Long Division

Dear third grader,

Long division is hard. Besides potty-training and reading, it might be the toughest challenge you have ever faced. It is especially awful when you imagine that Mom is doing it wrong.

Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Repeat until you hit a number smaller than your original divisor.

Because if you imagine that Mom is making stuff up, you’re going to invent a new way of doing division that gets you to the incorrect answer. And it is likely going to take you longer to get there. And then after all that effort and brain power and creativity that you just dedicated to dividing one number by another, you are going to freak out. Cry. Scream. Stomp your feet. Run out of the room.

“You think I’m stupid!” will be followed by “Then you think my teacher is stupid!”

And you will still have to come back later to finish your homework.

So while I will definitely slide off the “I know this” platform after a few more years of math, I promise I will admit it when the time comes. For now, though, stick with me. You will get this, because you are all about effort and brain power and creativity… and we make a great team.

Divide. Multiple. Carry down the zero. Subtract.

I love you, sweet man,

Mom

Serious, Seriously?

On Monday, my son’s Spanish teacher emailed me to let me know that he was upset. He had forgotten about a quiz scheduled for that day, even though it was posted on her website and announced in class.

On Tuesday, he went to Freshman Registration Night at the high school he plans to attend next year. His schedule is going to be really tough. So while his teacher had recommended Spanish III, I suggested taking Spanish II, so he isn’t slammed from all sides.

Nope. “I should take Spanish III.”

“I don’t know,” I shook my head, imagining another four years of nagging and checking up on him.

“Mom, it’s time I took school seriously.”

Well, you can’t argue with that… until an hour later when I received a late-night, bail-out email from his Social Studies teacher, saying that he “probably knows this, and has yet to start… but please remind him to…”

“Aw man, I forgot!”

He didn’t even remember that it was his turn to bring snack today. How can you be a serious student when you can’t even remember snack?!

The Courage to be a Fan

Everywhere we went last week, people asked my son if he was excited about the game. On the street, on the ski slopes, in the reception area at school, and everywhere he wears his Packers sweatshirt (which is everywhere), strangers called out to him, “Go Packs!”

Then today, he sat next to his brother, an avid Falcons fan, and watched his team get crushed in the playoffs.

He was quiet, but he let his brother celebrate. And I realized, watching him be a good sport, what courage it takes to be a fan. As a fan, he has worn his heart on his sleeve. He has made himself vulnerable to loss. He has shouted out to the world, “I stand with them!”

Now, he must steel himself for school. The pats on the back. The “sorry, dude.” Or “nice sweatshirt.” Or “what in the world happened to your team?”

But if he had not had the courage to be a fan, then he would not have felt the joy of this season’s victories. The thrill of Aaron Rodger’s Hail Mary passes, the wonderful feeling that people know you and what you care about. And the respect you have earned because you are willing to show that you care, to cheer big wins, mourn today’s loss, and wait patiently, optimistically for next year.

An 8th Grade Boy Applying to High Schools

When told that one of the schools he is considering does not have a robust college guidance program, he said, “That’s okay. I already know I’m not allowed to go to Yale or Duke.”

Seriously?

During a mock interview with his principal, when asked what challenges him, he said “reading.” The principal tried to get him to explain why. “Are you a slow reader?” “No.” “Is it hard to remember everything?” “No.” “Is it that…” “It’s just that when I open a book, I get bored.”

Sir, can you forget he said that when you write his recommendation?

When he came out of his first high school visit, and I asked if he could see himself there, he grinned, “I could go to Chipotle for lunch every single day!”

Then when he met two Admissions Directors a second time, he talked to one about their amazing French fries and the other about their delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Is it really going to come down to the snacks?

When one Director of Admissions asked 50 kids at Info Night what they wanted most out of high school, he was the only one to raise his hand, “I want it to be fun.”

And when he visited another school, he leaned into me as we approached the entrance as if he needed my support to stand up. “I’m nervous. I’m nervous. I’m nervous. I don’t want to do this.” It broke my heart to leave him. But when I picked him up, he exploded with excitement, “If I was going to build a school, it would be exactly like this.”

“Any questions, young man?”

Nope. Apparently, he’s got it all figured out.

An Empty Library

My son is looking at high schools. He has visited two of five schools so far, and it strikes me with each visit that what excites him most makes me wary.

After the first: “I could go to Chipotle every single day for lunch!”

And…“everyone carries their phones around everywhere, even into class!”

After the second: “I only saw one device that wasn’t an Apple product!”

And… “no one uses their lockers because there are no textbooks. They’re totally digital!”

And then when I walked into the old library, there wasn’t a single book. The tour guide said, ”When we realized that only three books were checked out one entire year, we turned the library into a resource center.”

Schools with no books. Makes me sad.

Phew, A No-Drama Night

During the first week and a half of school, it seemed that my boys were running a relay of tantrums and meltdowns. As soon as one recovered from whatever angst he was experiencing, he passed the baton, and the next one took off.

“I have no friends in my classes!” He does.

“I don’t know why I am doing soccer! I hate soccer!” He has a blast.

“I am not doing Lego League!” This is his third year. He loves it, and more of his friends are doing it than ever before.

“I heard someone behind me in line say I was useless!” Unwilling to put a name to the voice.

“I only touched the ball once for all of recess! And it was a punt. It wasn’t even a good punt!” Can they please ban playground football?

Each of these and other statements spiraled down into two hours of tears, moping, glares, stomping feet or refusals to talk. And the fights that such moods triggered between them… Seriously?! Then yesterday, thank goodness, the world shifted back onto its usually peaceful, happy axis.

“I got a 100 on my math quiz!”

“I’m so bummed we don’t have soccer practice tomorrow. It’s the best part of the day!”

“I hope everyone’s going to be at Lego League.”

“Can I bring my red football for recess?”

“We finished our homework. If we go together, can we go Pokemon-ing until dinner?”

Transition back to school complete.

Crafting at 8

Planning ahead so that a sixth grader finishes his Social Studies Egyptian project without tears does not always safeguard a family from late night crafting.

A paper mache sarcophagus due three days after an out-of-town weekend requires a phased approach. If the week prior to that weekend includes two basketball games and lots of math homework, forethought and timing are critical.

So at 8pm on a Wednesday, a week before the due date, I said, “We’d better figure out this paper mache thing.”

I forgot how fun paper mache is. It has been more than 30 years.

At 9pm, my son’s clothes were splattered with cream-colored goo. His arms were caked with dried paste. His hands dipped in and out of the bowl.

“This is awesome!” he said as the clock ticked past bedtime.