Smells Like Hope

The daytime temperatures here are still stretching into the nineties. We’re weeks away from shutting down the cooler, two months (at least) from firing up the furnace.

Yet there is a hint of fall in the air. The nights are cool; some of the leaves have begun to turn.

The children have all gone back to school.

I’ll pause here so that all who desire it can indulge in a moment of celebration.

I’ll pause some more so that those of you whose children haven’t gone back to school yet can weep quietly for a moment.

I’ll pause one last time so the homeschoolers in the crowd can chuckle at the rest of us, marking time as we do by the decisions of the people who make the school calendars. Those people? Less intelligent than your average beer-can-eating goat.

I hope that those of you who do not have children, or whose children are grown, took advantage of one of the previous pauses to do whatever it is that you needed to do vis-à-vis: school schedules and summer.

I was indulging myself in my standard rant in favor of year-round schools recently and my conversation partner spoke up: It is nice, though, to have enough time for extended vacations. We usually travel at least eight weeks of every summer.

Stupid me! I almost forgot that most people take extended world-tour vacations during the summers!

Where was I?

Fall. Oh, yes.

Fall makes me nostalgic. Everything slows down; there’s a pause between the activity of summer and the frenzy of the holidays and for me? It’s time to remember.

That’s not always a good thing.

The start of a new school year? Full of promise. I’ll do all my work! I’ll never fall behind on my reading! I’ll have friends this year! I’ll be more confident! No one will pick on me!

Wrong on all counts through eighth grade. Wrong on almost all counts through the rest of the grades, except the friendlessness and the being-picked-on finally stopped.


That was a big relief. The biggest.

Every year, in spite of mounting evidence that I was wrong, that I would never keep up with my reading and have friends and be confident, I was filled with anticipation that things would be better.

Freshly sharpened pencils smell like hope.

I spent the afternoon with Abbie yesterday. She started her freshman year of high school two weeks ago. She needs me to help her with her math; she asked me for advice in mediating an argument between two of her friends. In general? She is content. Her friends are lovely girls who support each other.

Jacob is a sophomore at the high school and he is already settled in his niche. I could have predicted the crowd with which he would run when he was still a toddler; that boy is a born music and drama geek. Although he is as introverted as I am, he has friends. He struggles with his schoolwork, but he is not afraid to ask for help.

I feel terribly sad when I remember the disappointments of fall, the girls with whom I was incapable of making friends, the questions I was too afraid to ask, the lunches I skipped because I had no friends with whom to sit. But maybe, if I had not experienced all of that pain, I would not understand this joy. Jacob and Abbie know that no one has the right to treat them badly and so they don’t allow it. If anyone bothers their friends, they step in to help.

I know that they are far from perfect; children of that age tend to look out for themselves and their closest friends. They’re unlikely to take social risks for strangers. They know my story; they know one of my fondest wishes is for them to be champions of the underdog, but I’m not naïve.

I do know, however, that they have never actively bullied other children. They would have to be stupid to take a risk like that considering the promise I made to them.

My kids know that, the first time I hear from the school that one of them is bullying another child, I will be their all-day escort at school.

I will wear a giant purple clown wig.

Also, as I require a great deal of all-day comfort, I will take my big black desk chair with me and wheel it from classroom to classroom.

Yes, my friends, I take this bullying problem very seriously.

I hope that you will, too. All of our children deserve to be safe at school this year.

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47 thoughts on “Smells Like Hope”

  1. i know for a fact
    i would have been your friend
    you are like the most popular girl i know on the internet
    so that HAS to be SOME consolation
    if i ever take an extended 8 week vacay?
    you are gonna have to pull out that futon, lady
    i will bring the diet coke!

      1. Hah! Yes, we would have been friends because awkward girls will eventually find each other! I eventually found a few, thank God. Skipping lunch to sit in the library or, worse, eating lunch in the bathroom? No fun AT ALL!

        I have this huge house all littered with beds. You’ll have your pick.

        1. even more awkward?
          i was a cheerleader!
          but to be fair, the other cheerleaders didn’t hang out with me.
          i was too busy smoking cigs under the bleachers while making out
          with my boyfriend
          also to be fair?
          the year i was a cheerleader?
          15 girls tried out
          for 14 spots
          so that just makes me less awkward than 1 other person
          i won’t say her awkward name
          but she was one of my awkward best friends!

          the key to me?
          i love smart people
          even my BFs were butt ugly but brilliant

          until boomboom
          he is just a wellrounded goodlooking funny smart guy.
          lucky me!
          can’t wait to visit!
          and oh, I WILL!

