The RailCity Tournament Parenting Lesson

Arrggggh, how I anguished over pulling my kid from school for a hockey game. What WAS that about?  I talked myself blue and I ran scenarios through my head for so long I almost forgot what the big deal was. I talked to the head coach. I talked to the assistant coach. I talked to the girls overall scheduler, who is also a school principal. I talked to my friends.  I talked and talked and talked and talked to my dear dear husband, who probably wondered what it was all about by the end, too.

Alas, I figured it out.  The angst was about taking ownership of the decision. I didn’t like being informed by email that despite the scheduler’s attempt to keep the girls in school he was successful only for the 14-year olds and that the 12-year old teams would have a game at lunchtime on a school day. I hated it. It rubbed me all the wrong ways.  I wanted to be the one who decided if she missed school and for what reason.

I live in a sports town. Maybe most of America does. But this is a really small town and sports reign large. Even the local weekly newspaper, the Essex Reporter, devotes an entire section to this town’s sports.  It feels like as a parent I am expected to just go with the majority action — play travel hockey, take your kid from school, sports rule — forget the rest. It just feels that way.

Further, I am the only parent on the team who’s daughter is the oldest/first child in the family. And all but one of the team-mates have an older sibling who also plays or played hockey. So all those other parents, potentially, have already rolled-over for the sports machine and already just go with it.  I truly felt alone in this.

So anyway, I was feeling like taking a 9-year old from school to play a game up in hockeyville was a bit over-the-top. I want my athletic daughter to understand that school is most important. Sports are extra.

And that was it. I decided to approach her teacher about helping me teach this concept to Olivia. He was ALL over it. My gosh, I love her teacher. Turns out, he was a student athlete and he said his parents did the same thing. So he agreed to give Olivia some “make-up” assignments to do over the weekend in lieu of the time missed at school.  And he added that he saw how sports were a motivator for my daughter and hockey in particular was her passion — that there’d be value in supporting her this way.

God bless my little “O”, because when I told her what I had decided, she smiled.  The morning of her game I took her to school with a note for the teacher about leaving early and she said “And I’ll ask Mr. G for extra homework”.

And after the game, she came right up to me, looked me in the eye and said, “Thanks Mom. Thanks for letting me play this game.”

And so the angst. The decision-making process. It was all worth it.

Hockey Update, Late January

OK. So we’ve been humming along nicely in hockey world. I seem to have gotten the lack of order of it all under control. In the last 6 weeks, I haven’t forgotten a practice time, been late to a game, missed the turn for a rink, forgotten a piece of equipment or even sworn about hockey.  Such improvement!

I have even baked cookies and banana bread for the charming band of girls.  I have enjoyed watching my daughter play and improve her play. I aaaccctuuuaalllly like going to the games.

I was just feeling like I could get the hang of my game of Hockey Mom (this is a different sport than Hockey) when I realized that we did not just have one tournament to attend, but three.  Apparently we’re beginning the tournament phase of the season.

Tourney #1, Pittsfield MA, a three and one-half hour drive down Route 7. I was good with it until I realized Katie had basketball — the sport she likes to call HER OWN on Saturday.  Back to Divide And Conquer.  I drew the straw to attend the tournament, because, after all, I’m a girl, and I can be infinitely more helpful at a girl’s tournament.  Actually, it wasn’t that bad. I was looking forward to a little hotel chill time with O.  And I was still ok with it until about a half-hour into the trip when I realized I had a stomach bug.  I never hurled. It was ok. Just a shitty drive.  The upside was I had a good excuse to limit my time “hanging with other parents” which I had decided ahead of time would be the hardest part of the gig.

Tourney #2 is the one that has gotten me all twisted up with angst.  This one we were “invited” to late. As I am learning, “late” means the good times are all taken and even though the scheduler for all the girls teams in our league is a high-school principal, and even though he swears he lobbied hard otherwise, our team is scheduled for a first round game at noon on Friday. A school day.  I’ve been wringing my hands over this one for two weeks trying to decide if I will take my child out of school to attend a game or keep her in and weaken the team.

At first I drew the line in the sand and thought, “nope, not going”. I think that stemmed from my “I hate the hockey machine and will not let it run me over” instinct.  After a little time and conversation with the coach and the scheduler, I’m waffling, thinking that it’s a good message to say to my daughter that it’s ok to miss school, as long as you make it up, and support your team.

Ugh. Four days away and I still haven’t decided. I’ve made too much of it.

Tourney #3, and hopefully the last, is in three weeks. It is in Middlebury and also conflicts with basketball and a volunteer commitment of my own.  I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

One day at a time.

Divide and Conquer.

Hockey Mom Sports.

The Value of Work

My youngest entered kindergarten in the fall of this year.  Since quitting work shortly after her birth, I have assumed that this would be the year I would return to work. I expected then it would be hard today.  I also thought I’d probably do something different from what I had been doing, not only because I had moved from a big city in the south to a small town in New England, but also because I figured my interests would likely shift after five years “off”.

