SL 690 – Only Girlie Stuff

I have a blog post in my back pocket about the reaction to my last article for the Atlantic. It will have remain back there for another day or two, because I’m flat out exhausted. I’m juggling mulitple writing gigs and the mom stuff, which includes graduation, prom, prom house, 8th grade class 3-day trip to DC (Steve’s going), 20-year anniversary, Jonah’s 18 year birthday, graduation party, Ian’s summer schedule, and college course selection. We still don’t have anybody helping us clean the house or mow the lawn either.

Yesterday, I sat on the sofa and read a trashy book all day, because I needed to shut down.    So, nothing but girlie-ness on Apt. 11D today.

I need dresses for several events in June and July, so here are a few of the options: this, this, this, and this. And new shoes – comfortable with a retro vibe.

I’ve been shopping. Oh yes, I have. Want to know what else? Jonah’s birthday and graduation is coming up. He asked for a gold cross and chain for his birthday. I was a little shocked by that request, but he says it’s a very preppy item right now. He needs a new laptop for college. I’ve got a few other little things for him, like this environmental bracelet and a Japanese watch that he heard about on Reddit.

Okay, who loved Pippa Middleton’s wedding dress? I did. And Kate’s dress totally sucked.

And let’s talk about Ivanka and Melania’s clothes on the Mid-East tour. Other than the gold-belt fiasco, Melania looked just like a military leader of a small South American country, which is actually a really good look for her. I’m not judging. Other than Ivanka’s sad hair, she rocked a series of dresses with large flowers.

And I got a haircut, too.

Photo on 5-23-17 at 5.02 PM

Booze

There’s a tradition in this area of Jersey that after the prom, the kids go down to the shore for the weekend. The parents rent the house for the kids, hire a bus to get them there, and fill the house with food and refreshments. No adults are in the house. Recipe for disaster? Sometimes.

We went to a meeting of the parents in Jonah’s group to discuss the logistics of this enterprise last night. Who should stock the fridge with food? Which parents would rent a hotel room nearby to check on them periodically throughout the weekend to make sure that nobody has passed out in a pool of their own vomit? How much should we chip in for a common fund for pizza delivery?

Also on the agenda was the issue of whether or not we should provide them with beer and wine spritzers.

With the story of the dead frat boy from Penn State on all of our minds, we hashed things out. Should we buy them beer? Bud Light, after all, is better than vodka. It reduces the risk of them getting caught for buying stuff on their own. But the risk of a lawsuit if something goes terribly wrong was on everyone’s mind. The risk might be small, even arguably very small since all our kids are perfect (not), nobody wants to contemplate losing their business or their house. Would the 18-year olds in the house be liable if the 17-year olds does something stupid?

I think that everyone, including us, has no problem with a seventeen or eighteen year old having a Corona Light at home on a Saturday night. If the kid can enlist and die in a war in Syria, then he/she should be able to have a Corona Light. But the laws are the laws. And there was little confidence that the kids will be slowly sipping their beers at the shore house. So, no beer.

Ugh. It’s all so messy. The kids are up in arms and are battling us over this issue.

Is Grit Worth the Hassle?

The topic of grit has been much discussed here at the real life home of Apt. 11D for the past week, so I thought I would put it out on the blog.

When presented with an opportunity of “gimme points” in history class in the form of easy homework assignments, Jonah said, “nah. I’m done.” He simply didn’t turn in nine homework assignments this spring. It took a while for the teacher log those zeros into the online grade portal. So, we didn’t realize that he was in deep shit until it was too late. After a lot of yelling, he was urged to ask his teacher if he could hand them in late. She said no. Then there was more yelling and a week of grounding.

Yes, we’re the worst parents on the planet who can’t possibly understand the God-given right to stop doing work in your last semester of high school. As a result of this slacking, Jonah will pass the class, I’m sure, but just barely.

From Jonah’s point of view, it makes absolutely no difference if he gets a B or a C or even a D in this class. Why work for no reason? From our point of view, ARG! DO THE DAMN WORK! IT ISN’T HARD! CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! LEARNING! CHALLENGE YOURSELF! HIGH EXPECTATIONS!

There are all sorts of books aimed at parents and educators about the value of “grit” and not eating that marshmellow.  These authors maintain that kids who know how to delay gratification and work through obstacles grow into successful adults. Jonah’s method is to weigh the pros and the cons of working hard before exerting himself. Hard work simply for the sake of personal perfection is a fool’s game.

I’m not entirely sure that Jonah is wrong. I come across people every day, who favor Jonah’s strategic effort method. Sure, they aren’t usually the ones who make it to the top of their profession or make news headlines. But they find those jobs that pay well with mediocre expectations and then hunker down until retirement. Sometimes they even accidentally do become wildly successful, because of luck or bullshitting skills. I suppose Donald Trump is an example of an accidentally successful type of slacker. He’s playing golf, not reading presidental biographies, over his weekends. And I know plenty of people with insane amounts of grit and work ethic, who complete PhDs and marathons, and have much less success.

So, who is right?

More On Our Flagship College

The boys had spring break last week. Steve took the week off, too. With three extra people knocking around the house, there was no need to even pretend that I would get work done. Even if I wanted to work, it’s impossible to have that tomb-like quiet I need to concentrate. So, we did lots of stuff instead.

First up was Jonah’s Accepted Student Day at our flagship state college. Jonah had been “meh” about attending this school. When we went for the tour last fall, it looked shabby. An old dean showed us power point slides about the school and got into the weeds about class requirements. She was wearing a sun dress with her bra straps showing. The other colleges gave us tours of the grassy campuses led by perky, preppy tour guides who made lame jokes about walking backwards. Jonah really dug those perky kids and their lame jokes.

