Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sylvia is twelve - yes, 12!

Twelve years ago, I had been in labor for the past 20 hours and was just arriving at the hospital around midnight on Halloween. I'd known, even though I'd awakened in labor on October 30, that I was destined to have a Halloween baby.

And, at 6:55 am, after 25 hours of labor and about an hour of pushing, my first child was born.

Sylvia has endured the brunt of my mistakes as a first-time mom. I gave in to the crying, I would drive her around to get her to sleep. Yep, I was *that* kind of new mom.

Still, those amateur mistakes on my part have given us a kind of bond. We've grown up a lot together, Sylvia and I.

We've cried together over X. We both had to deal with missing him terribly in those first few months. We both had to accept our new lives in a way that Riley, being as young as she was, couldn't comprehend like we could. We both had some major growing up to do.

Our relationship has the ups and downs that one could totally expect given who we are. She's a Scorpio, I'm an Aries. I'm her mother, she's a pre-adolescent. No one can get us as mad as we get each other, but then we can also laugh together and drool over Johnny Depp together, too.

She likes to say she's following in my footsteps as a performer, but that she'll go farther, and I hope she does. She's a talented singer, a beautiful dancer, a really really great actress, and she already has more talent than I ever did because she's an excellent award-winning visual artist as well.

She has grown so much in the past year. She is so much healthier emotionally this fall than she was last spring. She makes me laugh with her dry wit. And the physical growth is astonishing. And I know it's just the beginning. She's already starting to wear my hand-me-downs in tops. Before I know it, she'll be raiding my closet on a regular basis.

She also follows in my footsteps in wearing her heart on her sleeve. She feels everything so deeply. As her mother, I want to protect her from that, but I remember all too well. I know I can't stop her. All I can do is comfort her when she needs it, and encourage her to take some breaths now and then.

She told me after her last therapy session that aside from the issues with her dad, "I have a great life." I managed to hold back my own emotions just then from bursting into tears of joy.

We both still have a lot of growing up to do. When I see her smile, when she wraps her arms around me in a hug, when she kisses me goodnight, when she calls me bursting with her latest news, when she texts me that she loves me, I know we'll both make it.

Happy birthday, my sweet Sylvia! I love you with all my heart.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Light bulb moment

It's pretty obvious to anyone who reads this or knows me that I have a constant need for validation. I need someone to tell me that it's okay to feel what I'm feeling, or think what I'm thinking. I need to feel right every now and then and I need to feel in control.

Today, it finally dawned on me why that's so important to me.

I was reading FreedomFirst's post, and she talked about her instincts being correct, and how positive that is for her.

And the light bulb came on.

(Forgive me if you read my realization and go, "well, duh!" This is news to me.)

I lived with a man for seven years that lied to me, and made me doubt everything. For the first two years we were together, I really didn't get the drug problem. Things would happen, and he would have an excuse for everything. I believed most of them.

As the years went on and I caught X in more and more lies, I began to believe less and less until I got to the point where I was convinced that if he was opening his mouth, he was lying.

He'd lie about anything and everything. He told me a mutual friend had committed suicide. You can imagine my shock when I saw this friend a few years later! There was absolutely no reason for this lie. He just said it.

Do you remember when everyone was outraged at that former drug addict that had lied to Oprah and everyone in that book he wrote? I read an article about that in Entertainment Weekly by Stephen King who said no one should have been surprised. Addicts lie. They lie about anything and everything, even when there's nothing to cover up. They lie to keep in practice.

Having lived with a liar who screwed with my mind and heart at every opportunity, it shouldn't be news to me that there are these long-lasting effects. But it is. I've been aware for some time now that I have this need for validation, but today's the first day I've become aware of why I need it.

Now, it's not debilitating, mind you. I don't think I've shut myself down completely, and I certainly don't have any trouble sharing some of my deepest darkest thoughts! Even if they're not in these pages, they're all in emails with Kori. And hey, who doesn't enjoy someone saying, "you're right." I don't think this light bulb moment will drastically alter my life in any way.

