September 10, 2011

Christie Calls for Caps in School Administrators’ Salaries

I never thought I’d say this, but I love Chris Christie.

Not the name – how anyone could give his or her child virtually the same first name as last escapes me – but the fiscally responsible, tax-capping, school reforming storm trooper.

And that’s from a liberal. Okay, I’m not completely liberal. I’m more independent, but I lean left except when it comes to my money.

With Verona’s Town Council meeting earlier this month attracting record numbers of residents, myself included, who raged against the Verona machine and the proposed 5.9% municipal budget increase, Christie’s proposal is right on time.

Christie is calling for caps on administrators’ salaries and proposing a new pay scale based on the number of students in the district, an action that could save $9.8 million in out-of-classroom expenditures. This money, as part of the education budget, could then be used for actual education.

Currently, superintendents in districts with fewer than 1,000 students receive $152,764 on average in compensation with superintendents overseeing more than 1,000 students pull in $192,764. Almost $200,000? And, What school district in New Jersey, the most populated state per square mile in the nation, has fewer than 1,000 students? Even tiny Verona, not far removed from “Little House on the Prairie” days with its two classrooms per grade in the elementary schools, has over 1,000 students in the district.

September 10, 2011

Teacher Gift Giving Gone Wild

When did giving gifts to our children’s teachers become mandatory? And when did it become extravagant?

My whole introduction to the gifting system occurred several years ago when my first child entered kindergarten. I was startled, at first, and then perplexed by the whole process. I was in awe that there even was a process.

About five minutes after the first day of kindergarten commenced, the class mother approached the parents of the children in class looking to take up a collection for the teacher gift. My exact thoughts were, Collection? For what? And you want this now?

The request, though, was stated so efficiently, so matter-of-factly, I felt it left no room for denial. Still, I wanted to ask, “Do I have a choice?”

Originally, I thought I’d wait and see how the year went. Observe the type of school work brought home. Learn about the teaching methods being used. See if I even liked the teacher. I assumed, incorrectly apparently, that was the type of criteria on which gifts were based. I didn’t know then that gifts were given to teachers, automatically, every year no matter what.

Since that time I have grown accustomed to the tradition, and I have even been grateful for its convenience. Plus, I can appreciate its practicality. Why have everyone go out and buy 5 million useless, crappy gifts when you can pool the money to buy one big, nice gift?

The problem is it’s not just one gift.

April 20, 2011

My Russian Boy

Of the 60,000 Russian orphans who have found families through adoption by Americans, my son is one.

He is seven. He is from Moscow. He lived in an orphanage, and waited for a family.

He may not be unlike the adopted little Russian boy who was sent back to Moscow on a plane by himself with nothing more than a note from his adoptive mother stating he was being returned like some unwanted sweater. “I no longer wish to parent this child,” she wrote in the note according to The New York Times.

But he is not an article of clothing you can discard or a pet you can dump on the street when you deem it to be too much work. He is a person, a little boy without family to love him. A boy traumatized by an overfilled, underfunded orphanage in a poor country. And he was her little boy. He may have had “violent tendencies” and “severe psychopathic issues” as Torry Hansen, the mother, wrote in her note (possibly due to beatings by a broom handle in the orphanage, which is what the boy told his mother after the adoption), but whether you birth a child or adopt one, they are yours; they are a part of you, and that’s forever.

April 20, 2011

I Hate Playdates

I even hate the word playdate. I don’t think any dates should be involved in playing. Kids should just play. Preferably outside or at somebody else’s house.

What ever happened to being locked out of your house by your mother and forced to play with your only sibling on the rusty swing set out back?

Growing up, every Saturday of my life until I left home for college was exactly the same. My sister and I would get up around dawn, watch the “Smurfs” and “The Flintstones” and trash the basement. At a reasonable hour my mom would call us up for breakfast, which signaled the end of our weekend. Breakfast was immediately followed by chores.

We’d be sent downstairs (protesting was not an option) to deconstruct the sprawling Barbie village we had lovingly and painstakingly erected that morning. Then we’d dust and Windex every item of furniture in our rooms, mop and vacuum before we were rewarded by being locked out of the house to play.

Those are memories my children will not share.

April 16, 2011

The Quandary of the Wannabe Tiger Mother

Okay, before anyone starts getting upset, I don’t really want to be Amy Chua. But, to be honest, I would like to be half a Chua. Not the crazy, Mommy Dearest half, but the half that stresses education, maintains high standards and requires commitment and hard work from her children.

