homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Monday, March 17, 2014

In Which I Have Issues, Apparently

Hey! Happy St. Patrick's Day! I didn't wear green today, because *reasons*. Part of it is that my heritage is of the more Protestant persuasion, and I've been told that my grandfather would have insisted on orange. (I didn't wear orange, either. No need to be political about things.) Part of it is because I just don't care. (*shrug*) But as usual, I got to thinking about past years--especially far in the past, and well, here's the dump of my issues.

When I was in grade school, we were expected to wear green for St. Patrick's Day. Fun? Sure. It's a silly and visible stunt, to have that much of the same color in a large group. (If I were feeling even more cynical, I'd say that it smacks of superficial patriotism and group identity, but I don't have the energy or interest for that chip on my shoulder tonight. You're welcome.) If it had been treated as a true "spirit day" should, people would be encouraged to participate, but not required. Or pressured. Or ridiculed or shamed for abstaining. 

But that's what we got. I remember one child in my class who didn't wear green. No good-natured (ahem, *acceptable bullying*) "pinch" for not conforming to the crowd, oh no. The teachers--no lie--made the kid a sandwich board to wear that said something about him being a dunce (or maybe a Grinch? He was green...). He could take it off when seated at his desk, but walking to the library and going to the multi-class cafeteria? He had to wear the sign. He was a pariah. He was visible. He was singled out for not conforming to the uniformity of the crowd that day.

Just digging up that memory infuriates me now, because when many adults look back on the cruel and hurtful hard-knock social lessons that were beaten into us (metaphorically or literally), we usually think of peer socialization. But not all of the messages to conform, to go along with the crowd, to obey blindly lest you get *noticed*, are coming from equally immature young humans blindly fumbling their way toward figuring out how to act in a society. Some of it comes from the authority figures. And whether it's an overt bullying action like publicly humiliating a child and laughing it off as "all good fun", or a more subtle "go along with the crowd" nudge, messages get sent, and not all of them are healthy either for the individual or, frankly, for the group.

It's easy to roll your eyes at the cynicism; to deny that school is an institution for destroying individuality and diversity, and I am not here to make any global assumptions either way. I just wanted to say: it's not "spirit" if it's not voluntary and motivated by an actual desire to do the thing. It's pressure. And it works, but then--what's the meaning in it?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Spirit

One of the many things to which I devote entirely too much time overanalyzing is Santa Claus. I'm torn on the whole thing. I hate the deception, but treasure the magic. I love dialing up the ReindeerCam and squealing when the BigMan turns up to put on a show, but I hate the inherent threat (Santa doesn't watch my kids sleep or weigh their merit based on a behavior evaluation before determining whether they deserve the earned reward of love). I'm conflicted, and more than a decade into this parenting gig, I still haven't really developed a policy with which I'm completely comfortable.

But we do Santa, in some custom form. And part of my Santa policy with them is that Santa gets them items from their wish list that I have either said no to, or seem unlikely to buy. That's what makes Santa awesome. He overrides disappointment and lets them dream beyond the practical. Or something like that. If Mom says no, ask Santa!

T has been pining hard for the Eleventh Doctor's sonic screwdriver. Obsessing. Talking nonstop. So of course, Santa bought it for him and plans for it to be his spotlight gift (the Most Wanted, not necessarily the Most Expensive) and Mom has been waging a frown-and-sigh campaign of "I don't know honey, it's so expensive...". (which it isn't, but so far he's only quietly raised an eyebrow. I keep thinking he's on the cusp of deciding to not play the game...and being wrong.)

Then last night C pulled me aside and said that he wants to get it for T for Christmas. My initial reaction was resistance. This will throw Santa's plan out of whack--with the spotlight gift out of the way, there are no real contenders among the supporting Santa gifts to be that "WOW" moment first thing on Christmas morning. I brushed him off with a comment about "expensive" (Seriously, I'm cheap and my kids have learned that quoting prices is my go-to shutdown for any conversation.) He countered that he will give me the money he has saved and pay back the rest in installments each allowance day.

And then I stopped and really thought about what was going on here.

