Last Child: There’s a Difference.

books and apple

Everyone knows there’s a big difference in how you handle the first born, the middle child, and the youngest. Recently, I went to 8th grade Open House and had to laugh at myself as I saw the difference so clearly.

It’s significant. And I started to make a mental list…

Open House Experience for First Born Child

I arrived early and brought a pen and notebook and took copious notes. On everything.

I introduced myself to every single teacher, wanting to make a good impression and create a strong home/school connection.

I worried about my kid’s credits and weighted grades and asked questions. (I know. I’m sorry. I was that parent.  Meanwhile, everyone else was just wanting to hurry up and get the hell home.)

I questioned personalities and teaching styles and wondered if they were a good fit for my child.

I stressed over the thought of detentions and policies and school protocol. High School seemed so complicated! And everyone looks so serious about everything!

When I got home, I grilled him: “Mrs. So and So said you should be reading 20 minutes every night. Are you? I don’t think I ever see you reading?! And did you know Math help is available every single day after school? No excuse for low grades! There’s always help! And by the way, join a club! There’s hundreds to choose from! Pick something. You’ve got to do something besides sports to be a well-rounded student! These things matter!”

chalk board

I was a lot. But it didn’t seem that way at the time! It seemed CRUCIAL to my kid’s success! I was on every committee and super involved and super– well, just super. I was a school district’s dream. Free work! Professional volunteer! Call me! I’ll do it!

Five or Six years later and a Middle Child in there as well, I was pretty entertained by my own transformation. Things are a bit more… relaxed, shall we say?

Open House Experience for Last Child

Crap! That’s tonight???

Quick glass of wine because… well… because.

Running a few minutes late, but show up just in time. I think I’ve got a pen here somewhere.

Listen to chorus teacher but feel very distracted by the woman next to me and her boyfriend. Discreetly jump on Twitter and tweet about the awkwardness of bringing your BF to Open House. It just seems excessive. But maybe that’s just me. #IDontThinkHeWantsToBeHere

Decide there is nothing here, in any of these classes, I need to take notes on. Who does that? I’m pretty sure all of this info is on the website.

Mr. Math Teacher is kind of hot. Just sayin’. I think she’ll do just fine in here.

Why does this same mother keep asking so many questions? Why doesn’t she just chat with the teacher afterward? Schedule a conference, Lady. Nobody cares about your kid’s credits but you.

This computer teacher has now talked for fifteen solid minutes about the importance of typing and building a strong foundation with the Home Row keys. Honestly, I just had a broken wrist and collarbone and still managed to “type”. Pretty sure the kids will fight through it.

Of course when I got home, my child wanted to know all about it.

“It was great! I loved your teachers–especially Math. This is going to be your best year yet!”


And I believe it–I love my kid’s school. I love teachers. And I mean no disrespect. Also, I forgot to join the PTO, but that was a complete oversight. It’s just that with a little more parenting under my belt, I value a more balanced perspective this time around.

Rookie parents: It all works out somehow. Everything’s going to be okay. Even when it seems like it won’t be, it will. Of course be informed. Of course be involved– but cut yourself some slack, too. And as you already know, the ride goes light years faster than you think, so try to enjoy it while you’re on it.

And DJ, sorry bud. I was trying to be Super Everything, which also included Super Annoying.

Catching Fire in the Trenches

10669127_10205174436388441_2938143554706449772_oIn 2011, in the midst of great heartache and sleepless nights, I published what is still, to this day, my most widely read blog post ever, An Open Letter to my Daughter’s Bullies, Including But Not Limited to The Mean Girls. It was a tough time in our lives. My daughter Casey was 14. And 14 was not a good year. In fact, 13 had not been a good year. 15 wasn’t great either. Middle school was not kind to her. And despite our best efforts as parents, things were not getting better. The bullying at school had reached an all-time high, and Casey’s self-esteem and head space about life in general had reached an all- time low.

There are far too many details to include in this post that would betray way too much of our family’s privacy– of Casey’s– but suffice it to say, from the time she was a baby, this sweet baby girl was different. Special. Intuitive. Kind. Tender. Brilliant. Sad. And the world is not kind to people who are different. And shame on us. Shame on us for thinking that everyone needs to look and act and think exactly like we do. What a gray and lifeless place this world would be. Most of the beauty and brilliance in this world comes from people who are different. Thank God. Thank God they are different. They have gifts the rest of us don’t have and most of us are far too blind and narrow-minded to see it. Myself included.

Casey is a gifted writer. And today, her very first article has been published in the Buffalo News. The road here– to this smiling, successful, confident young woman, has been paved with blood, sweat and tears. Ten million appointments, CSE Meetings (Parents who know what that means…you get it…) true grit, heartache, and struggle. But it’s also been marked by love. By great bravery. By persistence. By mini triumphs along the way that felt like gigantic victories. And the point of this whole thing is not to laud Casey, per se. And it’s not to tell her bullies and haters to SUCK ON THIS. (Although maybe just a tiny bit)

It’s really this: To tell other strugglers out there in the trenches– parents and kids alike: Keep going. Don’t quit. Don’t stop. Don’t give up or give in. Take whatever spark you see and fix your eyes on it. Get down on your hands and knees and blow on it. Fan the tiniest flame, no matter how dim. Because if you will. If you will keep adding tinder and kindling and sticks and branches and logs…one day it will catch. And you’ll have the most spectacular bonfire your eyes have ever seen.

Casey girl, you’re on fire, my love. Don’t stop now.

Today was supposed to be my first installment of It’s Thursday. And This is What I’m Reading. However, I have happily been upstaged by my daughter HAVING AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE NEWSPAPER. Mama can wait ’til next week.