They Call Me Grandma

Posted: 8th December 2014 by Kendall McKenna in Personal
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I’ve been promising to share these stories for weeks now, and I keep putting off the actual writing. This article finally pushed me over the edge, metaphorically speaking. I feel for the mother. While I agree that teachers sometimes have a tough job, they also tend to forget that parents are adults. We may need to be engaged, and held somewhat accountable, but not in the same way the students are treated.

Okay, let’s recap-

 photo 263117_496048310451024_1846526626_n.jpgI’m in charge of overseeing the Education and Social Development of Pint-Sized Casanova, due to the fact that, between all of us, I have the most education. I’m also home during the day, and in the best position to actually deal with the school. Since I take my responsibility seriously, I attended Parent-Teacher night, back at the beginning of the school year. DH and I took the paperwork with us, verifying that we are the Responsible Parties. However, Casanova’s bio-mom also went (which was fine), and she took grandma along for company. Grandma is DH’s ex-wife. It’s a small detail, but it seems to have had a large effect on future events.

I don’t know how these Parent-Teacher nights (it was called ‘Open House’ when I was still in school) work in your parts of the world, but ours was designed to tap into those early conditioned behaviors that are intended to pacify and control the students. They required us to respond to the same buzzer that moves the students through their daily classes. We were allotted a limited amount of time with each teacher, which we shared with 25-30 other sets of parents. We were supposed to move from classroom to classroom in the same order our ‘student’ did, during the day. Parents with multiple children in the school were required to bring another parent, which was a huge ‘fuck you’ to single parents, and I suspect was intended as a form of punishment. Anyway, I muddied the waters, I’m sure, by refusing to cooperate. The final straw was requiring parents to sit in the little desks where the kids sit, while the teacher STOOD at the front of the room and talked AT us. After 13 years of conditioning, they expected that we would sit quietly and obey the teacher’s authority.

 photo 553355_10151248180483043_1731975187_n.jpgOur family arrangement isn’t cookie cutter, so this one-size-fits-all event didn’t fit us at all. You’d think after all that, I’d be the one all the teachers remembered. Not the case, apparently, given the reaction I keep getting when I show up at the school, for one reason or another.

Hold that thought – I’ll come back to it in a bit.

Casanova likes his math class, and he’s been doing relatively well in it. He understands the concepts easily enough, we just struggle with his memory issues. Luckily, the curriculum is good old fashioned math, and not that joke they call New Math or Core Competencies. It’s nowhere in the text book, the (digital) workbook, or the syllabus. It wasn’t mentioned at all during Parent-Teacher night. So, imagine my confusion and surprise when Casanova arrived home one day, with a homework assignment outside of the curriculum materials. It looked like his teacher created it on her own, and it was all NEW MATH! The instructions Casanova had said the assignment was ‘required’, but that the score was for extra credit. That’s contradictory. If it’s required, it’s part of the grade. If it’s extra credit, completion is optional.

I also do not want this Core Competencies bullshit to confuse Casanova. Things are difficult enough as they are. So, on the Parent Signature sheet, next to that item, I wrote a note to the teacher to see the longer note I wrote about the assignment, that way there was no confusion about what I had seen and what I had approved (of).

The note I wrote to the teacher basically said, I recognized the Core Competencies, and had first-hand experience with the curriculum to know it’s problematic for those already familiar with the concepts. Keeping Casanova on track with the concepts of the approved curriculum was a challenge, as she and I both knew, and I didn’t think it was wise to complicate things by introducing an entirely different system of calculation, when it didn’t count toward his grade. And finally, Core Competencies has not been approved and adopted in this school district, so I ask that it not be introduced into the classroom. I’m living proof of its invalidity. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation…yada, yada, yada.

