A Re-Gift: I Am a Liar. And It’s All Santa’s Fault

It’s go time around here. And with our first (of about five) family Christmas celebrations happening this coming weekend, I’m going to pull an old post from two years ago out of my magic sack. But it’s not just any old post. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Besides, at least half of you readers weren’t even around when I posted this. So it’s new to most of you. And with one of my children knowing Santa isn’t real and the other firmly believing in Mr. Kringle without any doubts, I was reminiscing about the year when I had to work a little harder at keeping the faith alive. This is what sitcoms are made of, people. Now, off to address some Christmas cards…

•••

It can be stressful to have a seven-year-old at Christmastime. Why? Because there is questioning. A lot of questioning. You know, about that plump guy in the red suit.

I have to be honest; Grace’s prying questions about Santa make me more uncomfortable than the few questions she has already asked me about S-E-X. Questions about sex, while a little awkward, haven’t been that hard to answer. I am making sure she has accurate facts, giving her knowledge that not only makes her feel okay about her own body, but will hopefully lead to informed and responsible decisions in the future. I subscribe to the very wise motto of G.I. Joe: Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

But answering all these endless questions about Santa means I am doing the exact opposite: I am perpetrating a lie.

It all started at the very beginning of December. We were in the car, sitting at a stoplight. The car behind us caught my eye in the rearview mirror because it had those little reindeer antlers on either side. I glanced at the driver for a glimpse of this person with undoubted Christmas cheer, and lo and behold…it was an older gentleman, with a round face, a long, fuzzy white beard, and a red shirt. I couldn’t believe my luck! Last year we happened upon a reindeer in our backyard just before Christmas, and now this!

So I announced to the kids, “Look who is driving the car behind us!” They both quickly turned around, and Michael yelled, with an energy like the one that comes from eating too many pixie sticks, “SANTA!!!!!!”

Almost on cue, the man behind us smiled and waved at the kids. It was, for lack of a better word, precious. Just as I was feeling my own giant boost of yuletide glow, Grace said, a bit accusingly, “What would Santa be doing driving around here?” I explained that maybe he was making the rounds, checking up on kids, getting reports from all the Elves on the Shelves.

She was quiet for a second. “I kind of think Santa is real. But I kind of think he is a fairy tale.” Well, isn’t that just Grinchy. And then the questions began…

I know what she’s doing. I can tell she is conflicted. She wants to believe Santa is real, but that maturing brain of hers is feeding her more and more of this thing call “logic.” And she’s not so sure she likes the taste of it. Therefore, instead of coming straight out with the question of whether there is a Santa Claus, she is asking every possible question about his practicality to see how I respond.

Grace: What is Santa’s address?
Me: Just write “Santa Clause – North Pole. The post office will know where it goes because there is only one Santa.

Grace: But if no one has ever seen Santa and his workshop is secret, how does the mailman know where he lives?
Me: (crap)

What am I supposed to do? Tell her that I am incredibly impressed with her abilities in deduction, throw up my hands to the fact that I will likely soon be out-smarted, and say, “Congratulations! I think you have just about figured it out. I will spare you the last two zillion questions you were going to ask me and just confirm what you are hinting at. THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS. And your parents are liars. Merry Christmas.”

Nope. That is not what I do at all. Instead, I conspire with my husband to dig ourselves even deeper in this jolly old lie. Ladies and gentlemen, witness our deception:

Grace's Email from Santa
Grace’s Email from Santa

A few days ago, I was at the computer sending some emails when Grace asked me if the reason Santa knew all this stuff about her and Michael was because I emailed him. I confessed that I had absolutely no idea what Santa’s email address was. So Miss Smarty Pants said, “Just Google it.” I hesitantly typed in the words “Santa’s email address,” fearing that an entry would pop up saying something like “Trick your kids with this fake email address to Santa…because we all know Santa is not real.” Luckily, the first entry was an actual site where kids could send emails to Santa. And it was adorable.