Of course, to some degree I do. I’m not letting my kids fail out of elementary school or anything, and I make sure they do their homework every night, but I think I could and should be doing more. Or, rather, I think my kids are capable of more. But to get them to put forth more than the absolute minimum of effort means I would need to both raise the bar on them and hold them to it.

Let’s face it my daughter’s certainly not going to pick up the violin and beg to practice it until she’s proficient. (We already know what happened with the trumpet.) Likewise, my son is never going to ask me if he can please not watch T.V. so he can study some more.

Kids are kids. That’s understandable. But it’s the adults and the culture and the society that make the rules and set the standards. I must admit I long for higher ones.

April 13, 2011

Panda Dad vs. Tiger Mom

Last week a Maplewood man calling himself the Panda Dad took on Tiger Mom Amy Chua in his appearance on the Today show. That was after he wrote about his annoyance with the debate in a Wall Street Journal Blog. Alan Paul – aka the Panda Dad – was not happy the debate left out one half of the parenting component. He asked, “Where are the dads?”

I’ve been wondering the exact same thing but not because of the Tiger Mom debate. I’ve been contemplating this question for slightly over a decade now, ever since my first child was born. Where are the dads – particularly when the baby needs a diaper change or the kid has a school Holiday Spectacular in the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday?

April 12, 2011

Summer Camp for Adults

rockclimbing.jpgWhy don’t they have camps for adults?

If anyone needs it, it would be us. I mean how stressful can life be for a kid? They don’t work; they don’t cook; they don’t do laundry or go food shopping or even put their clothes away. They don’t have a mortgage to pay. They don’t plan for their future. And, more importantly, they don’t have kids to raise. Why in God’s name are kids going to camp instead of adults?

When I saw the myriad camps Barista Kids listed this year in the summer camp section, I was astounded. I knew of precisely one, the Montclair Y, beside the crappy summer camp my town offers. Clearly, I was lacking in camp intelligence, but the sheer magnitude and breadth of camps in the immediate area mystified me. There is, quite possibly, a camp for every single activity on earth.

April 12, 2011

Happy Half Birthday to You

halfbirthdaycake.jpgI’m sure the concept of half birthdays is not new to some of you, but recently I was jolted by its mention.

I first encountered the half birthday a few years ago, but back then I thought it was the bizarre notion of some over-protective, over-parenting, stay-at-home-mom who made her own organic baby food and thought her child was too special to have to endure the inhumane injustice of a summer birthday.

Simply, I assumed it was the work of one crazy person who would not allow her son to be denied all the rights and privileges the preschool life had to offer. Gradually, I became aware the concept had slightly broader reach. When I heard it mentioned again recently, I was struck by its longevity and ubiquity.

And its acceptance concerns me.

April 4, 2011

Chores and Today’s Child

Slowly, ever so slowly, I have embarked on a mission to engage my children in domestic housework. I’m not hiring them out or anything. I just want them to participate in the routine maintenance of the household of which they are a part.

As toddlers they really weren’t good for much, but I did always have them clean up their own toys. (Okay, help me while I cleaned up all their toys.) As they grew older, getting them to do more than that required a Herculean effort, and I often lacked the strength.

Then last week my new best friend and favorite commenter, jennymilch, wrote in on my Playdate Post with chore statistics. If you missed it, she said years ago a study stated childhood chores were the number ONE predictor of adult happiness. I have no idea if that’s true or not, and I’m sure there’s another study claiming childhood chores are the number one predictor of adult misery, but I’m going with the former. It helps me out. I can get some relief with housework and believe I’m doing my kids some good.

Even if I’m not doing them any good, I’m still a big believer in child labor. My kids are the primary reason my house is a wreck in the first place. They should have a hand in cleaning it up.

But it has been difficult process.

April 3, 2011

If You Like It, Then You Should Have Put Some Clothes on It

Ballerinas.jpgBy now I know you have all heard about the dance competition in which a group of 7-year-old girls, dressed essentially as prostitutes, performed to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” And won.

But I can’t let this one slip past me without commenting. A huge mistake has been made.
The song choice was all wrong.

I’m confident “Don’t Cha” by the Pussycat Dolls would have been a much better pick for the choreography. You know that song. It goes, “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?”

You know what I wish? I wish little girls were not sexualized and made to perform provocative dance routines. And, I wish to know who thought this was a good idea?

Apparently, more than one person must have because five girls were on the team that performed in this national competition. That means at least ten parents thought dressing their little girls as strippers to perform an act congruent with the place of business associated with the outfits (minus the pole), was a brilliant idea. What’s worse is that a group of judges from the World of Dance competition agreed.

I want names and numbers.