I’m a bad mom, but I’m getting better at accepting it

What is a “good” mom, anyway?

I don’t have a lot of confidence in anything I do, but one thing I have known for a long time is that I’m a good mom. Tangibles and intangibles, my kids know they are safe and loved.

It’s my fear of everyone else out there.

After I had Kathleen I had my first major depressive episode in the form of post-partum depression. My brain betrayed me in ways that were horribly cruel and vicious. And while a chemical imbalance had a lot to do with it, there were some other bitches that kept the monster fed. And yes, I say bitches because they were all women.

The mother judging starts before you even leave the hospital. My daughter’s birth was traumatic in every sense of the word. We were in and out of the OR twice as her heart rate dropped and stabilized. She needed the NICU right after and they had so much trouble finding my blood pressure that at one point a nurse asked, “Are you still with us?” and I thought I was going to die. Good times.

That night, I was exhausted, Bill was exhausted, everyone was exhausted. And I planned to have my baby sleep in the nursery so I could catch up a bit. When I asked, the nurse said, “Really? Most new moms want their babies to stay in the room with them.”

Fuck. I was screwing it up already.

The next day, a nurse was going to show me how to breast feed. She fondly came to be known as the Breast Nazi as she pushed and pulled and squeezed. When I dared to ask, “What should I do with this arm?” her response was, “YOU aren’t going to do anything.” 

Welcome to motherhood.

So, even though I am confident that I am nurturing good human beings, I have still always been afraid of what others think. I don’t volunteer at the school. I don’t bring in treats for the teachers during teacher appreciation week. I don’t coach my kids’ teams or make snow angels with them and cut their sandwiches into cute little Pinterest-worthy shapes.

But I’m slowly saying fuck it more and more.

Moms– you know what I’m getting at here. There are moms who I admire immensely for having the time and skill to knit elf hats for the entire class for the school play and look like they just stepped out from a photo shoot to arrive in time for pick up after school. 

But there are other moms like me who forget my kid is supposed to wear red for the school play and have shown up so late for pick up that I have to do the walk of shame into the office and prove my identity to drive my own child home. Seriously, I was met by no fewer than five adults all waiting for the negligent parent. Posing for the mug shot was the worst.

And both kinds of moms and all in between have their own shit going on and their own ideas and their own parenting styles and I’m friends with moms of all types.

So why all the fucking judging? 

Some of it is perceived, by all means, but most of that shit is real. We get judged if we let a kid thrash on the floor in a tantrum. We get judged if we don’t have a kid potty trained by two years old. We get judged if we give our kid a $10 and say, “Cranberry and vodka on the rocks, and let the bartender keep the change.”

But I finally had a moment today where I said FUCK THIS SHIT. It was minutes before we were to leave for my son’s birthday party and all of a sudden I remembered:

I had forgotten to get goodie bags for the kids.

I went into a full tailspin. I uttered, “Oh SHIT!” Loud enough for all to hear. Everyone asked, what? and I couldn’t even respond. My husband came over and I whispered my crime to him in horror. How could I forget? What would happen? Would my son be disappointed? And the moms, what about the moms??? Was my boy going to be doomed never to receive another invitation to a party because his mom was an ungrateful bitch?

I almost lost it and cuddled the dog and retreated to a happy place.

I confessed my sin and Derek was fine with it. And the party went really well. 

At one point I even admitted, embarrassed, to a couple of moms that I had forgotten all about goodie bags. This, of course, was to feel them out and see if I would be ostracized. They could not have been nicer about it and not one kid asked where they were when the party was over.

And I didn’t feel badly about myself anymore. 

Derek had a blast. His friends had a blast. I had a headache.

On the way home, Derek said, “Thank you for my party, Mama,” and that sealed it.

I was a good mom.

Dear Reader, I’m Coming Back One Meijer Trip at a Time

Thank you all so much for your comments, texts and likes of support. It takes a village to raise an emotionally healthy 43 year old. Apparently.

Anywho… You all know how much I detest grocery shopping. Since Meijer started using Shipt (they are AWESOME) my life had been considerably better. 

