techno-anxiety camp.

It’s my ex-ish husband’s week with our daughter. She’s at day camps on those weeks, but I take her in the mornings because he’s got a long commute. She gets herself up and dressed, and then I swing by to get her, but he’s got to be on the road by 7:00 am. So what’s cool about 9 year olds is they’re legally allowed to be left alone for up to 2 hours at a time in the state of Georgia, at a parent’s discretion and depending on the child’s maturity level. We never leave her that long because he and I both have 21st century anxiety about it, but I will say it’s nice that I can go grocery shopping now without her tagging along begging for crap. I bet I spend about $50 less a week on food because of that. And the apron strings are loosening…I’m watching how helpless so many kids are these days, and do not want. Miss M is about to be thrown into the grown up deep end of the pool. Another year or so. Welcome to Reality, love bug.

I love the day camp she’s at right now. It’s where she went to before and after school care last year. One of the teachers, Ms. Lizette, is simply amazing. She’s someone who genuinely loves children…she listens to them talk about the things they’re interested in, then comes up with old school plans for how to make those things happen. Example: M loves drama, singing, and being the center of attention. The three girls M pals around with at the camp also love drama and being the center of attention, but not singing. So Ms. Lizette said: well, girls, how about a news cast? Each of you can take turns being the center of attention, and you can be as dramatic as you like – the news is pretty full of drama. So that’s what they’re working on right now: M is writing a script with one of the girls and the other two are building a news set with cardboard and other recycle/reuse materials Ms. Lizette has brought in. They’re in rehearsals right now, but go live on Friday. And every day for the rest of the summer, they will have a morning and afternoon newscast. M isn’t attending the day camp every week this summer, but that’s okay, Ms. Lizette told her. She’s the special guest anchor when she’s there, and an original producer and creator of KBN News. It’s her brainchild.

These kinds of things make my heart want to burst.

Ms. Lizette is at this place when I drop M off at 8ish AM and she’s there when M’s dad picks her up at 6ish PM. I have no idea how someone her age (I estimate she’s in her 50s or 60s) has this much energy, but this is clearly her passion and calling. I was thinking…how is it that many teachers also have a passion and calling to work with children, but are utterly exhausted by the end of May? Yet Lizette does this, 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM, Monday through Friday, all 12 months of the year. HOW?? My only answer is: data and testing. Lizette’s job isn’t on the line if test scores plummet because there are no tests. And Lizette doesn’t have to follow a set curriculum. Or constantly adhere to the latest research-based learning schemes created by people who only work with theoretical children; Lizette’s practices are all tried and true practices kids did prior to technology and government-driven ego contests took over: imagination and play and fun and how to be a good friend and citizen talks. And also…maybe because babies and little kids don’t pack heat, she also doesn’t really have to worry about bullets and crap either. That probably eliminates at least 50% of stress.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/5362269/Super-Mom
This is basically how I picture Ms. Lizette, most days of the week. Photo credit: Super Mom by Dave Cox

Lizette is also one of those firm but loving people. She loves kids, but she will NOT be putting up with any girl B.S. (because girls are full of girl b.s….boys too, but their b.s. is slightly less histrionic). So sometimes M’s dad will pick her up and I’ll get a tearful phone call from her about how mean Ms. Lizette was today…last time it was: Tomorrow is supposed to be Bring Your Device Day but Ms. Lizette cancelled it because we didn’t earn it! That is sooo RUDE, Mommy! Tell Ms. Lizette she’s NOT allowed to be rude to kids! 

Which makes me laugh and laugh, because my child has known me for 9.5 years now and when have I ever sided with kids?? Never, that’s when. Not in school/learning situations where adults have to corral massive amounts of children, at least. Not in today’s atmosphere when parents let kids be in charge more often than not. Children are any society’s most significant natural resource, its highest potential for progress and success. I think about the teenagers fighting rich, powerful NRA lobbyists to make high schools safe places right now, and I know: today’s children are going to save this country. If the adults currently running it don’t burn it to the ground first. And we don’t end up with an orange-hued dictator.

But the flip side of that coin is that children are also crazy. Before the age of 16. Children are crazy. They will exist on candy and ice cream and pizza, swim all day long, watch inappropriate YouTube channels involving pranks that can kill them, destroy an entire kitchen within an hour making various vats of slime, and the word NO makes most of them start behaving like Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist. It is entirely possible to raise a modern day Joan of Arc…but it is also very likely you’ll churn out an Anne Coulter too, if you let them believe their own hype.

At any rate, I love Ms. Lizette and wish we’d just put her in this day camp every other week. She’s going to a cheer and drama camp, an art camp, and a sports camp…but I think we should have just signed her up to hang out with Ms. Lizette every other week. It’s like Little Women, where Jo and her sisters write/produce/costume design/perform their own plays and stories, and every little girl should have those memories, because technology is robbing us of them now.