It just makes me take a step back and realize that no matter how far I've come these past six years, there's still quite the distance to go.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Riley's nine now

9 years ago today, I woke up to find my water breaking. Riley was born 5 1/2 weeks early and I actually missed most of the first day of her life while she was in the NICU with jaundice and I was recovering from the general anesthetic they gave me for the C-section because she was turned the wrong way.

I had the most awesome day care provider in the world that took Sylvia on vacation with her family while we recovered in the hospital for the first 4 days of her life. I would go down to the NICU every 2 hours to feed my girl.

She was the healthiest baby in the place, and ready to be discharged before I was, so we were lucky there.

Riley is the most emotionally healthy person I know. I remember after one episode of the X Chronicles, she asked to see the "feelings doctor" and did exactly what she wanted to do to deal with her anger. She asked for the feelings chart, pointed to everything she was feeling. She picked up one of the dolls, named it after her dad, played with it a bit and then threw it across the room. And then she told the therapist she was okay now.

She's a little sad today. Her dad hasn't called to wish her a happy birthday and she doesn't think he will, but she's decided to not think about him and enjoy her day.

She has a couple of friends that she talks to on the phone, and it's adorable to watch her face light up during these calls.

She loves schedules. She'll make my bed for me, and she'll arrange her desk just so. And then she'll open a package and throw the wrapping on the floor.

She'll take the backseat to her sister when she knows it's more important to Sylvia, but sometimes, she just has to have her own way.

She loves taking pictures. She loves the outdoors. She adores animals. She loves looking after younger children. She wants to be President so that she can legalize gay marriage on a federal level (but she also knows she might not get elected, so she's keeping that part of her platform a secret - shhhhh!).

She calls me her bestest friend, loves to snuggle with me, and has taken my breath away every day for the last nine years.

Happy birthday, Riley. Nobody loves you like I do.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My first Friday Fragments

I think I'm going to put my weekend wrap-ups to rest, and start doing Friday Fragments, hosted by Mrs. 4444 instead. I feel the need to be a joiner.

***Sylvia won a writing competition at the Club and got to see a preview of The Vampire's Assistant last night, as well as a copy of the book. She was very excited, since I'd said she'd have to wait for Netflix to see this movie. Before the movie started, Riley won a dance competition that Power 106 was sponsoring! My girls are indeed winners.

***While the girls were at the movies, I was at the book launch party for The Internet Mommy, a book that features many mommy bloggers, including Beth Blecherman, co-founder of SVMoms, and my friend and fellow LA Mom blogger, Kim Tracy Prince. The event was really fun, and I was once again inspired by all the bright and wonderful women there.

***Inspired, but still lacking the words I need to put together a coherent post for either LA Moms or Parentella, both of which are due. Oi.

***It's Riley's 9th birthday on Sunday. We'll be going to a Halloween party to celebrate. I've told her she's not allowed to grow up anymore after this.

***Still no word from X about seeing the girls for their birthdays. Sylvia has stopped asking, but I know she's thinking about it. She told me after her therapy session this week that she wants to be more like Riley when it comes to their dad. Riley loves her dad, but expects nothing from him. I agreed that Riley certainly has the most healthy attitude about X of the 3 of us. I too will strive to be more like my grown-up almost 9-year-old.

***I still have to talk to Riley's teacher about the diorama book report project. I'm putting it off.

***Not much fire in my belly right now to fight these battles. I'm beginning to think I'm wasting too much energy on the elementary years and burning out for when it really counts, middle school. According to some research I read a few years back, that's the crucial time for kids.

***I went to Sylvia's booster club meeting this week for choir. Yes, there's a separate booster club for just the choir department. That's what we've come to. Instead of participating in the chocolate fundraiser, I'm going to have Sylvia put together a solicitation letter to just ask my colleagues for cash than to buy one more piece of candy. We're all over that, and would just rather give money. Besides, cash donations means 100% of it goes to the funds, instead of a mere 30-40% of the candy sales. When I brought it up at the meeting, a lot of parents perked up at the idea!