          1. I’m all choke-y and sputter-y over here at the idea of you as a teenager.

            Way to keep us all on our toes, woman! I never would have guessed.

            Yes, for me? Smart and funny trumps all.

            I spent the better part of high school hiding out and smoking, too, but not making out. I was so horrifically shy, a guy practically had to take out a full-page ad in the school newspaper to convince me he was interested. Most high school boys aren’t willing to stick their necks out that far.

            ETA: Not TEENAGER; I can totally imagine you as a teenager. CHEERLEADER! That should have said cheerleader, which is pretty much mind-boggling.

              1. Oh, yes, the ever-important reputation. I didn’t have to worry about that until after high school.

                At that point? I get very busy trashing mine.

                I don’t regret any of that.

            1. I still have a week until the girls start school, but I would also show up and wear a wig and make an ass out of myself if my children ever bullied anyone.


              You listening?

              Because I so will.

            2. Kallan asked the other day what a “trophy wife” was. There are a lot of them in this neighborhood. And so I explained.

              And then?

              She asked if there was a way for kids to get a new cooler “Trophy Mom.”


              Nope, I told her. Just this old tarnished Mom. That’s all you get.

              One original Mom, filled with evil.

              Hee hee!

              1. One original mom…so sad.

                Although trophy wives and trophy moms? Just wives and moms with better cosmetics and more willingness to use them.

                They’re probably crabby and tarnished and filled with evil, too.

                  1. So Kallan wants to become a member of the fundamentalist LDS!

                    I’ve read some books. I don’t think it sounds too appealing, but hey, what do I know? Maybe you and your girls are just dying for an opportunity to wear that front-poofed hair and prairie dresses.

                    Awww, won’t you all be cute?

                    I would like a sister wife, but a robot one who will clean without complaint and never try to have sex with my husband. I need Rosie from The Jetsons.

                    1. Silly you.

                      No . . . she wants (as her friends have) a mom who might be mistaken for an older sister. Kallan’s mom?

                      Is not going to be mistaken for anything but Kallan’s mom.

                      Poor Kallan.

                      All uncool.

                    2. Freshly sharpened pencils smell like hope.

                      I am embroidering this on a pillow my dear.
                      Who am I kidding?..I’ll have my sister embroider it.

                      The purple wig of doom!!!!
                      I love it.
                      Wear rubber gloves with it and you’re on to a winner.

                    3. I am dying…DYING…imagining you in a giant purple clown wig wheeling your desk chair (which I am SURE goes “squeaky squeaky squeaky” is it rolls) around the high school as a lesson to your kids.

                      I am laughing so hard. You would be so matter of fact about it.

                      I threatened bathrobe untied over shortie jammies.

                      I like yours SO much better.

                      1. It doesn’t squeak when I roll it, so I’ll definitely have to make that happen somehow should the need arise.

                        A mom on a blog I read told her kids that if they left lunch/books/needed sports equipment at home one more time, she was going to dress like a clown to bring their things to them.

                        Her kids thought she was bluffing, so she went to their school wearing rainbow tie-dye from head to toe. Funniest thing ever, but without the wig, it really lacked something!

                    4. Yes, there’s no room in school, inside or outside, for bullies. Parents need to be the strong ones here and ensure that their kids aren’t allowed to become a bully or part of a bully’s entourage. Make believers out of them, my mother used to say of her firm but gentle disciplinary methods. The more that kids and teachers can do to put a stop to bullying, the faster we can tamp it down.

                      Thanks for sharing this.

                    5. You, my dear are one of the reasons Ethan has accused me of “loving the internet more than your kids!” I must read you every day. I must. Me as a kid: shy and bookish, but always with a few like minded friends. And at age 8? Ringleader of games involving stripping down to our underwear (or less) and pretending we were captives of an evil King, who wanted to … do things to us. I wasn’t quite sure what those things were, but I knew they gave me a funny feeling, and that we shouldn’t let the grumps catch us at these games.

                      1. I have been accused of enjoying my online life more than my 3-dimensional life, too. Really, even though there is unpleasantness here in the ether-world sometimes? I can’t HEAR any of it and no one can actually touch me.

                        The yelling and the climbing-on-mom? Gah!