Grace entered her information and her note to Santa, then hit send. A screen popped up with a message that the email was being sent…then it said Santa was reading the email…then it said he was writing one back to her. Within a few minutes, Santa’s email was ready for her to read. She was a bit skeptical that he had written it so quickly, but that doubt was soon squashed once she read the email. It was very personal and even somehow had picked up from what she had written in the free-form comment section the fact that she had a brother. I was relieved to see she seemed quite satisfied.

But apparently her wheels had been turning all afternoon, because at dinner time she informed us she had a sneaky idea. She wasn’t so sure Santa had actually written that email, or that there really was a Santa to even email. So she had devised an “experiment.” She wanted my husband to go back to the site and enter in his name, but say he was 6 years old and from Canada. By her reasoning, if Santa was real and really writing these emails, he would certainly know that Kurtis was actually an adult…and not living in Canada.

Well, *%$#@. But I have to admit, she is kind of a genius. And a little maniacal.

We knew we couldn’t talk our way out of this, so my husband agreed to do it. He went downstairs and started the email. All of a sudden, he came racing back upstairs, whipped into the family room and said in a hushed voice, “QUICK! Get on the Kindle, pretend you are Santa, and send an email to me saying that you know I was tricking you!”

OOOOOH! You handsome devil you!

But there was just one problem. I panicked, “But the site doesn’t send it to your email address! Santa’s email just pops up on the site after a minute or two!!!” But my enginerd had already taken care of that. He had unplugged the router so when they hit “send,” nothing would happen. Then when he plugged the router back in, he quickly opened his email to find this message waiting in his inbox:

Subject: Naughty, Naughty

HO HO HO! You tried to trick old Santa! I know you don’t live in Canada.

Love, Santa

P.S. Rudolph thought that was a funny joke!

I know. The tangled web of lies we weave. But I have to say, it was totally worth it to see the look on her face and hear her exclaim, “YES! The email was really from Santa!”

My Cutest Christmas Angel when she was 1 year old
My Cutest Christmas Angel when she was 1 year old

Maybe I am setting her up for a bigger disappointment when she finally does learn the truth. Maybe I am being selfish. I know that the elaborate lengths my husband and I have gone to in order to keep Grace believing are in part for us. We see her losing pieces of “little” every day. Sure, her innocence still outweighs her worldliness. But childhood starts to look different around this age. It isn’t necessarily better or worse, but change is always hard. Every parent knows that faint tug of longing that comes whenever you catch a glimpse of a photo of your child during younger years. Remember…that squeaky voice…the way that tiny hand felt around your finger…that unquestionable belief in anything that could be imagined…it was adorable.

But seven-year-olds can be pretty adorable, too. Grace reminded me of that when she took a bit of offense to Santa’s use of the word joke.

“It wasn’t a joke. It was an EXPERIMENT.”

Maybe I will remember that line when Grace finally does come to the real conclusion about Santa Claus. It was just an experiment. And to make up for her being the subject of that experiment, I will let her eat the cookies her little brother leaves for Old St. Nick. I might need a lot of cookies.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Believe
Believe

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A Cute Rhyme Takes the Guesswork Out of Holiday Gift-Giving

I don’t know about you, but I am woefully behind on my Christmas shopping. See, there’s this thing called Life, and right now it really seems to have an issue with letting me wander aimlessly down the aisles of Toys ‘R’ Us, looking for things least likely to end up being donated next year during our annual pre-Christmas toy purge.

Thankfully, there’s this little gift-giving mantra that’s been going around which might be of tremendous help to me. A friend of mine was the first to enlighten me to it. She, of course, saw it on Pinterest. Because that is where all helpful and clever and visually perfect things are born into this world. But I have since seen it floating around elsewhere on the internet, mainly out of the mouths of comment sections. So you may have heard it as well. It goes like this: Continue reading “A Cute Rhyme Takes the Guesswork Out of Holiday Gift-Giving”

The Mayhem is HERE: The Official Release of Absolute Mayhem

I am vibrating just a bit. Finally, here is the blog post four years in the making. If we want to be technical, it has really been more like twenty-five years in the making. But twenty-one of those years were just spent dreaming…the last four were the ones to see the actual work that made this dream a reality. So let’s stop putting this off any long and get right to it then:

ABSOLUTE MAYHEM IS HERE!

