This Sucks. (or does it?)

Language. It’s an interesting thing.  After the kidlets drove away in the big yellow school bus this morning, my neighbor and I discussed language–and how some words have different meanings in different languages, and how some English words have different interpretations as well. This conversation is actually an on-going conversation about kids/language/school….and the word SUCKS.

Several weeks ago, T-man got into some major trouble at school. apparently, he said “this sucks” out-loud during computer class. The teacher heard him, took him out to the hallway, lectured him on using PROFANITY in her classroom, took him to the principal’s office for another lecture on profanity, and sent a note home for both Hubby and I to sign.

As with everything that goes on with our kids, we ask questions. I ask lots of questions–to get the entire story, as well as to see if the story changes. According to T, the comment was not directed at the teacher (she was standing in another part of the classroom) nor at the assignment.  His computer was very slow to boot up (or some other technical glitch was occurring), and he said at the computer “this sucks.”  I totally believed his story.

I signed the note for the teacher, but I also sent her an email.  I wrote:

 I do not consider “this sucks” to be profanity.  I used the phrase as a kid, I use it as an adult, Hubby uses the phrase….even my proper mother says “this sucks” when something displeases her.  Maybe it was inappropriate–T-man could definitely have used better word choices, such as ” this stinks”, “bummer,” “my computer isn’t working”….or better yet, not said anything at all. But I disagree that it was profanity.  As a matter of fact, T-man (during the tongue-lashing he received) didn’t know what the word “profanity” meant!  However, I do know that my boys do know “profane” or “swear” words–and they definitely do know better than to use any of them in front of adults.

The day that this transpired, I posted the question of “Do you consider “this sucks” to be profanity?” on FB.  It started a very informative, lively, and frank discussion. I received 22 comments from friends–and they ranged from a few “Yes, that is not allowed to be said in my house” to “At least he didn’t drop the F-bomb”  to “You should hear how High School kids talk” to “No, that is part of everyday language.”

Sadly, in today’s society, so many “swear” words are being used so non-chalantly. Have you watched TV lately? I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard the word “Bitch” on TV…..during daytime or primetime.  Also, someone told me that “this sucks” is a common term on iCarly  (just shows you how much I pay attention).  But I did catch a Tide commercial the other day—a parent of triplets were folding clothes. At the end of the commercial, the mom (obviously tired of doing laundry) says “this sucks.”

But now let’s talk about another use of the word “sucks.”  What prompted my neighbor to re-visit the discussion on the word today was that a boy in her daughter’s 4th grade class told her (J-the daughter) to “suck this.”  And recently, I heard one of my boys say “suck me” as well.  Do these kids even know what they are saying? IMO, this is profane use of the word “suck.”  Interesting how “this sucks” doesn’t bother me, but “suck this” or “suck me” does bother me.  How do I explain to my kids why one is OK and the other isn’t? Why can they say “I”m going to take a poo”, but it irks me when they say “I’m going to take a crap”?  M-man has actually caught on to my modified-F-word.  Instead of dropping the F-bomb, I say “fudge.” And now M-man does too. But of course, I know what his intent is (because I see him catching himself before he drops an F-bomb in front of his mom).

Language…..what interesting dilemmas it poses for us parents.

The Scream

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Image Detail

Do I feel better? No, not really. Life at Thomas Inc has been……..grossly overwhelming as of late. I have been a ball of tears, screaming at my kids, screaming at my Hubby, waiting for the next shoe to drop. Headaches, stomach aches, grinding teeth, heavy heart.  It’s been mainly caused by having to deal with  one of my son’s “transition” issues on returning back to school. His impulsiveness and lack of organization, as well as his lackadaisical attitude, all compound the issues.  All while dealing with it alone as Hubby is traveling for 2 weeks.

I’m not one who asks for help.  For whatever reason, my inner voice has always believed in “My problem, I solve it/deal with it.” It’s my kid, my issue. Just like when the twins were babies, and I was having trouble dealing with baby times two…it was my primary responsibility to care for them. Who else would understand? As a matter of fact, I am feeling so much like I did back then, that I might just call my doctor to see about getting some more happy pills so that I can somehow cope better.

