Category: parenting

School Students Shouldn’t Be a Revenue Stream

I get it. There’s money to be made in high schools and grade schools. Between school pictures, sports pictures, yearbooks, and the like, I understand there are businesses that crop up surrounding our students, and I don’t (for the most part) begrudge them the chance to carry on their business, or at least make it available. But this year, something seems different to me.

It started with the early request to buy athlete pictures for Tomas and DC. No big deal. Seemed like a fine request, so we ordered a package for each of them. Then came the reminder for school pictures. I ignored that one, because Denisa and I decided to get private pictures done this year for all the kids. It was less expensive, and the end result was much better, so it was kind of a no-brainer for us.

I deleted the first reminder. The second reminder. The third reminder. I’ve got three kids, each of them in different schools. I didn’t pay too much attention to which school was reminding me about what. Except the reminders kept coming. And coming.

I just went through my email to check. I’ve received TWELVE reminders since August 25th. That’s four reminders per child. That’s . . . beyond excessive. And then that email search reminded me that I was asked to buy “spring portraits” last March. How many class pictures does one child need? And did I really need to be reminded I could buy those spring portraits nine times? Five of the emails this fall have been from my children’s actual schools. (Seven from the company taking the pictures.) Two of the nine reminders came from the schools in spring.

But it isn’t just pictures. Yesterday Tomas came home with a big packet advertising class rings (the cheapest of which starts at $200). Apparently in the middle of school, they were sat down for an ad pitch from the ring company, in which the company said, “All you’ll need to do is go home and even mention class rings to your parents, and you can watch as they run and get their class ring and start telling you all about it, and that’s when you should ask them for the $75 deposit so you can get yours.”

I never bought a class ring. I think they look gaudy and dated. Tomas has no interest in getting one, but I recognize they’re something that might be desirable to some. I get that my personal distaste for them might not be shared by all. If the company wants to send home a flyer about class rings, fine. If they want to send home a half-inch thick packer all about it, I might say that’s a wasteful use of resources, but it probably wouldn’t get me to “I need to write a blog post about this” territory.

But taking up my child’s school time (or even a break during school time) to pitch them on sales techniques to get their parents to buy them a $200+ piece of silver or gold? That went beyond the line for me. At that point, I have to assume the school district is getting a kickback on the rings. (They better be, for the sort of access they’re giving to my child.) Even then, I find it objectionable.

I don’t live in a wealthy area. The median household income in Franklin County is around $45,000. (The median for the US is about $59,000.) There are many, many families who can’t afford a $200+ ring. Why is our school district letting companies market directly to our students this way? Yes, I get that budgets are tight. And again, I realize some kids or parents might really want a ring. But still, send a flyer home. Let students opt-in to hear the ad spiel. Anything other than the approach that’s currently being used.

There are times I feel like the district has started seeing me more as a revenue source and less as a parent of a student.

Am I the only one noticing this?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Middle School Conundrum: The Land Before Time

We have another kid who just entered middle school, which means this is now my third time through it. (Once as a middle schooler myself, and now twice as a parent.) It never seems to get any easier, sadly, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

Here’s a theory I came up with last night, and an analogy I came up with just now. A lot of the difficult comes down to Three Horns and Long Necks. In The Land Before Time, the animated movie I watched far too much of as a child, a group of dinosaur children have to team up to try to get to the Lost Valley, a place where dinosaurs will be safe from the destruction around them. One of the lines that we always repeated when I was a kid was “Three horns never play with long necks.”

And of course part of the point of the movie is the dinosaur kids (a triceratops, a stegosaurus, an apatosaurus, a saurolophus, and a pteranodon) learn to overcome their differences and all get along. It’s a great sentiment.

But what if one of the dinos had been a tyrannosaurus? A straight up meat eating hunter who would one day grow up to want to eat all his friends? (I guess that’s sort of in the vein of Disney’s Fox and the Hound, just much bloodier . . .)

When you’re in elementary school, no one really knows who they’re going to be yet. Yes, there are mean kids and nice kids, but a lot of the dynamics come down to who you were already friends with. When you reach middle school, that’s when people actually start figuring out who they want to be. What sort of a person they are. And unfortunately, sometimes the people you’re already friends with turn out not to be the people the person you want to be wants to be friends with. Or maybe it’s not a matter of want. Maybe it’s a matter of compatibility.

