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Your Kid is NOT That Bright

September 20, 2014

We’re ALL in denial when it comes to our kids.

You know that book/movie/episode of Sex and the City “He’s Just Not That Into You?”

Your kid is Just Not That Bright.

Ouch. That HURT.

But I felt it was necessary to rip the bandaid off quickly, rather than prolong the agony. Sometimes brutal honesty is better than sugarcoated fantasy (which, although a great porno name, is not going to help you understand my point.)

It doesn’t do you any good for me to feed you the same bullshit the schools have been feeding you all these years.

I know you think your kid is smart. After all, he has a 4.0 GPA in school, doesn’t he? Or a 3.8?

As a matter of fact, she’s a National Honors Society member.

But trust me, this doesn’t mean anything. It may have everything to do with grade inflation; rampant cheating; tenure; weighted averages, grade grubbing – so many factors.

He could be in the top 10 percent of the class and still…not be that bright.

“Dammit, why does she keep SAYING that?!!”

I guess I’m hoping to take the sting out of the words through repetition.

I have found that even the most realistic, evolved parents harbor a little bit of denial when it comes to their offspring.

Take Little Dude, for example. He’s super bright (or is he? I’d like to think he is, but after all, I AM his mom. And by definition, this puts me in the paradoxical situation of writing about a phenomenon that I myself may fall prey to).

Okay, let’s assume he’s bright. Not super gifted genius bright, but above average bright.

However, he has a lot of behavioral flaws. He’s defiant, smart mouthed – a difficult 10-year-old (or 17-year-old). Over the years, I have tried to be realistic about his flaws, but I’m sure I still see him in a better light then some other parents see him.

When he’s hanging with his buds, and smashes another kid over the head with a lightsaber, I’m sure the parents of his friend with the fresh head wound is now going to think of my kid as “that maniac.”

I think he’s … spirited. They think he’s a hyena.

Every parent whose kid has less than stellar academic performance goes dragging their kid off to the pediatric neurologist, looking for answers.

ANY ANSWER:

ADD. ADHD. Visual Perceptual deficit. Auditory Processing Disorder. Sensory Processing Disorder. Dyspraxia. Dyslexia. Dyscalculia. Dysgraphia.

It’s actually a GOOD thing that kids are no longer seen as just good and bad, smart and dumb.

It’s a positive thing, and a long time coming, that many developmental learning issues have been identified and are now addressed in schools so that every kid has a chance to learn.

The downside to this is,

THERE ARE NO DUMB KIDS ANYMORE.

NONE. NADA. ZIP.

Where have all the dumb kids gone?

When I was growing up (wow, nothing like that phrase to make you sound old), there were smart kids, there were average kids, and there were dumb kids.

It was fairly easy to identify the dumb kids. In middle school, they were the ones sitting in the back of the room, shooting spitballs in Mr. Gleason’s crappy hairpiece.

In high school, they were the ones standing outside, huddled together in leather jackets smoking cigarettes and lighting Mr. Gleason’s car on fire.

To hear parents speak today, there are simply no dumb kids. How can that be? We’ve all come into contact with dumb adults, haven’t we? Possibly you’ve asked them for help while shopping at Best Buy. Occasionally they work airport security, or dance around inside purple dinosaur costumes.

So, weren’t they, more than likely, just not so bright as kids? And isn’t there a possibility that there are some not-so-bright kids roaming around TODAY?

If there are, it NEVER gets blamed on intelligence.

A close friend of mine has a son who’s just not that bright. She constantly refers to him as “intelligent” but “with delays.”

Now maybe it’s easy for me call a spade a spade because my kid doesn’t have intelligence issues, but delays? The kid was dumb.

She ended up having him repeat kindergarten, TWICE. Never mind that he’ll be shaving before he leaves middle school. He’s just “delayed.”

The world is just not created equal.

I can already see, at 10, that my son is not a “natural” athlete. He’s better than he USED to be because I run him like a dog (I know – the dad’s job –right? I’m the one in the backyard with a ball and a glove like a dipshit). And yes, he’s improved, and will continue to.