When I was summoned to the school to meet with Math Teacher, I didn’t give it much thought. It made sense that she’d want to meet to clarify things, with regard to Casanova, given the issues we face. Instead, she attempted to ambush me. When I came in, Casanova introduced me, and Math Teacher was visibly surprised. After a brief discussion, I came to the conclusion she’d been expecting either, me to be much older, or me to be DH’s ex-wife. (I’m sure bio-mom has been adding to the confusion.) I refuse to sit in a student desk, even if it’s not inside a classroom. I’m aware of the Psychology behind that move, so I always sit on top of the writing surface. We got down to business – which quickly became apparent – was to educate ME on how Math Teacher knows more about education than does someone like ME. Her classroom is her domain, and she’ll teach what she deems needs to be taught, because she’s the expert. There’s nothing wrong with Core Competencies, so it’s likely that my difficulty in mastering the curriculum stems from a general difficulty grasping ALL concepts.

Yes, that was her calling me stupid, and telling me to shut up, and not to question her brilliant expertise.

At this point, I refer you back to my FB post of November 3rd, wherein I stood up and intentionally intimidated Math Teacher, even doing a little minor name calling (to my chagrin). I told her that her assumptions about me were completely inaccurate, and she was never to talk to me in that way again. There was a time I could recite my GPA’s and the score of any assessment test I’d ever taken, because I felt I had to prove I wasn’t a stupid person, but my math curriculum was an utter, epic failure. There’s a reason it’s taken 40 years for schools to resurrect it – the majority of us who know for a fact it’s a failure are finally of an age we’re not likely to have very young, school age children.

 photo 381555_498137166907379_1828571224_n.jpgLater that same week, I had a meeting with History Teacher. This one was at my request. I needed to clarify for the teacher, that I have final say on educational issues, not his bio-mom. I discovered that bio-mom had approached History Teacher and told her that she believed that showing up for class regularly, and turning in homework, justified an A-grade. She didn’t think Casanova should be accountable for the effort he puts in, or the quality of the work he submits. I informed History Teacher to ignore bio-mom (until she showed up with court paperwork saying otherwise!). Casanova knows what’s expected of him, and that he has me to help him, if he needs it. Simply showing up only earns a C. There are no A’s, simply for showing up; A’s take effort to achieve. .

As we ended the conference, History Teacher told me that I wasn’t what she’d expected Casanova’s ‘grandmother’ to be. I questioned her further, and added it to what I’d learned from Math Teacher, and I think DH’s ex-wife was hanging around with bio-mom while she was still here (she’s gone back to Oregon, thank you very much). Anyway, they were at the school together a few times (picking up/dropping off), and made a point to tell everyone she’s Casanova’s grandmother, but NOT making it clear she’s been divorced from DH for 15 years! Math Teacher expecting to have to deal with the ex-wife, really would explain why she leapt right to treating me like a moron. I’m speculating, here. It’s hard to know for sure, when the entire situation is so damn convoluted before we even get out of bed in the morning.

The Vice-Principle asked for a meeting, too. I was pretty sure she was going to try to take me to task for how I treated Math Teacher. That was only partially true. She wanted to explain to me that the district might adopt Core Competencies, and I needed to be ready to accept that, but she’d be happy to explain it to me, so I’d understand that it really does work, how it works, why it works, that the moon is made of green cheese, and unicorns & dragons are real. At this point, I’m sick to death of explaining to people that I understand what it is they mistakenly believe Core Competencies does for students, how, and why. The VP was old enough, I was surprised she was buying into this crap. The teachers are young, I’m not surprised when they’re shocked to learn none of this is new and revolutionary. It was tried in the early 70’s and discarded as a failure. I have no idea who is being falsely credited as ‘brilliant’ for resurrecting this lost and forgotten crock of shit.

Anyway, the point I really want to make is…I’m not a student. I’ve been out of college so long, my loans are all paid off! (They were much cheaper back then, too.) I’ll partner with Casanova’s teachers to keep him in line, and to ensure he gets the most from his education he possibly can, given what he’s dealing with. I’ll check his homework, and I’ll sign off to show his teachers I’m fully aware of what’s going on in his classes. I’ll teach him all the study tricks I know. I’ll work with him until late into the night, when he struggles with an assignment. I’ll read his textbook assignments, and then paraphrase the content for him, in ways that he understands and relates to.

