It is 7:00pm. Who is minding my children? (Second time around.)

These are the opportunities (school and parent-related topics) that were “available” to me this week:

For my high schooler:

Monday: at 7:00 p.m. Lecture by NYT best-selling author Ron Lieber on parenting teens.

For my grade schooler:

Monday:  at 6:30 p.m. Sports banquet (with child).

Wednesday: at 7:00 p.m. 7th grade informational Springfield trip meeting (with child).

Thursday: Nothing. (Thank goodness: the kids are out snowblowing the neighbors’ driveways!) ….but you get the point.

Not included in the above list: regular sports practices and activities, parent work meetings, etc.

How did we get here?

Said another way: Who will mind my children?

How on earth did we get to the point whereby working moms, “stay at home” moms, working dads, “stay at home” dads are asked to be somewhere on school nights at 7:00pm? As if jobs, school, sports, and extra-curricular carpooling are not enough, we are being “asked” or “invited” to evening “opportunities” out of the home. In no way am I suggesting that the 7:00pm meetings and opportunities are not meaningful or important…it’s just that I am scratching my head. Why? Because I am a rule follower and it’s hard for me to not “do the right thing.” When someone tells me that I should come hear a great speaker on successful parenting that the school is sponsoring…or attend an informational meeting on the Springfield trip even though I’ve attended it already for 4 children…well, I should do it. It’s “what you do” as part of being a good and supportive parent; it’s “what you do” to be part of the school community.

Shouldn’t we be home? That’s where I should be. So should my husband. He should be home. That’s where I am most valued. That’s where he is most valued. Moreover, although I love my computer, I am sometimes tethered to it simply to pay attention (read: not MISS) the important school to-do’s that now come via computer to the mom’s email.

So here’s a start-up idea for someone: grab it. Please create a central repository of Vimeos, (password protected for schools). Every parent in America can stay home on school nights (when not carpooling for sports and extra-curricular events). Yep. Stay home. Cook dinner together. Eat dinner together. Read a book together. Just be together.

After the kids are in bed, mom and dad can take out their computer and “go” to the 7:00pm meeting via Vimeo.

The “opportunity” of a lifetime.

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It is 7:00pm. Who is minding my children?

These are the opportunities (school and parent-related topics) “available” to me this week:

For my high schooler:

Monday, November 4, at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, November 6, at 7:00 p.m.

For my grade schoolers:

Thursday, November 7, at 7:00 p.m. [Not on the actual calendar..but you get the point.]

How did we get here?

Said another way: Who will mind my children?

How on earth did we get to the point whereby working moms, “stay at home” moms, working dads, “stay at home” dads are asked to be somewhere on school nights at 7:00pm? As if jobs, school, sports, and extra-curricular carpooling are not enough, we are being “asked” or “invited” to evening “opportunities” out of the home. In no way am I suggesting that the 7:00pm meetings and opportunities are not meaningful or important…it’s just that I am scratching my head. Why? Because I am a rule follower and it’s hard for me to not “do the right thing.” When someone tells me that I should come hear a great speaker on successful parenting that the school is sponsoring…well, I should do it. It’s “what you do” as part of being a good and supportive parent; it’s “what you do” to be part of the school community.

This year: enough head scratching. I am not going. Sorry. I happen to be incredibly lucky: there are  fantastic schools in our neighborhood; more importantly, the administrators, school boards, etc. are not only super-qualified but also really nice people and often friends of mine. But I can’t do it any more. I need to be home. That’s where I should be. So should my husband. He should be home. That’s where I am most valued. That’s where he is most valued.

So here’s a start-up idea for someone: grab it. Please create a central repository of Vimeos, (password protected for schools). Every parent in America can stay home on school nights (when not carpooling for sports and extra-curricular events). Yep. Stay home. Cook dinner together. Eat dinner together. Read a book together. Just be together.

After the kids are in bed, mom and dad can take out their computer and “go” to the 7:00pm meeting via Vimeo.

The “opportunity” of a lifetime.

21 Years of Love in a Banker Box

 BirthdayBoxTHIS is a photo of our daughter’s 21-year-old birthday present. She LOVED it. Even better? I loved giving it to her!

