Has anyone else noticed that the whole “we’re in this together” thing has sort of morphed into “now I’m depressed and you’re in this alone”? CALL ME!!!
How to stay (relatively) sane during #covid crisis.
Click link below for fun!
My 12 year old son, Levi, will be starting middle school in August at a brand new public school. We’re all excited and nervous and trying to figure out how life operates in this totally unknown environment. Up till now, he’s been highly sheltered by our local private Jewish day school.
There’s a steep learning curve here and I admit it is causing us some anxiety. LIke the other day, for instance, he was perusing the district web site and confronted me in a panic.
“Mom,” he voiced fearfully, “It says on the website that kids are prohibited from carrying backpacks on campus.”
“Levi,” I responded with a doubtful glance, “That’s ridiculous. I’m sure you didn’t read it accurately. I mean, how are you supposed to carry your stuff to school? Picnic basket?”
He assured me that what he had seen had been real and urged me to call the district office to confirm it. His anxiety was growing and I figured that calling the office was the perfect way to allay his concerns. “Hello,” I started to the kindly woman who answered the phone, “I’m a parent of a new student who will be coming to your school in the fall and my son saw something on your website about backpacks not being allowed on campus. I know that sounds rather crazy. So I just wanted to check and make sure that he misunderstood whatever he thought he read.”
“Um…I’m not really sure what to tell you,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. “Can you hold for a moment?” Then she disappeared for like three minutes and I waited, wondering if she was using the same trick my insurance company uses every time I call to check on a benefit. I like to call it the “indefinite hold tactic.” It’s when certain organizations systematically put you on hold forever, knowing you’ll eventually get so frustrated you’ll hang up and decide it’s easier to just pay whatever remaining balance they insist you still have, even though you’ve already paid them three times already. But I digress.
Finally she returned, “The backpack rule is a campus by campus decision and I’m afraid no one at the district can give you the backpack requirements for an individual school. You’ll have to wait till the school reopens for the school year to call and inquire about it.”
“But…I mean…Are you saying there may be some rule against students carrying backpacks?” I’m stammering at this point because this sounds as silly to me as if she told me that number 2 pencils were being outlawed.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to call the school after July 22nd,” she curtly ended the conversation.
Baffled by this, I started to do some research and found that yes, backpacks have been items-non-grata at schools across the country for over a decade. Huh?
I found articles as far back as 2003 explaining the dangers of backpacks containing concealed weapons, drug paraphernalia, even bombs. The answer to some lunatic potentially stuffing a bomb into a backpack? No more backpacks. Maybe it’s me, but that sounds like the most inane answer to school violence and drug abuse that I have ever heard.
But that wasn’t all I discovered. There were other equally lame reasons for prohibiting the dreaded back carriers. The Academy of Orthopedic surgeons had come out with some declaration a few years back about the risks of long-term back and neck injuries and posture problems from kids hauling around overweight backpacks.
Other schools had outlawed backpacks because, and I’m not making this up, they proved to be dangerous threats to teacher safety both inside the classroom and in the corridors of learning. Apparently, teachers find themselves tripping over backpack straps on a regular basis during the school day. They also complain that they have been severely injured in the hallways by backpack-clad youngsters racing from one class to the next.
OK, now I am deeply sensitive to teachers’ needs. Teachers deserve all the credit, gratitude and respect we can give. Their jobs are important and critical to our society. However, this is a little bit silly, don’t you think? I mean, are they sashaying down the aisles between desks while reviewing the Spanish American War? Tap dancing around the classroom as they pose thought-provoking questions about Odysseus? Kids can’t carry backpacks because teachers are tripping over them en masse? Maybe we need to have an in-service day focused on cautious strolling protocol.
And one more question: in what, pray tell, are our children supposed to carry their personal items, notebooks and other school supplies? Hefty trash bags? One girl somewhere out East faced this very dilemma and started carting her load around in a plastic, yellow sand castle pail. Come on! We have got to get a grip. Yes, someone hid a pressure cooker in a backpack and murdered innocent victims. That’s deplorable and hideous. But banning backpacks wouldn’t have stopped the Boston bombings. Believe me, they would have found another way to hurt people. That’s what evil people do. They figure out ways to destroy and ruin good, unsuspecting people’s lives. We need to address evil, not the outward accoutrements of it.