My very first children’s book, Absolute Mayhem, is officially available as of TODAY! And all I can say is that I am kind of excited to go someplace like a doctor’s office where I have to fill out a form, just so I can finally list my occupation as Author, after almost ten years of leaving that space blank. I mean, I can totally do that now. I have a business card that says so.

Absolute Mayhem by Kelly SuellentropIf the space on that form isn’t too small, I can also list myself as an Illustrator. In addition to writing Absolute Mayhem, I also did all of the illustrations, which was hands down THE most enjoyable part of this whole project. I have fallen in love with my characters, the sister and brother duo of Lulu and Milo, almost as much as I love my own children. And I sincerely hope they are able to charm you and your family as well, along with their tag-a-long dog Hippo.

Lulu, Milo, Hippo and I have spent a lot of time together getting them ready to go out on their own. I had a lot less time to prepare them to fly the nest than I do with my own children; then again, they aren’t half as stubborn and don’t distract me from my mission by leaving lots of messes to clean up. I can also erase their mouths if they get sassy. So they have now graduated from the desk of my comfy home office to the big world of KellySuellentrop.com and Amazon, just in time for the holidays!

Please help me spread the word about Absolute Mayhem. To sweeten the deal, I am having a GIVEAWAY! Two people will each win a free autographed copy of the book. You can be entered to win the following ways:

#1 – Visit my giveaway on Rafflecopter HERE for various ways to earn entries.

#2 – If you are a blogger, REBLOG this post.

#3 – Go to either my new AUTHOR FACEBOOK PAGE or the ARE YOU FINISHED YET FACEBOOK PAGE, find the post announcing Absolute Mayhem’s release on the timeline, and share it. (And go ahead and give those pages a “like” while you’re there, if you haven’t already.)

#4SHARE this blog post using the social media sharing buttons below, and let me know where you shared it in the comment section.

The giveaway will run today until midnight on Sunday, December 7th (Central Time). I will announce the winners on Tuesday, December 9th here on the blog and on my social media outlets.

Of course, you can always purchase your own copy of the book on KellySuellentrop.com and on Amazon. (And after you read the book, I would love for you to leave a customer review over on Amazon!)

In the coming weeks, Absolute Mayhem will be visiting lots of different and awesome places around the internet, and I am really excited about that. So stay tuned! In the meantime, let me just say thank you in advance to all of you who are going to share the book with your friends and families.

It will be pretty nice to have the last four years pay off.

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Hibernation Supplies

Oh joy. Rapture. Winter is upon us.

(I hope you noticed my lack of exclamation points.)

Our first dose of snow hit us over the weekend, so I guess Fall has officially packed it in for 2014. Christmas has obnoxiously butted its way in front of Thanksgiving, and once again, my children are ill-prepared in the area of winter weather attire. (When will I learn and just buy freaking snow boots as soon as they hit Target’s shelves?) Thankfully, my son’s Kindergarten teacher was ahead of the game and started getting her students into a chilly mindset. The other day, Michael came home with a worksheet about hibernation, and he had to draw pictures of things he would take with him if he had to hide himself away for a warm winter’s nap, just like a bear. Continue reading “Hibernation Supplies”

3 Things They Should Teach in Prenatal Classes

Bathing baby. Infant CPR. Car seat safety. Sure, those are all important things to know when becoming a parent for the first time. But now that I don’t have babies anymore, I’m starting to realize how short-sighted prenatal classes really are in preparing us for the grand scheme of parenting. You know the saying, “no one ever tells you THAT about having kids.” Well, here are my suggestions for a few things those classes should cover for long-term parental success…beyond the baby years…when no one seems to care if you are prepared or not.