I have spent the last 11 days analyzing “Where did I go wrong?” “What could I have done differently?” “Would have it mattered?”

The answers I came up with, was that I did everything to the best of my ability. Some things I cannot control or change. Nature probably beat out nurture on this one. I can only continue to love him, support him, and help him in any way that I can.

I have a great amount of new respect for those single parents out there.  Wow—Kudos to you for doing it on your own. This “solo-parenting for a short while” is not new to me. Hubby has traveled once a month for 9 years now. Granted, this is only the 3rd or 4th time he’s done a 2 week trip. But, man, I’ve never had to deal with the multitude of issues/feelings that I am dealing with now. It’s been a very long, depressing 2 weeks.

You all right, Mate? Doing Great, thanks!

Keeping busy….keeping busy.

A little over a week ago, the boys and I tagged along with Hubby to England. It was the boys’ first trip back since we moved home in 2008.  I was really surprised how little T&M remembered. During the short ride from Manchester Airport to our town, T&M would say over and over “I never saw this!”  I turned around and said “BUT YOU HAVE!! Instead, please say, ‘I don’t remember’.”

It was a short trip–about 5 days. During those days, Hubby was working, so the boys and I were “on our own.” We stayed with a lovely family who we didn’t know very well. But that has now changed. During our short stay, our host family has become one of our closest friends.  T’s best friend’s mom (or should I say “mum”?) was kind enough to host a party with our closest friends. EVERYBODY showed up–all my friends, their husbands, and all the children. I think there were about 40 people total.  It was an amazing, amazing party.  I bought 8 bottles of champagne to celebrate our friendships.

On Monday, T&M attended class in their former school. I was overcome by the warm welcome we received.  Although at the start T&M didn’t remember some of their classmates, they had a fabulous time.  We have a few more addresses, and will be sending more letters!

When we arrived in the UK, I sent a FB message “Hellooooooo UK Friends!!”  One responded “Welcome Home!”  It really amazed me how much like “home” it felt, and how seamless our transition back was.  It was hard to believe it had been 3 years. When seeing all those wonderful people again, it felt like it was 3 weeks.

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I am now the proud mum (yes, the Britishness hasn’t left) of a pair of 5th graders and a 1st grader.  The boys are done with school, and I am so proud of how well they did this past year!

The other morning, I watched from my bed as Little Guy was brushing his teeth, and had already dressed himself. All without me asking or reminding him. 

“Little Guy—come here and give your mommy a hug!” 

“Why, mommy?”

“Because I’m so proud of you for getting dressed and brushing your teeth all by yourself today!”

“MOMMMMMMM……I’m a FIRST GRADER now. Of course you don’t have to tell me.  But those 5th graders, you still have to tell them!”

I love that Little Guy!

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I’m baby-sitting 4 goldfish this week.  I haven’t done the best job remembering to feed them. Their feeding schedule is slightly off–both in time and quantity. One day I fed them WAY TOO MUCH. The next feeding, barely anything. I’m also not sure how much time I should be spending with them.  Do they prefer human companionship? Should I sing to them? Toss a ball into the tank? DO they care?

A Day with the Kids

Since I woke up this morning, I have been surrounded by kids.  Ok, you’re wondering “isn’t this normal for you?”.  Well, yes, as a matter of fact it is. However, today I was surrounded by more than just my own 3 kids.  And up until the last 5 minutes, it’s been a pretty fun day.

I was parent-helper in Little Guy’s Kindergarten class today.  It was the last time for the year.  Normally, K-teacher doesn’t have volunteers on Monday, but she forgot to X-out today on the volunteer calendar, and I filled in the spot, so there I was.  It was really fun because I got a chance to talk to the teachers a bit more than usual, as on Mondays the kids go to art and gym in the morning. I got to listen on K-teachers explanation of sea animals–the fish, the whales, sharks, rays, etc.  And I got to help 2 kids finish last week’s and today’s paperwork.

Straight from Kindergarten, I drove over to T&M’s school because I had volunteered to help out on Field Day.  I got there just as they were finishing up the morning portion, so I got to have “lunch” with T’s class and M’s class.  Fourth grade lunch is definitely an experience. One that, perhaps, I wouldn’t want to experience again.

