High School of Guns and Buns

Not surprisingly, the schools we are zoned for have terrible statistics. In short, they are probably the kind of institutions that churn out scrawny-pole-dancing-teen dad.

Mariachi quartets, solo guitar vocalists, A Capella Doo Wop groups, violinists, accordion players wheezing the theme song from The Godfather, these are just a few of the subway performers that bustle into crowded cars hoping to separate you from a dollar. Them – I can tolerate. It’s the candy peddlers, former drug-addicts and victims of abuse, religious pushers and especially, those horrible, pants-below-their-ass-idiot-pole dancers that really need to be shot.

Bothering people for money on a crowded train is one thing, but to ask riders to give up their seat or “move out of the way unless you gonna get kicked in the face,” is just Communist. So the last group of smelly teenagers who attempted this, I refused to move, to which the “leader”  – a scrawny 17-year-old with a wispy mustache that looked more like a mold growth replied, “Hey lady, I’m doing this to support my two-year-old kid.

I had to confirm that – did he just say he had a 2-year old kid? Yeah? With all the free education, information, housing, food and even condoms, this city gives to any moron who asks – we still have babies making babies?

If I were his mother, I’d slap him. If I were his baby mama’s mama, I’d crush his balls.

That experience was all I needed to start reviewing that big, fat High School Directory my son came home with at the end of 7th grade.

In the past four months, I’ve attended two workshops for parents, to fill out the application. Yes, you read that right, two workshops to fill this shit out. The day before school started, my son had to submit reviews for twenty – as in 5 x 4, or two entrees as Applebee’s – I kid you not – 20 high schools.

We got 14 – and even then, three of them are unrealistic for the commute.

The review asks us to judge the school according to safety (how many students in the school survey felt the school was safe), location, attendance and graduation percentage. Not surprisingly, the schools we are zoned for have terrible statistics. In short, they are probably the kind of institutions that churn out scrawny-pole-dancing-teen dad.

At one of the parent workshops, the speaker felt compelled to explain why the high school application process was like chasing a white rabbit. Apparently, New York, with over 400 high schools, 700 programs, processing about 80,000 applicants a year, has less than a 75% graduation rate. That’s why there’s only one Alice.

The high school programs, no doubt, are designed to wrestle the budding talent out of our kids, nurture it, hone it and hope that’ll keep them engaged to the end. The problem is kids like my son haven’t the faintest idea what a job is, much less their “calling.” When we were listing interesting school activities, he chose International Thespian Club, thinking it had something to do with Medieval times or dwarves for some reason. He crossed it off when he found out that thespians were actors, which he decided is not a career option, but being a lawyer is. If you ask me, they’re the same talent, different stage.

In any case, I told him it’s important to find something he likes to do and pursue it, because otherwise, life will suck. Sometimes, people know their purpose in life – like the dude who took his row boat to Texas to help the hurricane victims. He said, “I always knew it was my purpose in life to help people,” and thought, good for him – he found the purpose of having a row boat and included himself, too.

A high sense of purpose is what makes Alaska the happiest state, according to Weather.com. The saddest state is, get this, Hawaii. Yeah, you’d think, right?

I wondered what sense of purpose could possibly be that high, so I looked up which states had the highest rates of volunteers. Utah ranked the highest for volunteers between the ages of 18 and old folks, while Louisiana ranked the lowest. I was surprised to find that they ranked the opposite for unemployment because if you’re unemployed you kind of have time to volunteer but then I thought, duh, maybe they’re unemployed because they just don’t want to work.

That would be my son. He would do the research for an excuse not to do the work instead of doing the research to get work done. He would argue his case for an hour about not doing a job rather than spend 20 minutes just doing it. Technically, he’s working but it’s just like, the opposite. The undo key, if you will.

Which raised the question, why did we decide to have kids? I mean, is it really up to the parents whether our children become either an asset or a menace to society? Perhaps I’m taking this thing too seriously, but it is high school, and really – when can you not take education too seriously. Seriously.

At times, I can only hope that his luck will see him through – that Italian luck he seems to have inherited from his dad. Whether or not he gets into a high school of his choice is how much effort he puts into his auditions and interviews, because our zoned schools have unintentional programs in concealed weapons and how-to-get-away-with-zero-accountability. In the end, I’ll be happy so long as it’s not a school with more metal detectors than an airport and pregnant classmates in homeroom.

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To Medicate, or Not To Medicate: The Disorder of Corrupt Babies

Other articles addressing the rise in ADHD blame societal pressure: placing high demands on children. I tend to agree with that one. Did you know that Mayor DiBlasio of Halloween Town is planning Universal 3-K?

That’s right, full day school for fucking 3-year-olds, oh yeah, that sounds like a great idea.

Is it me, or are Demon children popping up everywhere?

