The Daughter Chronicles

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Norah learns about life

Norah sailed through her first decade of life, more or less.  She wasn't the best baby; Krys loves to tell her about her whining and crying when her mother just wanted to sleep, but she grew out of that and became a great kid.  She had no issues going to kindergarten, unlike the one kid in her class who cried every day for months because he wanted his mommy (Norah and I still talk about that dude; I hope he got better as the years went on!).  She liked school, she worked hard at school, and she did well.  She was more mature than her cohorts, mainly because we kind of forced her into it.  We told her from when she was very young that we would have to pay more attention to her sister, and it didn't mean we didn't love her, just that she would have to figure things out on her own a little sooner than some other kids.  She's still more mature than most kids her age, but at least the gap isn't as pronounced as it was when she was in third grade.  So things were pretty good with her.

The first day of kindergarten, and Norah has already forgotten her father exists!

That began to change in fifth grade, so in 2015.  She began to do slightly worse in school, mainly because school started getting harder for her.  She still did well, but it wasn't as easy and therefore, to her, not as fun.  She had liked her teachers until fifth grade - well, she didn't love her second grade teacher, but for the most part, she liked them - and it took her a while to warm up to her teacher in fifth grade (her fifth grade teacher was a wonderful woman, by the way, but she was a bit harder and less "maternal" than Norah's fourth- and third-grade teachers, so for Norah, it was a bit of a culture shock), so that initial reaction plus the harder work threw her a bit.  We still think she had never learned enough how to learn, so that when it didn't come easy to her, she got frustrated.  But she recovered and did pretty well.  The other problem she encountered, beginning in fifth grade (well, toward the end of fourth grade, really), was the changing social structure of the school.  The kids began noticing the opposite sex, for instance (or, of course, the same sex but in a different way), and when that happens, things get weird.  Norah was not interested in romance in fourth or fifth grade (and even through middle school, it didn't really concern her), and it bugged her that so many others were.  The girls she had been friends with for years started to be more interested in what boys' attention they could attract, and cliques began to spring up, despite the fact that Norah was in a class with about 45 kids, so it's not like there could be much of a social hierarchy.  The boys began being far more rude - if you think boys today don't act as horribly as boys years ago did because we live in a new era of enlightenment, you're very much wrong.  In fifth grade and sixth grade, she was "betrayed" by her best friend - we got all of this from Norah, of course, so we filter it through that, but it seems like the girl started wanting to be "popular" and thought the best way to do this was treat Norah poorly.  I don't know how bad it was, but Norah was very upset by it.  Norah isn't the most social person around, so it's not super-easy for her to make friends, so losing one who was close to her hurt her.  So fifth grade and sixth grade (which was harder academically for her than fifth) weren't great for her.  She also knew that she wasn't going to go to the same middle school as many of her friends, because we had moved to a different school district before sixth grade but kept her at the school (it was a good school, and we wanted Norah to finish her elementary school there).  So that probably didn't help her.  I still think it was the right decision to keep her at the school, but there's always going to be a bit of doubt in my mind - maybe we should have just moved her into the school in our neighborhood?

Action shot of Norah at the Arizona Science Center

In 2017 she began middle school, and her problems became a bit more acute.  First of all, the school she went to contained grades 6-8, which meant that when she joined in seventh grade, many of the kids had already made friends (more doubt about whether we should have moved her after fifth grade!).  Now is not the time for my rant for the division of grades (K-6 should be in one school, 7-9 should be in another, and 10-12 should be in another, and that's that!), but it did throw her a bit.  And, of course, now she had different teachers for each subject, so she had to adjust to several different styles and, unfortunately, biases and other idiosyncrasies.  It has taken Norah a long time to realize that sometimes, even if she does everything right, things still don't work out for her because of external issues.  She didn't understand that teachers are human and subject human frailties.  Obviously, you'd like teachers to overcome that, but occasionally, you'll get a teacher who simply doesn't like you.  They might not grade you poorly, but they might not give you the benefit of the doubt if there's some gray area.  Norah couldn't understand that.  She didn't make it easier because as she got hit with those same hormones that made her friends so nuts in fifth grade, she obviously changed a bit.  That's just what happens!

Getting ready for seventh grade!

Obviously, she got her period.  This has not gone well.  It's pretty bad, according to Krys (who knows a bit more about this than I do).  Her flow is quite heavy, and it lasts longer than "normal."  It messes her up physically quite a bit, too, as her cramps are pretty terrible.  So that's no good.  We put Mia on birth control pills years ago because we wanted to skip her period, as she has enough problems (I'm sure some people know this, but if you take the Pill and skip the placebo week, basically you wipe out your period).  Norah thought this was a great idea, but her doctor thought it would be better to wait until she was a bit older.  So she had to deal with that for a few years.  Just recently we put her on the Pill, so we'll see how that works (I think it's only been two weeks, so it's too soon to tell).

Look at the attitude on that shirt!

