Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Girl Power

Both of my girls, S & K, are involved in Girl Scouts.  Also, because I love to be involved with the things that they do, I have been the leader for each of their troops from the very beginning.  Either that, or I'm a glutton for punishment, but I prefer to enjoy the experiences as often as I can.  With S, we are in our 7th year; with K, it has been 5 years.  I have learned many things through those years.

First, I've learned that I was never cut out to be a daycare provider or elementary school teacher.  Many years ago, I had my palm read at the Sonoma County Fair (for my Santa Rosa friends, I know you'll remember the "psychic reader" at the edge of one of the exhibit halls, near the midway).  She said, while looking intently at my palm, that I would definitely be in business for myself, with another woman, and we would be running a daycare.  Bwaaahhaaaahhaaaa!  The largest either of my troops has ever been was 17 girls.  Generally, I average around 10.  Let me tell you, those girls can give me more than a run for my money whether there are 17 or 10 or 6 or even 3.   If you get nothing else from this entry, let the lesson be that one should never waste $5 on the palm reader at the fair. ;-)

More importantly, though, I have learned that these girls are really capable of many things.  Yes, Girl Scouts is still about camping and badges and s'mores.  I'm not that kind of leader, though. Well, I'm definitely a s'mores kind of leader and badges too, but camping?  Not so much.  That's okay because Girl Scouts is also about offering leadership opportunities to even the youngest of Girl Scouts.  Among the many programs that have been available, I am privileged to have been able to start an ongoing discussion with them about the roles of girls and women in the world today.

From those discussions, it is inevitable that the topic of stereotypes is revisited over and over again.  We've examined the images of girls and women in the media (photoshopping, anyone?) and what kinds of assumptions we all make when we encounter someone different from all of us.  They have had very thoughtful discussions about people with disabilities and people who might look different, but really are just like them.  They see K and are able to accept her (as far as I know).  She doesn't always say the right thing or act in the "expected" way, but that doesn't seem to matter too much to them.

This year, as my 4th grade Junior Girl Scouts have explored these different topics, one thing has remained true:  these girls are growing in a mindset that they can do anything!  Isn't that great?!?  Some of them want to be mothers, some of them want to be engineers, others want to be bankers or teachers or scientists or bakers.  The point is that it seems like they have no idea that women ever had any limits.  I love that.

They see themselves as smart, imaginative, creative, strong, and confident.  They celebrate their own individual talents - encouraging one another and accepting one another - and then bring all of the personal strengths together to accomplish a common goal.

These girls inspire me.   The Juniors have created a skit to bust a stereotype that "Cheerleaders are dumb."  You know how they prove it?  A math competition, boys against girls.  The skit is not just the competition, but in it, the girls are smart enough to hire a coach to help them prepare.  So what have they learned?  How to look beyond a stereotype, how to creatively work together to create a skit, how to make a plan and execute it, how to work together and incorporate all of the different ideas, how to listen to each other, how to express their ideas, and when to compromise.

I wonder if I would be able to recognize all of their wonderful qualities and talents if I had not been working with them through Girl Scouts.  Recently, someone said to me, "Is S still in Girl Scouts?  Isn't she a little old for that?"  Technically, no she's not; Girl Scouts has programs for girls all the way through high school.  My response was something like, "No.  There isn't a girl around that is too old to learn about herself and participate in so many great opportunities."

When they are all noted as the movers and shakers in this country from politics to business to moms, I can say that I knew them when...

Oh, and of course, there are the cookies, but that is an entire post all by itself.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Miss Smarty Pants

Back in December, K was making out her Christmas list.  Top on the list:  Pixie Dust.  She wanted Santa to bring her Pixie Dust.  In our household, Santa makes an effort to bring one or two of the most important things on the list, but this was a tough one.  However, I'm a smart girl!  I concocted the pixie dust and Santa delivered it with a letter telling K how hard it was to get in touch with Tinker Bell and with a reminder that the pixie dust only works in Neverland, so don't try to fly at home.

I need to remember that although she has her challenges, K is much smarter than I am.

Her first response was that she could take the pixie dust to Disneyland  RIGHT NOW and Tinker Bell would put the magic back in it so that they could fly together.  Fortunately, we weren't going to Disneyland, so I was off the hook for that one.

A few months have passed and we did plan a trip to Disneyland over Spring Break.  I was hoping that by now, K would have forgotten all about taking her pixie dust to Disneyland.  That's how these things usually work with kids.  Something that is ultra-important one day becomes a distant memory in a matter of days, weeks, or months.