We didn’t ban underwear after the underwear bomber tried to blow up an airplane. We can’t outlaw every single item that some sick, twisted cretan uses to accomplish some heinous activity. We just can’t. It would be like…like…like…trying to eliminate peanuts from every elementary school in the country. Oh wait, we have done that.
The news is so terrible these days. Kidnapping in Cleveland. Bombing in Boston. Murder in Mesa. I can’t take anymore. I feel like I’m living under a fog of darkness. Somebody, please bring me a bouquet of sunflowers and some stevia lemonade to brighten my day. And how exactly are we supposed to talk to our kids about this stuff?
Look, I know that some people say there really isn’t more bad stuff happening today than in decades past. It’s just the media mayhem that magnifies everything. But I’m sorry, I don’t remember all this crazy shit happening when I was a kid. Did I just not know about it? Really? How can that be? My kids, and my youngest is 9, hear all the gruesome details about almost every tantalizing media-hyped tale that circulates. Was it different in the 70s and 80s? I do kind of remember tuning out totally in the 90s. It was a very hip, boho way to go for an actor in Chi town. “The news is so negative,” I would lament in what was probably Chicago’s version of a valley girl twang. “I just choose not to allow those thoughts into my psyche.” Dear Lord, how many things from our past come back to embarrass the hell out of us. At least I never got a tattoo. (JK. I know they’re totally mainstream nowadays.)
But I cringe when I read the story about those three girls locked up for a decade. Nobody knew. This Castro guy was a fine, upstanding neighborhood fellow. The youngest girl was his daughter’s best friend. How are we parents supposed to combat that kind of evil? That is definitely the most horrifying part of this ordeal. That some sick, twisted bastard who holds an ordinary job and hangs out with people on a regular basis could manage to hide three girls and a baby without anyone ever suspecting anything. And who can you trust? Pedophiles lurk everywhere. I want to stop trusting everyone I know and everyone I meet. I mean, why has it taken me 12 years to meet anyone in my neighborhood? Hmmm??? Maybe because they’re all hiding something and don’t want to interact with me which might tip me off to the captive whatevers locked in their basements.
I tell my kids not to go in a car with anyone they don’t know. But I wouldn’t think to tell them to avoid their best bud’s daddy. For crying out loud. How can we keep kids safe? They can be “stranger danger” savvy and still end up missing for 10 years because some disgusting cretan, who masquerades as a normal, upstanding member of the community, abducts them on the way to the playground or coming home from the bus stop. I really can’t take this.
We need to hold fast to our children. Unthinkable evil exists and it could happen to anyone at any moment. I think I might be having a panic attack. Does anyone know if the odds of having your offspring abducted is better or worse than winning the lottery?
The Boston Marathon bombers’ mother swears that her boys are innocent. “It’s some kind of hoax,” she keeps repeating. I’m watching her words tick across the bottom of a muted television in my Dentist’s office. I can only read the larger headlines from across the room, not her actual words. Why do they silence the volume? We’re all sitting here struggling to read the small type. She is gesticulating madly and I manage to surmise that she truly believes her boys are good, solid citizens, going to school, chasing the American dream. Who could actually believe their offspring were capable of killing and maiming hundreds of people in a violent, inhumane terrorist attack?
I think I could. Honestly. I think I pretty much can assess my boys’ capabilities to do evil rather accurately. At this point in their young lives I can sincerely boast that terrorism is not on either of their agendas. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if your kid commits a heinous act of violence, your only means of self-preservation is denial.
I have a friend who takes pride in asserting that her kids are average. She says it all the time. Laughs when she tells people. “My kids are average looking, average intelligence, average in every way.” I used to think she said it to stun other parents who were gloating about their children being intellectually gifted or having some kind of superior artistic or athletic prowess. But now I think she actually believes it.