After lunch, T’s class was scheduled to play Kickball. I was very excited when the class decided to play boys vs. girls. As the class was mostly boys, Miss L and I got to play on the girls’ team.  Miss L kicked first, and then the other girls took their turn, and I was the last one.  As I was waiting, I told Miss L how I hadn’t played kickball since 7th grade, and that I was always last one picked for team’s because I was a liability since my parents frowned upon girl’s athleticism.  I was SO excited when it was my turn.  I pictured myself bombing one into right field, having that feeling of vindication from being picked last all those years ago. 

The pitcher rolled the ball. It slowly approached home base. My adrenalin started pumping.  Here it comes, foot ready……kicked foul.  Well, OK.  First kickball kick in 25 years.  It’s ok if it went foul.  Here comes the 2nd ball.  Ready….ready…..kick….foul.

And I’m out.

What?!!

Clearly, I missed the parent-volunteer’s rules that 2 fouls constituted an out.  Shit.  There goes my glorious moment.

I stayed at field day for 2 more activities , “Cars” which was nothing more than a game of tag, and “Boulder Dam” where the “it” person has to avoid being hit by a giant boulder (bouncy ball) being pushed by all the other players in the direction of the “it” person.

I came home……exhausted.  Wiped out.  I wonder if I’ll be this tired when/if I get a “real” job?

And what has become the norm around here, all the neighborhood boys have convened at our house for after-school basketball, trampolining, rugby, soccer….whatever.  I’ve actually been enjoying the camaraderie that has developed amongst the kids. For the most part, there has been little or no trouble (pretty amazing, considering there are usually 6 boys here). Until today, when I heard my 6 year old shouting very improper language at one of the kids.  Because Little Guy didn’t know I was on the deck. I’m not a happy momma at the moment.  He knew they were bad words. He knew that when he said them. He just thought he could get away with it. And I knew this would be a problem with him hanging out (every day) with 10 and 11 year olds.  I just thought he knew better.

What to Read?

No, I’m not looking for personal book-club suggestions.  But I am looking for some sage words on how to deal with almost-10 year old reading selections.

Clearly, reading is important. We started reading to the boys the day they came home from the hospital.  As part of their nightly homework, T&M are required to read a minimum of 20 minutes per night. However, as they are getting older, and the books should be getting harder, I have them read 30 min (OK, it’s probably 20 minutes PLUS the 10 minutes of arguing “But the teacher said at least 20.”….Yup, AT LEAST being the KEY WORDS).  And of course, life happens and we forget some nights…or the weather is too nice and I feel it’s more important they play that day than read….or we have something else going on….or over the weekend they play too much DS or Wii….I will say they owe me an hour of reading.

M-man no longer complains “WHY DO I HAVE TO READ?!?!”  He has become pretty good at finding a genre of books that he enjoys–usually mystery books.  The books have become thicker over the course of the year, and I’m thinking the books are at a 5th or 6th grade level. And like his mommy, once he “gets into” a book….all he wants to do is read it (providing that something more important isn’t going on.)

T-Man….however…..here’s my issue…..

T is often seen with a book of some-sort on his lap. But it’s often a “picture book” or a book with LOTS of pictures. Sometimes it’s his LEGO Star Wars Encyclopedia, sometimes it’s the Science experiment book, sometimes it’s a book about WWII war planes. And I’m never quite sure if he’s actually reading the text or just looking and studying the pictures.  I am constantly on his case to “get a chapter book.” And he argues with me about this. I don’t know if he just doesn’t like fiction books, or the length of the books, or the content. Or what.  And when he does dig out a “Chapter Book,” it’s usually a Diary of the Wimpy Kid book or a Nate book…..both loaded with pictures, cartoon drawings or easy text.  Or something else that he read 1-2 years ago; something that he is familiar with.

On the other hand, I know that he very much  likes history/geography. Very often he brings home books from the school library on WWI, WWII, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, The Civil War, etc. Once, when we were at a bookstore, he asked me to buy him a book on the American Revolution.  At that moment, I had an “AHA” Moment where I realized….OK, he’s reading….not a “chapter” book….but a history book….it’s still READING (and learning).  But again, I’m not sure if he’s just studying the pictures or reading the text too (i.e. more than just the text describing the pictures). 