***Both girls are now as hooked on So You Think You Can Dance as I am!

***I like this Friday Fragment thing. It's like a bunch of FB status updates or tweets all in one post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sublime Single Parents

I'm very excited about a new series I've just begun at my Examiner page. Check out my first profile on a SoCal single mom that has made the transition from surviving to thriving: Lolita Carrico.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up: beginning the bday celebrations

Friday night, the girls performed in their band - that's been in existence for less than a month! It was all part of our PTA's arts fundraiser. Most of it has been a really great experience. Unfortunately, there was some drama involving the other band members' mothers. I'm just glad I don't have to deal with them anymore! All in all, it was a fun night, and we think, financially successful.

On Saturday, the family got together to celebrate all of the October bdays: my sister, my nephew, Riley and Sylvia. We all had a really nice time together, and then my parents took the girls to their house so I could spend some grown-up time with my sister and her husband. And that was really fun.

On Sunday, we went up to the ranch, and got our pumpkins. We rode around in my friend's Gator, spotted deer and a family of geese, and just had a great time! We don't go often enough. Riley in particular absolutely loves it there, and I hope she can spend many more days there as she grows up.

Unfortunately, a really nice weekend got quite the wet blanket last night when I found that X has been telling the girls he'd see them for their bdays. That was news to me. Not to mention, he hasn't followed any of the conditions I've set up for him to see the girls - and legally, I have no obligation to let him see them at all. Sylvia had not told me that he was planning to see them because she doesn't think he'll show anyway. And she's probably right - not because he hasn't met the conditions but because he most likely hasn't even figured out how to do it, and won't end up doing it. I just hope it doesn't put too much of a damper on their birthdays for them. Neither of them expect it, but I hate that he even dangled the carrot in front of them like that.

I also had an interesting conversation with Sylvia about this blogging thing I do! She was going on the computer, and I was saving some stuff before she went on. She commented that she shouldn't even see it. I asked her what she thought I did on the computer. She said I blog about them and X and talk to my friends. I asked her how she felt about me talking about X, and she said she thought it was a good idea.

Inherently, I know that she thinks so because of the sense of community it brings all of us.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Finding financial balance

You all know pretty well that I've been freaking out about finances for a while now. Today, the freak-out reached a new high as I waited for news from my mechanic. I needed a 100,000 mile service, a smog check, and a new headlight. I spent most of the morning gritting my teeth.

The car passed the smog check, new headlight is in, service found no major problems. It went as well as it could have gone. Still, it did cost money, and became the last thing that will fit on my credit card for a while.

I have spent the week getting set up on ExpenseRegister, inputting my expenses and income, credit card payments, etc. The site helps me categorize my expenses, and then it can run various reports for me. With just a week's worth of information, it's a little too soon to get a clear picture. Still, I've cut a few costs by a few dollars each a month, and I hope that the picture helps me set clearer goals. (My one complaint with the site: one of their handy-dandy calculators lets you input your income and then it tells you how much you should be spending on each of the categories. Great idea, but it doesn't take into account that the SoCal housing market just doesn't allow me to spend what I *should* be spending on rent, and the calculator doesn't let me adjust that amount to get the rest of the percentages make sense. If that makes any sense.)

As I waited earlier, I stressed. Still, it wasn't just the dollar amount I was stressing. I was mad at myself. I want to take responsibility for my actions, and I want to make things right for my family, and I was stressed and frustrated that I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong.

I still have no answer there, but I did finally figure one thing out. The car is done now. My registration will be paid on time. I won't be in danger of getting a ticket for the headlight. My car got the TLC it needs to run smoothly for me for another 3,000 miles (*knocking on wood*).

It's not like I spent $175 on a spa treatment! This was a necessary transportation cost. The expenditure was indeed a responsible thing to do.

I think it's time to relax my jaw a little.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up: finding emotional balance

It's been a whirlwind of a week.

If you've read my earlier posts this week, you know I got attacked again for speaking out against d**db**t dads (trying to avoid getting caught in another google search - maybe I should start using the term financially and emotionally-unavailable persons previously determined as parents?). I got angry, depressed, then in fighting back mode, and joined MindyMom in a campaign to get single moms writing open letters to the White House (or, if you'd prefer, please send a letter via snail mail to Pennsylvania Ave.).

