I’m so glad I’m not a kid today.
When I went to kindergarten, I was one of the few kids who could read and got to lay in the “reading nook” and read during naptime. Today if kids can’t read by the time they start school, they’re treated as if they’re at a disadvantage. I’m pretty sure if I would’ve taken a peek at Mrs. Crees’s kindergarten curriculum in 1977, it would’ve said things like, “Don’t eat paste.” Today kindergartners not only learn to read, they also begin adding, subtracting, learning fractions, and I’m pretty sure splitting atoms is squeezed in there somewhere.
And don’t even get me started on 6th grade. The toughest day of 6th grade for me was when I was told the cool and popular “Brian R.” wanted to “go with me,” and then I found out it was just a joke when Brian himself came to my classroom and broke the news. In his defense, he was trying to be a gentleman by not leading me on, but I was still humiliated. Never mind that I took my Cabbage Patch Kid to school on more than one occasion, which today would be cause for ostracism. I later forgave Brian though. (Then a few years later, I married him.)
But I digress. Sixth grade today is a whole different ball of wax. Not only is it now “middle school” instead of elementary like it was when I was in school, but 12-year-olds are expected to act a whole lot more grown-up than they used to be. This year has been pretty brutal for Boy #1 in many ways. Academically, he’s struggling because he’s not used to being “on his own” in all of his classes. He has to be organized, and he has to ask questions if he doesn’t get something—and he’s not very good yet at either one of those things. We’re trying not to stress out over the D’s and occasional F; he’s a smart kid, and we want him to realize that we just want him to be responsible and do his best. It’s such a fine line for parents to walk.
Socially, I’m amazed at middle school. It’s like the high school of the ’80s. I don’t even want to know what high school’s going to be like! Boy #1 is sooo upset with us because he is “the only one” in the middle school without a phone. And to be honest, he’s probably not too far off on that. But really? Really? Do 12-year-olds have to text their boyfriends? We will probably get him a phone sometime within the next year, but as freaked out as I am about all of the new reports on “sexting” that have come out lately, we’ll definitely be applying the parental controls on the phone. And you know, kids are dating in 6th grade. Seriously. Boy #1 was disgusted at all of the boys and girls who were exchanging gifts on Valentine’s Day last week. Fortunately he’s not gaga over girls yet (or at least he’s doing a good job at pulling the wool over my eyes). But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that kids are dating considering when I drop off Boy #1 in the mornings, I am amazed at the number of 6th and 7th-grade students walking into the building with either facial hair (the boys, fortunately) or with a body I would’ve killed for in college. I really don’t think anyone had a mustache when I was in 6th grade. Except maybe Mr. Derrick. And I think he even shaved.
Where am I going with all this? Good question…
Oh yeah: I don’t envy my kids. It’s a man’s world out there, and our kids are forced to adapt.
So I try to give my boys all the encouragement I can at home. They have a lot of pressure on them to live up to society’s demands, and although it’s my job to prepare them as best I can, it’s also my job to let them know they’re safe and their family will always love them, no matter what happens out there in the “real world.”
That’s why I am in LOVE with Hallmark’s new Kids Collection of cards, books, and trinkets. They were created with TODAY’S kids in mind by writers and artists who GET IT. Who know that 8-year-olds aren’t digging Diego anymore, and 12-year-olds don’t all skateboard. Who know the issues, pressures, and demands of today’s kids, and who know what kind of encouragement will resonate with them.
I had the opportunity to listen to two Hallmark writers at BlissDom, and I was incredibly impressed by the extent they go to in order to create cards that are timely, appropriate, and appealing to kids of this generation. Sarah Mueller (@HallmarkSarah on Twitter) and Molly Wigand (@hmkmollyw) shared some techniques and insight in an Inspirational Writing workshop, and I was inspired just by being in the room with such creative people. As a writer, I appreciate their passion and craft, but as a mom, I appreciate their ability to articulate exactly what I want to say—but can’t find the words because I’m too close to the situation. I read their cards and say, “Yes! This is exactly what I want to tell Boy #1!” or “This totally describes how Boy #3 is feeling right now!”
I think that since there are so many uncertainties that kids face today, it’s important to give them little reminders of something that IS certain—our love for them and our belief in their goodness. And I will be the first to say that cards are not just “girl things.” My boys LOVE getting cards, especially if they’re unexpected.
One way I’ve learned that I can get through to my boys when the stress is heavy is with humor. Although all my boys have a good sense of humor, they are also all very quick to anger. Things can escalate in the blink of an eye (or the flick of a booger). For a while I carried a hideous pair of big 80s sunglasses in my purse. I had popped the lenses out so they looked like glasses. Sometimes when Boy #3 was getting a little mouthy or things were getting heated, I’d slip those babies on and just wait for him to notice. He’d act annoyed, but there was no way for him to hold in his smile. It was a good tension-breaker. Now I try to use little inside family jokes since, sadly, my lovely glasses broke. (At least until I find another equally embarrassing pair.)
In today’s climate of virtual living, I love the idea of bolstering our support of the print industries. Cards, real-life tangible cards, are rare anymore, which makes them even more special. I think it’s commendable that companies like Hallmark, as well as some incredible small, independent printers, are continuing to produce relevant and high-quality cards and stationery to help us keep in touch and stay connected, even if we live under the same roof.
Boy #2 is dealing with medical issues that cause him to occasionally draw unwanted attention from kids at school or even get made fun of. It’s so frustrating for him, and because of that he often fights going to school in the morning. This morning was one of those times. I tried being calm, I tried yelling. Finally, I knew what would make him want to go to school: I found one of the Hallmark Kids Collection cards that I’d been saving. This one even comes with a cool yellow rubber bracelet that says “Believe” on it. I wrote on the card about how proud I am of him and how much I love him, and I stuck it in his Homework Folder. I told him that he couldn’t open it until he got to school and that there was a little surprise in it for him. I kid you not—it worked like a charm. Not one more word about not being able to go to school, not one more argument. And it makes me happy knowing that he will have that reminder that I’m here for him, even if things get tough at school.
I encourage you to give a kid a card next week, for no good reason. And to make it even easier—you can get one free! Hallmark is offering a free card from their Kids Collection through March 14. Find a participating Hallmark Gold Crown store here.
And make sure to visit Iowa Geek to see my friend Jody interviewing Sarah Mueller about encouraging kids!
Disclaimer: I received a few free cards from the Hallmark Kids Collection as a result of attending BlissDom and the Hallmark-sponsored writing workshop, but I was not asked or expected to provide a review; I did so because I truly love the product and am receiving no compensation for my recommendation.