It has always been important to me to model GIVING at Christmas. Instead of just throwing the kids' names on gifts for other family members, I involve them in the shopping process and often let them choose things on their own. They have learned from many years of watching both their father and me crafting, that making a gift for a loved one entails a special value just in the doing. And I plan to eventually wrap up these half-assed Santa years by explaining the Man in Red as an extension of the joy of giving, as the anonymity allows you to focus on the receiver, not the giver.

And my son wants more than anything to give his brother this year's Golden Ticket. The Red Ryder of Christmas wishes. THE. GIFT.

That's the best gift I've received this holiday season. I doubt anything will top it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

You don't say...

My blog is not a place for airing dirty laundry. But bear with me; this isn't a complaint about my husband. It's a commentary about school, and another facet of the "why" behind our homeschooling adventure.

My beloved is a computer professional, and as such he periodically attends seminars and training courses to keep his skills up to date. He's been at training this week. Every evening, he has been increasingly foul-tempered. Initially, he was just tired/grumpy, but things got worse as the week progressed. He became clumsy. Snappish. Bitter. Short-tempered. Unfocused. And finally, he threw a real live tantrum. Then as he apologized/explained, he was sullen.

The boy is NOT happy.

When I pressed him for a reason for his Jekyll-and-Hyde behavior, he complained about the class. He said that it is boring, and the presenter is not engaging. That there aren't enough breaks. That he's tired from all of the reading, but mostly all of the sitting. That if he were at his regular job, he'd be able to "get up and walk around as needed" but that he was stiff and tired and unable to focus. By tonight (Thursday), he admitted to wanting to call off sick tomorrow to avoid the final class.

And I listened without comparison, but OH MY GOD PEOPLE, do *you* see the parallel?

Do you see that we expect this of children--little children, and getting younger every year--every day, for 180 days a year, for 13 or more years of their lives? That we're cutting recess for energy-driven 7-year-olds and cutting physical education for hormone-flooded 17-year-olds, and expecting them to endure what even 47-year-olds can't do without complaint?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Oh, my heart

On a recent bookstore trip (alone, huzzah!) I made an impulse purchase: a kids' journal, with themes and writing prompts on each page. T is a very reluctant writer, but on his own he enthusiastically produces lists. An entire section of this journal is for list-making; so I figured that this would appeal to what he already enjoys and perhaps encourage further practice. Plus, I *loved* fill-in journals at that age.

I bought two, because I didn't want C to feel left out.

This morning, I found C at the table, working hard on a very long paragraph. Before he caught my gaze and quickly hid it from prying eyes, I saw:

MI BEST FRIEND IS MI BRUTHER T...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

In which I gain a little humility

So, earlier this week I had had one of *those* days. You know the kind; just nonstop and energy-draining. It happens. It happens with kids a lot. As usual, the fallout was that I crashed with J at bedtime, and left the mountain of dishes until the morning.

When I awoke the next morning to finish dealing with the previous day's mess before the current one's took over, I shuffled out to the kitchen and it was worse. To wit, someone had removed the drain plugs from both sides of the double sink and then rinsed rice into the drains (lovely). Also, ALL of the remaining clean dishtowels were in a sopping pile on the counter. "SEVEN?" I muttered not-under-my-breath. "SEVEN!?!" Not only did I have a slightly more messy kitchen to contend with, but now I was out of frickin' dishtowels.

I considered just lighting a match and walking away.

Okay, not really. But I was grouchy.

Because I figured that the TeenBoy (16yo stepson) had done some middle of the night kitchen-destroying. Or my husband had inexplicably felt the need to use up seven dishtowels before he left for work that morning. I don't know. I was just slamming around with my woe-is-Mom little stormcloud over my head and thinking bitter, self-pitying thoughts about the Inconsiderate People with whom I share space.

A little while later, while I was sulking and avoiding the kitchen, C woke up. He woke up happy. He came out, all smiles, and said, "Did you see what I did, Mom?"

He went on to explain that since I was so tired the night before, he thought he'd surprise me by scrubbing the crock from the slow cooker. Which he had. By hand. And it was sparkling and perfect.

And then [twist knife] he said, "I'm sorry I used so many towels. I spilled some water."

And I felt, oh, about this high.

Although truth be told, my heart kinda felt this big. Because my kid...my unintentionally messy kid...is so loving and kind.