Then there was another installment of the X Chronicles. X has moved - again - as I was just getting ready to get my support case re-opened.

Things got a little better when a state senator actually responded to a previous open letter about parental involvement on LA Moms - gave me a little bit of hope. I have not written her back yet, but I do hope that she talks more about parental involvement in terms that are not only productive, but not impossible for many of us.

And then I was humbled, completely, when I saw this.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
William Kamkwamba
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

One day (soon), I want to read his book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

So I'm doing a personal inventory. I'm attempting to see what I can change that I do control. I've made a lot of progress in these past few years. Time to keep going.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fall foliage is for paintings

The temperature has finally cooled a bit here in our fair city! Fall has come, fall has come! Parents everywhere can feel their electricity bill going down as they turn off their a/c, but don't yet need the heater. Blankets and comforters are coming out of the linen closets and sweaters are finding their way in our drawers.

But then, inevitably, someone has to bemoan the lack of beautiful colors as our trees turn brown for a minute.

Well, okay, yes. Our leaves don't change color all that spectacularly. I'm a California native, but I have lived in Rochester, NY, Pittsburgh and Denver. I have experienced those colors. They last about a week.

And then the skies turned gray. And then it's winter. "Early this year," some 'native' of another state but CA would tell me. Somehow, I've always managed to live in these cities when they're having the longest, coldest, harshest winter in 2-4 decades. In Rochester, the year I lived there, there was an ice storm on my birthday in April. Lucky me!

That winter, the only day of snow I enjoyed was Thanksgiving. No work to go to, that perfect day of snuggling home with the family - only going out so the girls can make snowmen.

As pretty as that scene is, it simply does not make up for actually living in winter conditions. For as much as half the year.

It doesn't make up for bundling up a 2-yr-old to the point where you can barely carry her - particularly since proper winter clothes are made of slippery material!

It doesn't make up for having to keep your car unlocked for fear of the key sticking.

It doesn't make up for waking up 20 minutes early to brush off the snow, then scrape off the ice on the windshield.

It doesn't make up for the stupid weatherman calling it "sunny" when it's over 30 degrees!

I might not have minded so much had I grown up somewhere other than California, but I'm one of those actual natives of our state. Cold to me means 70 degrees. 27 degrees means you shouldn't have to get out of bed.

So I'm okay with not having a week of colorful leaves. As long as our weather doesn't go below 50 degrees all year long!

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Oct. 8, 2009.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Single Mom's Open Letter to President Obama

After a recent spat of nasty comments on a very old post of mine, I got very frustrated. And upset. I know I can't change everyone's mind, but there has to be more we can do. Whenever a single mom posts a rant about her ex (or at least every time I've seen it), someone inevitably comments that maybe she's not doing right by her kids by speaking her mind. Or that she shouldn't have left him anyway. Or that she's a whore because she's frustrated that her deadbeat ex hasn't paid his child support. So I wanted to do something.

I wrote First Lady Michelle Obama a letter. It's four pages long, and I snail-mailed it. Then Mindy wanted to write an open letter to our President, and welcomes every single mom to do the same. I snail mailed my letter because it contains things that I have already deleted from this site, so I don't want to post that letter here. But here's another version to share with the world. I no longer accept anonymous comments. I hope that I don't have to shut comments down here, but I'll do so if I deem it necessary.

While this letter is specifically about the life of a single mother, I am aware that many single parents are dads now, too. Dads that care about their kids and try to do right by them just as much as I do. Still, my experience is that of a single mom. So I'm sticking with what I know.

Dear Mr. President:

I'm tired. I'm a tired single mom. Not unique, I confess, but it's the truth.

Oddly enough, it's not the parenting of two daughters that makes me tired. Well, okay, maybe sometimes it is, but that's not why I'm tired right now.

I accept my responsibility as a parent to these girls. I accept responsibility for marrying a drug addict and having two kids with him. I accept that I bought into a myth that a bad boy could settle down. That love would be enough. But I will not regret it. Because that time gave me these girls that mean the world to me.

