Scent of Fear

Sunday, November 29, 2009

On Friday afternoons I volunteer Emily's school library.

This isn't new, by any means. I have been working with the librarian during this shift since Emily started at the school in 2006.

What was new, however, was the greeting given to my by one of Emily's teachers last Friday afternoon.

As the librarian read in French, this teacher came over to the desk and leaned over.

"Are you Emily's Mom? I mean, You are Emily's Mom right?". she whispered.

"Yeah. Hi.", I whispered back.

"I just wanted you to know that I saw the letter you wrote, I mean, Mrs XXX showed it to me - and I have no problem with kids having water bottles in my class."

Now. As of this writing, I have not been addressed by Emily's teacher in any way shape or form. No note. No call. No smoke signals or Semaphore. Not even an Aldis Lamp.

At the moment that the French teacher leans over to whisper these words to me, I know there is blood in the water. My mother shark instinct kicks in and my vision narrows.

"Oh." I whisper back. "I've not heard anything from Mrs XXX regarding that note as of yet..."

The teacher is young. I am guessing that she did not agree with the little facist policy makeover intiated by the senior teacher and decided to address me. What I further believe is that she did not know the teacher had decided to ignore me. Most of all, I don't think she has realized that I am a teacher and education professional ...and that I now also know that Mrs XXX has decided to complain about Emily's Crazy Mom to the other teachers - AND has shown them my letter.

Parent Teacher Conferences are this week.

Shall I sell tickets?

When Insomnia and Pop Culture collide

You get this.

Yes, I made them - and Terrance is buying them for us for the next meeting.

I may have become a Mom - but that doesn't mean I have to go down without a fight.

The Letter to school

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 24, 2009

First name of Teacher here,

I wanted to take a moment and ask for some clarification regarding the policy around water bottles and bathroom use in your classroom.

Yesterday, Emily arrived home complaining of a sore throat. My first thought is that she was dehydrated and needed to drink some water. I asked her if she had been using her water bottle during the day, as she knows that I like her to drink water through the day – especially during the fall and winter.

Emily shared that she was not allowed to bring her water bottle to class, nor drink anything in class. She reported that she had to keep the water bottle in her locker and could get a drink between classes/recess. Furthermore, she told me that the children were no longer able to use the bathroom during class time, except for “emergencies” when they needed to seek a teacher’s permission to do so.

It is my hope that Emily has mis-understood or mis-stated these “rules”. As I am sure you can appreciate, I would prefer Emily to have access to water whenever she is thirsty. Furthermore, I prefer her to use her water bottle rather than use a common water fountain due to potential transmission of a wide variety of viruses and bacteria.

As to the bathroom access, I appreciate that it can be tempting for children to wander the halls during classtime. However, it alarms me that any child would feel hesitant to use the bathroom as needed during the day. As each child has a different body rhythm and needs, it is surely hard to predict what each child’s possible toileting needs would be during any given day.

I was fortunate to see Howard Gardner speak about fifteen years ago. During his lecture, he shared that he looked at the policies each school had around controlling children’s bodily functions , ie. Eating, bathroom functions, drinking. He noted that in his experiences, only two types of places attempted to regulate the how and when of human bodily needs. One was schools. The other was prisons. That statement deeply impacted me as an educator.

I reviewed the school handbook and saw no mention of these policies or rules. Again, I am hoping that this was simply a misunderstanding on the part of Emily and appreciate your clarification on this matter.


Just like prison

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oh, Mrs XXX.

You just can't seem to resist can you? Whatever little Napoleonic dreams of dictatorship you possess, whoever you believe yourself to be in your mind? I am not having it.

Now, according to my student teachers at McGill...You are retiring at the end of this year. I was pleased to hear that when the student shared it with me. My drive to fight you was lessened. I could simply wait you out for the year, and then move on.

I even bowed out of the Governing Board running. I am busy. Well, busy avoiding what I should be doing mostly, but I know my patterns well. I volunteer to avoid my responsibilities. Then, I find no time for what I should be doing because I am doing all the things I have volunteered to do..... I know, I know - I am working on it. Acknowledgment is the first step, right?

Perhaps it was when you figured this out that you decided to let your megalomania run loose...

