I made my two youngest children…do you know, I hate labeling children by their school level? As in “middle schoolers”? As if that tells anything meaningful about them–I do it sometimes, but I’ve become sensitive to the practice…made them chicken sandwiches and pretzel packets for lunch and off they went, my daughter having agreed to include her brother in her walking group this time, until he could form his own. And I went off to help at the high school book room with the other volunteers. It was pretty quiet, only a few teachers being eager to get those texts into their students’ hands on the very first day, so the three of us chatted between times. I brought up the topic of self-censorship by textbook companies, just as something I’d recently read about that was interesting, then thought, I could do with some self-censorship of my own; we shared second had our children’s experiences in school, current activities and aspirations, our hopes. One woman had one child, the other (a friend from up the road and fellow swim team mom) two, and I, way over the average except in homeschool circles. We shared our disappointment that the math program was less than adequate at the school, that some English teachers didn’t teach writing or require much reading (three books a year in some cases) or stray from their personal favorite genres (dark, with lots of violence), and that there were such strict prohibitions against teacher choice, so what could we do? Then, we served a large lineup of bright-faced students that appeared at the counter, checking out three different texts. I went for more texts and tripped on a chair in the cramped space, bringing my forehead down on the top of a cart with a whack. A new volunteer was just arriving, and asked if I needed ice, and my co-volunteer (a nurse) insisted I sit down. It was embarrassing, and I kept thinking how non-risky a book room ought to be, and how could I have managed to have an accident. No fainting this time, though, and, since the cart had had a lot of give, being on wheels, with a bit of ice I was fine. Pretty much flustered the woman who brought the ice, though–along with the size of the group that were lined up, and one of the computers shutting down. I wanted to say something to soothe her nerves, but just thanked her for the ice and went on my way at the end of my shift.
Been thinking about my spouse, bone weary of traveling to the big city, staying there several nights, missing the family. I’m ttrying to be less reactive to his appeals to relieve him be going back to work. Which, I continually assure him, I am attempting to do. One can’t substitute teach at the very beginning of the year, after all, and there were orientations to attend and paperwork they had to receive still. Then I could make as much in a day as he could make in one hour. But of course, it would open up the field for further opportunities, and after twenty years I could probably get to one third his salary plus benefits. That’s how much folks are willing to pay for fast-fluxing, always changing, always at the competitive edge cell phone service (he works for one of the large providers) as compared to teachers for their community’s children. Ironic, no? If only they could make schooling more efficient and put all those kids on computers that could quickly train them to work at those cell phone companies, video game creation shops, app development firms, and the ones with a hankering for social service, cyber-intelligence and security. Then the teachers could go find careers in real estate or selling futons.
The other day I’d asked my spouse to remember that I was committed to pitching in, I was not dragging my feet, finally felt I could balance it with family responsibilities (if he found local work), but that I needed to feel he was on my side, at my back, rooting for me, rather than a feeling of being pushed out into that mean ‘ole world and suck it up. His mom had cried at going back to work, and I did feel it would be a big adjustment for me to “go back,” but that I was going in with my eyes open and willingly. (I admit to you that this is a statement of faith, with a bit of “fake it ’till you make it” to it–resolve rather than conviction, you know.)
I picked up my two kids at the park on their way home between rain showers, the first in over a month, heard them debrief, caught tones of general contentment with their teachers and classmates in general, optimism about the year ahead, except my daughter felt that her L.A. teacher was not so good. My first thought was–no way; she has to have a good L.A. teacher, or she might lose her love for writing. And, maybe I should homeschool her just in that. As in, no choice about it, really. As the sky darkened, she lamented how much time of her day was now being used up, with so little left to make her own choices. A waste of time, she said, and I dutifully answered, It depends what you do with it. Just like time off, in that sense, or full time job. Also like prison time. Depends what you do with it.
Later I made a point of calling my husband, which I don’t do often enough, sharing the day, and he so appreciated it.