As December is just around the corner, the holidays are one of those rare time where you reunite with friends and family that you often don’t get to see.
Julie Klam, Author of Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can’t Live Without joins the conversation during today’s show to discuss her book and how everyone handles the holidays. In her book Julie explores everything from friendship in the age of social media to reconnecting with old friends through Facebook or email. She also explores how friendships evolve with marriage and children and if men and women can really ever be just friends.
Be sure to tune in at 3:40 p.m. for what is sure to be a great conversation and check out an excerpt from her book below.
Reprinted by arrangement with Riverhead, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from FRIENDKEEPING: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can’t Live Without by Julie Klam
Copyright © 2012 by Julie Klam
I’ve Got a Secret
I ’M A HUGE BELIEVER in being truthful except in the instances of hurting someone’s feelings or saving your own ass. (The saving- your- own- ass reason doesn’t really apply to this chapter or this book; in fact, pretend I didn’t say it.)
I’ve often felt that the sharing of information between parents is one of the most vital and useful tools of parenting. It’s also the quickest way to find out that not only are all of your fears utterly justifi ed, there’s also more scary junk that you weren’t smart enough to know about and your lack of awareness may have just destroyed your child’s chances of getting into any institution that doesn’t have bars on the windows.
The summer before Violet started fi rst grade, we were in the playground with her friend Sylvia and Sylvia’s mom, Jenny, who was one of my few mom- friends at the time. Jenny and I were talking about the following
year and which teachers were supposed to be good.
“I don’t really know much about the teachers,” Jenny said, “but if Syl gets Jane Doe, I’m going to kill myself.”
“Uh-oh, what’s her story?” I asked.
Jenny went on to tell me a list of nightmarish (on a fi rst- grade level) stories about Miss Doe. She was strict and kind of scary and possibly a meanie. It wasn’t clear exactly what her problem was. What was clear was that I didn’t want her, and I just knew Violet would get her.
A few days later I got the card in the mail with Violet’s teacher assignment. Terry Bass, the friendly scarecrow of teachers, was crossed out, and Jane Doe was written on it. Because that’s the kind of luck I had. The gods gave Violet nice pushover Terry Bass, and my luck came in and scribbled her name out and stuck in Satan. I texted Jenny and told her Violet got Jane Doe, and Jenny said, “I’m sure it will be fi ne.” And, “I should
never have told you that.”
I told her I didn’t care. I fi gured everyone’s relationships with teachers are different. One person’s favorite is another one’s worst nightmare.
The bigger problem was that, although Violet’s teacher had told me at the end of kindergarten that each of the kids would have at least one friend in their fi rst- grade class, because of a confl uence of clerical errors, Violet had no friend and did not even know anyone in her class. While in my logical mind I knew that it was highly unlikely that any of this would affect her life—“You see, she didn’t get into Dartmouth because she had no friend from kindergarten placed with her in fi rst grade!”—my emotional self was reeling.
Violet began fi rst grade, and from the start I was scared of Miss Doe. She wasn’t one of the laid- back friendly types; she came across as humorless and stern. In the morning, if the kids got to the schoolyard after the class line started moving toward the building, even if they caught up with the line, they’d be marked late. There was zero tolerance, and I had a kid who never met a rule she couldn’t work around. Except here
things were different. Since Violet was no longer a kindergartner, she was a FIRST GRADER, a certain adherence to laws would be necessary. I tried very hard to get Miss Doe to like me, but she wasn’t having any of it. She didn’t gab with the parents, she had her eyes on the class. When I told her we were moving to a different apartment the week after school started, she rolled her eyes like I was doing it just to wreck everyone’s year.
A few weeks later Violet came home from school and pulled a very nice pen out of her bag.
“Where did you get that?”
“Miss Doe gave it to me.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yes, she told me that I was such a good student that I could pick anything I wanted off her desk to have,” Violet told me. “I chose between this pen and a plastic iguana.”
I was taking in her words, my eyebrows slowly beginning to come down. My kid wasn’t a liar, she just wasn’t. But this story wasn’t making sense. She went on to tell me more details about the things Miss Doe had said about her, how Violet was the most special kid in the class and better than anyone else, and some other interesting questionable details. “Are you telling me the truth?” I asked my sweet
little cherub. She smiled. “No.” Her smile grew bigger. “I just took it.”
I thought about pulling her out of school. I’d homeschool her, or get her into the witness protection program. Maybe we could say some other kid, that bad kid,
Jeremy, put the pen in her bag, in essence framing her. He would be getting in trouble for something else anyway so what would it hurt?
“Am I going to go to juvie?” Violet asked. She had a friend in school who frequently discussed the things she might do that would get her thrown into juvie.
“Of course not!” I said, doubting myself as I talked.
“Tomorrow just stick the pen back on her desk when she isn’t looking, okay?” I said casually. “Okay?”
I’m a tad mortifi ed sharing this; it wasn’t my fi nest moment in motherhood.
“I don’t think I can do that, Mom,” Violet said. “I think you need to talk to Miss Doe.”
Me? Why me? I didn’t steal the damn pen!
“All right,” I said, “give me the pen.” I had a sickening feeling like I wanted to throw up, and then, at that moment, my backbone grew three sizes larger.
“I’ll talk to Miss Doe tomorrow,” I said.
I didn’t sleep that night. I thought about mass murderers you’d hear about who tortured animals when they were kids. Was this a sign of some life of crime to come?
I was afraid. The next day I marched us into school and walked up to Miss Doe.
“Excuse me, I need to speak with you,” I said, doing my best parental impression.
She turned to me. I knew it was a little rulebreaking of me to just approach her like that; she had said she preferred notes to being approached, but I had
to talk to her.
“I’m really sorry,” I said, “but VIOLET STOLE YOUR PEN!”
A warm smile came over her face, and she shook her head and said quietly, “It’s okay, my daughter did the same thing. It doesn’t mean she’s a thief.” I was shaking with relief, holding back tears. (How idiotic was I? I think that’s becoming clear.) Apparently, Violet had been testing Miss Doe in a variety of ways, but she also seemed to want me to have a reason to talk to her. I think it bothered her that I didn’t really have a relationship with her teacher. (The teacher, incidentally, ended up being one of the best we ever had.) She wanted to see me interacting with her instead of running away every day. (By the way, I do not recommend having a kid who is smarter than you— it can really cause problems.)