Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ode To Laziness

Do you know a perfect person? I do. She's pretty, keeps a trim figure. Her house is spare and chic and, despite the fact that she has 2 small boys, uncluttered. She has perfect manners, but not fussily so. Her boys are well behaved, pleasant and just mischievous enough to be normal. They stick to a schedule. A schedule-can you believe it? I just know she has never, once, used the TV as a babysitter. I hate her.

No I don't. Because above all else, she is friendly and cheerful and modest. She doesn't do one thing to make me feel inadequate, yet I often leave her company feeling so. You know, I remember birthdays. Sometimes. I remember my own, anyway. And my children's, of course, and that's the main thing. For all other dates: anniversaries, doctor's appointments, bill payments, (We have Christmas AGAIN this year?) I am at best vague with the details. And I would LOVE to stick to a schedule. Time and time again I have with best intentions declared that I am going to follow something: an exercise regime, a diary of my diet, getting up early and writing. I really mean it, too. It's just that something always happens: the kid is up all night sick, they're having 2 for 1 cupcakes at the bakery. It's always something, as Roseanne Roseannadanna said.

Robert Fulghum says, "I live in awe of people who get...jobs done." And goes to talk about how the rest of us should be given one task to redeem ourselves. His example is stick polishing.

"Here’s the way it works. You get selected for this deal because you are such a good person at heart, and it is time you were let off the hook. First, a week of your life is given to you free of all obligations. Your calendar is wiped clean. No committee meetings, no overdue anything---bills, correspondence, or unanswered telephone calls. You are taken to a nice place, where it is all quiet and serene and Zen. You are cared for. Fed well. And often affirmed. Your task is simply this: to spend a week polishing a stick. They give you some sandpaper and lemon oil and rags. And, of course, the stick---a nice but ordinary piece of wood. All you have to do is polish it. As well as you can. Whenever you feel like it. That’s it: polish the stick."

If only that were all it took to prove we aren't too shabby, even if we can't remember to return our library books with any frequency. Sigh.

I would like to insert here that I think I would get way more slack cut my way if I was guy.

Now, back to reality. A smart person told me long ago that you shouldn't compare your insides to somebody else's outsides. Meaning, you can't compare the voice in your head telling you you're a loser with the facade someone else presents to the world. Because I have my own facade. Not that I'm deceiving anyone, I just don't wear my every insecurity on my sleeve. Just as I don't know what goes on inside of Perfect Mom's head. For all I know she worries about things that I think are silly, like crows feet or being bad at math. Also, when I'm done bashing myself for my faults, real and imagined, I remind myself that she is a stay at home mom. So perhaps I oughta give myself 30 points for being able to bring home the bacon AND fry it up in the pan. Certainly she has never had to get not one, but TWO 18 gauge IV's in a guy who has almost no blood pressure and is minutes away from dying without breaking a sweat. I'm just sayin'. It's no stick-polisher, but it's what I got.

So three cheers to all you disorganized people out there. Celebrate whatever it is that you do well, even if it's warming up the couch. Meanwhile, I'm going to try and get my Christmas cards out before July.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Let 'em play

When I was a boy, I scared the pants off of my mom,
Climbed what I could climb upon
And I don't know how I survived,
I guess I knew the tricks that all boys knew.

Dar Williams, "When I Was a Boy"

At the most recent parents' conference, we were told that Youngest Daughter wanted to be called "Peter" by her teachers and classmates. Ah, we explained, well, see, she's been into Spider Man. So she's pretending to be Peter Parker. Naturally. The teacher said, with a little smile, well, she has a very good imagination. But it's a little distracting.

I see. It's not that I mind the idea of school, but do they have to be so, well, schoolish about it? In kindergarten, no less. Once I fought down the urge to smack her, I wanted to say to her, seriously? I mean, she's five. She still believes in the Easter Bunny. To her, imagining is as important as adding and subtracting(which she can do) and learning her sight words. I know she's young for kindergarten, the youngest in her class, in fact. It's an all day kindergarten too, I'd like to point out. I remember my kindergarten. I think it lasted long enough for my mother to make the beds and have coffee with the neighbor moms. We spent most of the time, if memory serves, a.playing b. using paste and c. learning a few things. We had a snack, laid our heads on the table for a few minutes rest, heard a story and went home. Somehow with this backward system we all managed to grow up and become reasonably responsible adults.

When I look around my daughter's classroom, I notice that most kids are indeed listening (mostly) and sitting criss-cross-applesauce still and listening (mostly). Because I think most of them have been in daycare and know the drill. And let me be clear:I have nothing against daycare, all-day kindergarten, organized sports, enrichment programs, after-school activities, Pop Warner, pottery classes, et al. It's just that there's so MUCH of it. I feel like our kids are falling into two groups: the docile and the non-docile. So we give the non-docile kids a diagnosis and some pills and there you go.

I'm not exaggerating. When Eldest Daughter was in second grade, in a school system I won't name (rhymes with "Pillsborough"), she was found to have a learning disability. Before they would evaluate her for extra help, they wanted me to put her on Ritalin. But, I said, I spoke with her doctor and she doesn't have ADHD. Well, said the school nurse, some doctors work with us.

Maybe I'm too sensitive about the whole thing. Teachers gotta teach, kids gotta behave. But it's the sinking feeling that if yours isn't the docile little lamb, well then, maybe there's something wrong with them. But I refuse to believe that my spunky, spirited, FIERCE child needs a label, let alone a diagnostic code. For inspiration I found Lenore Skenazy's website and book called Free Range Kids (freerangekids.wordpress.com). It celebrates a time when your mom would kick you out of the house for the day and call you back in when it was dinner time. And if you came home covered in dirt she might scream a bit, but then she'd just throw you in the tub and scrub you within an inch of your life. Nowadays they bring in the decontamination unit and a gallon of Purell.

Also, I have in my possession, a great book called Raising Your Spirited Child:a guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, energetic, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Seriously, my little one is intense. And sweet, smart, funny, contrary, and exasperating. I wonder if I could handle a class full of kids like her. Sometimes I wonder why she can't be an "easy" child. I think back with fondness for all the "easy" things her sister did, forgetting that she had her exasperating moments, as well. Then I remind myself that Well Behaved
Girls Rarely Make History.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.