Yes, according to his teacher(s), he is reading at grade level. And he is one heck of a smart boy.   So I should probably leave him along and let T be T.

Praise the Boys

After yesterday’s rant, I’m moving forward and towards happier topics! I thought I’d write about how well the boys are doing academically.

 Because of his high MCAS scores, M was invited to participate in a special 4th grade book club at his school. What an honor!!  However, the issue is that I have to nag him to read at home….so I’m hoping he realizes how special this is and that he puts in the required effot (without me nagging!)

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I finally hired a tutor to help T with his spelling/phonics issues. She’s a 3rd grade teacher in a neighboring town. And just like his teacher this year, his tutor is young and full of energy and positive re-inforcement. I’m also happy to say that T has gone into tutoring with a positive attitude–not whining or fighting me on it.  He’s matured enough that he realizes he has a problem, and he’s ready to fix it. They’ve only had 2 meetings thus far, but I am already feeling very optimistic!

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Little Guy is well into his 3rd month of Kindergarten. And he’s starting to read! Amazing. It’s mainly sight-words and repetition of those sight words, but I have to say it is really cool when Little Guy can “read” several sentences–i.e., I see my coat, I see my dog, I see my cup.  And I worked with him a little this summer–and the words he learned were “Go, Up, To, And, Stop, No” and a few more. Yay Little Guy!

Bullying Follow-up

Thank you for your comments and private emails. They mean a lot.  I want to provide you with additional info and follow-up.

As part of my “investigation”, I did talk to the bus driver. In our town, some busses have video cameras.  As it so happens, our bus DOES, but according to the bus-driver, it hasn’t been working all year. (great, huh?) I asked the driver if she’s seen/heard anything going on between T and any one else. She pointed to KID’s house, and said yes, she thinks something is going on, but she didn’t know what exactly.  If there’s no violence, or a safety issue, she isn’t compelled to pull over and talk to the kids. Her job is to drive the kids to the school on the bus safely. She can report incidents to the school.  But in this case, because she didn’t have anything concrete, she didn’t.
Last Thursday, we talked to Hubby’s Bro who is a HS principal–to get a prinicipal’s perspective. He had lots of good advise, but I felt some of it was “overkill” since he deals w/ HS students, not elementary kids.  He advised NOT to go to the parents, but straight to the school. Anything that happens on the Bus is A SCHOOL ISSUE, not a “parent issue.” He also advised having T (and both boys) writing down a time-line of when and what was said, which we had them do the next morning (Friday).
 
On Friday afternoon, I spoke with the prinicipal, just asking about what the “procedure” is, and telling him about my investigation (he said I made his job much easier). I wasn’t ready to give names yet (partially because the family was out of town).  I told him about the written timeline, and he asked for a copy. I told him I would drop it off on Friday, when I p/u the boys (they take the bus in the am, but I pick them up after school).
On Monday,  I went to talk with the mom. She was very receptive to what I was saying. She acknowledged a change in her son’s behavior (specifically during their vaca last week), and mentioned his difficulty in dealing with freinds/other kids.  And she even said that maybe the talk with the prinicipal might get the message into his head.
 
On Monday, the principal talked to my 2 boys as well as KID.  He made it very clear that from this point forward ALL BULLYING/TEASING/ETC WAS TO STOP IMMEDIATELY. Period. He didn’t change bus seating assignments or take any further disciplinary action. But he made his point loud and clear.  
On Tuesday, Kid gave T a hand-written note, apologizing for his behavior, complimenting T on being a good athlete, and that Kid really wanted to be friends. The note was thoughtful and sincere. And I noticed some nice behavior at the bus stop both yesterday and today.  I also received an email from mom as a follow-up. She is taking the situation seriously as well.
So for now, everything is “better.” I still plan on keeping a watchful eye. But I can’t emphasize enough the importance of taking what your kids tell you seriously. Even if they don’t confide in you, but you see or sense something is off, TALK WITH THEM. Or even if you think your kid “isn’t involved”….they might be….or better, use it as a teaching opportunity. And ask questions—to your kids, and to those people who are around your kids–to get the full story. Simply, don’t be afraid to take action.