The other day, I heard some sevenish-year-old girl say, “Mom! I told you to pack me the green swimsuit, NOT the pink one. You completely ruined my day!”

I was hoping to hear the mom retort with, “Don’t you talk to me like that, you little brat,” but no, she smiled lovingly and…apologized.

A-POLLO-gized!

I just wanted to slap her. The mother, the daughter – take your pick. But sadly, that wasn’t the first time I witnessed a Class A brat and their asshole-behavior-empowering-mother.  Another kid-asshole I witnessed was on the downtown subway. There was this 10-12 year-old kid yelling at his mother for looking over his shoulder while he was playing some video game on his iPhone. When they got to their stop, the mom told him to put away the phone and get up, to which he replied, “Shut up. Don’t tell me what to do.”

After they left, I joined all other riders, shaking my head and telepathically read their thoughts which said, bitch, smack that kid!

What, is there some special school for budding jerk-offs and princess-zillas that I don’t know about? These kids would take the honor roll in the subject of disrespect – they make Veruca Salt look like just a tough-gummy-bear. It’s disturbing.

Then, at the last visit to the neurologist (she renews my son’s Ritalin prescription – more on that later), I watched two grown women chasing around this one-year-old baby girl. It occurred to me that the baby was there to see the neurologist.

The baby.

Somebody must’ve convinced the mom that the baby has a disorder because it was fairly obvious that the baby literally hit the ground running. If she wore a pedometer, I bet the baby would average one million steps a day. The mother in tow – eight-hundred-thousand steps – easily.

Instead of teaching her to redirect her hyperactivity with a toy, a book or a security blanket they let her waddle from office to office while one, sometimes both of the women shuffled an arms length behind her.

The baby climbed on chairs next to strangers, walked into rooms and tested closed doors with no adult intervention. She even barged in the doctor’s office during the doctor’s consultation with another patient and all the mother did was spin the baby around to exit. She didn’t reprimand the child nor did she apologize to the doctor and the patient – she just smiled as if they walked into some television sitcom, waiting for the canned laughter.

So, this is where it begins, folks. These parents catering to their kids – their babies even, instead of disciplining them. As tempting as it would be to lump them into a group like say, Millennial parents, or victims of over-diagnosis, or digital dependency, the single answer is more likely “all of the above,” which makes them harder to kill.

No, I kid – of course we don’t want to kill them. We don’t.

The Millennial parents and the victims of over-diagnosis could be coincidental but I think it’s obvious they go hand in hand. In my day, only rich people could afford psychiatric counseling, everybody else just got high and neither were covered by health insurance. But Millennials grew into puberty just in time for peddlers of anti-anxiety drugs. It seems only natural that as parents, they’d seek a medication for a disorder of their kid just being a kid.

In The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson goes into the rise in cases of ADHD and Autism as a result of DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Basically, DSM-5 is a book containing checklists for all known mental disorders. I know, sounds tempting, right?

So in The Psychopath Test, the DSM editor reveals that these parents usurp their parenting skills by attaching a label like ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) rather than admitting that their kid is a stubborn pain in the ass. All I know is that if there is a foolproof medication for ODD, I’d try to get some for my husband.

Other articles addressing the rise in ADHD blame societal pressure: placing high demands on children. I tend to agree with that one. Did you know that Mayor DiBlasio of Halloween Town is planning Universal 3-K?

That’s right, full day school for fucking 3-year-olds, oh yeah, that sounds like a great idea.

If I was a day care worker at 3-K, I’d be gnashing my teeth to be politically correct. “Your baby may not be an angel but he’s certainly corrupt! That’s the kind of full day we had, mom.”

I thought it was outrageous that Kindergarten parents were expecting their child to write three pages of content for homework. Now they’ll be expecting baby sister to finger paint Cubism. Well, okay maybe Surrealism but trust me, they will be maneuvering her into “gifted” classes when the kid is still shitting herself.

In another article, parenting policies were compared between the U.S. and France. Apparently, France doesn’t believe in Kid’s Menus. Children eat what adults eat because it’s probably balanced and proportionate. In other words, it’s not a quarter pound of fatty ground beef for dad and chicken nuggets with french fries for junior. Don’t like chicken? How about pizza and Cheez Doodles. And we wonder why they’re cranky. You know, Bloomberg had a lot of stupid ideas, but his attempt to ban large containers of sugary drinks actually made sense to me.

If anything should be banned, it should be those limousine-strollers on mass transit. And while we’re at it, how about a children’s fare, Mr. Mayor? To Hell with your 3-K, looking out for the working-class family, my ass.