She had other issues in middle school, too.  She made some friends, but she was into the thick of "mean girls" territory, and she was ill-equipped to navigate those waters.  She was friends with someone one week, and the next the girl was her enemy, and Norah often had no idea why.  She's always been very respectful of authority, so she never questioned her teachers, and she had trouble even speaking up in class to ask questions about the work, because she didn't want them to get mad at her (yes, that's really what she says).  I always wanted her to be a bit more competitive, not in a crazed, unhealthy way, but in a way that would motivate her, because too often she'd feel bad for, say the person she was playing tennis against, and I think she wouldn't try as hard because of that.  She's gotten better at that, but it took her a while, and I think for a few years, she wasn't terribly motivated to do well in school, even, because it might make her friends feel bad.  And, of course, when the work got hard, she got frustrated and didn't do it, which put her further behind.  It was a vicious cycle.  She managed to do fairly well in middle school academically, but her social life wasn't that great.  She didn't want to act the way girls wanted her to act to get into the right cliques, and she didn't find a lot of people who shared her interests.  Also, as she became a bit more interested in romance, she found what most adults know - teenage boys are complete idiots.  So that didn't help.  She just couldn't figure out how to be a person and have friends who weren't jerks and just have a nice time.  It was a frustrating time.

Chillin' at the Eiffel Tower

High school hasn't been much better, but a little.  First of all, more of the kids are at Norah's level of maturity, so she's been able to make some friends (even though some still turn around and act like jerks for no reason) and she's playing tennis and enjoying that.  School work, however, has become more difficult for her, and it goes back to her motivation.  If she likes a subject or the teacher, she does pretty well, but if not, her grades suffer.  I know that's probably true of a lot of kids, but it's still frustrating.  (Krys gets "mad" at me because I really liked school, from kindergarten all the way through twelfth grade.  I never had any academic problems, and I liked all my subjects, even math!  So it really is hard for me to relate to Norah.  Krys does much better with that.)  She was doing okay in ninth grade, but then the pandemic hit.  That was not a good thing at all.  She did fairly well after Spring Break last year, because the school let them work at their own pace and it wasn't as rigid.  That seemed to suit her, but we knew she would need the guidance of the teachers for the long term.  So this year has been very frustrating, to say the least.  The school district had four months or so to come up with a plan to have the kids in school, but in August, they still hadn't figured anything out (Mia's Special Ed. teacher said she hadn't heard anything about what they were doing until a week before school started).  Then they decided to do on-line school, but they offered full on-line school for the entire year or the option of going back in person when it became available.  We chose the latter, but it sounds like the on-line for the year option might have been better for Norah (I don't know the particulars, but it seems like they do half the curriculum in the first half of the year and half in the second, so it's a bit more intense but there aren't as many subjects, which might have helped Norah focus).  She was on-line for a few months, and then they let the kids back to school, with half the alphabet going on Mondays/Tuesdays (Norah's days) and the other half going Thursdays/Fridays, with Wednesdays being a day to catch up on work and meet with teachers (on-line) if they needed it.  That didn't last long.  Kids were ignoring mask mandates, kids were coming to school with symptoms, kids were coming to school after they had been tested but before they knew the results.  Arizona is run by a deeply Republican governor (and the legislature is largely Republican, too) and businessman (he was the CEO of Cold Stone Creamery for 12 years), and the state never really shut down too severely even though for a while it was showing more COVID cases per capita than anywhere in the world (we're #1!!!!).  So we probably have a lot of people who think it's no big deal, and they didn't think anything of sending their kids to school and probably telling them masks are no big deal.  So after a few weeks, Norah was back on-line, where she's been ever since.  It has really been a struggle for her, especially because she hears so many of her friends saying how wonderful on-line learning is.  She needs interaction with the teacher, because, as I noted, her motivation is always an issue, and being in class keeps her focused.  Her refusal to challenge authority is even worse when she isn't in class, so she rarely asks questions about the work, even when she doesn't understand it.  She doesn't ask us questions even though we're fairly smart people and have begged her to ask us for help.  Part of this is our fault, of course - when we told her when she was young that we had to deal with Mia more, she really took that to heart, and now she thinks that if she bugs us too much about helping her out she's being a burden.  Yes, we've told her that's not true, but it's very hard for her.  People hear what they want to hear, and kids especially, so she internalizes any and all criticism from anyone and never hears the praise.  I'm sure none of you readers do that!

With her awesome aunt in State College, PA

So that's where we are.  She is going back to in-person school after Spring Break (so, the 15th of March), and I hope against hope that the school will enforce mask protocols and social distancing.  I don't have a lot of hope, but we'll see.  Norah knows that some kids are staying on-line (the school is keeping that option), so I hope it's all the knuckleheads who think COVID is harmless.  We've been in contact with her teachers, so they know that she's been having issues with the quarantine, and they've told us (and Norah) that they're always ready to help her out.  She needs to make that step, but she seems more inclined to do that recently, so that's good.  She's been playing tennis for school, and she's friends with some of those girls, so that's helped her lack of social interaction for so many months.  If the world gets back to a semblance of normal, that will surely help her out.

Those are some fierce pants!

I hate seeing Norah learn that life is often terrible.  She has had to learn that people can be jerks and terrible friends, that boys are often idiots, that things happen to you beyond your control that might be wildly unfair, and that hormones wreak havoc with your body.  None of that is fun!  I often tell her that I would hate to be a teenager right now, because teens today have to deal with everything teens go through when they grow up, plus there's social media, so everything is amplified and permanent.  Norah and her generation are much more politically interested than I was, so there's another layer of stress on their already stressful life.  All of this messes with kids a lot, and Norah's generation has had to deal with this stupid pandemic as well.  She's still a wonderful kid, obviously, and we're very glad she is well behaved, she doesn't do drugs, she cares very deeply for her sister, and she has a very strong social conscience.  I just hope that these annoying and frustrating days don't last much longer and she can continue to grow into the amazing woman I know she'll be.  We'll be there to help her, obviously, and we know it's going to be difficult.  But it will be worth it.

Pandemic chic!


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