I don’t see my kids as anywhere near average. But maybe that’s my version of bomber mom’s denial. The other night we went to my 12 year old son, Levi’s, Spring Showcase at school. I can tell which teachers recognize his unique inner sparkle and which do not. Some of them see him as average and I know they are missing the boat entirely. They seem more focused on what he inadvertently blurts out in class or his messy hand-writing. I feel sorry for those teachers. They don’t see his quirky creative mind or his sunny, delightful disposition. They want him to fit in, to act like everyone else, to be…average.
I try to teach my kids how to “act” average so that they do fit in in school, with peers, in life. It’s a challenging task for a mom who believes whole-heartedly in shining your inner light and allowing the world to see you for who you really are. But the world of kids celebrates “average.” I can’t tell you how many teachers, administrators, and therapists have warned us about the ever-encroaching middle school madness where fitting in is the only way to get by and standing out in any way makes kids automatic bullying targets. I want my boys to know how to fit in.
But the more I teach them to fit in, the more I remind them that it’s only an act. That in society we all learn tools to make our lives easier, more comfortable, less stressful. Fitting in is one of those tools. But it doesn’t mean you stop thinking, acting and believing in all of the charming inner traits that make you unique and extraordinary. That’s the louder message I hope to convey. And if that puts me somehow in the same category as my pal who really sees her kids as average, or bomber mom, who’s incapable of seeing who her children have become, so be it. I’ll live in denial. Recognizing indubitably that my children are spectacularly gifted with a sense of kindness, a creative wisdom, and a flair for the eccentric that sets them apart from the pack, and that if used well, will bring them success, inner fulfillment and joy as they share it with the world.
My 12 year old son, Levi, has anxiety issues. This isn’t a secret. So to those of you who might suggest that I’m exposing some kind of family skeleton, I want you to know that I always check with my family first before airing our dirty laundry in public. As long as they’re okay with it, I figure it’s fair game for public consumption.
That being said, the other day at school his math teacher sent him to his homeroom classroom to make copies for her during class. He happily complied and set off to do so. Apparently, only seconds after leaving the classroom, word got out about a ponytailed, pistol carrying stranger at a school a few blocks away. Our school went into immediate lockdown. I’m not talking “drill.” I’m talking serious, “we’re in a different kind of world after Newtown” lock down. So while Levi haplessly skipped across campus, everyone else bolted their doors, pinned up paper to cover the windows and huddled in bathrooms, closets and corners.
Levi thought it was more than strange when the door to his classroom was locked. Even more odd were the darkened windows that left no view to the inside of the room. He looked around and noted that no one else was anywhere within sight. Hmmm? He remained calm and clear-headed though and knocked softly on the door. Luckily, his teacher slyly squinted through a side gap in the papered window. Then, like an episode of “The Munsters,” the classroom door opened a crack and a hand emerged, grabbed my son, and dragged him into the room. It wasn’t until after he was safe that he felt the anxiety of the situation catching up to him. But to his amazing credit, he held it together and was able to talk himself down and maintain control of his emotions.
Maybe there’s something wrong with me. But I find the irony of this inane confluence of events staggeringly comical. I mean how is it possible that my kid, the one with severe anxiety issues, ends up on the wrong side of a lock-down, only days after the most gut-wrenching massacre in our nation’s history? I guess it’s okay to find humor in the irony since no one was hurt and nothing bad really transpired. I can’t even contemplate the real devastation that could have occurred had a copy-cat ventured onto ours or a nearby campus. Maybe the humor is simply survivor’s guilt or some kind of defense mechanism to protect myself from the overwhelming pain etched into our souls by last week’s horrific destruction.
Sometimes it’s just too painful to contemplate the very real risks we endure every day as we try to live our lives, watch over our families, and protect our precious children. And so to all who suffered a loss in Connecticut, our hearts ache over your pain. The nation grieves along with you and sends love, strength and healing to you.
May you all be blessed with a sense of peace and may God bring comfort to those in mourning who must now learn to accept the unfairness of life as they struggle to live without the earthly presence of someone so deeply cherished.