This is the conversation I had with my daughter today after school:

Em: My throat really hurts.
Dawn: Are you drinking enough water? You could be dehydrated. Are you bringing your water bottle to school?
Em: We're not allowed to bring water to class.
Dawn: What do you mean?
Em: We're not allowed to bring our water bottles to class, we have to leave them downstairs in the locker.
Dawn: WHAT? You aren't allowed to drink water during the day?
Em: Well, when we aren't in class. We also can't go to the bathrooms during the day during class.
Dawn: I'm sorry? What? You aren't allowed to use the bathroom?
Em: Not unless it is an emergency.
Dawn: When did this happen?
Em: I guess the bathroom rule started today.
Dawn: Why?
Em: I don't know, I guess it is just a rule that Mrs XXX made....


Now, I am aware that my daughter is a normal child and as such, I do not take what she says at 100% accuracy. I will verify this. With a Letter. To you and the principal. And I suggest you respond for once. I know you love to ignore our notes to you in the agenda...but Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up, and I don't think you want the two of us coming in fully loaded for bear...or in your case, vicious warthog.

There is a place where the people are not allowed to control their movements or bodily functions. Do you know what it is?


I wasn't planning to engage you again. You, however, have forced my hand. If there is one thing I hate, it is teachers who enjoy controlling and bullying children. Who died and made you the boss of who gets to drink water during the day? According to my daughter, you feel free to drink coffee throughout the day.

Oh, lady. Get ready.

The other half of my brain

Monday, November 16, 2009

"I've got a bone to pick with you"

The voice of my best friend wanders out of the phone and pierces my spine.

Oh Shit. Did I do something? Its true that I can be incredibly oblivious to things that normal humans with normal social aptitude pick up on, so in reality I most likely DIDN'T do something, or forgot or just missed the cue completely.

Now the Other Mrs B and I have been friends since 1994, when we appraised each other through a screen door on the lake and decided that the person we saw was OUR kind of people.

We have seen each other get married...she was the first person at whom I waved my positive pregnancy stick (all the while not-so-secretly skeeving her out by the idea of my urine very near her face) and had me greet her after the premature birth of her now 4 year old son after her consultation with the lactation consultant and the industrial breast pump. To characterize her face as "stricken" at that moment would be understatement - and not because of her sons early arrival. She had just been hooked up to a milking machine by a stranger and her expression conveyed JUST that emotion.

She is lovely Chanel Makeup and a person who DOES her hair, and knows how to whip up meals and boil lobsters. I am her best friend, who walks out in the green rocket dog sneakers, black skirt and a Zombie T-shirt, no makeup, thank you very much. She always looks great - and once decried "How do you people beautify yourselves?" when she discovered that I own ONE mirror, which is in the bathroom...which has no outlets for hair dryers which I never noticed because I don't dry my hair with a dryer.

These things aside, we fit side by side in a completely comfortable way. We have spent weekends and vacations together, lounging in the living room or hotel room together, not talking - doing our things, occasionally cracking up in laughter as we push the limits of being in the same room and yet still using chat boxes to talk about our husbands.... This habit is an offshoot of when we lived next to each other and would stand on our porches, looking at each other, talking on the phone.

The idea that I have upset her is so foreign to me that the words "bone to pick with you" actually make me sweat a bit.

"Okay, What is it?"

"When you visit my house and I leave beautiful towels out for you, in a lovely display in the bathroom, Will you PLEASE not dig out the funky old towels from under the sink to use after your shower?

My laughter rushes up to wash relief over me.

"I thought those were the Good towels", I said. "I thought those were, you know, the Show towels."

"Dawn - I put those towels out FOR YOU to use. Do not get the old towels from under the sink..."

I pause "In my defense, I am a Mom. I don't assume that the nice towels are for me at this juncture in my life."

She laughs. "Listen next time you are here, I am going to make a large towel arrangement on your bed to indicate that these are for YOU to USE..."

"You know what you need to do? Take a class to make towel animals. Then I will know they are really for Me."

The problem of friends

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Its been a tough week at our house - and No, not just because we are all stuffy and overtired. Although that certainly hasn't helped.

No - most of the drama is about Emily and her "friends". Or who isn't her friend. Or who is, but shouldn't be...or who will be if she gives them XYZ, OR who she wishes would be her friend, but doesn't like her.

I remember this part of puberty, of growing up. And it frankly sucked. There is no starry eyed romanticism in my head about the years of my own puberty and the negotiation of what having and being a friend meant. While I, like most humans, was able to find a couple of real friends to connect with during this time of turmoil, it makes it no easier to watch my beloved sweet daughter go through the same awful process.