                        1. Oh, the “mom-as-jungle-gym” is really getting stale around here. I swear at dinner last night we tried to get the boys to keep their hands & bodies off me for a solid 5 minutes so I could eat in peace – no such luck. They are both obsessed with my hair. I would cut it all off – but then I would look WAY too much like my mother and besides I like my long curly hair. Gah, indeed!

                          1. Ugh, yes. We worked really, really hard with Carter’s behavioral health specialist to teach him about physical boundaries. He is much improved, and I’m grateful for that. Still? I am a person who has very broad physical boundaries. I’m not a touch-y sort of a person, so that piece of being Carter’s mom has been extremely challenging.

                            I wouldn’t cut my hair in your situation, either! We already give up so much for our SN kiddos; we all have to keep back a few things or we won’t be US anymore.

                        2. I have a huge fear that my kids will some day, at some point, bully another child. I work hard to instill in them that they need to stand up for others, even if it’s not the “popular” thing to do. They are still very young, so I won’t know if what I preach has sunk until a few years from now.

                          1. I feel so fortunate that my kids have always been kind to their peers. They’ve never been super-popular, nor have they ever been outcasts. I don’t worry about THEM so much as I worry about what they might do if they get caught up in a group-mentality situation, you know?

                            Thankfully, there has been nothing like that. At least nothing that I’ve been aware of.

                        3. I have many painful memories of being taunted and bullied by my peers throughout my years of school. I can relate very well to what you’ve written here.

                          With her social issues, my daughter will always be more similar to kids a few years younger than she will with her peers. The difference seems to be more pronounced as she gets older. She gets picked on a little more than her fair share and its as painful for her as I remembering it being for me.

                          1. Yes. Ugh. Carter, too. The older he gets, the more pronounced are the social differences between him and his peers. When we pulled him out of public school, we were in the middle of battling over recess. Some kids were starting to take advantage of him. It’s so easy to get a HUGE reaction from him that some kids are tempted to make a game of that.

                            The school? No sympathy. No help. “Kids will be kids” and other bullshit excuses. Not that I really blame the people; the system is overwhelmed and lacking necessary resources. But still, these are kids who deserve to feel safe.

                            I wish I knew the solution.

                            I wish more parents and teachers were willing to do whatever it takes to insure that their children never hurt others.

                        4. This is the first time I have ever been seen your blog and I had to congratulate you on your bullying cure. Sheer genius – it made me laugh out loud.

                          1. Yeah! Oh, my God, you crack me up.

                            I hope I’ve started a trend; I’ll start getting emails about purple-clown-haired parents trailing their kids around at school. Such fun.

                            People? If you send me such an email, I need pictures! Of you, yes, but mostly of your child’s mortified face.

                            Oh, yes.

                        5. I hear ya on the vacation thing, I totally forget about vacations until I see everyone taking them on facebook, showing all their amazing photos, then I stop looking at facebook and pretend I don’t even want to go on vacation.

                          1. Exactly. I pretend I don’t want to go. And it’s sort of true, because if we took Carter it would be more difficult than staying home.

                            A week in a beach house with my husband and no one else, though? Hard to pretend I don’t want that.

                        6. Eight weeks of vacation? Holy Guacamole. That sounds like heaven and totally out of reach for me.

                          How wonderful as a mom that you know your kids have good friends and are not bullied or bullying. My oldest is in first grade and so I have plenty of worries about what the coming years will hold, but I have a lot of hope too. I love the clown wig and desk chair imagery. That’s enough to scare any kid into submission!

                          1. Well, to be fair, I never know for sure that they aren’t bullying anyone, but yeah, I don’t think so.

                            And I don’t know what the solution to bullying is, but I promised my kids that I would protect them, no matter what I had to do. Thankfully, they haven’t needed much protection!

                        7. I was the one they made fun of in school, but I was also one of the smart ones, so because they needed me, they spared me the worst.
                          Brains can save you when your unforgiving teen looks disappoint…

                          1. I was so depressed back then, I’m afraid my brains didn’t do me much good. It was like trying to drive a Porsche through a pond made of molasses. My kids have discovered their niches, though, which is everything when you’re that age – to have somewhere to belong. I’m glad you had that.

                        8. I am so stealing that idea for keeping my kids from bullying. As my kids get close to school-age, I am going to have to contemplate more ways to wield the power of parental humiliation for good.

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