P10000331. Clothing Negotiation Skills 
Your little one has begun forming opinions, and the first thing she decides to feel passionately about is wearing the exact same Disney-character-of-the-moment pajama shirt with a chocolate milk-stained skirt and a pair of sparkly leggings with a giant hole in the knee everywhere you go. Even to Great Aunt Ginny’s funeral. And when you try to at least swap out the holey sparkly leggings for the non-holey polka dot pair, she has a melt down, saying the polka dots are itchy. Not the leggings. The polka dots themselves. Because that’s what polka dots do. Itch people. And sparkles give relaxing mini leg massages. But the most messed up thing about this whole struggle is that in a few years, she will actually make you wish she did still want to wear the pajama-shirt-stained-skirt-holey-legging ensemble when she decides booty shorts and backless halter tops are appropriate attire for a prepubescent. That’s some pretty sick torture. My recommendation: this will clearly require a CTU-trained negotiator to teach this lesson. I don’t think Jack Bauer is doing much these days. Maybe call him.

2. School Handout Organization
No parent wants to feel the wrath that is unleashed when you pick up your child at school, only to find out it was Pretzel Day. And you never filled out the order form because it is somewhere at the bottom of one of four different piles scattered throughout your house. If your kid doesn’t get a pretzel on Pretzel Day, he may as well just run away and join the circus, because you obviously don’t care about him. In fact, you must actively and intentionally hate him to subject him to watching everyone else in school devour a warm, soft twist of carbohydrates, all because you didn’t detach a little sheet of paper and pop it in an envelope with a dollar by last Thursday. And don’t be fooled…even if it is discovered that said order form never actually made it out of your child’s backpack and into one of your four piles, it is still your fault. Therefore, a subcategory of this lesson would be Strategies for Remembering to Check Your Child’s Backpack Everyday For Important Things Like Pretzel Day Order Forms.

3. A Crash Review In Fractions
…Because those little f%*kers pop out of nowhere sometime around fourth grade. And your kid is going to expect you to help her figure out whether 5/6 or 7/8 is bigger. And if you can’t do it, you’re just going to end up looking like a dumb ass. And if you look like a dumb ass, then she’s going to start the whole “if you don’t know fractions and did okay, why do I have to learn them” thing. And if she thinks she doesn’t need to know fractions, then she’s going to start questioning the whole purpose of elementary school. And if she questions the purpose of elementary school, you’ll try to tell her she has to go so she can get into college one day. And if you tell her she’s going to college one day, she’ll decide she’d rather just work at the mall for the rest of her life so she doesn’t have to learn fractions. And if she works at the mall, she will probably get fired when she won’t know how to ring up a sweater that is on sale for 1/2 off, because, you know, fractions. And if she gets fired from the mall, she’ll probably end up as a jobless teen mom with no education. And if she becomes a teen mom, she won’t get a crash review in fractions in her prenatal class. And when those little f%*kers pop up again when her kid is in fourth grade, she won’t know how to help. And if she doesn’t know how to help, her kid is going to wonder why she needs to know fractions…

See? Learning how to swaddle doesn’t seem so necessary anymore, does it?

*Author’s Note: My husband suggested I end the post with the line, “By the way, 7/8 is bigger.” I asked him if it really was. He said, “I don’t know.” 

Boom.

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Why I’m Happy I’m Not a First-Time Mom

Awwww!…Isn’t that adorable?…How precious!…Oh my god, those are just the BEST!…You’ll use that ALL the time!…*squee*…I’m dying from cuteness!… 

Guess where I was this past weekend? Yep. A baby shower. My uterus always gets a little mushy and nostalgic whenever I celebrate a new tiny life coming into the world. And, people…the STUFF! Holy diaper blowouts. I can’t help but be a little jealous over all the new gadgets and toys that weren’t around when I had babies. And I can’t help but miss, just a bit, all the ones that were. As cumbersome as it can be carting around a well-stocked diaper bag, it also makes you feel more like MacGyver than any other time in your life.

