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When the Prom Isn’t About the Dance

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Let’s face it, high school proms have been less about the actual dancing for years–maybe even decades.  Instead they’re all about the glitzy dresses (one school is actually making girls submit a photo of their dress beforehand just to ensure their appropriateness), crowded limo rides and after-party shenanigans.  But one aspect of the prom experience is relatively new and, in my opinion (I know the haters are gonna hate here) has relegated the actual prom to even more of an after thought.  I’m talking about the Promposal.  (I’m pretty sure this word evolved from the Facebook lexicon, but I’m stealing it here.)

What is up with all these elaborate Promposals?  Whatever happened to the girl who sits next to you in Chemistry telling you that so and so is going to ask you to the prom and you either give a thumbs up or a gag me, no way, thumbs down?  I can tell you what happened.  Mothers with too much time on their hands, social media and Pinterest.  (I told you the haters were going to come after me!)  Seriously, what teenage guy thinks of cordoning off a driveway with crime tape, drawing a chalk outline of a body and holding a poster that reads:  I’ll just die if you don’t go to prom with me?  In my day, that would so NOT be the guy I went to prom with.

We had two brave teenage boys ride into the estrogen charged barn this spring to leave notes on girl’s horses asking them to prom.  Was it cute?  Yes, it was.  But seriously, how are they going to make a boring old dance live up to the hype of such a thoughtful Promposal?

boomboxMy personal favorite this year (because I LOVED the movie) was a kid re-enacting John Cusack’s boom box scene from Say Anything.  The movie is older than any of the kids doing the asking, however, which probably explains why it resonated with the moms.  (Are you seeing my point?)

Worst Promposal I ever heard of:  The boy who showed up to ask a girl to prom with bouquet of flowers and–wait for it–a puppy.  Let me repeat.  A. Puppy.  Note to all the boys out there:  DO NOT show up to my house bringing a puppy for my daughter. EVER.  Now, if you want to show up with a 17-hand equitation horse, we’ll talk.

So what do you think of the Promposal?  Am I just over-reacting?  Have you heard of any cute ones?  Or crazy ones?

The parent as overachiever

Last week, my daughter’s school held an information evening for the parents of rising high schoolers to explain how the next four years of course scheduling will work. Having already sent one child through the same school, I remembered enough from her older brother’s time there to know the process is long, and way more complicated than it seems. The Dutchman and I decided a refresher course wouldn’t be a bad idea.

After the presentation, when the time came for Q & A, a frizzy-haired woman a few rows up raised her hand. “My daughter is very talented in the visual arts, and I’m worried her schedule may lean a little too heavy in that direction.”

overachieverThe Dutchman and I exchanged a look. Was there a question in there somewhere? The Principal handled her non-question like a pro.

A few moments later, her hand jutted into the air again. “Is there any way my daughter can exempt from the 9th and 10th grade English courses and go straight into the upper levels and APs?”

The Dutchman and I lifted a brow. Talented and brilliant, wow.

By now, people around us were exchanging looks, as well. I doubt any of them were surprised when the woman took the floor yet again.

“How do I go about getting my daughter in AP statistics her freshman year?” she said. “Because blah-blah-blah-blah-blah…”

This was the moment I stopped listening, and began wishing they served wine at these things. Honestly, lady with the frizzy hair, is your daughter truly that amazing or are you just trying to impress us? Because right now I’m kinda the opposite of impressed. I’m kinda feeling sorry for you both.

So let me tell you a little about my daughter. My daughter likes to paint and draw and sculpt, too, and some of her stuff isn’t half bad. My daughter is a voracious reader, but only if Dance Moms isn’t on TV and none of her friends are on Facebook. My daughter tolerates math and science but just barely, and thank God for her tutor because I’m not a big fan of those subjects, either. The grades my daughter brings home are perfectly adequate.

But she’s smart and funny and talented and pretty and kind. She’s well-adjusted and well-rounded. She sings, loudly and almost always on key, in the car and in the shower, and she can spike a mean volleyball. But most importantly, she’s happy.

And isn’t that what we should be bragging about?

Ripples In Time

Sheila-Grade-10Back in high school, I had a crush on a guy. He was cute and funny and a year older than I was. He also had a girlfriend who went to a different school, which meant that as long as she was in the picture, he was off limits.

But I liked this guy and we became friends. Sure, there was some flirting. Mostly we hung around outside of classes and he let me store my books in his locker because my locker was way down at the other end of the school.

Storing my books in his locker was a great way to ensure I would constantly run into him between classes. It was a brilliant plan, one of the best catch-a-guy plans I ever devised. Unfortunately, he still had a girlfriend.

During those first two months of the school year, our friendship blossomed. In late October, with the Sadie Hawkins dance approaching – you know the one where the girl gets to ask the guy to the dance? – I wanted to ask him to be my date. But at fifteen, my experience with dating was minimal. Mostly the guys I had crushes on just wanted to be friends and the guys who had crushes on me … well, I just wanted to be their friend.

I kept hearing that he was still with this other girl, and even though I was pretty sure it was all over between them – all but the final “we’re done” – I kept finding excuses not to ask him to the dance. If you want to know the truth, I was chicken.  I was scared of rejection and scared of looking like a fool and scared of losing his friendship.

I lost it anyway.

Deep down, I knew my locker guy liked me, a lot, and was waiting for me to ask him to the dance. Perhaps if he’d broken up with his other girlfriend, I might have been braver. Perhaps if my friends weren’t pressuring me to ask their boyfriends’ buddy to the dance instead, I might have gathered up my courage and made my move.

