Escuela, Parenting

School days

A few weeks ago we were watching Abbot Elementary. My older son loves the show. Some of the teachers remind them of the adults in his life either at school or his after-school program. Some are just silly. The episode was Fundraiser. In it, the kids sell chocolates to raise money to go to the Franklin Institute.

While watching, I realized that I have children in fourth and first grade and the concept of fundraising may be foreign to them. I’ve never taken a box of chocolates or a catalog of overpriced items to sell at work or share with friends and family. I remember SO. MANY. FUNDRAISERS. as a kid. Some were associated with Girl Scouts or our baseball teams, but mostly they were for school. They probably went to fund the extracurriculars like museum trips. I know we didn’t have great funding because I can recall at least once when our teachers picketed.

The kids have participated in fundraising events. They’ve helped out at bake sales and gladly bought items. The school has events like a winter fair or summer end of the year festival that doubles as a fundraiser for a fifth grade trip. We try to make those since it’s a fun thing to do and I like seeing them interact with their classmates since it’s rare.

But the kind of fundraising they did on Abbot Elementary? Nope.

Empty brick school on a sunny day. The blacktop play area is painted with blue and yellow for four square games. In the background are palm trees and low mountains.
This used to be my playground… really.

This brought to mind other things about their schools that are very different than my own experience:

  • Specials – I didn’t know about specials until I had friends with kids starting schools. They have dedicated music, art, and PE teachers. I remember doing all of these as a kid, but in elementary school I only had one teacher.
  • Orchestra – starting in third grade, children can sign up to learn a string instrument. In my experience, we could sign up for a wind instrument in third (maybe fourth?) grade for the concert band.
  • No letter grades – The kids get numbers that correspond to their progress, e.g., “4 = meets or exceeds grade level expectations”. I’m pretty sure I had letter grades and also had citizenship marks like O for outstanding, S for satisfactory and N for needs improvement.
  • Limited homework – now that X is in fourth grade, he has some math and reading assignments each day. Prior to this, he rarely brought home assignments. I can’t remember how much homework I had.
  • Enrichment activities – the school PTA offers after-school enrichment classes in things like learning about bugs or gaming club. There’s a cost, but the PTA subsides this activity. I don’t remember anything like this when I was a kid.
  • Bus – The kids have been riding the bus since pre-k. I lived a block away and never rode the bus to/from school. Even for the kids who lived further away, I’m not sure my district offered buses to our school and for middle and high school, I got a ride from my mom or another parent who was part of our carpool.
  • Class sizes – I remember having 30+ students in my classes. I don’t know how small my K-3 grade classes were, but the kids’ class sizes have always been under 20 students.
  • Water bottles – Each fall we get a list of things the students should be taking to school daily. The water bottle is always a part of this.

I’m not even getting into technology, dressing for the cold weather, COVID protocols, and lockdown drills because all of that seems obvious and a sign of the times.

Parenting, Sentimientos

It’s Not A Competition

One of the things I frequently do to speed up the kids is make a simple task into a game.

Who can put away their things from school the fastest? Who can get all their winter gear on first? Who will be the first to get ready for bed?

Sometimes it works and other times someone gets distracted and leaves a backpack strewn on the floor, como salero, as my mom would say.

And still other times the kids object and remind me, “It’s not a competition!”

That little phrase comes to mind frequently. On the playground or school hallways it makes sense. Teachers don’t want kids tripping over themselves or fighting.

To me it’s a good reminder that I’m on my own path. So are my kids. It’s okay if my comadre’s daughter is reading well beyond grade level and my child is still learning sight words. It’s okay if my younger brother bought a home before I did. And it’s okay if a good friend gets a well-deserved promotion. Their success and talents have nothing to do with my own efforts.

Still, saying “it’s not a competition” – and believing it – hasn’t come easy. In graduate school I struggled with this. I always said my congratulations when a friend achieved an important milestone, but I didn’t feel very congratulatory. At the same time they were ticking off their goals I was struggling with motivation. I was unsure if it was the right path for me. As I saw their announcements it felt like others were finishing the race and leaving me behind.

Then I started running. I came to understand races differently. Of course there was a winner, but most of the people in the race had different goals. We wanted to finish, PR, negative split, avoid injury, take fun race photos, or just enjoy the process.

These days I still struggle with feeling like I’m behind. I talk about it with my therapist and we work on it by focusing on my strengths, accomplishments, and resources. I also remind myself that I have amazing family and friends who will support me when and if I want to work on a goal.

It’s not a competition, but that doesn’t mean I’m not moving forward and meeting my own goals on my own time.


If You’re Bored, You Can Clean

As the kids get older, I find myself sounding more and more like my parents. Thing I have said or wanted to say:

If you’re bored, you can clean.
I learned quickly as a kid that if I said I was bored, one of my parents would respond with “hay está la escoba, ponte a barrer”. It used to frustrate me, but now I get it. I didn’t have nearly the same amount of toys, books and other entertainment options as my kids — so many streaming options! But still, it must’ve been frustrating for my tired parents to hear that after they’d been working all day int he home and outside the home.

Church is only about an hour a week.
Before the pandemic, we went to Mass most weeks. That stopped two years ago with the pandemic when everything moved online. With Lent beginning a few weeks ago, I wanted to incorporate that into our family routine once again. The kids have a lot of complaints. I find myself using the same approach my mom did when I was a kid by rationalizing that we spent about an hour in church out of a whole week.

No one is in here, why is the light on?
This bugs me and I’m constantly turning off lights around our home. I can hear my dad’s voice. I’m also the one who opens all the blinds and curtains to allow the most natural light. I’m like my mom in that way.

Either comb your hair or you’ll have to cut it.
This is the phrase that inspired this post. I overheard Archie whining as Sean detangled his hair and added leave-in conditioner. He’s never had a haircut and also prefers for it to be loose, which means lots of tangles and occasional surprises (see: coming home with a nasty bur trapped in his hair). That would be okay if he didn’t complain about washing, detangling, etc. When I was 6 or 7 my mom made me get a haircut because I no longer wanted her to put it into braids or pigtails.

Felt like my mom once again right now when I just told one of the kids, “if I go and look and find your Batman, then I’m keeping it!”

— cindy mosqueda (@cindylu) December 23, 2021

If I go in there and find ___________, then I’m keeping it.
I’ve heard from friends with teens that the constantly losing things and not being able to find them phase continues well after early childhood years.

I guess we have a ghost.
There are times when I notice something like a scribble on the wall. I’ll ask both kids but neither one will ‘fess up to it. They stay silent and shake their heads just like my own parents used to do when something similar happened. Many years later, I still don’t think any one ever admitted to breaking a glass figurine on my mom’s dresser.

You think I like spending Saturday morning cleaning?
Sometimes the kids grumble when it’s to clean up.

Sana, sana, colita de rana, si no sana hoy, sanará mañana.
I still use this gem with the kids and offer arnica for bruises and bumps. I also use my mom’s “cure” for hiccups.

Te calmas o te calmo.
I have wanted to say this so many times, but usually stop myself. For me, it implies using some kind of corporal punishment and we decided to use other methods of discipline. Plus, neither kid is bilingual so it wouldn’t mean anything to them.

Hay comida en la casa.
Okay, I say this more to myself or Sean than the kids.