But some kids his age can run a ball on a soccer field like Lionel Messi. The “delayed” son of my friend can run faster than a speeding bullet. Maybe it’s because his brain weighs less than all the other kids.’

And I can and do compare my son’s artistic ability to that of my friend’s kids. My girlfriend’s daughter can already draw, at 9 years old, the kind of artwork I would consider framing and hanging up. I can see that, Little Dude is NO Da Vinci. Here is his latest drawing:

So why am I, and probably other parents, willing to admit when our kids are not naturally athletic, or artistic, or musical – but DON’T WANT to admit that our kids are just not that smart?

Because BEING SMART HELPS WITH EVERYTHING YOU DO IN LIFE.

If you can’t paint, throw a hellish long pass, play the tuba, or win a beauty contest you can still have a very successful life.

But if you’re not smart, you’re kind of screwed.

I recently spoke to a mother, an incredibly bright Ivy League Graduate. Her youngest son has learning “issues.” He has an IEP; an Individualized Education Program, which is a written document that’s developed for each public school child who is eligible for education.

I inquired as to nature of these issues. The mom, as bright and articulate as she is, could not tell me anything specific. She had just identified early on that her son was having difficulties in school. She asked his teacher if she felt her son was experiencing any kind of learning delays; the teacher did not.

She demanded that the child study team test her son. They did and found nothing diagnosably wrong with him.

She then went to a private doctor, and was given a diagnosis sufficient to garner her son the aforementioned IEP. Her answer, when I asked what specifically was his diagnosis, was that he had “broad spectrum learning disability.”

What IS that?

I tried googling it.

It doesn’t exist.

Is there anything even “wrong” with her son? Who’s to say?

Many experts found nothing they could specifically pin down; the expensive specialist she went to gave her a diagnosis that doesn’t exist on the Internet.

What if her son was just not that bright?

What if she just had enough money to find a doctor who would give her what she was looking for – a reason to explain away her son’s sub-par academic performance? That would certainly make her feel better about having given birth to a “C” student who doesn’t have an iceberg’s chance in hell of attending her college alma mater.

The benefits of having broadened our educational system to accommodate kids with learning disabilities are extolled resoundingly.

The damage this may be doing, on the other hand, is completely hush hush. No one wants to think that people exploit the system so they can do something as unfair as get their kids undeserved extra accommodations. I see it all the time.

Let’s say you’re one of the smart, professional, educated parents with plenty of resources – and you were unwilling to have your child – who may or may not have a learning disability – struggle in school. And you choose to utilize all the support necessary to help your child.

BUT – when does utilization become exploitation?

Because remember – even with all the fancy diagnoses available, some of the kids with these quasi non-specific diagnoses are just not that bright.

Schools must accommodate these kids. Once diagnosed and given an IEP or 504, schools are legally bound to. But even with all those extra accommodations, a student whose parent fought to get them one of these bogus diagnoses is going to flounder.

In high school. In college.

And definitely in life, where IEPs DO NOT exist.

This is the where this debacle REALLY impacts us.

Let me state this, for the record: I would never suggest that some students do not legitimately deserve and benefit from these accommodations. I would never try to minimize the importance of the Special Education system in our country, and how much good it has done to help millions of kids with learning disabilities.

But I wouldn’t have written about this kind of exploitation if I didn’t know a parent, a special education teacher, tell me right out that there was nothing discernably wrong with her child.

Her kid was just a crappy student who did terribly on tests, and she told me she knew how to “work the system” to get her kid extra time on tests.

This is the type of parent I am talking about. Only one of them had the balls to come right out and say it.

But she’s like a cockroach – for every one you spot, there’s a hundred more hidden somewhere.

And this mangled intersection of finance, education and politics is not IN THE BEST INTEREST OF OUR CHILDREN.

What do you think about the accommodations made for kids who really don’t need them, vs kids who do?

