I was asked today how my kids were doing in their second LA school year. My easy answer was that they are all fine, good, busy and happy. And this is true. The complicated more personal answer is that each of them is tackling big issues, whether academic or organizational or friendship shananagins, or even when and how to eat one’s lunch, and all of it fills every single minute of my day.
I received an email from my little one’s teacher. “Jennifer, please please please can you make sure that your son comes into school with a lunch and sufficient snacks as we had to give him the cafeteria’s snacks for the third day in a row.” Appalled, I opened his lunchbox after school and found his uneaten organic roast turkey sandwich and cheese string, sans the chips and other snacks. After some detective work I discovered that my son told a major fib to his teacher claiming his mom didn’t pack any lunch and he was starving (cue tears) knowing he’d get the school snacks instead, namely cookies and chips. “Dear teacher,” I wrote back carefully, “please please please make sure that you check my son’s lunch box next time as he is quite a clever snack seeker…” and fibber.
The first week of school ended. There I was thinking about the novel I was going to write, the class I was going to take and the amazing cooking extravaganzas I would perform to perfection week in and week out with all of my spare time. Instead, I got sick, stressed, tested, texted, emailed and made to feel dumber than a fourth grader. However, there was one thing I knew for absolute certainty; I had no time.
One would think that the weekends would then be a safe haven for everyone to catch up on their sleep, calories (yes, boys actually operate that way and need extra calories so pile it on during the weekends) and have space to chill-axe. But, Saturday morning greets us as it did in London with sport. Only this time, Husband’s referee outfit isn’t his torn up sweat pants and grubby jumper where he screams up and down the pitch like a madman, but a bumblebee outfit, whistle, high black pull up socks and black shorts, all made out of grotesque polyester, compliments of AYSO and he’s being judged by commissioners that come to the pitch with score cards just to fill out on his abilities. I have never seen quite a sight like it! Not sure how long his career as ref is going to last. I now have four games to watch; three sons and one ref. Son number four has to phone a friend until well into the afternoon as there is no fun in watching others play…ever.
We collapse mid way through the afternoon with only thoughts of dinner keeping our focus. Then on to Sunday morning. Now, Husband and I are desperately trying to maintain a routine for them to do their work, especially on the weekends. It breeds some discontent with all of them in different ways. I have one son who is a diligent worker and sits down immediately, but tends to rush. I have one who needs the walls to come crashing down before he realizes it’s actually time to get started; one who thinks work is singing a rap song and putting a dance to it and another who is incredibly sensitive to the way you even look at him whilst he is doing his homework. Forget four different personalities…there are 55 different mood swings to navigate through in the middle of one Sunday afternoon and all of it has me leaving the house with the dog in search of a fresh breath.
I try not to argue with Husband about the tactics involved with getting four boys to focus and swear to him that other families aren’t doing more than us. Don’t we all wish we could be invisible in someone else’s home and watch how they do it?? In London, as LA, New York or frankly any major city anywhere, we are all on similar tredmills doing the best we can. Pre-teen pressure exists more in London as their private school system tests children at 11; LA kids seem to require not only performing a sport at club level, but also get straight A’s, play concert piano, do community service and have someone in their greater family who can potentially write a fat check. I never knew what ‘annual giving’ was until I moved back here and dealt with private schools. Londoners would be appalled, frankly, that week one finds a letter in your post asking for money.
Truth is, Husband pushes as hard as he can until I feel the breaking point and dig my heels in with a maternal roar. Sometimes the roar is louder than I anticipated which can really kick things off, and often times I don’t even know why I am protecting the boys from a bollocking that they most likely deserve, and I should have given myself. But the voice of Dad is forever going to resonate differently than the voice of Mom, and they are lucky to have both. Yes, they are LUCKY we yell at them individually and collectively! That’s gotta be in the parenting 101 book somewhere.