Now, I don’t mean by this that some people are born predators or prey or anything like that. Maybe the dinosaur analogy is the wrong thing to use for that reason. But when you’ve always tried your best to be a good friend, and then suddenly the people you’re friends with aren’t the people you thought they were, it’s a jarring feeling.

But people change and friendships morph all the time. As an adult, you recognize that, and you’ve dealt with it often enough to be able to handle it. I’ve had various very close friends over the years, some of whom I’m still close with today, and some I’m not. In some cases, we drifted apart. In some cases, life got in the way. But middle school is the time when suddenly it’s happening all around you, and you’re changing at the same time. No wonder it’s all bewildering.

I think it helps to have dealt with it before as a parent now. Denisa and I have experience handling it. But that doesn’t make it any easier on the kid in question. What can I say? Maybe sometimes, three horns really shouldn’t play with long necks . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Invisible Weights

I imagine a fair number of you have been skiing. If you have, then you can surely relate to the feeling of taking off a pair of ski boots after you’ve had them on for a whole day. They’re clunky and very restrictive, and when you take them off, it’s amazing how much lighter your feet and legs feel. Like they’ve suddenly been freed from something you didn’t realize was as bad as it was.

Now imagine that you’ve had ski boots on for months. Years even. Imagine what it would feel like to take them off, even for a little bit.

I think there are weights we all carry, some voluntary and some involuntary. We carry them all around for long enough that we sometimes forget they’re even there. We wonder why we’re so tired all the time, or why just getting through the day can be exhausting. And it’s only when we take a moment now and then to look at all the things we’re carrying around that we notice just how much we’re shouldering.

Case in point. As a member of the Maine Library Association presidency for the past six years, it was never a “burden” that I felt was overwhelming. It was work I enjoyed doing, and it needed doing. But when I stepped out of that role a few months ago, there was definitely a feeling of taking off a load I’d been carrying around for so long I’d forgotten how heavy it had become. You take that responsibility and tuck it away in a corner of your mind, reserving some mental space for it.

Second example: with Tomas and DC gone to Fiddle Camp this past week, it’s been amazing to me to see how much extra time it feels like I have. Please note: this is not me complaining about having kids at all. I love them all dearly and am very happy to be their father. But it is another responsibility that I take care of each day. I’ll come home from work and check with them to see how they’re doing. I’ll keep track of the things they need to do, or the things they’d like me to do. You wouldn’t think it takes that much mental space to keep track of it all for kids who are old enough to be self-directing (for the most part), but this week, I realized I’d been selling the job short. It still takes time and emotional energy.

The same logically holds true for all the relationships we have in life. Spouse. Parent. Child. Friend. Co-worker. Anything we need to put effort into to maintain. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. (In my experience, anything worth real value takes effort.) But in some situations, it can certainly be a problem. Because these burdens are always there, it can be hard to tell if you’re in a relationship that’s taking too much of your time and attention. As hard as it is to imagine forgetting to take off your ski boots when you’re done skiing, I suppose it’s theoretically possible.

So what to do with this new observation? In most cases, I imagine the answer is “not much.” Like I said, this is a “burden” I want. One that’s rewarding and worth the effort. But perhaps it would be useful now and then to try and identify all the burdens we’re carrying, particularly the ones we might not realize are even there. Because if we could identify just a couple of those that aren’t necessary anymore, that can free up some much needed mental space for all the other things we’re doing.

It’s something to think about . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Accidental Sports Parent

It never crossed my mind that one day I might end up the parent of a high school athlete. I was about as far from an athlete in high school as I am today, and that’s saying something. Back in Council Rock, the school was enormous. My graduating class had 850 students in it. With a school that size, I suppose it’s fairly natural that there will be distinct cliques within it. Groups of students who identify primarily by their main interests. There were very fully developed, robust programs in everything from band to chorus to drama to a whole slew of sports, and then there were the typical array of classes according to difficulty level.

I was in all the most difficult classes. That was my first priority. Second was band. Almost all of my friends were in band or orchestra, though I was tangentially involved in drama. I was in a play, and I had a number of friends in drama, but it wasn’t what I identified most with. There were smaller connections as well (the school paper, for example), and I had a few friends outside those spheres, but that was almost always because they were in the other honors classes with me. I had one very close friend on cross country, but I never paid any attention to what he did when he was competing. It simply didn’t interest me at all, so it remained a mystery.