These girls get me up every morning. So that I can get them up every morning, so that I can remind them to brush their hair and teeth, get them breakfast, make sure they have everything they need for their day, get them to school, and go to work every day.

I work, I go get the girls, ask them about homework, make them dinner, help them with homework, set the timer for their reading time, get them into the bath/shower, wash the dinner dishes, wash their lunch boxes, kiss them good night, make their lunches, set my coffee timer, watch a little TV, go to bed.

And do it all the next day. And those are the easy days.

The harder days are when we have a PTA meeting (I serve as the Secretary), or when I take my older daughter to therapy, or when she comes home crying because her dad never returned her call. Or when an unexpected bill comes. Or a school fundraiser packet. Or a notice about the $150 choir fee.

My ex-husband was ordered to pay $400 a month in child support. It's not enough for me to live on, clearly. It's not an amount that even covers our monthly grocery bill!

I'm not a gold-digger. I didn't leave my husband so that I could sit home and collect his money. I'm not scouring the dating sites, looking to land them a new daddy.

I just would like to be able to take my daughter to buy new shoes when she needs them, and not have to wait until my next pay day. I just would like to not be still playing catch-up from my summer child care costs. I just would like to let my daughter buy any book she wants at the school's book fair.

I'm not on welfare. I pay rent in full every month. I'm not on food stamps. And my income is such that we don't qualify for the federal lunch program. We're not starving. I know I'm one of the lucky ones.

But the only part that luck has played is that I haven't been laid off. Everything else, I have worked for and earned. I went back to school, finished my degree while working full-time and raising two girls. I got promoted at work because of my own accomplishments.

I take my daughters to the dentist, the doctor, the eye doctor. I volunteer at my daughter's school. I try to keep informed on what's working (and what's not) in education, and give my daughters the opportunities that they can't get at school. I go to multi-cultural nights and cheer them on at their soccer game, their choir performance, their talent show. I let my daughters talk to their dad whenever he calls, or whenever they want to call him. Even though he has not met the conditions for visitations, I've let them see him with his family. I've sent his sister's kids birthday presents. I've sent his parents school pictures and art the girls have made. I'm friends with most of his family on Facebook!

I am not the bad guy.

And yet, I read about chapters in books that read that victims of crime should blame single mothers. I'm bombarded with "statistics" that say my children are destined to a life of unhappiness, even when you, a child of a single mom, managed to become the President! Even when a recent study has shown that children of single moms can do just as well as children raised with both parents. Politicians tell me that the key to my children's success in school is all about parental involvement, which has turned into teaching my children what they should've learned in school. If my child has trouble in any aspect of her life, I can't help but wonder if it's because she's lacking a father in the house. Because everywhere I turn, people are telling me that single moms can't do it. That no matter how hard I try, no matter what I do, my children are destined for failure.

I refuse to accept that. I will do everything in my power to ensure that doesn't happen.

Still...I wish that people would stop saying it. And when I write that I'm frustrated that my deadbeat ex won't pay his child support, I shouldn't have to defend my children's right to that money. I shouldn't have people tell me that I don't care about my children - that somehow that $400 a month makes me a c**t.

The truth is, I've given up on any hope that I'll ever get that child support. That doesn't stop me from getting angry when I know that the reason I'm having trouble paying for groceries this week is because I didn't get that $400 a month - which would've covered the extra costs in summer child care.

I'm a single, working mom. I can make a dollar stretch. I divide every bill I get by the number of paychecks until it's due. My girls know they can only buy the cereal that's on sale. The credit that my X skewered is almost completely repaired. I have not received a past due notice in years. I'm almost there.

I don't want my ex thrown in jail for not paying child support. That doesn't help me pay for the groceries. I don't condition his visitation on whether or not he's paid me, but whether or not he's sober. I want him to do well. I would be thrilled if he was the kind of father that could actually be a father to my girls.