This winter, after much hand wringing about full-time vs. part-time I decided maybe the first step would be to try substituting at school. So predictable and so not me, but I truly figured maybe it would at least break me in to having to shower & apply make-up & leave at the same time my children do.   I thought I could work out the trauma of getting three people ready for the day in a “test” job.

A position in my school district became available for “substitute administrative” jobs, such as administrative assistant, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver.   I figured this was perfect! I volunteer enough at school to know I don’t have the patience to deal with a classroom full of children for longer than an hour at a time.

So, I filled out the application online. I listed my past “supervisors” and phone numbers for employers going back to 1988 —  a good 6 or seven employers representing at least 10 positions.  This in and of itself was no small feat.  I then contacted the local folks who I have volunteered with and asked them if they would be my references.  I serve as co-president for a neighborhood of 250 homes (and an annual budget of $25,000) and have for the past five years.  I also run the local elementary school’s nature education program — recruiting over 30 volunteers annually.

Last year I was president of a cooperative preschool.  I managed a budget of over $100,000, led a board of directors of 12, oversaw the salaries and contracts for 4 staff, facilitated school-wide changes, led marketing efforts, intervened in bad contracts,  cut benefits from staff, fielded grievances from employees and families. Oh, and I volunteered with the children in the classroom countless times. I even substituted for teachers.

You can imagine my surprise when my application was returned to me as Incomplete because I had not included any references from “supervisors of past employer”  Humph.

So, even though I did the equivalent of an executive’s job, because I did it as a “volunteer” and had no “supervisor” it does not count!

To be fair, I did not pursue this any further with the district human resources office.  I decided it was a good lesson.  I certainly did not want to contact the vice president from my corporate days and ask for a letter of reference to be the substitute lunch lady!  I was totally willing to check my ego at the door and BE the substitute lunch lady, but apparently I could not qualify with just volunteer labor references.

And while I appreciate the school district’s need to be very careful about the background of its employees, must it overlook the reputation and skill of volunteerism?  Afterall, what is work?  Must one be paid to be reputable?  If one has the highest rank within an organization they have no “supervisors”, does that not count toward one’s qualifications for the next job?  Why can’t my skills used in community organizations be valued by society?  I know I don’t have the answer.  So many others have been down this path before me.

I think what stopped me in my tracks more than anything was that I never expected it to happen to me.

School vs. Parent

I went to a meeting last week held by the principals of the three schools that comprise the district’s K-5 education system.  Several notes went home about it.  The topic was albeit dry and vague…something about the new student-led conferences.  The meeting was in the evening, 6:30P, with child care provided.  I was fortunate to not have to bring my children.

There might have been 15 parents representing the three schools in attendance.  There were a grand total of three including myself from my children’s elementary school.

I appreciate the school system making the time to prepare these meetings and the effort to communicate.  I do. Really.

But after absorbing the content and the parent feedback and the administration response, I begin to wonder why I bother attending, and have more insight into why fewer parents attend.

It seems the administration is dropping the 2nd of two parent-teacher conferences and replacing them with a “student-led” conference”.  This is supposed to reap huge rewards for children: they will develop greater pride in their work, take ownership over their performance and enhance communication skills as they prepare and deliver their presentations…to…their…parents?  Ok. Ok.  I can see some value in this.  But for me and just about every concerned parent in the room, our kids are already telling us how they’re doing in school and telling us how the test went and showing us the marks on their homework assignments.   And now the teachers are going to take time from “teaching” to guide them through how to assess and present their conference material to their parents.


Overwhelmingly, the feedback from this group went the lines of “this is all well and good, but don’t take away my highly valuable one-on-one meeting with the teacher!”  And the administration says, “try it and give us your feedback afterwards”.  Oh and they added “you can still arrange a one-on-one meeting with your teacher afterward”.

So, the way this is going to go is this: teachers will prepare our K-5 children to prepare their message to their parents <sigh>, parents attend a meeting with their child in one corner of the room where three other families occupy respective corners, the teacher floats by, and thirty minutes later, after seeing my child’s work, I  can give written feedback before leaving.  Oh, and the kids only attend school a half day that day.

Should the parents want to speak to the teacher privately, the onus is on them.  As if last week’s meeting was not enough evidence that getting parents out to meetings is nearly impossible.

After all the schools have completed this process, the administration will review the data and declare that the new SLC were an overwhelming success, after all, only about 3-5 families/school had any strong negative feedback.  Year two, fewer families offer feedback. Year three, most families forget there ever was another system.  And voila, we have another successful district-wide implementation of a program directed at supporting the weaker performing children — the ones whose parents are not as available to talk to their kids and see the random papers in their backpacks.

Now that I’ve been apart of this process, I really feel a little duped.  I feel like the system is going this route. Just because the only outspoken families in the school won’t amount to a majority, this is a done deal.

I really want to be positive, but I don’t like the feeling that the writing is on the wall.

The Asolutely SCARIEST part of all this, is that after I distilled all this, my reaction was “Maybe I should run for an open school board position!