Denisa and I never enrolled the kids in any sports programs. No youth football. No little league. No soccer. They’re all active skiers, but they never expressed much of an interest in trying for the ski teams. They’ve gotten into music, and they’ve done some summer activities like tennis and rock climbing, but they’ve generally been focused elsewhere. (DC and MC both expressed fleeting interest in dance. That didn’t happen for a litany of reasons.)

His freshman year, Tomas was very active in school activities. Math club, the Franklin County Fiddlers, and Robotics dominated his afternoons. That seemed like more than enough to keep him occupied. But what I didn’t realize was that in a school with just around 150 in a graduating class, there can be a whole lot more bleed through between cliques than there seemed to be in my school. A ton of kids who are in Fiddlers are also on Cross Country, for example, including many of his close friends.

So when he expressed interest in joining the team, Denisa and I were perhaps a bit surprised, but definitely encouraging. What was one more after school activity, more or less? What I failed to realize was just how all encompassing a sport can be. Denisa went to the first big meeting, and . . . wow. Practice after school every day. Meets most weekends. Team dinners the night before meets. Fundraisers. Practices in the summer. For the first two and a half months of the year, he’s going to be living the Cross Country life.

And I still don’t know where I fit into all of that as a parent. Do I go to the team dinners? Do I go to all the different meets? What do I do there? Can you even see anything at a cross country event? Maybe I should have been paying better attention back in high school. Do I go to away meets? Home meets? I just don’t know where I fit into all of this. On the one hand, I want to be supportive. On the other, I recognize and remember that not all parents are involved to the same extent. My parents were never really “band parents” the way some of my friends’ parents were, and I was fine with that. They came to a number of events, but by no means all of the many marching band competitions.

This isn’t a high level of stress for me or anything. I know it’ll all iron itself out, and Tomas isn’t worried about it either. But it’s still interesting to find myself in a wholly new situation that kind of sprang out at me out of the blue. Certainly much more respect for all the school athletes and their dedication to their sport. I had no idea.

Go Cougars! (Lucky for me the high school and BYU share the same mascot, so at least that all lines up nicely.) 🙂

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Daddy/Daughter Dance: 2019

Hard to believe this was my seventh year going to the Daddy/Daughter dance. This means DC was 4 the first time I took her. (You can read that blog entry over here. Checking it out, I was surprised to remember DC was so skeptical of going the first time we went. It’s become such a tradition that we just don’t question it these days. MC never needed coaxing, because she’d seen DC get to go before and so automatically assumed it was Not To Be Missed.)

It was a smaller group this year, as friends have moved away or their daughters have grown too old to really want to go to a Daddy/Daughter Dance anymore. This time, DC was the oldest of the group. We went to dinner beforehand. MC got the traditional chicken fingers and french fries, but DC dwelled on the grownup menu for a while before landing on her choice of the evening: Chicken Parmesan. (I had this Steak Frites meal which was sort of like a glorified poutine. French fries, gravy, and steak. Tasty.)

The dance was a study in the way kids become more self conscious over the years. MC immediately headed to the dance floor and started dancing her heart out, not caring in the slightest what she was doing or how she might look. DC was more reserved, swaying side to side and watching what everyone else was doing. (The nice thing about being a Daddy at the dance is I no longer really care at all what I look like, so I could dance along with MC and not mind anything.) Eventually DC got the spirit of the dance going and it was fun times all around.

This was the first year dancing with DC felt much more like dancing with a grown up. Her hands aren’t tiny anymore. (Which makes sense, seeing as how she’s probably around 5′ 7″ now. Taller than some of the girls I dated back in high school and college.) She wore her favorite necklace and earrings (patterned after Arwen’s brooch in Lord of the Rings, of course).

The weather itself wasn’t too cold (only 20 degrees or so), though the snow piles and slush puddles were massive. (I see all these pictures of people with flowers blooming and actual grass in their yard, and I wonder if they’re in the same hemisphere. There is over two feet of snow in my front yard, and that was before the 5 inches or so we got last night.)

In any case, it was another fun filled evening. With each passing year, I get older, and the average group of the people at the dance stays the same. Some of those dads were in their low 20s. No wonder I don’t recognize nearly as many songs as I used to at dances. That’s okay: I still have another 9 or 10 dances in me to go before MC ages out of them as well. By the end, maybe I’ll bring a cane . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

%d bloggers like this: