The expression, “throw in the towel,” is derived from boxing. After a boxer has suffered an unrecoverable beating and his corner wants to the fight to stop, the towel is thrown in to indicate concession. In that scenario, the gesture is equal to admitting defeat. But throwing in the towel in some circumstances is not a declaration of defeat but rather an admission that a chapter needs to be closed. This is the case with our son’s current school. I was invited to listen in on a meeting with the charter representative this morning. Parents were randomly summoned to express their views on the school. It was purely by accident that I even ended up in the meeting since there was no formal announcement sent out. I was speaking with the mother of one of our son’s best friends when another parent saw her, grabbed her by the arm and insisted she go to the library. “The charter people are here,” the mom said with a mash of enthusiasm and anger in her voice. The two moms motioned for me to come as well. So, I did. I was met with other disgruntled parents, each of them with different stories of frustration. The charter representative, a reserved woman who was composed yet stern, typed as parents (mostly mothers) spoke. She tried to get everyone to dampen their elevated emotions but she was unsuccessful. These are our children we are speaking about. These are our prized possessions. If they have been wronged, we involuntarily go into attack mode. The school Principal periodically buzzed in to remind parents about the incoming kindergarten presentation she was conducting in the nearby auditorium. Reluctantly, a couple of parents walked out of the “charter people” meeting and walked into the auditorium. I made my points succinctly, a rarity for me, and I left as well. I communicated that the teachers needed more training, better communication and that the Principal had a culture at her school that was not conducive to best educational practices. When I walked out of the door, I knew undoubtedly that our son would not be returning to that school under any circumstances. If they institute any changes, even with the new Principal that starts sometime at the end of this year, the changes won’t take place soon enough to turn things around for our son. In other words, when it comes to this school, I have thrown in the allegorical towel. Last night, I went over paperwork for the magnet school into which our son has been accepted and I felt calm. I know it won’t be without its own flaws and challenges but I already feel a sense of relief, knowing that in the fall our son will be starting a new and more fulfilling chapter of his life. I also threw in the towel on my tv spec yesterday. I realized that I wrote my first traditional tv spec in years, right from the heart. But I hadn’t delved deeper into the series and its established structure. So, I was up until 2:00 a.m. this morning, going beat by beat through an episode of the series for which I am writing my spec. Starting from scratch on my spec will also present its own challenges, but it isn’t necessarily the easier road that gets us to the goal. Sometimes, in order to get to the end we want, we have to be willing to throw in the towel.
Yesterday, I jotted down thoughts instead of trying to attack my spec re-write head on. It was an early out of school day for our son so, after running a couple of errands, it was time to pick him up. That’s when the creativity comes in. Now that he’s not in afterschool care, it is our job to entertain the children from the afternoon until they go to bed. Since I have removed media from the home, this is not always an easy task. Taking a moment to scribe an email is just enough time for one of the children to take a chair, pull it to the counter where my purse is located, abscond with aforementioned purse and raid it for goods (mainly, the many packs and flavors of sugarless gum I hoard). Kid #1 has shown kid #2 how to hide the contraband in her Disney play oven. Little did I know, they would repeat the offense the very next morning with more prowess and precision. But yesterday, they got caught in the act, moments after I hit send on an email. I do have a babysitter, who helps with homework sometimes. She arrived as I was jetting off to get some of our son’s paperwork for his new school. Our son is in kindergarten and his new school this fall will be the 3rd school that he will attend. Why? Because I am not a perfect parent. I thought that moving to a better neighborhood would assure a better school experience. Who knows what our home school near our humble abode in Van Nuys would have rendered? His current home school in the comfy hills of the valley, near a beautiful golf course, has dampened his desire to learn at best. He now has a cheerleading team of myself, his dad, his grandmother, his tutor and the college student who babysits sometimes to encourage him and assuage the damage caused by his current teachers. I do not have a perfect kid. I realize that. Even I have been known to raise my voice here and there using the words, “Stop it! Now! Come here! I said come here! Put your sister down! There goes your college fund, buddy!” But I have never told him he couldn’t do anything, he didn’t belong anywhere or that he wasn’t brilliant. The boy has been coming up with song lyrics since he was four. He’s difficult. I’m difficult. We are not perfect. Therefore, the words I write, the jokes I tell, will never be perfect. Somehow I have convinced myself for several years that everything I put on the page must be. Therefore, I thought it best not to write scripts at all. When people would see me over the past decade and ask, “what have you been up to? You still writing?” I always responded, “yes.” That’s because I never have actually stopped writing. I just stopped writing scripts. I write song lyrics. I write poems. I write short stories that I never bother to re-write or fix. So, yeah, I’m still writing. But now that I have truly realized my writing will never be perfect, I am writing more consistently. Hearing stories about and seeing for myself in others, the fearless kid I used to be, has shown the person I have become. It has taught me that some things should not be left behind as we grow older. Fearlessness is one of those things. In a few months, I will send out my writing to some agents. I will, hopefully, write with a mentor. And I will not care that my writing is not perfect. Rather, I will focus on the honesty of it. I focus on the distinct voice in it. What I have to say has value and in the end it only matters that I continue to do it. This is what I will teach my son one day. The expectation is not that you do it perfectly but that you do it (and by doing it I do not mean forming and band of thieves with your sister and stealing your mother’s gum). Don’t wait until it’s perfect or it will never be done.