I digress. After all this ranting, I promised to explain my son’s ADD label and clear the hypocrisy. Honestly, I don’t believe he has ADD – I think he hates math and he prefers siestas after lunch instead of crunching numbers. Who wouldn’t? However, teachers get evaluated and caffeine may stunt his growth, so that was my answer for “to medicate, or not to medicate…” – wait, what was the question?

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Roots, Radicals, Reese’s Pieces

As a full time mom, I get to chaperone a lot of the school field trips for my boys’ class. I get a kick out of them. While getting to know my son’s classmates and teachers is a huge perk, the real bonus is in watching them act like monkeys who escaped from the zoo.

Recently, we went to the Queens County farm, where they took a “Colonial Kitchen” workshop in a farmhouse. During the presentation, these 4th graders learned about life in the Colonial days – how children did chores all day, ate after all the adults were finished, married early, caught on fire easily and hardly had sugar.

No sugar?!

Kids and their priorities. They were put to work during the workshop, cutting the farm’s fresh vegetables, making cornbread with molasses (remember, no sugar), churning butter from cream. When it was all done, only two kids actually finished their cups of soup – the rest preferred to finish off their 30 oz bottle of Gatorade and barbecue flavored chips.

You only live once, I suppose. Fresh food isn’t a novelty to them when we have three supermarkets in a five block radius who all sell organic produce.

Damned kids – I thought the soup was delicious and had two helpings – screw them. Then again, it was a mere five degrees outside and the class voted to go see the frozen cow while the soup cooked. Dumb cow.

In the end, what I learned was – I could never work on a farm. But somebody has to. Somebody has to know how to grow potatoes. I mean out of the 28 kids in the class, only one knew that flint rock and steel was a way to start a fire. And he wasn’t even a scout.

It’s sad when you think about it, how little city folk know about surviving and how even less they can pass on to their kids. I could teach my kids how to get anywhere by subway but outdoors, I couldn’t guide them to the North Star unless there was a huge white arrow pointed to it. But at least I know it’s crucial to find it if you’re lost.

These kids? Well, the instructor asked the students what sweeter they thought replaced sugar in Colonial days, as a hint she said it starts with an M and rhymes with glasses. All the kids searched the furthest corner of their 4’x5′ brain and one kid stuck up his arm like he was having a stroke.

“Peanut butter!”

I clawed at my face and thought, we’re all gonna die.

See - Men do belong in the kitchen
See – Men do belong in the kitchen

 

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Sibling Priority

Zuki did it. He got his little brother into his school. A big thank you goes to our Parent Coordinator, who among other miracles, made this dream a reality. After two years of looking for a way in, sibling priority overruled zoning – now both my boys are in the same school.

I admit, the past two years and three weeks were great for the little guy in the other school. He made really good friends, learned from excellent teachers and a developed a keen system of singling out the nicer lunch ladies. But there’s nothing like having siblings in the same school. If I had to describe how full my heart felt, seeing my two guys entering the schoolyard together, I’d say it was like an MSG heart attack. Damn you, House Special soup!

Three days in and Samu was already ecstatic that he had music class. With a real music teacher – who also taught Zuki. So I asked Samu if the teacher knew he was Zuki’s little brother.

Samu said, “Yeah, he knows – he said, Zuki is a nice boy.”

And I sighed because any time a teacher had my younger sister after they taught me, they’d say something like, “Better not do what your big sister done.”

Samu studied my smiling face and said, “You know what I told him? I said, No he’s not! Ha, ha, ha, haaaaa!”

As I watched Samu’s scrawny legs take off, still laughing with that toothless gap of a mouth wide open and succumbing to his nervous tick of punching himself in the stomach, I thought how much Zuki is going to love bumping into his wretched little brother in the hallways. Just love it, yeah.

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Driving Instructor

It’s hard to believe my baby is in the fourth grade. He had a very tumultuous two years, not just with school but with family as well and despite all that – he passed. He’s grown up in ways I didn’t think possible – strengths that only ordeals can shape. In that sense, you have to appreciate people who try to fuck your shit up and force you to prove that you don’t go down that easy.

For the first time since these boys started school, I was the nervous wreck on the first day – Zuki was ready. His group of buddies were standing in the line that was his class and he couldn’t be happier. When I took my fiftieth picture of him standing in line, he was thoroughly annoyed.

Z in yard
Stop with the pictures, Mom!

At the end of the week, he successfully brought home his homework assignments, the appropriate notebooks, pencil case and yes, his head too. A full week of school and no lost items. A far cry from the days he came home in his undershirt because he left his shirt “somewhere” in school.

From the boy who had no interest in doing anything but watch a movie, now he wants me to sign him up for the school orchestra and chorus in addition to the Hip Hop and Ballet classes he’s already got.

“Any other lessons you want to take this year?” I chided.

A light flickered in his eyes and he folded his hands as in prayer to plead his request, “Pleeeeease – can you teach me to how to drive?”

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