Beginnings

Well, here I am. The first day of school year 2011-2012 is done. It is history. Issa made it her bus stop, school and classroom on time. The morning was absent of the usual household drama about eating breakfast, getting dressed, finding shoes, or loading the backpack.

How do you feel as a new school year begins? I feel excitement, hope, motivation, apprehension and wistfulness. These emotions are similar to those I feel when a new calendar year begins. The only difference is those I am experiencing this morning are not induced by too much champagne.

Excitement. I woke without the aid of an alarm, downed two venti-size cups of coffee and showered all before 6:o0 am. This prompt, orderly, readiness for each school day will fade in about six weeks and will be replaced with missed alarms, cold coffee and sporadic showering.

Hope. Beginnings such as a new school or calendar year are all about opportunities and possibilities. All missteps, grievances, grudges, bad report cards, teacher notes and calls from school are all forgotten or put aside. Each student — including my own — are on equal footing today. Anything is possible. The same is true as new calendar years begin. I am a positive-thinker. I envision success. As the school and calendar year continues, my hope does not fade. It is constant and it is forever.

Motivation. When I enter a new situation — such as a new school year — my energy level kicks up a notch. Ambition propels me to volunteer in the classroom, host play dates, cook fabulous dinners, and sign up for after-school enrichment classes. As the freshness of each school year fades, I lapse into a more comfortable rhythm. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t succumb to laziness, serve Twinkies for dinner, slip up on deadlines or let others down. But, I think less about impressing others; and set goals that are more realistic for myself and my family.

Apprehension. The word “new” says it all. New school year, new teacher, new schedules, new friends, new lessons, etc., etc. There are feelings of unease because so much is unknown. I am unfamiliar with Issa’s teacher and schedule; and I am unsure of how Issa will respond to challenges and pressures this academic year.

Wistfulness. Time flies. As it does, my children and I continue to mature. We live, have invaluable experiences, and learn. While I would not hinder progress, I sometimes wish for power to push a slow-motion or freeze-frame button on select life scenes. Every moment experienced with my children is unique and unrepeatable. The first day of the 2011-2012 is done and over with. It is history.

365: Defiance Test

April 14 – Both of my children test me. Each day, I receive at least one pop-quiz on a range of subject matter. In mid-March, two weeks prior to spring break, my daughter Issa, began administering — without notice — the first section of the advanced defiance exam. Must be she feels I have proven myself in the beginner and intermediate levels; and I need to be challenged. She has even recruited Riff to help create problems for me to solve. It is so delightful to see evidence of teamwork among siblings. Here is a sampling of the problems I found on this test so far.

1. Issa defies direction — given multiple times — to practice a classroom presentation at home.

Solution: After the third day of resistance, I decide she needs to learn from her choices; and I relent on my direction. The choice to rehearse is now at her discretion. Page 666 in that parenting survival guide said this is the answer. But, it’s not.

2. A mega meltdown results from Issa’s frustration with her disastrous classroom presentation. She is defiant and disrespectful toward her teachers.

Solution: I discuss in simple language about making choices; and reminded her she could have chosen to practice her presentation. She did not. So, now, privileges — such as playing computer games and watching television — are now being taken away. Great effort. But, this is not the answer. Try again.

3. Issa throws a rock at a friend and pushes a different friend down at recess, Tuesday. The teacher called me to report these incidents and to say Issa had also been defiant and disrespectful toward her learning center teacher. The teacher sends a note home with Issa for me to sign acknowledging the problem. Issa attempts to throw away the note to prevent me from learning what I already know. What the cuss?

Solution: The teacher and I decide to use a behavior chart to track Issa’s defiant and disrespectful behavior. Also, I had another sit-down with Issa. In addition to suspending privileges, I reviewed, in simple language, my three basic house and school rules: 1) Be respectful 2) Tell the truth 3) Use words, not violence to solve problems and to express strong emotions. I explained, she must follow these at all times. Her rewards for doing so will be lasting friendships, trust, and successful problem-solving. Additionally, she can expect reinstatement of privileges such as going to Dairy Queen, dirt-pile sledding, and attending Zhu Zhu pet meetings with her friend from next door. The “professor” is reviewing this answer and is expected to get back with me, soon.

Remember those tests in high school and college when you could make a cheat-sheet — one page — front and back — with anything and everything necessary to ace the exam? After more than eight years on this very spirited journey, I am still filling in my parental survival cheat-sheet. It is crammed full, but still doesn’t cover half of what I need to know. Plus, how I am supposed to know the answers? Some of the material being thrown at me wasn’t covered in those manuals from the OB/GYN.