Back home... I failed to get into playful learning headspace, so I decompressed in a bookstore and came home.
Now here's some clarification.
Let's start with the a quote from the disclaimer
I have linked from my userinfo: "Do not assume that you know everything there is to know about a writer simply because you read their weblog on a regular basis. Any judgements you make will be based on the information they have provided you about themselves, which is probably vague, incomplete or embellished. Whatever opinion you form on them as people, or their life as a whole, is probably best kept to yourself."
This applies more to strangers; the person who set this off is a friend who knows me personally (which is why it was so upsetting). But you should keep in mind that even if you know me personally
, you do not
know everything about me. You do not know everything that's going in my life. This goes double for recent months, where I have just been flat-out too busy to keep anyone
up to date on what's going on. I've been madly busy, often taking the internet in ten-minute-a-day sips. And I haven't been feeling well, so communication's been patchy even offline.
So try not to build up an entire world around an offhand comment or, in this case, comments made in a Google chat window when I'm exhausted and upset.
And if you have a qualm about something I'm doing based on a single five-minute conversation weeks ago when I'm exhausted and upset, the way to handle it is to contact me directly, via e-mail, chat, or phone. Not
to spew all over one of my public LJ posts. (And I know, I know, nothing on the internet is private, but if I tell you something in chat in confidence, it's fucking uncouth to betray that trust.)*
I have permission from my daughter to post this stuff, which has heretofore been seen only in brief comments and vague allusions, because
a) it's my daughter's stuff, and I respect her choices on how public she wants to be about her life, and
b) I don't owe anybody an exhaustively complete capillary-by-capillary map of my life.
I would like you all to cast yourselves back to your teenage years. The very beginning of your teenage years. Middle school. Who here had smooth sailing in middle school? Can you honestly say that you had *no* problems at all?
I thought not. We're all geeks here. We were all weird. We were all different.
And so's Elayna.
Not just because she's a gifted kid in a school that has no programs for her. Not just because she's a geek.
This has been Elayna's coming-out year.
Yeah. Try being a gay 13-year-old. Try being the first kid in your school out of the closet.
(Oh, she still tells her friends in thrilled tones of the time I cruised into the office, all thunder and lightning and bitch mom from hell, to report one of her classmates for hate speech and tell the assistant principal that this Would Not Stand. She loved that.)
So here we go. Coming to terms with her sexuality. Coming out. Dealing with taunts and jeers - and she still gets people being annoying at her.
Throw in a first love, and getting her heart broken.
Ouch, you guys. Seriously freakin' ouch.
(One of the hardest things ever - being downstairs and hearing her scream/sob on the phone, waiting for the fight to be over so I could go pull her into my lap and hold her while she cried...)
So. We have serious figuring-shit-out, oppression by classmates, and that...
And so here's the thing she's getting condemned for: her grades slipped.
I'll be honest - her grades plummeted. Pretty much exclusively because she wasn't turning homework in - she gets As on the tests, but her not turning her homework in dragged her grades *way* down.
And yes, this frustrated the hell out of me.... and every time I got an e-mail from a teacher saying "she's late on this project" or the like, it unleashed another wave of frustration. Especially because in recent months we've been checking her homework, so we *know* it's getting done! She just hasn't turned it in.
And I don't get
that. And my crime, apparently, was to vent to a trusted friend.
Whose immediate reaction was to insist that I not allow her to go to Explo.
Let's backtrack a bit more. Last year, as she was just starting to figure stuff out? She was very... pulled into herself. Shy. Wouldn't try anything new. She lacked confidence. And I was worried for her. So when we got the info on Explo, with its emphasis not just on fun geeky educational stuff but on trying new and different things, with a policy of acceptance and support and zero tolerance for bullying, it looked like a godsend.
And it was.
"It was the first time I could tell people I was gay," she says. "Here, I'm always on guard. I can't just come out and be myself. At Explo, I could say 'By the way, I'm gay,' and the person would just go 'Sweet!' as if I'd told them my favorite color was purple or something. I was able to be who I really am, and everyone accepted me." It became safe to come out of that shell. She made friends at Explo that she's still in touch with - it was a family, a tribe.
And this year, for all its bobbles - she held her own in a panel with Cory Doctorow. She sang with s00j
. She went out for chorus and the school play. She has tried new things. She has been more open. She has been a tremendous support for her friends.
This place is a huge stabilizing and reinforcing influence on her.
I'm not taking that away because she's having homework issues.
My friend was very insistent. I was very insistent. I ended up just withdrawing from the conversation, saying "I'm very tired and the way you're approaching this is upsetting me," and I went and took a nap. And we haven't bumped into each other on chat since. So.
In the intervening time... Elayna has been doing much better. She's entirely caught up in English and Social Studies, and nearly entirely so in math, science, and Italian; she has everything she needs to get caught up during next week's vacation. We're in regular contact with her teachers, to make sure she's following through.
All of which my friend would have known had he asked. (Which Spooky, similarly only partially in the loop, did yesterday - she called and asked my directly.)
My parenting decisions are my parenting decisions. If you think I'm doing a shitty job and you call yourself my friend, I ask that you address it with me one on one, rather than making judgmental comments on my LJ that reference private conversations. (Bonus points for doing it when you knew I'd be offline all day and unable to defend myself.)
My daughter's had some rough times in middle school. So did you. She's getting through it as best she can, and a big part of her coping mechanism is this place where she can relax, can be herself, can be accepted for who she is - the teenage lesbian, the geek-girl, the junior philosopher - where she can feel safe among her peers.
And I'm not taking that away.
My daughter was shy last year. This year, she's taking improv, songwriting, and dance. This year, she can give a performance like the one below. This is what Explo has given her.
And the message you should take from this is that you don't know everything that's going on in my world. No one but Adam does, for the simple reason that there's so damn much - and so damn much good stuff, too, not just teenage homework resistance - that I physically do not have time to tell
you. So you don't know everything. And if you have qualms? Just freakin' ask
A note about the performance below. For Elayna's 14th birthday, I gave her a s00j
concert of her very own. She got to pick the whole setlist.
On the way back from the previous night's performance, S00j and I were talking, and I said "Y'know, she chose "Taglio"... she knows the whole intro to that. We should see if she wants to do it." We got home, I asked, and she said sure. During the intermission, she came up to me all wide-eyed - "I don't know it!"
"Yes, you do. 'Sing, oh, sing...'"
And she ran through the whole thing on the stairs outside the hall and realized she did
have it, and said "Yay!" and I said "Okay - you're up!" And we walked back in, and she did this.
This is in front of an audience of ~50 people. Including her grandparents, all of her friends, a bunch of my friends, and a bunch of total strangers. She had never done any sort of solo performance before. She had never performed this piece in front of anyone
but me before.
This is what Explo gave her.
So here's Elayna, declaiming the story of the Gaselli from Catherynne M. Valente's The Orphan's Tales
and singing "Taglio" with her favorite musician.
* EDIT: We're talking this whole thing out in e-mail now.