I wish I had a better answer for them when he doesn't return their call. I wish that I didn't have to lower their expectations to keep him from breaking their hearts. I wish that he was there cheering them on at the soccer game, the talent show, the choir performance. But we all have to accept that he's not. That he doesn't show up at their birthday party because he's in jail. We've dealt with that, too.

I don't expect miracles. And hey, if he even sent $100 a month, and he sent it regularly, dependably, I would be okay with that. As hard as it may be for some to believe, I actually don't want to be able to honestly call him a deadbeat.

But he is.

Not just because of the support he doesn't provide financially, but the support he doesn't provide emotionally.

I tried. I tried to co-parent, but he wouldn't be there. Every problem that led to the divorce is still there.

No, they will never have the father that they deserve to have. And no, he won't send any money dependably ever. And there will be no consequences to that. And we will deal. And I truly believe that we will prevail. That my children will prevail. That they will not go through life feeling that they aren't whole somehow. They will know they are loved.

Still, Mr. President, there has to be something that can be done to make it just a little easier for single moms and their kids. Whether it's better child support enforcement, or more mention of the millions of kids raised by single moms that don't end up in jail, or health care facilities open on Saturdays, public education that supports a family's right to NOT spend their evenings on dioramas. Something to make it just a little bit easier.

Thank you,

*This post is written in conjunction with SingleMomMindy's Open Letter. If you'd like to share your own, please add your link in her comments.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Well, okay then

Things are going. Nothing incredibly great, nothing incredibly bad. Financial situation is not great, but I'm not worried about the roof over my head. So when I put everything in perspective, it's okay.

Still, there seems to be that proverbial cloud over everything right now. Mostly stemmed from trying to understand why some people feel the need to support deadbeat dads. It's like those that support Polanski. I just don't get it.

And then I read Kori's post. In dealing with a different situation (but similar question), she writes: Really; I don’t get to decide a person’s value based on whether or not they support ME, but in how they are with the world at large.

I totally agree. In fact, most of my regular readers and most of my friends and I have areas in our lives where we wholeheartedly disagree with each other. I'm okay with that, really.

And I've certainly tried to be there for friends when I feel they've been attacked unfairly.

But then again...that's for my friends. That's for people I know and love.

These comments aren't from people that know me. And if in fact they're trying to defend X, I know X well enough to know that he'd never stand for it. X is a lot of things, but he knows what I do every day. He goes through periods of not calling because he knows he's not doing right by his kids, and he can't face them or me. X has thanked me many times for what I do every day as their mother. X doesn't argue with me when I've called him a deadbeat because he knows that it's true. These people that are trying to defend X do not know X.

So I go back to not understanding it.

Today, I read something by another single mom, advising moms going through a divorce on how to handle their finances. Someone had to comment that they just shouldn't get divorce, and should stick it out.

WTH is that?!? How is that constructive, how is that helpful, how is that nothing other than disrespectful?

How would it go over, I wonder, if I just ran around, telling every married person I know that they should just get divorced? That half of marriages end in divorce so they should just get it over with. Or telling all bald men to go get a toupee (or vice versa)?

I bet if I said those things, 90% of people would tell me, "it's none of your business." Hmmm...I think they'd be right!

I guess I just don't understand where anyone gets off telling me how I should feel about my own situation. I think I've earned the right, by raising these kids by myself for 6 years (officially; their whole lives, unofficially), by NOT being on government support, to have my OWN feelings on the subject, and to write what I want about it. Legally, I am not guilty of libel or slander because not only is everything TRUE, but I have not used X's real name.

I was accused of censorship. I thought long and hard about it. Have I deleted comments? Yes. Most of them because they were forms of advertising. One or two of them because I was done dealing with it, and it's MY blog. And one commenter specifically requested that all of their comments be removed, and I honored that request. Still, I don't require my approval before publishing a comment, I allow anonymous comments, and I have allowed many a comment that disagrees with me. So no, I don't think I'm guilty of censorship.

I know I'm not easy to like. I'm opinionated, I have some radical ideas, and I don't follow the traditional set of rules. I get it.

So for those of you that still love me, still give a damn about what I have to say, thank you.