diaper bag
Don’t worry. We are covered in case of diaper emergencies, snot emergencies, tantrum emergencies, clothing emergencies, hunger emergencies, and nuclear war. I’m also pretty sure I’ve got something in here I can fashion into a flotation device in a pinch. photo credit: jds-emma via photopin cc

Continue reading “Why I’m Happy I’m Not a First-Time Mom”

4 Reasons My Child Didn’t Cry On the First Day of School…And One Reason I Didn’t Either

When you have a child starting Kindergarten, the first day of school can be rough…for both of you. In the case of my son and me last year, it wasn’t just the first day that left us emotionally raw. The first month or so was a delicate balance of getting him pumped for school while also honoring his feelings of trepidation, all the while disguising my own sadness. I lamented about the experience being like A Tale of Two Kindergarteners, where I wished for the confident little boy he was at home to trade places with the quiet, unsure student he was at school. Eventually, that did happen in most respects, though tears found their way to the surface at various points throughout the year.

So I wasn’t sure what to expect on Michael’s first day of school this year. Due to being a summer baby, he is entering Kindergarten again…or what we are calling Kindergarten 2.0 at our house. He is at a different school this year, though it is one he is very familiar with, as it is the one his big sister has attended for the last four years. I was hoping that fact alone might be enough to make him feel more confident going into this school year, but I felt certain of nothing. This is a kid who has cried over getting dropped off every year since he began preschool at the age of two.

But this year when the first day rolled around, not one tear was shed. Not one hint of hesitation made itself known. The minivan door slid open, and he popped out with little attention to the fact that I was sitting in the driver’s seat, holding my breath. In fact, I’m not even sure he told me goodbye.

Who’s kid is this? Well, I’ll be. That’s MY kid! Finally, that same boy I live with at home, who has no qualms about going over to the neighbor’s house without telling me first, has shown up for the first day of school. And I am very proud of him.

I can’t help but wonder what made the difference for him this year. I have a few hypotheses:

1. Maturity. He is clearly more mature than he was last year. I know this because instead of quietly whispering, “I want that,” about every.single.toy advertised during a commercial break (even J·Animals, The Wearable Stuffed Animals), he only wants two-thirds of them. Such discrimination and restraint shows great cognitive development.

2. Uniforms. Now that he is going to Catholic school, he doesn’t have to worry about having the latest movie character on his apparel, because he never does. This year all the cool kids are wearing white polos and navy shorts. Did I say all the cool kids? Because I meant just all the kids. All of them. Fashion crisis averted.

3. The Guardians of the Galaxy Soundtrack. My husband and I tempered Michael’s disappointment in being too young to see the movie (and not getting a Guardians of the Galaxy tee shirt…see #2) by getting him the soundtrack. It is an “Awesome Mix, Vol. 1” of kick ass 70’s music, and it has been on almost constant repeat play in our minivan. My kids have taken a special liking to the song “I’m Not In Love” by 10cc, mostly because of the weird interlude where a lady starts whispering, “big boys don’t cry.” Well, maybe that was just the kind of subliminal message he needed right before school started.

4. His Own Personal Sherpa. Last year, my little guy was navigating a new experience all on his own, something he rarely has to do as the second child. But this year, he has a lifeline in his sister. That lifeline may argue with him in the car all the way to school over who ate the last Pop Tart. But suddenly, when faced with joining the chaos and uncertainties of a new school year, this happens:siblings

Now what about me? How did momma fare on her son’s second first day of Kindergarten? Well, we know how it went last year. I was a mess. But this year I followed Michael’s lead: not one tear. I have my hypothesis about that, too:

1. I Get to Pretend He’s Not Growing Up. Yes, he may have actually turned another year older. But sending him to Kindergarten again lets me pretend that didn’t happen. This is likely the only time that the beginning of a school year doesn’t mark the advancement towards one of my kids leaving the nest. I can’t stop my daughter, who is now officially halfway through grade school. (Gulp.) But Michael? I get one more chance to have a “first” with him. Last year, Michael starting Kindergarten hit me hard. I suddenly felt like the childhoods of my children were slipping through my fingers…and I had been stupid, wishing their little years away. But now I have another chance to hang up a few more hand print paintings, to get report cards without real letter grades, to pick him up from a classroom that still has play centers…to cherish his little.