*****

I’ve signed another 13 month lease at my apartment complex. This is the last one, I’ve told them. They’ve officially priced me out after this. Also, their dumpster has been broken for over 6 months now and they have gigantic free form dumpsters sitting in the parking lot. I love it here, but it’s kind of annoying every time I come home and see that and think about how much of my paycheck they take every month…I could be living in a huge 2 story house for that much.

So why don’t you, Amy? I hear imaginary, non-existent Readers ask. Well, here’s why: because while I can afford the mortgage on a big 2 story house, I couldn’t afford the electric bill on one, or if the a/c broke I couldn’t afford to fix it. And I don’t want to mow a lawn, or clean 2 stories of rooms every weekend…I have a hard enough time cleaning a tiny 2 bedroom apartment. And also I like the pool here, which when I hit publish on this, I’m about to go sit by with a book. That’s why.

***

So here’s how my anxiety works: on Monday, I decided to take a break from technology. I left my phone in the apartment and walked to the pool with a book, two towels, sunscreen, and a bottle of water. I sat in the pool and read. I took a brief nap in the sun. I swam for a bit. I sat in the pool pondering all that I’ve been through over the last 3 years and particularly the last 3 months. I decided some things. Then I took another nap in the sun. I read 3 chapters of my book.

About two, two and a half hours in, I realized: holy shit, no one can contact me right now. My phone is in my apartment. C is working next to the Braves Stadium (C’s commute is from where we live to Cobb County, which in Atlanta traffic is basically the equivalent of working out of state every day…but his office overlooks the Braves ball field, so there’s that). If there was an emergency at day camp, say my Miss M and one of her dramatic fellow news anchors decided to punch each other in the eyeballs, nobody could reach me. They could call C, but he’d be like 2 hours away. And I’d look like a bad mom. I know how education professionals think when they can’t reach the mom.

So I was thoroughly enjoying my technology-free time by the pool, and really didn’t want to leave. Like ever. Like I wanted to sleep there all night, it was that fabulous. But I had to be near a phone. And if I’m near a phone, then I’ll probably go look at Facebook to see what’s happening with my friends and family…or I’ll get on Twitter to see what ass crazy thing Donald has done now. Or I’ll look at Pinterest. Or Instagram. Or something. I’ll check email.

It’s just non-stop. Technology is changing us, and not always for the better. I think it’s made me more anxious. I don’t remember being this anxious even five years ago. I’ve always had anxiety…I just don’t remember having THIS much anxiety. And social media can be depressing.

I had a brief discussion with another Twitter user about it yesterday, and I have more to say but no time right now. I’ll share tomorrow if I don’t forget I started blogging again. The reason I haven’t posted for six days is because I forgot I started blogging again. I’ve been trying to work up the energy to focus on either working on the dark fairy tale I started here months ago, or start writing a new story. I had a five hour lunch with my friend Becky yesterday, and she completely encouraged me to write whatever the hell I want, whatever story I want to tell. We talked about the toxic friendship I just ended, and she high fived me for going after him out loud on Twitter. (The anger has cleared and so now my inner guilt trip critic is taking over, and I’m reflecting on what I said and shouldn’t have, what I said and damn straight it needed to be put out there, and what I wish I’d said but now if I go back and say it it makes him look like what he insinuated about me was true but mostly he’s just not worth my energy at this point.)

She reflected on some things I told her about what I did (because I’m not an angel in this), and said while my own choices weren’t stellar, he is most certainly a self-centered asshole addicted to drama. Drama is great story fodder, and yes to what Anne Lamott said about getting to write about what happens to you and if people want you to write warmly about them they should have behaved better. So I’ve got some story ideas, and I’m fine with him writing stories that paint me as a bad person…if he’s okay with me writing rebuttals to those stories with the truth because I feel very confident one could take every single bad thing I’ve done over the last 3 years in regards to this person, carefully lay them out and line them all up, and then do the same with what he’s done, and his line will stretch at LEAST fifty miles longer than mine. I’d very confidently bet one whole month’s rent on that.

But Becky also says you can get great stories out of just living a boring life, too. She told me two highly entertaining stories about her dog and a preacher/house contractor that I totally would pay to read and I hope she gets busy on writing them.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh! Right. Tomorrow I’m going to write about social media and technology and how it’s changing us – the effect it’s had on me – and what’s good vs bad about it. If I remember I have a blog. But right now, I’m going to skim-edit this entry, try to pick a better title for it (current working title: “today.”), hit publish, and then go to the pool. With my phone this time. Because technology is insidious and I have anxiety without the Wonder Woman patience of Ms. Lizette.