Not so much this time.  We gave K a new backpack to take on the trip and the very first thing she put in it was the bag of pixie dust.  Darn it!  However, as luck would have it, the night before we left, she was rearranging her backpack, took out the pixie dust and forgot to put it back in so it was left behind at home.

Whew!  I'm off the hook!

Not so fast!  She is a clever problem solver.  No need to worry.  She can just tell Tinker Bell that the pixie dust doesn't work and Tinker Bell will give her the magic and she can bring it home to practice her flying.

Uh oh.

So, being the tenacious person that I am, I am wracking my brain to figure out how to get around this one.  Originally, I planned to tell a Cast Member at Disney about the pixie dust so Tinker Bell could give her the message that the pixie dust only works in Neverland.  I decided to stick with that plan.  The Cast Member said he would take care of it and when K approached Tinker Bell, the first thing Tink said was, "How did the pixie dust work out?"  K said, "It doesn't work!  I can't even fly!"  I'm worried now because this is a big deal for K and I am hoping that Tink will come up with something clever because I clearly did not do a good enough job coaching the cast member.

Tink says, "Well, it's just for practice.  Did you think a happy thought? What was your happy thought?"

K responds, "To fly with you."


It all worked out okay, but when we got home, the first thing Miss Smarty Pants did was get her pixie dust and sprinkle some on her head...just in case she took a trip to Neverland that night.

Gotta love the imagination!  I hope I can keep a step ahead of her, but it is unlikely.  I'm glad S went along with it, too.  She really likes being part of the magic for K and it is a wonderful thing to see.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

42 days and counting...

I used to love school.  As a child, I was an avid reader and loved school.  As a teen, I was much more interested in social activities, but still, I loved school and worked hard to do my best.  I have always wanted my children to have a love of learning and for the most part, they do.

Now?  I'm not so fond of school.  It seems as though the extraordinary effort I have made to see that K gets a proper education has had a significant impact on my feelings about school.  Negative impact.  No longer am I the one excited for the kids to go back to school.  I am the one wishing vacation lasted a little bit longer.  I am the one with the countdown on my calendar, marking off day by day until school is out for summer.

On the list of "things I need to do better," is accepting that this will not change and therefore, I should not let it get to me.

We were on vacation last week.  I love vacation!  Everyone loves vacations, I know.  However, I think a lot of stay-at-home parents are excited when the kids go back to school after a break.  Sometimes, too much togetherness just gets to be, well, too much.  I get that, too.  I am guessing that I am in the minority.  I don't like it when my kids have to go back to school.  Why?  Because I know that we have to go back to all that comes with it.

For S, she will have homework and projects, as usual.  With her, I get tired of the drudgery of the routine.  Sometimes, I just want to take a day off with her.  Or take her to breakfast and show up to school when we are ready.  Instead, I got a truancy letter from the school a couple of weeks ago.  It seems that S has missed 12 days of school in the 2nd trimester.  90% attendance is required, so she can go to Saturday School to make up her absences.  Except that all of her absences are excused and half of them are the result of her injury last Fall.  Needless to say, a call to the Vice Principal assured us that they are simply required by law to send those out and they know that S is doing fine and her absences were excused, but as long as she doesn't miss any more school this year, she will be at the required 90% attendance.  Great.  Child of mine, you better not get sick and we'll just have to forget about taking that Friday off to go away for a weekend, even though your grades are excellent and missing a day isn't going to change any of that. *sigh*

With K, in particular, it is like a big, black cloud comes to hang over my head.  I know we are going back to day after day of homework, academic challenges, and for me, worry, worry, worry.  As I've expressed before, this year has been particularly difficult, especially when it became clear that the teacher isn't fully committed to K's success.  I live for Friday, when I know we won't have any homework.  On the other hand, I get frustrated when K is not given the long term projects that other kids do.  I'd take some of that extra work because I know how enriching those bigger projects are and because I believe in her ability to learn.  I know it seems like I am contradicting myself.  I am just trying to see that K gets the same opportunities as other children.  I have expressed my commitment to helping her outside of school so that she can have those same opportunities.  The point of her IEP is not to eliminate assignments, it is to modify them when necessary.

See?  I quickly get sucked into the multi-facted, complicated situation we call "school."

It isn't going to change.  Not really.  So I need to change.  I need to accept that this is what school is for now.  Accept the cards I've been dealt for this year and hope that the next deal results in a better hand.

Fine.  I'll suck it up.  Why?  Because there are only 42 school days left until Summer!  I wasn't kidding about that calendar countdown...