Consequently, I will probably be the only mom crying next year, when I drop him off for first grade. But I have a feeling he will be just fine.

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An Old Dog, Uncle Jesse’s Papouli, and Cremation: Ruining a Child’s Life In One Brief Conversation

tear, crying
photo credit: Emily’s mind via photopin cc

Have I ever told you that I cried when I first watched the graduation episode of Saved By the Bell? I think I may have. But did you know I also cried when Uncle Jesse’s Papouli died on Full House? And when Atticus Finch is leaving the courthouse after losing Tom Robinson’s case, and Reverend Sykes says to Scout, “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” And anytime anyone gets a standing ovation at a live performance, even “Seussical.” And when kids sing. Or if I just think about kids singing. Oh, great. I just thought about it. Excuse me for a second…
Continue reading “An Old Dog, Uncle Jesse’s Papouli, and Cremation: Ruining a Child’s Life In One Brief Conversation”

Hey Smarty Pants…You’re Not So Smart

I am taking advantage of a short window of time to squeeze in this blog post between visiting the dentist this morning to get cavities filled in BOTH kids (the most fun thing ever) and heading out to see the Lego exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Garden, followed by a Cardinals game. We are in the midst of a very intense week-long “staycation,” seeing as how we opted not to travel this summer. My husband has taken some time off of work, and we are naturally trying to do every.single.possible.thing.in.St.Louis in a span of seven days to assuage our guilt of not taking our kids on vacation like all of their friends. Because our kids are always super appreciative, and never whine, and are completely satisfied by the level of fun we provide for them at the expense of our time, energy, wallets, and sanity. (Remember when I said getting the kids’ cavities filled was the most fun thing ever? Just read that last sentence in the same implied tone.) Continue reading “Hey Smarty Pants…You’re Not So Smart”

Everything I Need to Know I Probably Didn’t Learn in Third Grade

The other day, my nine-year-old daughter, Grace, sent an email to my husband and I, as well as to her grandparents. Since she is just nine, those are the ONLY people with whom she is allowed to have email contact. Still, she is so enamored with having her own account that we are often treated to her random thoughts for the sake of her being able to send a message. This was one of the most recent:

I cant believe I’ve started long division so soon. In thierd grade I learned so much, like… science, multiplication, division, and now you know, long division. I won’t know if this is right or wrong until i’m older, but…WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO LEARN?????!!!!! I’ve already learned addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and long division. When do I use this stuff in my life anyway, besides school? But I geuss I should Know how to do this, just in case.

When do I use this stuff in my life anyway? 

Every teacher everywhere has heard that question before. I actually just heard it from a fellow parent regarding the aforementioned long division as we chit-chatted during our sons’ baseball practice. Her daughter sat next to us, trying to trudge through two more homework problems before being allowed to play on the playground. Part of me sympathized with her frustration. My own daughter has been struggling with the demon that is known as long division, and homework time has dragged on with a lot more whining and overly-forceful erasing. And whining. Did I say whining? Because there is whining. And that can only lead to a passive-aggressive Facebook post from me:

Dear Long Division,

I did not like you much when I was a kid. I still don’t like you much as a parent. I’m starting to think “United we stand, divided we fall” was really an outcry against any homework focusing on you.

Love, English Nerd

It is sometimes hard to justify why learning certain things are important, especially when your child does not always see you using those specific skills in your everyday life. You, after all, are probably the first model your children look to as a barometer of what adulthood will be like. And hey, if you’re doing just fine without long division, why should they have to learn it? It also does not help matters when mom and dad can not quite seem to answer those “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” questions.