Minus the whole strangers texting me and asking if store brand strawberry preserves is an ok replacement for Smuckers (it’s not) and then coming to the house where I have to engage in conversation while I awkwardly tip her (always a her so far) for doing something I really should be doing and then I feel like a real housewife of Livonia, like I’m too busy with my fashion design business to do something menial like shop for groceries. 

So yeah, I actually feel guilty, but the convenience is worth it, but I usually make Bill answer the door while I hide inside.

But of course, there are those trips that you HAVE to make yourself because you need specific things to make pies and birthday cake and whatever else the weekend before Thanksgiving. Apparently, the Meijer management forgot what weekend it was, so even though I got there at 8:30am the store was flooded with people grabbing breakfast food for family flying in and debating which jarred gravy to buy. It was cool though. Until I went to check out.

LINES. Lines, lines, everywhere lines. Snaking through the aisles and breaking my mind (song credit: Tesla).

But seriously. I got in line so far back I was in the women’s department.

So I seethed for a bit wondering if I would still have “ice” cream, but then realized there was nothing I could do, so why not enjoy it? I found Meijer’s Facebook page and started messaging. Screen shots were taken after.

I got a super nice form message back, so I figured someone was listening. 

The end was finally coming! 

So, there’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks for caring.

Dear Reader… From Mental Illness

I really must apologize for Andrea’s behavior lately. She has snapped at colleagues, been irritable at home, has forgotten simple things to the point of frustration, and still doesn’t have the essays graded that were turned in a week ago. She’s working on it, but it’s going to be a while. 

I’m also sorry that she couldn’t attend dinner with her close friends from college tonight.

See, I have been taking up a lot of space lately. Sometime she almost forgets about me, I get jealous, and so I have to make myself noticed.

What I do is when I can tell she is vulnerable, I point out worries and then I enlarge them. By like 1000 times. So when people posted a lot of negativity on social media, I told her that human nature was really evil. I told her that people really do hate others and think and believe vile things. This made her question all of humanity and the basic principles she has always believed in. 

Then there were some news headlines that caught her attention. A dad in prison for beating his baby to death. A woman who killed her boyfriend’s son because she was mad at his dad. So again I took these stories and ran with them. I made her wonder how many kids in her classroom are abused? How many things are unreported? And then I made her dwell on every negative story she has ever heard involving children.

See, when I make her think about these things, it’s easy to spend more time with her. Because then she thinks about whether she’s doing her job well enough. Sometimes she has nightmares about not being competent at work, or getting nowhere with things she knows will help kids. I just get some popcorn and watch. If I’m lucky, she’ll wake up in a sweat and we can hang out for hours.

And my company exhausts her. She thinks and thinks and it takes a huge amount of energy. She took three naps over the weekend. One about two hours after she got up. She just couldn’t do anything. It also hurts her physically. Her back, head and joints just ache. Her legs feel heavy. This makes her feel like a lazy lump of fat. 

So when she’s asked to go out to dinner on a Friday night with friends she loves and love her, all she can think about is how much energy it will cost. Getting dressed. Leaving the house. Driving. Paying attention. Being in the middle of a noisy restaurant. Being pleasant and funny. 

And it’s overwhelming. 

I like having her all to myself anyway. She’ll sit in her chair listening to the kids’ watch TV and play phone games and watch the clock until it’s an acceptable time to go to bed. She’ll climb under the covers thinking about all the things she should have done while waiting to sleep. She’ll berate herself for not having the energy or motivation to cross anything off her list. 

And she’ll question. 

She’ll wonder– does she need more medication? Does she need therapy? How would she even do therapy when she can barely get out of bed for work? Does she need more rest? Less? Yoga? Comfort foods? See, she doesn’t like me, but she knows I’m always a part of her. She tries to hide from me, and pretend I don’t exist anymore, but she knows I’ll always come back. 

So I’m sorry that she’s been bitchy/ out of it/ absent/ incoherent/ non-communicative and just negative and blue. She really can’t help it. And I’m not sure how long it will last either. I may take a break but then decide I want more one on one time.