Total cost: 21 years of love + $18.99 for the box and file folders.

For 21 years I have been diligent about keeping file folders with notes, photos, mementos, etc. One file each year for each child. If it sounds fancy or complicated, it is not.  Basically, I keep a folder under my bed into which I place “memories”: perhaps a concert program, a block party invite, a golf scorecard of a child’s best round, a cute letter received from a teacher, a class photo, etc. I’ll also jot down funny stories as they occur  – the kind that you say to yourself as a parent: “oh my gosh – I must remember how hilarious this is so that some day I can use it in a wedding toast!” [Like the time my then 4-year-old saw a tour group from India in the airport and without missing a beat opened his backpack and took out a red circle-shaped file folder sticker and stuck it on his forehead so he could be like the Indians and use a bindi!]

Every few months I  take a few hours and sit near my banker boxes and sort out the memories and photos per child and place them into  manila folders. After reviewing all of the little tidbits in the manila envelope, I’ll jot down a list of other day-to-day details in that child’s life (e.g.who his friends are, favorite foods, basketball teammates, sibling rivalries, family vacations, etc.) as well as activities the child has done or passions he may have  (e.g.choir, drawing, sports teams). For the child(ren) who has most recently had a birthday I write a “birthday letter” incorporating details from the year.

Here’s an idea of an item I might save (that would be a note from my 21-year-old when she was 7 stating in her beautiful cursive, “Mom, I wanted to tell you I think I’m not being paid enough attention right now. So maybe we could work that out”!! )

Letter from Grace age 7

WHY I decided to write a letter to my daughter 21 years ago I’ll never know. HOW I decided to keep files on each child every year and write a heartfelt letter incorporating funny, sad, truthful parts of his or her life I’ll never know. But I do know one thing: my 21-year-old LOVED her gift. I loved giving it. I had dreamed about giving the gift when my child turned 21 and the hours we spent going through the various folders was priceless. We laughed. We cried. We were amazed at how some of her  traits from  youth  developed  and really formed who she is now as a 21-year-old [read above – what child asks her mom with such respect?! She still is that way!] It was a joy to share a review of the past 21 years with her.  My banker boxes and birthday letter files are the ONE thing as a parent about which I can honestly say I am proud.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery: copy this and give the gift of a banker box birthday!!

Grace reading birthday letter

Kids Should Come Home From School.

I am SO sad about Newtown. The lives lost, innocence stolen… these kids. These parents.

What I cannot believe is that VERY little has happened in the gun control cause. As a child I watched my mom found in October, 1973 – literally at our kitchen table – the Committee for Handgun Control, Inc. The non-profit was to “bring to the attention of the public the information and statistics which prove that the villain in the pageant of crime and death in America is the hand gun – too easily obtained, too easily concealed, too easily used to coerce, maim, and kill.” Why was my mom involved?  The effort began when my mother (of five) had seen so many stories of kids getting killed in Chicago that she sat down and wrote a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune. The gist of the letter: “what is being done to stop the gun violence in Chicago?” The response: nothing. That was her “aha” moment and the beginning of her effort to shed light on gun control.  She spent years at the kitchen table with her CFHC peers stuffing envelopes, working the phones, writing press releases, etc. anything to get some attention for (hand)gun control. It was moms working together for a grassroots cause – exactly what moms do best. Her efforts grew; the publicity grew. I remember going with Mom to NYC in 1975 when she was on the Today show; she was in Time magazine to fight for handgun control and often in the newspaper.  She flew to Washington DC in 1981 the day after John Hinckley tried to kill President Reagan (but instead hit James Brady) to bring attention to the difficulty of solving the gun problem.
And here we are. It is the year 2012 and SO LITTLE has changed! Kids are shot while at school. A nation cries. VERY LITTLE has changed. When is it going to end? Do you think the Founding Fathers intended the second amendment (right to bear arms) to end up like THIS? Is the strength of the National Rifle Association (NRA) simply too powerful?? I know in my mom’s case she and her partners simply got too tired of fighting the NRA. (I also know that our phone number was unlisted because she had received threatening calls.)
But seriously. WHEN is America going to get down to some sort of serious discussion? It is just NOT OKAY to have kids go to school and not come home.