Monthly Archives: April 2009

Boys and Girls…conclusion

I put the note in our neighbor’s mailbox on Tuesday, and spoke with the mom yesterday. Her son never mentioned the incident. She said that boys will sometimes conceal information like this, unlike girls, who might have more trouble keeping it in their brains. She was happy to know about the window, so that she could talk about it with him.

She wanted to pay for the cost of the repair, and take full responsibility. I told her that her son wouldn’t have been in our yard if my daughter hadn’t thrown a water balloon over the fence. And it was great that they were finally spending time together, as neighbors. So, we decided to split the cost. I told her the repair guy did a terrific job and that I’d save his phone number in case we needed it again.

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100 Congrats, Mr. President

Today, a personal thank you to Mr. Obama, for his careful, methodical and assured handling of the very big mess he got on Day One. It is nice having a smart person in the White House.

Carry on…

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Boys and Girls…update

My daughter took the indirect route. She told other kids about the incident, who confronted the culprit. 

“Did you throw a ball through her window?” one said, loudly.

“Yeah.”

But no mention of confessing.

Then, the “girlfriend” of the culprit was approached. “He is such an idiot,” one child said to her.

I am not sure what it means to have a girlfriend in 6th grade, but I’m told that in this case, the kids talk on the phone at night. We are hoping the issue came up in  last night’s call, prompting some sort of epiphany about moral character and thus, a break up, leading to sad faces and inquiries from said mother and, ultimate disclosure. Of course, I could just put the note in her mailbox. Am I avoiding this? I think so. I will give it until 5 pm.


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Boys and Girls

On Saturday, my daughter and her friend filled up water balloons and threw them over the fence into our neighbors’ yard, where a boy in their grade lives. Before they moved into the house about a year ago, another boy in the same grade lived there. We used to see him all the time, especially when he and the boy from two doors down climbed the tree in front of our house. Or rang the doorbell and ran away. Or tackled each other like puppies. When they get to be eleven, they do less tackling, so we don’t see the newer boy much.

The balloons were an invitation, though, and for about an hour, he and his friend ran around outside with my daughter and her friend. Then, the girls came inside. The boys, though, weren’t done. Our neighbor decided to throw a ball at our house. He was aiming for a foot of brick in between two windows, he told us after the ball came crashing through the window. No one was hurt. Our newish neighbor was paralyzed on our front step, practically in tears. It was an idiotic thing to do, but he was a boy with an invitation. He was feeling cocky. Showing off is never a good thing.

I wanted to yell at him, but I didn’t. If someone were hurt, I would have. So I hugged him instead. His friend smiled behind him, thinking, probably, “She’s not going to tell his mother. How sweet is that.” They left and sat on his porch. His head was in his lap.

I figured that he would say something. At least by the time the emergency glass people came to fix the window, on a Saturday at 6pm, for a lot of extra money. It is now Monday, and clearly, the mother has not been told. She would kill him if she knew. I can’t tell her; she has three other kids and the husband hasn’t lived there since October and I think the boy should fess up and tell her himself.

My daughter will probably interrogate him in gym class today. Meanwhile, we’ve seen him go in and out of his house a few times since the incident, and his head twists away from our direction in ways that are not physically possible. I think it is a matter of time.


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Bible Belt 101

One day last week, my sixth grader showed me something she got at school.

“A man gave me this,” she said, pulling a miniature paperback Bible from her knapsack. “He was handing them out on the sidewalk.” 

Well, how terrific is that.

Which issue to talk about first. As a mother, The Priority Question can be difficult to parse. You have to weigh the big universal, the specifics, your child’s brain, the desired result, and then hit all the lessons in order of importance. This one was pretty easy. 

Here, we have a strange man. Not much to ponder. Strange man, first, church v. state, second, and the forty-nine other appalling presumptions after that. Knowing I had already discussed, many times, both strange men and religion on public property, I was irked that my daughter didn’t put her knowledge into action. This child could sense unsavoriness in a mailman, in the next zip code. How could she possibly stretch out her hand to accept the book?

“Did you get close enough to him to take the book?” I asked.

“Well, yeah,” she said. “I have the book, Mommy.”

Wrapped in the “safe” and pre-approved ethers of school, the questionable presence of this person was diffused. Her antennae didn’t fly up and flicker purple. How dare a strange man who is clearly a strange man blur the demarcation for my eleven year old. How dare he trick her not to think in the way parents kill themselves to teach their kids to think.  What if were not really a proselytizer, but someone dressed up as one?

“He was talking to the crossing guard. And every kid was holding one,” she said. 

For a non-Christian New Yorker living in the Bible Belt, I have a hard time with bibles, and The Bible. Whichever one it is, frankly. There are crosses bolted onto houses, planted into lawns. On shirts, billboards, cars, foreheads. I have seen pendants that could drag a woman to the ground, they are so immense. Evangelicals are on television and radio all the time, not just on Sunday. In fact, when you turn on the cable and a station pops up, there one is. I do not want him in my living room. Religion is not private and personal here. It is assaulting. It’s like an ambush. What happens is, religious groups that are typically private and personal become less so, in order to compete. That is distasteful. Religion is like sport here, with jerseys and hats.