In fact, I had to write this post for her because she’s feeling so introverty and non-peopley (her words, not mine). You’ll get her back though. At some point. It’s just hard to say when.

Look Away From Vile Comments and Look at This

When I would be up all night afraid of my brain and all the scenarios it would throw at me, I always had a go-to image to try and derail the train of thought. 

It was a simple kid’s picture of a tree.

Sun in the corner, blue clouds, brown trunk, puffy green blob. Under the tree a few blades of grass sticking up and flowers with two leaves at the bottom, four petals and a circular center.

Sometimes the image wouldn’t work and I’d still be doomed for the night. But many times it was just enough to distract me from the horrible images of anxiety. Why?

I think it’s the innocence and simplicity represented. It’s completely unrealistic, yet so optimistic. The sun shines. The sky is blue. The tree and flowers thrive. No litter, no dialogue, no unpleasantness.

Unless someone’s a bastard and tells her otherwise, the picture is perfect in the eyes of the artist. The hands that crafted it haven’t become friends with pain and sorrow. The brain that envisioned it hasn’t been indoctrinated in hatred and intolerance. The soul that feels it hasn’t been tainted with spitefulness and narcissism. 

She draws with care and love. 

She draws for joy and peace.

Four things that we could all use, not just right now, but all the time. 

So if you’re stressed, anxious, numb, or overwhelmed and just need it to stop, maybe this will help:

Or this:

Or this:

Or if you’re like me, this:

Take care of yourself and each other. We’re all we’ve got.

Daylight Savings Can Go Fuck Itself

6:15 on November 5:

6:15 on November 6:

Fuck me and my mental health.

As any American, I want to know who is to blame for my woes. Erroneously, I thought it was Ben Franklin who first thought of this yearly torture. But no, the first to have this idea was William Willett, a Brit. He was never taken seriously, though, and died without seeing his dream become reality. Nope, it was WWI where the time change started first in Germany, then Great Britain, then the US. 

So we fight against the Germans, but adopt their shitty time schedule? WTF?

And, no, the shift wasn’t for the benefit of farmers either (another lie). They actually protested it.
I get the idea of extra daylight in the evening. I love that I can go for a run or work outside after dinner. But why take it away as winter begins to cast its ugly shadow? Is someone trying to make me depressed? There’s even a special name for this depression– SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

And yeah, it’s lighter in the morning. So the fuck what? Blinding me while driving east. Then mocking me through my classroom windows. Thanks.

But is it really lighter in the morning????? This is Michigan where the clouds descend and stick around for 7 months. With rain. And sleet. And freezing rain. And snow. And 40 mph winds. So it’s often dark when I get to work and dark enough for street lights to come on at 3 in the afternoon.

And this isn’t just some crazy-mentally-ill-irrational-by-a-woman-hitting-menopause-argument. Two articles came out in the last few days PROVING that there is a direct correlation between turning the clocks back and new diagnoses of depression. (See link Here).

It doesn’t matter that I know it’s coming. I can prepare for it and try and do things that might make it more tolerable. I go to yoga at least once a week. I make sure never to skip a massage appointment. I get outside every opportunity I can while the sun is out. 

Yet that darkness is always lurking.

The urge to sleep all the time. The irritability of dragging myself through day after day. The impatience of dealing with happy, cheerful people singing Christmas carols from October through February. The hopelessness that the sun will never appear again and the temperatures will never rise above freezing. The hatred towards people who talk about global warming when my car doesn’t warm up after 30 minutes. The self-loathing from not being active, positive, and normal.

Some people use this time of year to count down to Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s. And they are blissful and grateful and full of joy. I’m jealous.

My countdown is always to December 21– the winter solstice. If I can make it to that day, then each day after brings longer daylight and the hope of hanging on until spring. 

Until then, I just have to work at keeping the demons at bay. 

May your sun always rise.

Shhhh… Teacher Secrets

The celebration you had in September because your kids were finally going back to school has lost its luster. The honeymoon period is over. Now your kid’s teacher isn’t looked at as a savior for making your kid wake before noon and give the Xbox a rest. We have now moved into Blame the Teacher season. 