Ah nepotism, the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. I used to lament the fact that my parents were the least connected people on the planet when I was ambitiously pursuing an acting career in Chicago and Los Angeles. I remember thinking how much easier my life would have been if I’d been sired by Aaron Spelling or been the lone Baldwin sister. The closest I ever got to either was a guest starring role on Melrose Place and a film part in “Fall Out” with Daniel Baldwin. Neither of the patriarchs opted to employ me full time or adopt me after my stellar performances.
So when my twelve year old son, Levi, asked if he could audition for a role in the holiday play I had written for Theatre Artists Studio this year, I leapt at the chance to help him move ahead in his acting career. “I will ask the director if you can audition,” I told him, “But don’t get your hopes up. There’s really only one role for a child.”
Levi did audition and was immediately cast in the role. He did an awesome job reading for the director and I doubt anyone would have been better. After all, I had written the role of the bike-pedaling tween using him as inspiration. But I made it clear to the director, who is a colleague and friend, that I had no stake in how he cast the show. It was his job to put the best actors in the roles and create a cohesive ensemble. Whether or not Levi fit into that mix was entirely his decision.
All that being said, I know that realistically it would have been awkward had he chosen to bypass Levi and cast another child in the role. It would have hurt Levi, and although I tried not to care, it would have hurt me too. There was just something silently implied by the fact that I had written the play and had requested an audition slot.
The ball is entirely in Levi’s court now. It’s up to him to show his hard working ethics, his memorization skills, his willingness and ability to follow direction. I will be noticeably absent from rehearsals and readings, opting only to drop him and pick him up at the theatre door when he’s called for rehearsals. I may have opened a door for him. But it’s up to him to step through that door and make the most of that opportunity.
I don’t feel guilty about helping my son achieve something he really wanted. I believe it will be a great experience for everyone involved. And if it isn’t, it’ll be one heck of a learning experience. A few years ago, Levi was cast as the lead in another production and got fired two weeks prior to the opening because he was having trouble staying focused and attentive on stage. It was a business decision . But that didn’t ease his or my wounded spirit. He was devastated, I even more so.
But that experience of failure taught him a lot. It taught him that I can’t make everything right all the time, that people aren’t always forgiving, that life sometimes hurts — a lot. It’s taken a while for Levi to want to be on stage again. I’m proud of him for getting back on the horse. And I pray every night that this experience will go well for him.
So here’s to nepotism! May it be employed cautiously. May every one of us have some opportunity to help out our kids at some point along their career paths, and may we all have the wisdom and self restraint to let our kids fail or succeed based on their own performance.
I’m not one to use a 1940s German political image lightly. I abhor the over-use of phrases like “Gestapo tactics.” I shudder when pop culture coins a catchy phrase like “soup nazi.” But once in a while, only when appropriate, one has to invoke the Fascist Arian party to accurately describe a governing system so out of control that its abuse of power must be called out in order to protect its inhabitants and preserve the rights of citizens throughout the free world. Unfortunately, that time is now.
As I write this, I have in my hand two letters from our home owners association admonishing and fining us for 1) “Unauthorized river rock” in our front yard, (apparently river rocks are strictly prohibited in our community. Who knew?) and 2) An errant shade sail in our backyard that is only visible from the street if you happen to be sporting 6 inch platforms, craning your neck, and awkwardly peering over our rear fence.
Now I am not against rules per se. I understand that civilized societies use rules and regulations to ensure the safety and sovereignty of their citizens. It’s just that I believe rules should be reserved for things that actually matter; like being kind to your neighbors or returning a lost pet. Both of which my local denizens have failed to do on more than one occasion. The only thing more disturbing to me than these ridiculous wrist-slapping fines is knowing that either someone voluntarily ratted us out over a harmless pile of rocks and a sun-shielding awning, or there is actually a person charged with trolling the neighborhood in search of these types of menial policy violations.
I recognize that times are tough. Far be it for me to criticize anyone for an honest day’s work. But really, if your employment depends upon stalking and reporting your neighbors for inane trivialities, what wont you stoop to next? Why should anyone care what type of rocks pepper my private drive? Surely no thoughtful human being would scout out my shade sail, secretly photograph it and send it off to the HOA Gestapo. (Please note that I am cautiously and deliberately employing this tendentious metaphor.)