*I'm not posting links in here because I'm really not trying to make things worse. And I know that by writing this, I'm not going to change anyone's mind. Still, I need to do it for me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My open letter to Gloria Romero

The Honorable State Senator Gloria Romero,

I heard the report on NPR about your quest for more parental participation in our children's schools, and I wanted to respond. I am a parent who is serving on the PTA.

You mentioned that we're more likely to "attend a protest than a PTA bake sale." I don't know if you've noticed, but most PTAs don't actually hold bake sales anymore. Some schools have banned them for allergy concerns, and a large majority of us moms are working and not so much available during the day to bake a cake and bring it to school.

But this isn't about the so-called stay-at-home moms versus working moms war. This is about the fact that most of us moms know that we have a greater chance of actually having a larger impact on our child's education by showing up at a Board of Education meeting than selling brownies for a dollar. I find it more than a little shocking that you don't know that.

Did you know, for instance, that PTAs are only allowed to raise and spend money on that which will benefit the entire school, and that a PTA can't save a teacher's job by holding a bake sale (or yard sale or any other fundraiser)? Did you know, for instance, that PTA actually stands for Parent Teacher Association, and that normally only one or two teacher "representatives" show up at a PTA meeting?

This is not a slam against teachers - I know they're busy - but your comment is representative of most people's attitude on what the PTA is and, sadly, not representative of what it can do.

But let's go back to the concept of working mothers for a moment. I remember getting a newsletter from LAUSD a few years back, touting great news! Parents can now use vacation time to volunteer at their child's school! I was flabbergasted. Anyone with vacation time can use it for whatever they wish. There was nothing stopping us before from using it to volunteer at the school! Not to mention, that presumes that most parents actually receive vacation time at their job. Many hourly employees do not have this luxury.

I'm incredibly frustrated about this idea that parental involvement will suddenly solve all of our problems in education. While I agree that being involved is a positive reinforcement to our children that we value their education, and we value them, it is not the magic elixir.

Our children need qualified, passionate, excellent teachers - no matter their number of years at the job. Our children need classrooms that aren't overcrowded. Our children need to not be rushed through lessons to meet standardized test requirements in April.

And while many parents are absolutely willing to help their children with their homework, the implementation is often harder. If we've been at work all day, and are trying to get dinner on the table, and meet our weeknight demands, and haven't been in school to teach the mathematical problem using the same terms and methodology as their teacher, our children may not be all that willing to learn from us. Our children may have more pressing matters to discuss with us - like their fight with their best friend today, or what's for dinner. Our children may want some off-school time when they're home with us, and may just want us to be their mom or dad, not their teacher.

Parents are already trying to teach children better communication skills, social skills, relationship skills. Parents are trying to teach their children how to be a well-rounded, well-liked and well-respected independent being. Parents are working to keep their children in clothes that fit and trying to feed their children well-balanced diets. Parents have to become HTML-code proficient to ensure that our children have a safe environment when they're online. Parents are monitoring their children's television time, reading time, and driving their children to soccer practice to ensure that they have the right amount of physical education time. Parents are supplementing their education by paying for museum memberships, paying for arts lessons and/or music lessons and/or science camps and/or tutoring to make sure their child doesn't get left behind.

And the parents that can't afford such things? They're working 2 jobs. Or looking for work. Or going back to school themselves to get better-paying work. They're scraping up change to pay for their children's arts supplies at Michael's so their children can do their required diorama "book report."

You may not see me at my child's school every day (although, yes, I have taken vacation time to help out). You may not see me pick up my child after school every day because I am at work. But you also don't see me at night, trying to get everything done. You don't see me on weekends, reading articles on education while waiting for the dryer. You don't see me take my children to the theatre. You don't see me talk to my children about their latest sibling rivalry episode, or their absent father, or rummaging through boxes of clothes to find clothes that fit.

I take pride in spending most of my waking hours thinking of my children, working to do right by them, and our snuggle times make it all worth it. Still, it might be in my children's best interest for you to concentrate on the budget fiasco and finding more money for their schools than telling me to bake a cake.


Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Oct. 2, 2009.