It’s kind of ok. I hate all the paperwork that comes home and making lunches and keeping up with due dates too. 

But before you send that nasty email or make that call to the office, there are a few things you should know. 

1. We take your kids’ stories home with us, and carry them heavy in our hearts. Sometimes we are up all night with worry and burden our spouses with them.

2.  We are always wondering how it is in the “real” world. With expense accounts. Flexible schedules. Time to chat with co-workers about last night’s game. There are days when the only adult interaction we have is co-cursing at the copy machine and trading quick greetings in the hallway.

3. We understand that our interaction with your kid may be the most positive thing in their day.

4. We might say we don’t, but we really are judging you and your parenting. Most of you do an awesome job. A few of you suck at it. Like “Here’s a free hysterectomy/ vasectomy card– use it” suck.

5. We also hate testing. It kills educational curiosity, classroom community, and intrinsic motivation. 

6. We gobble food like Ethiopian orphans because we are used to lunches in 20 minutes or less.

7. Our bladders have to get re-skinned every year from the strain of holding it for hours. 

8. We consider coffee and alcohol essential food groups. Looking for a gift idea? Last year I gave my son’s teacher a bottle of wine. Much more appreciated (and used) than a teacher mug/ ornament/desk plate/ apron… you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ll take anything. No one brings stuff for high school teachers.

9. We get that you attack us in order to mask your disappointment in your kid or yourself, but it still hurts. A lot. And deeply. And even when we know we’re right, it makes us question everything.

10. Around mid-year and at the end of the year, we adopt a dark, ER/ combat zone sense of humor. It’s possible that we have discussed which kid we would offer as tribute. It’s also possible that the plot of Thunderdome has entered conversation. 

11. We have all fantasized about taking a kid home with us because we know how much that kid would benefit from experiencing a normal home life.

12. We may not remember every single name or face, but it doesn’t mean we’ve completely forgotten. We’re just old. 

13. When we hear, “At least you get summers off,” we may chuckle, but on the inside we are gouging your eyes out with an oyster fork. 

14. We get that there are some really bad teachers out there. Make no mistake, we hate them too. Most are awesome. Some really suck at it. Like “Your license should be revoked and you should never work with children again” suck.

15. We are advocates for children first, educators second. 

We’re just human, really. We have flaws. Good days and bad. Personal lives that are often as messy as yours or worse. We will sometimes say things we regret, just as you do. We will reflect on a strategy and make changes, just as you do. 

And we care about your child, just as you do.

Why I Can’t Drink Out of This Mug And Other Neuroses

This is a super cute mug that was given to me by a dear friend for watching her two fur babies for a week. It’s adorable. It’s clever. But I can’t drink out of it. 

I have been living with myself as long as I can remember, and at the ripe old age of 43 I have realized that no matter how much therapy, self-talk and medication, there are just some things I won’t be able to change about how I think. 

For example, Bill has horrible restless legs and is a night owl, so I always head up to bed at a non-respectable 8:30 while he retreats the the basement and his man cave. Sometimes, he falls asleep on the couch and is still there when I get up for work. 

However, instead of leaving him be, I put on my CSI hat and stealthily check to see if he’s still breathing. If I can’t hear anything, I don’t give my proof of life quest. I put a hand to his forehead to make sure he’s still warm. 

Because, yes, in my head I completely believe that he might expire during the night while watching a Ken Burns documentary. And every time, I walk through my plan in case he isn’t warm. Call the police, arrange him so he looks all right, call my parents and gently wake the kids. This seems completely natural to me. 

But my day to day anxieties don’t end there. If I hear a noise in the middle of the night, I will listen intently while, again, plotting my plan in case there is ever someone in the house. 

But it’s not good enough to have one plan. There’s a plan if an intruder is coming up the stairs, in the kitchen or in the basement. 

Sorry, Bill. You’re on your own there. I’ll tell the kids you were brave. 

I used to hide these pieces of myself, afraid they would scare people away. They make no sense, and I get that most people don’t think this way. Even typing this, I hear voices saying, “You have kids, a dog and two cats. When would the house be quiet?” 