2014-05-13 07.33.08
Grace all dressed up to “teach.” She was very thorough in her research on how to look like an educator. She even asked me, “Mom, how did you wear your hair when you were a teacher?” In a spinster bun, naturally.

Just last week, I got to be Billy Madison. In case you don’t know who that is, he is a character played by Adam Sandler, who, as an adult, had to repeat grades one through twelve in order to take over his father’s business. I, on the other hand, only had to repeat third grade, and my teacher was none other than my daughter…and the rest of her class. “A Day In Third Grade” was a way for her and her friends to demonstrate to their parents what they have learned during this school year. And I was worried I would show my daughter on an even grander scale how much I do not remember from grade school, further demonstrating just how little retention of the the third grade curriculum is necessary for success later in life. I mean, we are talking about me, the woman who ran into some trouble helping Grace with her FIRST GRADE math homework.

Sure enough, my old nemesis long division reared its ugly head as one of the lessons, along with spelling, grammar (which I DOMINATED), a test on natural resources (on which my b.s. answer of “we would die” to the question “what would happen if we didn’t have trees?” was counted as correct), and an incredibly anxiety-inducing timed math game.

My daughter and her partner taught a lesson on cursive. Cursive? There are schools out there still teaching cursive? Doesn’t that seem a little archaic in this technological day and age? I know several schools in our area have done away with teaching cursive. But I am thrilled my daughter’s school still does. I’m even begrudgingly happy about the whole long division thing. And I will tell you why.

Educational standards are constantly coming under scrutiny in order to make sure our children are learning the skills they will need to succeed later in life. I have seen more and more emphasis on things like technology, which has pushed out many skills now viewed as passé, like cursive. Handwriting in general doesn’t seem all that important either, seeing as how so much of our daily communication happens electronically. And there is only so much time in the school day.

cursive
Textese doesn’t look so lazy if you write it in cursive. (photo credit: fung.leo via photopin cc)

Yet I would argue that my children are receiving a gift by going to a school that still believes in teaching things like cursive. But not because I think cursive itself is that important. Heck, I don’t even use cursive anymore, in favor of printing. However, I worry that we are becoming a society who cares so much more about the product than the process. If the product itself is not crucial, then it can be easily tossed to the side. But the way I see it, even if we may not end up using the product, the process is still incredibly valuable. Things like teaching cursive help children master a skill. They learn to practice over and over to make perfection. All this technology we use automatically makes many things perfect for us. How is that good for developing brains? How does that encourage growth? How does that foster the idea of learning for learning’s sake? How does that contribute to future generations of culturally literate populations?

I may not use cursive anymore, but those hours at a desk with a freshly sharpened pencil and a sheet of lined paper, repeating the curves and bends and flows of letters, was the beginning of a realization that I could train my hand to do better. And every time I sit down to create an illustration, or pipe a decoration onto a cake, or create something for someone I love, I know how to control my movements. More importantly, I know it is not always going to be perfect the first time. If I want a desirable product, I have to pay attention to my process.

That is also what I console myself with when I sit with my daughter, helping her remember each and every God-forsaken step of long division. Even that little awkward mathematical outcast, the remainder.

And it is why I spent my day in third grade as an attentive and enthusiastic student.  I wanted my daughter to feel like what she has been learning this year is valuable, even to someone who does not directly use all those lessons on a daily basis in her grown-up life. After all, it is much better to have a well-stocked reserve of information floating around in your brain, as Grace pointed out in her email, just in case.

Still, I am doing a happy dance that this is the last week of school before summer vacation. I need a homework break. Because you know fourth grade is going to pick up with fractions. Those little bastards are always ‘effing with me.

•••

By the way, my dad was the first to reply to Grace’s email with one sentence. And as is my dad’s way, his response spoke a simple, no-nonsense truth that could not be negated by even the girl who once justified that, even though we live in the center of the country, her biggest fear was getting her arm bitten off by a shark because she might one day live in Hawaii:

Grace,

You need to know long division in case your computer or calculator is not working.

Papa

Boom. *drops mic and walks off stage*

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