Samara is the no-holds-barred, three time Freshly Pressed blogger at A Buick in the Land of Lexus, where she shares everything from stories of motherhood and surviving suburbia to edgy tales of her life in New York City. She mixes honesty with humor in high definition, first-person story telling. In addition, Samara is also a founding member of two other blogs: The SisterWives, a woman’s blog collective, and Stories That Must Not Die. She lives in New Jersey with her son Little Dude, the coolest, most soulful 11-year-old kid on the planet. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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4 Tips for Navigating School Waters with a Food Allergic Child

September 19, 2014

When your child can eat anything, you don’t give it much thought. I know this because for two years, that was my life. I made baked goods to bring to play dates, I dropped my son off at Sunday School without a concern for what the snack might be, I threw birthday parties and served any food I wanted. Unless another parent told me that their child had an allergy, I never thought about it because I never had to think about it.

Then our second son was born and several months into his life, I was given a crash course in ‘Life with a Food-Allergic Child‘. Suddenly, every place we went held hidden dangers. Every item at the store had to be carefully screened. Every time I dropped him off somewhere I worried that he would eat something he wasn’t supposed to eat.

Thankfully, Samuel’s allergies are not severe. Even so, we try to be as careful as we can to avoid any allergic reactions. When he started PreK this year I discovered that school is a whole new world to maneuver when it comes to dealing with food allergies. Sending a child off to school all day is nerve-wracking enough without the added worry of him having an allergic reaction while there.

We’re only a few weeks into the school year, but this is what I’ve learned so far when it comes to navigating these new waters. Of course the questions you ask, and the precautions you take, will depend in large part on the severity of your child’s allergies, but this can be a jumping off point.

1. Find out school policies before school starts.

We filled out Samuel’s health forms over the summer, but when I brought in the EpiPen on the first day of school, I suddenly discovered I should have done my homework ahead of time. It wasn’t a surprise that they needed a copy of the prescription, but I didn’t even think to bring in a bottle of Benadryl and when they asked if I had one, they also informed me that I needed a prescription for that too. It took a bit of scrambling to get everything in order and I realized that things would have gone more smoothly if I had asked questions ahead of time.

Questions to ask include:

  • Do you have allergy-free classrooms?
  • Do you need a prescription for all medications (including over-the-counter)?
  • Where are medications kept (office, nurse’s office, classroom)?
  • Do you need more than one EpiPen so that they can be kept in multiple locations?
  • What are the lunchroom policies? Are there allergy-free tables? Do children wash their hands after lunch?

2. Learn the classroom policies.

Questions to ask include:

  • Do you have snack time in your room? Do children wash their hands afterwards?
  • How are special days (birthdays, holidays, etc) handled? Do parents bring in snacks? If so, are there any restrictions on those snacks?
  • If special snacks are allowed, do you have a list of the dates they will occur so I can send in a safe treat for my child?

3. Communicate!

Just because you did the first two tips doesn’t mean you’re done. Keep the lines of communication open with your child’s teacher, other school staff, and fellow parents throughout the year. If you’re unsure about something, ask. If you see something that needs to change, tell the appropriate person. It can be easy to feel like ‘that mom’ and not want to be a bother, but the fact is that you are your child’s number one advocate. Most parents of children with food allergies are well-trained in looking for potential dangers while people who don’t have experience with food allergies are not. It is our job to communicate and educate when appropriate.

4. Teach your child to be his own advocate.

Samuel has known from a very young age that he is allergic to nuts and dairy. If you put a piece of cheese in front of him, he’ll tell you he can’t eat it. He has the added benefit of a protective older brother who for the past four years has been with him in most situations (the church nursery, a babysitter’s house, etc). Eli is quick to say what Samuel can and can’t eat, and he’s also quick to ask about a food that he’s unsure of.

Now that Samuel is in a classroom by himself, I’m glad we’ve taught him about his allergies, but I wish we had done a better job of teaching him to speak up for himself instead of relying on his brother. Another thing he needs to learn is that dairy has many names, including the lesser known casein and whey.