But we made a chart of his eleven colleges and ordered it by rankings. We had a column for total cost of attendance and another column for merit aid. The chart was adhered to the fridge with a big magnet. When we were all done filling in the info, the choice was a no-brainer.

As he got used to the idea and talked to more people about the school, he started feeling better. The word about the school is that everybody gets jobs as soon as they graduate. And over and over we kept hearing, “Internships! The school has a ton of internships!”

That weekend, we sent Ian away to a sleepaway weekend camp for kids with Aspergers. We thought it would be a nice treat for him, and it would give us the chance to totally focus on Jonah. Turns out it was a bit of disaster, since the camp also took kids who had bigger issues, and Ian was freaked out by them. Sigh. But at least we had some quality time with the big kid, because there were actually some big decisions to make.

Jonah got into three difference schools at the flagship college – the environmental school, the arts and sciences program, and the engineering school – and we had to pick one. Each school was running sessions on their offerings. There were discussions on the different majors. There were tours of the dorms. The dining halls were open to everyone.

And it was all spread over the five different campuses within that one college. This is the physically largest college that I’ve ever seen. It can take thirty minutes to get from one class to another, if you catch the bus at just the right time. Class selection has to take into account that major commute time. Not every kid can manage this college. It’s overwhelming even for a college pro like myself.

He’s thinking about majoring in bio-engineering, so we went to a presentation on it. He could major in that at two different schools within the college. One takes four years, the other is a five year program. Good thing we went to the presentation and figured that out.

The woman who gave the bio-engineering presentation was smart and helpful. I whispered to Jonah that he should go talk to her when he has questions next fall. Afterwards, she asked if anybody had questions. Hands shot up. All parents’ hands. One guy with a thick Jersey accent asked if his daughter would get a masters with the five year program (no, but two BAs), what was the typical salary for a graduate with this degree (shrug), and what jobs were available for people with this major (cleaning up New Jersey’s superfund sites). His questions and questions from other parents were tightly focused on jobs and money and time spent at college. The other presentations we attended that day hammered on the internship opportunities and job prospects over and over.

I was rather surprised by A. the high parental involvement in their kids’ college decisions and B. by the job training mission of the college. Neither are bad things, but clearly a major shift in college life.

In the end, Jonah decided on the arts and sciences school, because it will give him some flexibility. We walked out the bookstore with all sorts of branded t-shirts and stickers and caps. The school definitely does have some eyesores (hello, ugly dorms!), but it also has the green fields, greenhouses, and new lecture halls that he wants so badly. He hasn’t taken off his branded baseball cap since that weekend.

He’s all in.

Ian’s Birthday Surprise

Yankee games are funny. The stadium is full of a lot of Bronx types – Italians and Puerto Ricans — and former Bronx types who have moved to New Jersey. There are always a few solitary old dudes who come by themselves with binders of batting statistics. They obsessively record every run and error. They are part of Ian’s tribe.

Ian loves going to Yankee games. It’s totally his own thing. Jonah and Steve prefer soccer. I like eating food and drinking beer at sports games, but have very little interest in the game itself. Ian likes baseball, though only at the stadium. He watches every pitch and hit. He likes the corny rituals, like the grounds guys who have to dance to YMCA while fixing the dirt. He reads every word that comes up on the jumbo screen, including the birthday wishes.

Ian turned 15 yesterday. For $25, he got an awesome surprise.

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Apt. 11D Is Now the Home of Many Hobbies

When Jonah was christened, Steve’s cousin came to New York to act as Jonah’s godfather. Looking around for topics of conversation — our dissertation topics were certainly not of interest — he asked what our hobbies were. I think we laughed, which I suppose was rude, but the thought of having time for a hobby was absurd. Steve had just begun working on Wall Street and was finishing his dissertation on the weekends. I was watching Jonah, adjuncting at Columbia, and trying to turn my dissertation into an article. We had no lives outside of work or parenting.

Now that we’re not slaving away in the netherword of adjuncts and temporary administrative positions in finance, we have more time, and, thus, have hobbies. If Steve’s cousin ever asks about our hobbies again, we’ll have lots of answers.

I’m collecting old books at estate sales and then reselling them. Steve and Jonah are growing heirloom tomatoes in the basement, which they’ll replant in the garden in a month. There’s European soccer on the TV. Ian’s drums and music. Jonah’s longboard. Steve’s genealogical research on his cousin-marrying Mennonite farmer ancestors.

We sometimes think that we’ll return to the city when this parent thing is over. But we need elbow room for the hobbies, so maybe not.

 

 

 

How a New Supreme Court Ruling Could Affect Special Education

In a stunning 8-0 decision in the case Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a higher standard of education for children with disabilities. Advocates and parents say the case dramatically expands the rights of special-education students in the United States, creates a nationwide standard for special education, and empowers parents as they advocate for their children in schools. But critics say the decision will not have any impact on schools, arguing that the vast majority already provide a good education for those kids.

As I explained in January, the parents of Endrew F. removed him from his local public school, where he made little progress, and placed him in a private school, where they said he made “significant” academic and social improvement.

In 2012, Drew’s parents filed a complaint with the Colorado Department of Education to recover the cost of tuition at the school, which is now about $70,000 per year. The lower courts ruled on behalf of the school district on the grounds that the intent of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is to ensure handicapped kids have access to public education—not to guarantee any particular level of education once inside. But the parents appealed, with the case eventually landing at the Supreme Court.

More here.