As Adults, we aren't generally very helpful. We have ridiculous sayings - "To HAVE a Friend - BE a FRIEND!" . To offer this and the other inane non-helpful, exclamation ridden pablum is to implicitly convey to our children that this is easier than we KNOW it to be. Added into this festering pit of human frailty is Hormones. And Body Changes. To my daughter, I suspect it feels like the world truly is conspiring to get her. I mean, I know how funky I can get with PMS, and I have a detailed and thorough knowledge about what is going on with me.

Most nights, I try to get in a little cuddle time with her. She is nearly has tall as me, so it isn't as easy to scoop her into my arms as when she was three. My intent, however, remains the same. To remind her that she is MY baby girl and that I will always be her friend - even when she is at her most unlikeable.

No sympathy

Sunday, November 08, 2009

It's been a week.

Last Sunday, Terrance made some moaning noises about not feeling well. But honestly what is new about that? The man is perpetually either sick or tired, and frequently both sick AND tired. After nearly 2 decades, I simply tune it out to the background noise of the house.

I ignored him, as per my wifely duty. I went about my day, tired from Halloween and getting Em de-toxed from her sugar high without resorting to specific threats of bodily harm. Add into my mix the rabbits. I've not yammered on about the rabbits too much here...but they are a lot of work. No, they don't need to be walked rain or shine, but great googley moogley - I spend more time than you can imagine cleaning litter, chopping salad, washing floors - only to be patently ignored by both rabbits who then act as if the second coming of the Rabbit savior has appeared when Terrance walks into the room.

Um, yeah. I am a little bitter about that.

Because Terrance is a perpetually sick person, moaning and whinging about the state of everything from his sinuses to his lower back, I have naturally developed a resistance to paying attention. Add into my callous nature the fact that my Mother, as a pediatric nurse, had to view an organ or other disturbing shows of bodily fluids to agree that we were actually sick and you get a pretty hardened judge of illness.

On Monday morning, Terrance and I begin the dance:

Terrance: "I don't feel good"
Dawn: "Mmmmm"
Terrance: "I think I have a fever"
Dawn: "Hmmm"
Terrance: "I didn't sleep at all last night"
Dawn: "Oh. Mmmmm"

With each non committal murmur emerging from me, he feels the need to amp up the symptoms:

Terrance: "I think my sinuses are bleeding."
Dawn: "Oh. Did you take any sudafed?"
Terrance: "No, but they are bleeding"
Dawn: "You might be dehydrated..."


By the time I get home, he is ensconced on the couch.

Terrance: "I think I have a fever"
Dawn: "Why do you think that?"
Terrance: "I can't get warm and then I get the chills"
Dawn: (pause - looking at Terrance from across the room) Did you take your temperature today?
Terrance: "No"
Dawn: (Sigh) "Ok, let me feel your forehead..."

This is a crucial moment. When I give in and agree to feel foreheads, I May be on the road to acknowledging that he May indeed be sick. Since I live with a grade A hypochondriac ( the man had his glasses autoclaved when Emily had conjunctivitis as an infant), Terrance assumes he has whatever might be in the news. In this case it is, of course, H1N1.

Dawn: "Oh. Well. You do feel a bit hot. Let me go get the thermometer..."

I pop the thermometer in and wait for the beep. I wait quite awhile.

Terrance: "well?"
Dawn: "You seem to have a fever...."
Terrance: "what is it?"
Dawn: "103.7 - I think you need some ibuprofen, let me get that for you"
Terrance: "Should I go to a hotel so as not to infect you and Emily?"
Dawn: "What?!?!"
Terrance: "Well, Its probably H1N1, so maybe I should go to a hotel room for the next week..."
Dawn: "Why don't we wait a day or so to make sure it isn't a random virus before you go all Bio-Hazard on us, Ok? It could resolve by the morning..."


Its been a week. A week of shivering and dry cough and fevers that spike to 103.8, then drop to 95.5. We knew he felt better yesterday when he got up and started bossing us around - pointing at rooms that needed to be cleaned. The doctor remains amazed that neither Em nor I have contracted it as of yet, although I chalk it up to years in childcare in which we most likely had strains of similar things that give us some vague immunity.

Although, I must admit, I have one hell of a headache tonight.
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