Since Samual started school, he and I have discussed that he should always ask about foods he’s unsure of and in any case of uncertainty, he should err on the side of caution. It’s not easy to tell your four year old to give up the cookie that’s sitting in front of him, but it’s certainly better than the potential alternative. Teaching him to self-advocate will be an ongoing process, but it is probably the most important of all these tips.

For those of you who have children with food allergies, what other helpful tips would you add?

Lauren is a SAHM of three who realized a couple of years ago that trying to make other people think she has it all together is exhausting and ridiculous. Due to her epiphany she began the blog, Oh, Honestly! where she shares her real life (messy house, meltdowns, and all) in hopes to inspire others to drop their act as well. When she’s not blogging, Lauren can be found breaking up fights, sneaking chocolate in the pantry, and talking about how cute her kids are. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram

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20 Signs You Might Be a Little Too Freakin' Sensitive

September 18, 2014

If you are as sensitive as I am, you will probably feel like this post was written about you. And, for once, you would be right. It was written about you . . . and me, and all the other overly-sensitive made-of-glass people stumbling around out there trying to reign in all their stupid feelings.

20 Signs You Might Be a Little Too Freakin’ Sensitive (like me)

1. On Facebook, you can’t help but notice when a friend of yours likes everyone’s comment but yours, and it hurts your feelings. You could mope about this for days. (“Why does Jane not like me anymore? Did I DO something??”) ((sob!))

2. You understand that it is possible – probable, even – to have a nervous breakdown over a book.

3. Or freak the hell out over some music.

4. That person who broke your heart a million years ago? Why? What did you do wrong? Are you not loveable? Why the dreams? Can we maybe stop with the dreams?

5. You know that any time after 11:00 p.m. there is a high probability that there is either a serial killer, a zombie or an alien outside of your window. Likewise, you can turn any ordinary nighttime house sound into the sound of a killer coming down your hallway to murder you while you lay frozen in panic.


Yep, that sounds about right.

6. You wonder all the time why people are so mean. Why can’t we all just be nice to each other?

7. You can’t believe that there are people on this earth who don’t like dogs. Like, are they just not paying attention?

8. Shows like Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and Orange is the New Black are just “too much” for you.

9. You say sorry all the time. When someone says, “Don’t be sorry!” you respond with, “Oh. Sorry.”

10. When instant messaging with a friend, if you see the little dots indicating a forthcoming message, but then the message never comes, you immediately assume the person thinks you cannot be trusted with secrets. And you will literally wonder until the day you die what they were about to say.

11. You always let people go ahead of you. You’re that person at the grocery store checkout who insists, “No, you go. No really. You first. PLEASE.” If you end up going first because the other person wouldn’t relent, you feel like a dirty thief for the rest of the day.

12. People are always telling you, “Don’t be so sensitive!”

13. You’re pretty sure that weird thing you said three weeks ago at your kid’s open house has marked you as a social pariah. Especially because that one popular mom never looks you in the eye anymore.

14. It honestly hurts your feelings when your husband starts eating before you’ve even gotten your plate. (“Doesn’t he even NOTICE I’M ALIVE?”)

15. Post-it notes and lists EVERYWHERE because you forgetting something will definitely be a catalyst for the apocalypse.

16. If you wake up in the morning from a disturbing dream, it will ruin your whole day.

17. If you make a mistake at work, you fret about what a moron you are for at least three weeks.

18. Sometimes you ugly cry in the shower because the world is just such a beautiful disaster.


“It’s just all so much to take in!”

19. If someone tries to tickle you, you will not hesitate to kick them in the junk. But it will be by accident, and you will feel terrible about it later.

20. This list is making you feel terribly emotional. (Sorry.)

Eh? Sound familiar? Now do you feel validated but also sort of like someone just ripped off your top layer of skin and now all your nerves are exposed and everything’s all tingly and you can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing? It’s okay. I understand. Let’s internet-hug.