But I’m an adult; I’m NOT a student. When Casanova’s teachers request meetings with me, I accommodate them, but they have no business summoning me, like a truant child to the Principal’s office. I’m not a student, and Casanova’s teachers are not MY teachers. They’re authority figures to their students, most especially inside their classrooms, but they have no authority over me. I will cooperate, but I will not obey, and it’s not reasonable to expect that I will, or that I’ll tolerate attempts to speak to, or treat me, as though I was a student. I assist with homework, I don’t DO homework. I assist with special projects by sharing ideas, buying supplies (within reason), and taking time out to help with preparations. Special projects are not for me to complete, with Casanova’s assistance.

I was absolutely sure that, just about the time I got things settled at school, my responsibilities would be deemed complete, and Casanova would be back with bio-mom, full-time. She had been making a lot of noise about her family being back together (permanently) for Christmas. Casanova kept telling us that she was telling him, it was a done deal. There’s no way to tell if she really believed that to be the case, if she misunderstood the judge, or if it was just a tactic on her part.

Lawyer and Social Worker requested an in-person meeting with DH, and me. Social Worker wanted us to know about a concern she had about something from Casanova’s counseling sessions. Lawyer wanted to get a feel for where DH and I were at, with everything.

 photo 644381_451969084881926_1680786567_n.jpgCasanova was expressing a dark fatalism about his mother getting back full custody at Christmas. She repeatedly told him there was no more court, no more judge, it was happening, no one could stop it. He got highly agitated while discussing this. When he talked about the inevitability, he used terms that sounded like he was facing his doom. Social Worker asked him if he was ready to go back with bio-mom; did he WANT to go back with her, or did he want to stay with us a little longer? His answer to her was along the lines of ‘Whatever everybody else thinks is right’. In her experience, if the kids want reunification, they clearly say so. Casanova’s response, she’s learned, was typical of when the kids don’t want immediate reunification, but to say that out loud makes them feel as though they’re betraying their parent(s). She takes the pressure off of the kids by recommending against reunification for another period of evaluation. That way, it’s not the child’s fault if a parent doesn’t get their way.

Lawyer wanted to find out what our expectations and understandings were. Had we expected to be done with this by Christmas? Or did we have another six months in us? Honestly, it’s not the kid, it’s the mother who drives me bat-shit. I get why he was so freaked out, not wanting to go back, but feeling guilty about it. ‘Cause she WOULD lay the guilt trip on him, if she thought he’d told anyone, anything other than he wanted to be back with her. His life is calm and stable, and he doesn’t have to tolerate the screeching of both of his sisters.

But…she IS his mom.

So, the judge received a report from Social Worker, stating that the minor child continues to THRIVE in the current environment. She recommended that no changes be made, at this time. Additional visitation time with bio-mom could be at our discretion (some weeks, they get along, and he’ll stay over there for 3 days in a row – other weeks I hear screaming just as soon as DH answers his phone). Counseling recommended to continue (for both of them). Re-evaluate at the end of the current school year. Lawyer recommended following Social Worker’s recommendation. Judge said “Sold!” and whacked his gavel down.

I can do this, really I can. I made it through Homecoming. There’s a winter ball of some sort next week (which I won’t even be in town for, ha ha!). At least part of his winter break will be spent with his bio-mom. However, if Thanksgiving was any indication, she gets stressed right at the holiday, and then she lashes out. At 15, Casanova can’t be expected to not react when everyone in the house goes off their rockers. They shout, he shouts, everyone swears, things get thrown, and we get a phone call. So be it.

 photo 313736_153879041439119_485982730_n.jpgInteresting turn of events – it appears that Casanova has not been living up to his nickname! Well…he’s still a shameless flirt, and there are girls always calling him, following him around, and he’s ‘hung out’ with one or two others. But he broke up with the girlfriend, and he hasn’t gotten a new steady one.Also, a few other of the signs I’d picked up on, have disappeared. Social Worker and I agree, it was probably a form of rebellion against his mother. It was something he had control over, it flaunted his mother’s system of beliefs and morals, and he knew it would make her lose her ever-lovin’ mind. Now that he feels in control of his life, he doesn’t need to push his mom’s buttons, anymore. It’s likely he wasn’t even emotionally ready for sex when he became active, but his need to act out and provoke his mother was too great to resist. We’ll see what happens with this winter ball and New Year’s Eve, and whatnot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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