I used to hide all of this from Bill too. I mean, what would he think? But maybe it’s because we’ve been married so long, or maybe I’m just tired of hiding, or maybe I’m just lazier about covering this shit up, but I started letting him in on this. 

And you know what?

He. Gets. It. 

Which means, more importantly, 

He. Gets. Me. 

So when I order groceries from Shipt (because you know how much I hate grocery shopping) and I make him answer the door, because, you know, strange people, he doesn’t balk. At all. 

When I text him continually when the Got Junk people are here because it makes me feel like I’m not alone with them and I have a witness in case I get brutally murdered, He. Gets. It. 

And this isn’t a gesture I take lightly. It is immensely beneficial to my mental health to have someone who will listen to my rages, who doesn’t take my shit personally, and who responds to irrational texts with “I love you, and everything will be ok.”

So why can’t I drink out of the mug? 

Did you look at those eyes? How can I possibly DROWN THE DOG???? It’s watching me with love and trust! I feel horrible enough that dust collects on him messing up his cute fur coat. 

So right now it sits on the counter like some sort of odd decoration until I figure out what to do. And Bill never moves it. 

Because he gets it. 

No, I’m Not Dead. I Just Feel Like It. 

Welcome fall! Your crisp breezes, your football games, and your goddamn germs. 

Last Wednesday started the cycle– sore throat, stuffy nose, general malaise. I love that word “malaise.” It sounds luxuriously exotic. “Why it’s worse than being tired. It’s complete malaise.”

But I digress. 

Bill, being the good soul he is, encouraged me to take Thursday off. When I refused, he mentioned Friday. 

Now I know this sounds weird. Why not take a day off? Because when you take a day off from teaching it’s like asking for a week’s worth more of work. And no one wants that. And I really thought it would be a regular ole cold that would be over and done with and on its merry way to infect someone else. 

But I was wrong. So wrong. 

Distracting me from my illness was that Kathleen got super sick the next week. Sore throat, fever, and so tired even she had malaise. Well, no virus is going to fuck with my baby so Monday afternoon we were in urgent care for a strep test. It was negative. 

And urgent care can suck. Either you get a decent person who has opened a medical text within the last 12 years or you get someone with a lab coat that looks like it hasn’t been washed in those same 12 years. 

By Wednesday she was still bad so she went to her real doctor and even though it wasn’t strep, gave her some meds due to the unrelenting fever. 

Now through all of this, my cold moved into my chest bringing a smoker’s cough that would put the Marlboro man to shame. I was already off Friday and just wanted to make it through Thursday. 

But then it hit. 

First hour I held it together. By second hour I was freezing and could not get warm. My entire body revolted and was on fire with pain. I left work with the heat on full blast and made an appointment for myself. 

I almost crawled into the house and took the hottest shower I could stand. I had to make it until 3:15 when my appointment was. 

I wasn’t wearing a clown costume, but I’m pretty sure I scared everyone there. I looked and felt like death and people carved a wide path around me. When my name was finally called I was nauseous. 

The poor assistant was trying to chit chat and ignore the fact that I carried a scythe while I searched for the nearest trash can. Finally, in the office, my stomach relented. 

This poor nurse assistant kept up her chatter while taking my blood pressure as I was puking and retching into the garbage can. I answered her questions between heaves.

When the doctor came in my only words were, “I’m so sorry. Please help me!” He could have told me he was Jesus sent to save me and I wouldn’t have questioned it. 

Diagnosis? Bacterial chest infection plus flu. 

Armed with Tamiflu, antibiotics and pain relief/ sedatives I collapsed in bed. The fever caused one more trip to the porcelain god, but I paid my penance and simply slept. 

These last couple of weeks have taught me a lot of lessons. 

1. I have a point where I don’t give a shit about anything– even puking in public. I hope I never get there again. 

2. Drugs are good. Very good. 

3. I know I’m feeling better when I can’t stand Christina’s voice anymore on Flip or Flop.

4. Saltines are only good when you’re inches from death. A foot away and they taste like crap. 

5. Cable TV should invent a sick channel where puppies and kittens play together all day long. With some fox cubs and bunnies to mix it up. 