Surely there is more that I could say about this matter. But I must go and prepare for my upcoming HOA hearing regarding these vital and pivotal issues. You know, this would actually make a great new reality TV series. Just call it “HOA.” There’d be idiocy, vindictiveness, likely even some violence. That’s every essential for a hit show these days.
My youngest son, Eli, who is now 7, had a serious cinematic phobia until about a year ago. We had finally conquered his fear of flicks on TV and the mini-dvd player. As long as he could run out of the room during the opening credits, he could usually manage to sit through a whole movie. Of course the film itself had to be entirely happy and without a shred of violence, fighting or insurmountable obstacles for the hero of the story. But walk him into a Harkins or United Artist’s and he went berserk. The last movie I tried taking him to was Toy Story 3 over a year ago. As soon as it started to look bleak for Woody, he freaked and we were out of there in a flash. So my 10 year old son, Levi, is totally into Harry Potter. He read all the books and has seen all the movies. Eli has also watched most of the movies at home with his dad and brother.
So when “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II” came out last week, we made a family date to go to the Cine Capri and watch the film. Both boys were super excited. I tried to prime Eli that it might be scary, hoping that maybe he’d opt out before I had to plink down 7 bucks and swelter alfresco in a long line of muggles outside the theatre. But he was insistent. He was a big boy and he wanted to go.
Once we finally got into the theatre, settled into our reclining seats, and dove into our healthy fruit salads that I’d smuggled past the ticket-taking teen in the lobby, the previews began. Now I have issues with previews to begin with. They tell the whole story and ruin the movie. They last too long. They’re often violent and inappropriate for kids, even in G an PG rated movies. They’re too friggin’ loud. I could go on. But it’s sort of beside the point. Anyway, we made it through a slew of gory “coming soons” and Eli, who was snuggled into his daddy, looked like he might be losing his resolve.
“We don’t have to stay, sweetie,” I said secretly hoping he’d “man-up” and tough this one out. OK, I admit it. I wanted to see the silly picture. “I’m not leaving,” he said with a slightly annoyed lilt. Then he sunk back into his dad’s shoulder, half covering his eyes with his still small hand that reminded me, bravado aside, he was still just a sweet, scared little boy.
The movie started, the music roared, and the dark energy enveloped us. “I do want to leave!” He screamed grabbing my hand and yanking me out of my chair. “Please! Take me home! I don’t want to see this, mommy!”
I gathered our stuff and we exited in one fluid movement within milliseconds. Safely ensconsed in the lobby, I suggested we stop and see if there was another movie he might enjoy watching while we waited two and a half hours for his dad and brother to come out. He adamantly refused. “Shit,” I thought, “The phobia is back with a vengeance.” I persuaded him though, and we paused at guest services where they happily exchanged our tickets for tickets to the new Winnie the Pooh movie.
Eli reluctantly agreed to watch Winnie with me. But once inside the theatre, Eli’s entire persona shifted. He was joyful, open and giggling at each and every cartoon preview. He gleefully watched Piglet, Rabbit and Pooh as they formed a posse to locate Christopher Robin who’d been stolen by a treacherous “Backson.” Watching his eyes sparkle and his wide grin filled me with happiness. “He loves this,” I thought to myself. Why did I even suggest Harry Potter as a family outing? This is who he is. This is what he loves. He’s still unbelievably sweet, gentle and naive, even though he tries incredibly hard to seem otherwise. Why do I keep forgetting this?
So we watched a delightful little film, with no real villains, no dangerous chase scenes, and no dead family members. And it was really, really nice. Just me and my little boy. Oh Eli, I don’t need you to grow up so quickly. I’m sorry that I keep being fooled by your big boy facade. You’re still my little man and I will try harder to remember that.
The “Backson” btw, was Pooh’s misunderstanding of Christopher Robin’s note that he’d be “back soon.” Oh, I’m so sorry. I just totally spoiled the ending for you.