Now there. Isn’t that better?

Kristen Mae is a devoted wife and mother, ADHD momma-warrior, violist, health-nut, and writer. She is the voice of Abandoning Pretense, where her goal is to provide a community where women are free to be honest about their struggles with marriage, parenthood, and life. In addition to her blog, Mae shares hilarious and heart-warming tidbits of her life on her Facebook page, Google+, and Twitter.

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A Mom of Boys: Tranquil is Not in Their DNA

September 17, 2014

I realized something today. I’m the mother of two… BOYS. This only took me a few years to grasp. Last I checked I am not, and have never been, a boy. Because of this I feel ill-equipped to raise males.

In short… I’m terrified.

We were watching funny videos tonight and all of the stunts gone wrong were almost always performed by pre-pubescent, frontal-lobes-not-fully-developed, dudes. I see my kids faces as they watch, and how hilarious they find them.

Then I realize, it’s not a matter of if my boys will perform completely stupid stunts that involve a trip to the ER… it’s when.

At 7 and 3 we have yet to have any major injuries. I know some young kids that have already ventured into antics causing their parents mild heart attacks. I’m lucky mine haven’t dared… yet, but I know it’s just a matter of time.

Now that there are two of them, this reality is inevitable. Boys egg each other on in everything. Someone always has to be the winner. First to brush their teeth, first up the stairs, first to finish breakfast, first to the toilet. You name it. (I’ve noticed though, that they never compete to be first to clean up, or first to hug mom, or first to share).

This morning as I was packing Danger’s lunch I heard them yelling at each other over breakfast. I told them to stop yelling and just eat. I was proud of the immediate quiet I heard thinking they had finally listened to me and my threats. Then I walked into the dining room to see them silently hitting each other. I’m sure they were thinking as long as mom didn’t hear it was okay to keep at each other.

I regularly hear things being yelled like, “You are the chosen one!!” or “Mom… I’m not doing anything up here…” or, “I dare you!” all followed by a crash and scream.

And it’s ridiculous how often I have to tell Little Lion to stop karate chopping his own wiener.

I’m learning (guessing) that this is all normal for parents raising boys?

I know one day this will translate into them quietly betting the other one they should jump off the garage, or something equally as stupid. I should probably accept these things and make sure the boys insurance is as comprehensive as possible.

And in the spirit of acceptance I made the boys promise tonight to make sure that whatever stupid feats they ever attempt, they always make sure that at least one friend is there with a phone. And now I will fall asleep imagining all the awful things their little brains will cook up.

If you’re the mom of boys, what’s the craziest/ stupidest/ insane stunt they ever pulled and lived to tell? I’m trying to prepare myself for the inevitable.

Sarah Kennedy-Sexton is newly single and a mom of two boys. She can’t decide if she should keep her married name or go back to her awesome maiden name, so for now she is going to have a hyphenated last name like someone important. She lives outside of Philadelphia and repeatedly tries, and mostly fails, at all things domestic. Also, she likes to write. Probably should have led with that. Follow her blog at Raising Danger.

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A Mom of Girls: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

September 16, 2014

When I was younger, like most little girls, I daydreamed about my future life. I did not anticipate my wedding, but rather the perfect family that would come afterwards. My vision was very June Cleaver-esque. It involved a tall, dark, and handsome husband who worked a very regular 9-5 job every day and three children – two boys, and, finally, a girl who would be our little princess to spoil.

My life did not turn out quite like my vision.

My husband nails the handsome part of the equation, but he is an average height with red hair and freckles. His job is anything but regular. He travels around the country (sometimes around the world) for work and is gone overnight at least a couple times a week, usually. He has more frequent flyer miles than Ward Cleaver could have counted.