Instead, I asked the other guy, and the budding relationship between me and my locker guy disintegrated until I finally gave up hope and moved back to my own locker. Other than the occasional nod as we passed in the hallway, he spent the rest of high school ignoring me.

dreamstimefree_2868839Fortunately, I was young and my heart was resilient. But was his?

He came to the dance alone, and I’m sure he expected me to be solo, too. Immediately after the dance, he changed. Even back then, I wondered if it was my fault. He dropped his girlfriend and began to hang around with a crowd of kids heavy into booze and drugs, and from what I could tell, spent most of his days high or drunk. Years later, I ran into him and we had a polite conversation. He’d never married, lived alone, and worked as an electrician in the oilfield industry.

Shortly afterward, I saw his obituary in the paper. He’d died, either from the drugs or alcohol, or a combination of the two. I still think of him sometimes and wonder if his life would’ve been different if I’d been brave enough to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Or if his life was predestined to end up as it did and had I dated him, would I have been caught up in the murky mess of his life?

Do you ever look back and wonder if your actions could’ve made a difference in someone’s life? Or do you think we’re predestined to live our life a certain way?

Let’s Hear It For the Teachers!

School is back in session and we are finally settling into a routine at Camp Solheim.  It didn’t take as much time for my daughter to adjust to high school as I anticipated, thanks in part to some great teachers.  I am in awe of the people who choose a career in education.  It’s the most underrated and underpaid profession I know of.  Yet, these folks spend as many waking hours of the day with our kids as we do.  I envy their dedication—and patience.   Definitely something I lack.

My kids have been blessed with some amazing educators who’ve molded their mushy minds into maturity.  Have they all been perfect?  No.  But life isn’t perfect and the sooner my kids get that through their noggins, the better.  But they have encountered some rare jewels who’ve left a lasting impression on both my kids and me.  I’m a thankful parent this week that one particular teacher took the time to point out my child may not be as careless as we suspected, just battling a previously undetected glitch in processing written information.  It’s nice to know someone really cares about the success of their students.

I don’t remember too many of my teachers.  My family moved around a lot, so they passed through my life for the year or so I lived in one place and then were forgotten.  So, when my kids ask who my favorite teacher was, I don’t have a ready answer.  There were a few teachers in high school whose names I still remember after 30 years.  Mr. Frieberger taught World History and Sociology, both classes I enjoyed a lot.  It was the late 1970’s and Mr. F. was cool with long hair, a beard and those John Lennon glasses.  Jimmy Carter was president at the time and the Middle East Peace Talks were in full swing.  We had our own summit in class one week.  I was Yasser Arafat complete with full head gear that Mr. F. made from a table cloth.  He made sure we all took are roles seriously and I think, at the time, we foolishly believed we could settle the Middle East situation ourselves.

Junior year, Mr. Frieberger taught Sociology.  One of the segments of class was on marriage and family.  We each had to be paired up with a “spouse” to raise a baby (a sack of flour we carried around) and develop a family budget.  Don’t ask me who my first husband was, I don’t remember that far back.  But, we did have a big wedding in the class.  One couple got to be the bride and groom and the rest of us were attendants.  I found pictures the other day of us all in various prom dresses and the boys in jackets and ties.  It looked like we were having a good time.  I’m pretty sure it was just an excuse to have a party in class.  Mr. F. liked a good party at the end of the day.

Do you remember any of your favorite teachers?  Did any of them have profound influence on you?  Have you seen any of your teachers later in life?

And, I’d like to give a big heartfelt thank you to all those teachers out there!

Going, Going, Gone…

My son is starting high school in the fall and his church group moves up to a new time beginning this summer. In order to keep parents apprised about the new church service for young adults, the leaders held a meeting for parents to let us in on the details. Eager parents like my husband and I were ushered into an auditorium where we heard what we all knew but didn’t want to acknowledge: in four years, our kids would be gone.

Now, I’m no fool. I know my son will be leaving the nest at the end of high school. His comfortable nest here at home will become what I like to call the safety net of college—a time when he’ll be responsible for making adult decisions with the benefit of his parents (the safety net) for backup. I believe without question that kids learn more about personal and social responsibility during college than they do in the eighteen years they lived at home with their parents. I know I did. I wouldn’t feel settled about sending him into the big, bad world without having experienced those four years with the safety net.

Even knowing that in four years he’s gone, I got tears in my eyes when some hip, young stranger spoke the words out loud. My exclusive time with him is narrowing to a time in the future I can actually visualize. I remember when he was born and woke up every two to three hours and I thought I’d never have another second to myself—ever! These days I can barely get his attention

I’m a writer and I embarked on this career when my daughter, my youngest, went off to kindergarten. I’ve loved every second of the time I’ve spent weaving tales for my enjoyment and now for the enjoyment of others. This writing thing takes time, lots and lots of time. I keep looking into the future and seeing nothing but time in front of me when my kids will be grown and out on their own. I’m trying to find a nice balance between this career that I love and spending as much time with the children I love more than anything. Balance isn’t easy.

I know everyone who reads this isn’t a writer, but everyone has things that pull them away from their families, things they do for themselves that make them feel good, but also feel guilty. If you’ve been able to find a nice balance with the things you have in your life, I’d love to hear how you did it. If you’re like me, struggling to find that balance, let me know I’m not alone—like I will be in six years when my daughter graduates and it’s just me and my husband and these stories bouncing around my head.

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