But the biggest lesson is that fall and spring in Michigan just fucking suck. All the viruses and germs seem to hold all of their conventions here and they bring their kids and families and make a vacation of it. My fall half marathon is now ruined. My ability to enjoy this last week of warmth is shattered. And I couldn’t see my boy run 70 yards for a touchdown. 


So drench yourself in essential oils, encase yourself in garlic or chomp on zinc tablets. Do whatever you have to do to stay healthy out there. 

Cuz being sick sucks. 

New (School) Year’s Resolutions

I never make resolutions for January 1. At that point I am on vacation and the last thing I want to do is restrain myself or resist temptation. Instead, I offer my School Year resolutions.

Almost all of which have already been broken. I suck.

1. Only use the paper that I need and double side whenever possible to help the environment.

Umm, this one already went bye-bye. I had a screaming headache and sent a handout to the lounge to print. I forgot that it was two pages long, so when I went to retrieve it I was met by 80 sheets of paper that all needed to be stapled. The mere thought of hearing the staple clank 40 times (with time for unjamming/ refilling said stapler) was enough to make me nauseous. 

By the way, why are those bastards so hard to unjam? By the time I’m stabbing at it with a scissor point, I’m liable to scrap the lesson and watch Schoolhouse Rock instead. 

So, my solution? I went back to my room and re-printed it double sided.

Good news? I saved the 80 now useless sheets of paper to use for scrap. Until I get tired of looking at them at which time they will be tossed in the recycling bin. Which is kind of the same thing and like I used them anyway, so maybe I still win.

2. Make a hearty and healthy crock pot meal on Sunday night to cook Monday so that we have healthy dinners for at least two nights during the work week.

Yeah, no, but I really had good intentions. I bought a pork loin and put it in the freezer. Where it is still sitting three weeks later. In fact, one week we had hot dogs on Monday, McDonald’s Tuesday and ordered Papa Romanos Wednesday. I figure we have so many preservatives coursing through our bodies that we are guaranteed to live until we’re 150. Or, we will die of a heart attack but can be propped up any family gathering a la Weekend at Bernie’s. 

3. Show up each day fully prepared for each class.

This one is usually easy to uphold. I pride myself on being completely organized and ready and always one step ahead. However, my memory has decided to start taking field trips at odd times of the day, and she won’t answer my texts. So, this is super embarrassing, but my class and I read the Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sermon (don’t you TOTALLY miss high school English?) We started with notes on rhetoric used in the piece (see? Prepared!) and when we went to actually read the damn thing, I panicked thinking, Shit! This is a long piece! Why didn’t I come up with a guide or note-taking sheet so they could make sense of it? So I ended up grabbing an organizer I was using for another class and handed it out. The kids muddled through.

I kid you not, at the end of the SAME DAY, I looked at my table of handouts, and, in fact, I had CREATED a reading guide, COPIED a reading guide, and PLACED a reading guide exactly where it should have been. On the same. Table. Of handouts.

I may need to go in for cognitive testing.

4. Exercise at least three days a week. 

Week 1– Fail. Week 2– Fail. Week 3– FAIL. 

In the morning I write it down in my planner. I visualize getting home early, changing into running gear and heading out the door while it’s still light. I imagine upping my distance, or running some sprints to get ready for the half marathon that is looming next month.

By the time I get home I am wiped out.

Take last Thursday. It was over 80 degrees in my classroom all day. I usually make a mocha to keep me awake on the drive home, but it was just too hot so I stuck with water. After exercising my eyelids during the monotony of 275, I dragged myself into the house, kicked off my shoes, fell on the couch and crashed. I didn’t wake until Derek walked in the door, and it still took me another 30 minutes to fully wake. Super Fail.

5. Get things graded in a decent amount of time to stay on top of things.

There’s no way around it– grading sucks. It’s time consuming, gratifying and disheartening. Some things MUST be graded right away. A free write has to be looked at and returned before continuing the lesson. Papers take MUCH longer due to all of the comments. I was on track and started to believe I would make it this first quarter when… the English 10 essays were due. They were due September 15. There are 33 of them. I have graded 4.