When I called the school administrator, though, I was cheered by the response. “We have been trying for years to get that guy to go away,” she told me. It seems, legally, he has a right to stand on the sidewalk, off of school property. Lawyers have advised the principal to ask him to leave, which she has, many times, but that is all the school can do. I told her that for kids who may not share his devotion to the bible, not taking one could be conflicting, especially with the perceived approval of the school. She hadn’t thought of that, but at least, she didn’t want the guy there. 

We’ve experienced all sorts of liberties taken here. A soccer team of 12 year olds saying The Lord’s Prayer before games. An image of a crucifix in a different school auditorium. Santas at city hall, but no symbols of Kwansaa or Hanukkah or anything else that might be celebrated in December. But the man at school was different, because he got too close. 

I found out that his next stop was the prison and the drug rehab center. Lost souls all over the place. My 11 year old is not a lost soul. The administrator asked what else they could do. I told her that a letter of warning could be sent home in the fall, so that parents, if they want to, can tell their kids to avoid the guy in a suit with orange books. Of course, now, we don’t need the letter.


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Ten Hut

Of course, the Bush people who dreamed up and made legal the practice of torturing prisoners should be investigated and prosecuted. 

I think that the underlings who carried out the orders should be held accountable, too. 

For this reason:

“How was school today, sweetie?”

“It was okay. A bunch of boys beat up a kid on the playground.”

“Really.”

“But the kid is usually the one getting into trouble and the playground monitor let them do it before he brought them to the principal.”

Or, at summer camp:

“We put shaving cream in Olivia’s bed.”

“Did the counselors let you do that?”

“They used to do it when they were little and they showed us how.”

Joining in, when you know you shouldn’t, is really a bad thing for kids to do. So, we teach them to be the one to stand up and say that what is going on is wrong, then leave the scene. We teach them not to follow orders simply because they are orders, let alone orders from people who shouldn’t be leaders. I’d rather my child trust her instinct and her knowledge about whether those orders should exist in the first place. Sometimes, it is not obvious. Safety, danger, violence, that’s pretty obvious, even to a kid. We do not want them to say, one day…”Okay, I’ll do it to because someone told me to.” That is Parental Doomsday. Okay, I’ll smoke. Okay, I’ll taste that drink. Okay, I’ll let you do that to me.

I realize that the military functions on hierarchy, on taking orders and not contesting them. I guess that might be useful in combat. This was hardly combat. Prosecute away, I say, sir, yes, sir.



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Oh No, It’s Just Me

Married moms often get flustered when their husbands are not around. They worry about how they will do everything, how they will get the kids where they need to go, how they will put dinner on the table, gas in the car, homework in the brain, whatever it is they feel they need to do. 

“Bill is out of town and I’ve been a wreck.”

Sometimes, they say this in front of me, without realizing. I must be a wreck all the time. If they did realize, they would probably think I am a wreck all of the time. 

I am not a wreck all the time. I am not a wreck anytime, because I can’t afford to be. If I am a wreck, it is when all of the above is completed, everyone else is dreaming about the fabulous days they had, and I collapse on the couch.

The other day, I heard a new concern. “Bill is out of town, and I am really glad I have the dog.”

Huh?

Does the dog mow the lawn? Wear a suit? Buy anniversary gifts?

“When he’s not home, she sleeps by the door.” 

Being the only adult in the house, I had forgotten that male adults can provide a feeling of safety for females and children. Well, certain male adults. Should I be scared, then, every night? Should my daughters be fearful every night? Should we think we are sitting ducks if someone should intrude? Our dog is deaf and blind. Are we crazy, living this way? We are a police action waiting to happen.

We live in a safe community. We have an alarm. We are very careful about the things you need to be careful about.  I am confident that I, as the sole adult in the house, could handle any incident as well as a person with bigger pectorals. It is not a choice to think otherwise. It is not a choice to think otherwise about this, or anything else, in the house or out. 

When I was living alone in New York in the late 80s, someone robbed my apartment when I was gone for the weekend. I came home to find my stereo and jewelry missing. Immediately, I called the police, my parents and my friend Stephen. Feeling afraid, I locked up the apartment and slept at Stephen’s. My parents came into town the next day and we outfitted the doors and windows with all sorts of contraptions. When the armor was in place, I assumed we would hop in the car and head up to Westchester, have some Chinese, play a little Monopoly. I’d take the train back in the morning. But my father told me I wasn’t going. He told me I was staying put, like Houdini in a box. Did I think I was going to run home every time something bad happened? Well, kind of.

I woke up the next day unscathed, and the day after that, too. No one broke in again. No one could, it was like Alcatraz on 71st Street. 

When I was married, I don’t recall feeling any more or less safe than I do now. I used to check all those doors and windows each night before going to bed, too, and turn on the alarm. It is not good to feel at risk in your own home. I felt bad for the woman and her dog.


 

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