What about the kids? Well, our third one was indeed a girl; a true little princess who loves everything pink and sparkly. However, the other two are girls as well! Though they are all the same gender, they are different as night and day. The oldest is most often found in athletic shorts or yoga pants and a t-shirt. She wouldn’t be caught dead in anything pink or glittery. She is stoic and reticent. The middle one is a ball of energy, constantly in motion. She doesn’t care what she wears as long as it involves jeans in some manner and she would honestly forget her head occasionally if it wasn’t attached. As I said, the youngest is the princess whose philosophy is “the more pink and sparkles, the better!” The differences between the three of them are incredible.

My youngest is seven and I still get asked if we are going to try “one more time” to see if we can get that boy. The answer to that question is a very emphatic “NO!” Even though it is not what I forecast for my life, I have accepted my fate as a girl mom and accepted several realities of that title.

The Good:

Another thing people often say to me when they find out I have three daughters is, “Wow! You are certainly going to be well taken care of when you get old!” I have no doubt that this is the truth. My girls already take care of me. They love to brush my hair, paint my nails, or help me choose an outfit. They can tell when I’m out of sorts and they respond by asking if they can help or just offering a hug. Girls in general just seem to be more natural nurturers. I am confident that, when the time comes to truly care for me and their dad, they will rise to the occasion without hesitation.

There is also a sense of camaraderie we have. I always tell them that I am their mother, not their friend. While I subscribe adamantly to that philosophy, there is just a connection we have as girls. It’s one of those intangible, indescribable things that you just feel and I feel it with them.

The Bad:

When they were babies, they were all bald. In fact, I could have them dressed in pink and ruffles and, inevitably, a little old lady would come up to me and say, “Oh, HE’s so HANDSOME!” I wanted to scream and I could not wait for their hair to grow. Now? OMG the hair!!!! We have enough hair products, curling irons, and hair ties in this house to stock a beauty salon. There is hair in the sinks, hair in the tubs, and hair in the trash cans. We cannot go for a cheap, barber shop clipper buzz. Our trips to the hair salon almost break the bank and my hairdresser loves us!!!

Right now, we really need to go fall shopping, too, but keeping these girls in clothes is a feat. With boys, I imagine, it’s not quite as tough. Their clothes are more versatile – khaki pants that can be worn to school or church. With girls – not so much. There are fancy dresses for church, casual dresses for school, shorts/skorts for P.E. day, and athletic clothes for soccer practice. Now, throw in each of their particular preferences and all the shoes to go with all those different outfits. It makes my head spin. Seriously.

The Ugly:

Every parent dreads having “the talk” with their kids, but it is inevitable and necessary. With girls, however, there are two talks that must be had. There is first the menstruation talk and then, of course, the sex talk. Since they are girls and I’m a girl, my husband assumes that this is my territory. Two talks (X) Three girls = SIX super heavy and uncomfortable discussions for which I am primarily responsible.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Save the drama for your mama!”? Well, I’m officially begging you – PLEASE, DO NOT EVER SAY THAT TO MY DAUGHTERS!!! I am up to my eyeballs in drama. Boys fight with fists and feet. Girls fight with words and eye rolls. I am convinced the words and eyes cut far deeper than the fists. Plus, girls just tend to be more sensitive, so, when they are on the receiving end, they take it so much harder. Mine are not even teenagers yet and I swear the hormones are already flying around here. Throw in my own fluctuations and it can be a pretty volatile situation!

*************

I’m sure the boy moms would have their own good, bad, and ugly lists. And, of course, there are the moms who have some of each. The truth is, we all have different family structures and we are all blessed (and cursed) in different ways. We simply cannot control the gender of the children we get and I, for one, wouldn’t want to. This house full of girls and a red-headed, traveling hubby may not be what I imagined so many years ago, but I am so incredibly grateful for every minute of it and I wouldn’t change a thing!

Lisa Witherspoon is a SAHM and the Director Of Household Operations in the ‘Spoon’ household. Fueled by coffee and chocolate, Lisa writes about the joys, frustrations, surprises, and chaos of motherhood on her blog, The Golden Spoons. She is also a contributing author to The Mother of All Meltdowns anthology. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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