Oh, they’ve come home with me every weekend and even some week nights. We’re like besties at this point. But, yeah, they will take a while and I just have a block. I am writing this right now to avoid them (don’t tell).

6. Write a blog every week

FINALLY something I have been able to do for the last three weeks! Even though they haven’t all been winners, I am writing and that makes me feel REALLY good.

So right now that makes me 1/6 for resolutions. Or 17%. But 17% is keeping me sane and balanced so far, and that really is the ultimate resolution for the school year. 

I Know I am Annoying You, But This is Just Too Important

After the first two weeks of school, things are starting to get into a routine. The kids and I are getting to know each other. We’re starting to figure out who we’re going to be in the class– goofy, studious, open, closed, assertive, passive.

I don’t know everyone’s name (there 178 of them), so I play a game where I spot kids in the hallway or when they turn in a paper or raise their hand and I quiz myself– first name, last name.

Yet, some I have gotten to know really well, although they might not know it.

I know that about 15% of my tenth graders cannot correctly spell “Wednesday.”

I know that there are too many who cannot write in complete sentences.

I know that there are several who are lacking credits to graduate on time.

You might be thinking, What the FUCK? High school? Sheesh.

But before you do, let me explain what I also know.

I know that at least one student is forced to care for his younger sisters every single night and that this leaves him with little time to do homework.

I know that at least one student missed classes this week because his aunt OD’d on heroin.

I know that at least one student is struggling with her cancer treatment.

I know that at least one student is having her name changed because her father has been arrested on multiple charges.

I know that at least one student has been sexually abused by both her step-father and biological father.

I know that at least one student is being raised by someone other than a parent.

I know that at least one student has been or is in foster care.

And these are the kids who still come to school. Every day. So far.

Early on in my career, I had a long term sub position with sixth graders. I was young, naive, and ignorant. I was living with my parents at the time and it seemed like every day I came home I would have stories to tell. And rarely were they positive. It got to the point that one day my dad said, “Don’t you ever have anything positive to talk about?”

And I get it. I really, really do.

No one wants hear about my pay freeze, or enormous class sizes, or paperwork that never ends, or kids who have tethers, or have just transferred into my district after count day, or are reading at a fourth grade level in the tenth grade, or have been removed from homes, or are homeless, neglected and abused.

I get it.

When Sarah McLachlan comes on the TV with her guitar and dogs and the music swells and images of emaciated animals fill the screen, I turn the channel too.

I get it.

But this is important. 

It’s not getting better. And it’s not going away.

I often get accused of being negative. Of not being “happy” or “upbeat” during the school year. When I go out with friends, I know they don’t want to hear sad, angry or WTF stories. I admit it’s true because at times everything seems to suck.

It’s because this shit roils inside me. I worry and plan and work and worry and talk and research and worry about these kids while awake and asleep. The thoughts get all consuming at times and I fall into darkness so upset that I can’t help. That I’m not good enough. That these kids are alone and adrift and without a positive force. 

And it makes me wonder who really gives a fuck about Anglo-Saxon poetry when these kids are dealing with things most adults couldn’t handle?

I feel guilty because I can’t help them as much as I should. I feel guilty because there are other kids who are not on my immediate radar who I should be helping. I feel guilty that I am neglecting my own kids worrying about these kids. I feel guilty that I am so tired and worn out. I feel guilty that I am not taking care of myself.

I joke about the vodka (I swear I’m not a lush) but these thoughts will drive you to drink. Just to take the edge off the worry and guilt. It affects me deeply and in every core of my being. And that’s a good thing, but it also fucks with me on a daily basis.

But I will try and focus on the positive. I will try and keep the worry and guilt and depression from oozing out. I will try and be as upbeat to all of you as I am in front of my students. I will laugh and engage and enjoy as much as I possibly can.

And if I start going down the spiral and it’s not the time or the place, just give me a sign. A face slap will work. A re-fill might be just as good.

I just ask for patience.

Because soon I will know all their names and many more stories. And these kids need people to hear them.