Monday, August 28, 2006

Huh. Maybe I Should Have That Checked.

The rocket ship lunchbox was really only the tip of the iceberg.

Last Tuesday was parent orientation night at the high school. The principal welcomed all of us freshman parents, and congratulated us on having done such a great job of raising the class of 2010. As soon as he said that, I nearly started to bawl, right there in the auditorium.

The entire time the chemical guidance counselor was speaking, about the occasional school-wide sweeps with drug sniffing dogs, and about how we, as parents, must model responsible behavior, all I could think about was how much I wanted to get home and consume uncharacteristically large amounts of vodka.

When it was over, I went to the grocery store (for limes and club soda to mix with my vodka) and I saw a man walking in the parking lot, holding the hand of a little girl. And I nearly started weeping again.

In the checkout line I ran into DemiGoddess the Elder’s Girl Scout troop leader, who had also just come from the parent orientation. She, unlike me, seemed to have been completely unscathed by the experience, and was surprised that I had found the whole thing so distressing. She reassured me that Ms. Elder is a terrific kid, and I have nothing to worry about with her. Which was comforting, but really, I already knew that.

Clearly, something is going on here that is deeper than your run-of-the mill parental angst, and it has very little to do with Demi the Elder herself. I’m not sure what my issue is exactly, but I do know it’s mine. And yeah, I’m taking it to someone who can help me name it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

We're All Still In High School On The Inside

Shopping for school supplies for the DemiGoddesses has evolved beyond markers and crayons, school glue, tape, and safety scissors. The scientific calculators I bought them for school last year still work fine, so during our shopping trip to Target last night, all we put into our cart was a pile of composition books, some loose leaf paper, a supply of pens and binders.

DemiGoddess the Younger’s binder is one of those elaborate canvas-covered, multi-zippered and pocketed organizer systems, complete with accordion-style colored plastic dividers and a clip-on shoulder strap for portability. (Yeah. It’s THAT big). DemiGoddess the Elder, on the other hand, opted for your standard 2-inch, heavy-duty, vinyl three-ring binder. It opens. It closes. It's white. Her binder is utilitarian and, most imporantly, customizable. She'll embellish it herself later with Sharpie markers.

I’ve been surprised to find myself far more daunted by the idea of Demi the Elder entering high school than I ever was by kindergarten or even junior high. And my worries go far beyond the obvious perils of her upcoming entry into driver's ed class. High school is when life starts to get real. Her high school experience, for better or worse, can have major fallout well into her future. For the next four years, doing or not doing her homework will directly impact her grades, which will impact her eligibility for scholarship money and her college options, which will, in turn, impact the career path she’ll be on for the REST OF HER LIFE. We're about to enter the parenting home stretch, the time for making any last-minute corrections is running out, and the overwhelming prospect of doing it wrong—of ME allowing HER to do it wrong—has me practically paralyzed with anxiety.

And, obviously, I would very much like the social aspects of her high school experience to be an improvement over my own (not that that would be difficult). Like any parent, I'm trying to learn how to walk that precarious line between allowing her live her own life, and doing everything in my power to prevent her from making mistakes that she might look back on, twenty years from now, and regret.

I do realize that all of these issues are more about me than they are about her. And I’ve tried to keep them mostly to myself. So far, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping a lid on my insanity. But last night at Target, the lunch box aisle completely blew my cover.

DemiGoddess the Younger had already selected a sassy pink two-handled tote style insulated lunch bag, complete with it's own mini freezer pack. But when it came to Demi the Elder, I wondered out loud, “What do high school kids carry their lunches in? One of these insulated things? Brown bags? Do the cool kids just take hot lunch?”

Demi the Younger looked at me skeptically. “The ‘cool’ kids?”

“I don’t want hot lunch,” Demi the Elder said. “The cafeteria food is gross.” Then she took a colorful rocket ship-shaped lunch box off the shelf. “This one is cool,” she laughed. And it was. But the ninth-grader that I apparently still am, somewhere, deep down, was having none of it.

“You’d bring your lunch to high school in a rocket ship lunch box? Won't the older kids make fun of you?"

"They do that at the high school?" asked Demi the Younger.

"Sure they do," I said. "'Hey there little freshman, what did your mom pack in your rocket ship lunch box for you, little freshman?'”

Demi the Younger’s look changed from skepticism to sympathy. “You were really traumatized in high school, weren’t you?”

It’s going to be a long four years.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Waiting to Exhale

I’ve been anxious lately. I’ve turned to every one of my worst nervous habits—nibbling on cookies, shopping for things I don’t really need, spending way too much time online—to no avail.

My fate has been in the hands of the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees. And that? Is not a happy place to be.

But today, finally, I can almost breathe again…

P.S. Today my anxious nibbling will be on a Blizzard® treat, because that way I'll be helping out my local children's hospital at the same time. Would you like one too? More info is here. Find the location of your nearest participating DQ® location here.

Mmmmmm... Blizzards...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

These Are The People In My Neighborhood

Last night I got a call from Leah, the neighbor next door, inviting me over to have a glass of wine with her and a couple of her women friends from the neighborhood.

Leah is the former neighbor I wrote about last summer. When she and her husband moved a few years ago, they kept the house next door to mine and rented it out until last spring, when they finally kicked out the Boy Toys (much to my relief) and put the house on the market.

For months, Leah has spent time at the house, getting it cleaned up and re-painted and ready to sell. Potential buyers have come and gone, but the house has remained empty. I'm sure our torn-up street didn't help matters.

Then last Thursday, she left me a voicemail saying, “Hey, guess what, I’m your neighbor next door again. Come on over when you’re home.” My former neighbor and her kids had moved back into their freshly-painted former house, minus one alcoholic husband.

She's remarkably composed about it all, hopeful that they might reconcile, but also very clear that she can no longer live the way she has been. Her family and friends have been around a lot, offering support and whatever household items she forgot to bring with her.

One thing I had forgotten about Leah is that she is such a friendly, outgoing person, she has no problem stopping passersby in front of her house, introducing herself, asking where they live, and taking a moment to get to know them. I watched her do it on her first day back. My own operating style in the neighborhood has always been to keep to myself, nod and say hello when people pass by on the sidewalk, and then pretty much leave it at that. It turns out that she has several neighborhood friends from her three-year stint next door, while I, in my nine years on the block, have gotten to know the people who live on either side of my house, and that's about it.

Last night when she called, I had just returned from having dinner with My Ho and Batgirl and Jeb (Mr. Batgirl). It was the second goodbye dinner of the summer for me--the first was just before Dr. Dave moved to Maryland, and next week Batgirl and Jeb are moving to Massachusetts--and with that on top of moping about missing BlogHer, my plan was to spend a quiet evening nursing my abandonment issues in front of "Sex and the City" reruns. But some wine and socializing with people who live close by suddenly seemed like an excellent alternative, especially since the Demis are up north with The Ex's parents this week, and I had a bottle of Two Buck Chuck already chilled in the refrigerator.

At one point during the evening, Leah proudly showed the four of us who were there the array of tools, picture hooks and nails she had picked up in the Dollar Spot at Target earlier in the day (“My very own screwdrivers!”). This prompted her friend Tammy, who lives around the corner from us and is also a single mom, to observe that Home Depot can be a very sexy place, if one knows how to work it.

“I just walk up to one of the employees and tell him I need a good screw," she said. "He’ll go on and on about the long screws, the short screws, the hardwood screws, even the self drilling screws. The electrical department can be really fun, too.”

Certainly, the circumstances of Leah's return to the house next door are unfortunate, and there’s no knowing how long her stay will last. But I have to admit, it's fun hanging out with the neighbors.