Friday, August 23, 2013

Mom, why are you calling me Buttercup?

School is in the building! The kids were starry eyed and tired on Monday, but basically happy and glad to be back (although Silas did greet the rising sun by throwing one arm to the sky and howling “noooooooooo”). All of their nagging questions of the past few weeks have been laid to rest: will my friends be in my classes? will I like my teachers? will I have homework the first day? etc etc etc. This is probably why they dropped into bed with a sigh of relief last night (or maybe that was me.) 

The answers, btw, were pretty much yes. Helen has the same third grade teacher that Si did, and I notice, by way of informal observation, that this teacher, who has a reputation for being "strict," also seems to get classes made up of well-behaving children. After two years in a row with Helen in the craziest class in the grade, wouldn't it be nice to have a year in which there WEREN'T weekly class therapy sessions with the school psychologist? Notice how I am assuming that in the Venn diagram of "crazy drama making" and "Helen's class," Helen falls in one circle but not the other. I guess we'll find out!

Si too. Of course, in middle school, drama is one of the required electives. But his first day's assessment of his teachers is 80% awesome and 20% OMG I can't believe she's so strict. One teacher looks to be a tough customer (not a bad thing, from a parent's perspective, although it does make me shrug a little: guess we'll be struggling with social studies this year) and by Silas's report the students were flabbergasted to have their Spanish teacher actually speak in Spanish on the first day (which made me wonder what his Spanish teacher spoke LAST year. Hmm.)


Speaking of class therapy sessions, my work - which has been kind of a wild ride lately, what with office reshuffling and staff restructuring and general let's-shake-it-up shenanigans - had an employee workshop (class? all-day retreat?) last week. You know, one of those team-building things where someone comes in from the outside and works with us on how to get along better. The particular topic of this class was assessing our social style - kind of like the Meyers-Briggs personality test, only focused on how other people perceive you.That was about as pleasant as it sounded, especially since we also assessed ourselves and then got to compare how our personal assessment stacked up against everyone else's assessment of us. I assessed myself as kind of a bossy person who usually speaks my mind, and everyone else (well, five people) assessed me as kind of a retiring introvert who analyzes everything to death. Well, the to death part wasn't on there. Still. On the one hand, I'm pretty sure the assessment is accurate. On the other hand: boo. Here I thought I was kind of the life of the party, in an understated way, and it turns out I'm just who I've always been. The serious one who doesn't talk much. Plus somehow I managed to overshare during class to the point that I kind of wince every time I think about that day - did I really tell all of my fellow employees that I'm tired of being thought of as boring? Apparently I did, as no fewer than three people have come up to me since and said encouraging, buck-me-up kind of things. 

Helen always gets irritated when I grip the wheel and holler "Buckle up, Buttercup!" but sometimes it's the best way to cheer me up about the constant go-go-go-ness of things. And man. The summer wasn't exactly activity-free, but it was a languid stroll in a rose garden next to having the kids in school.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cultivation concerto for two hands and a couple of feet

Greatest invention in the history of the world: one-cup french press coffee maker. Oh, french-pressed coffee, how I love you. You make the last three hours of my interminable Friday feel bearable. (Note: one drawback of the GIitHIofW is that I now have no real reason not to drink an afternoon cup of coffee. See also: sudden tendency to start using the caps lock in interoffice emails around 3:00 pm).

It's been a long week of baseball. How is this possible, you might ask, seeing that baseball season ended two weeks ago to much celebration? I might ask that, too, except I know the dreary answer to the question, and that answer is: tryouts. In the past three weeks Silas has attended tryouts for 6 -ish?- teams, some of which lasted all day/ lasted multiple days/ involved callbacks (always a good thing, but still). And actually I don't have any right to complain about this at all, since I have so far attended 0 (zero) tryouts, made 0 (zero) emails and 0 (zero) phone calls to coaches asking when tryouts would be held, if they are looking for new spots on their team, if they could have Silas come try out for a practice some time, if they made a decision yet, etc. etc. blah blah blah. M. sat down wearily last night and as he geared himself up to make more "did my son make your team?" phone calls he complained a little bitterly about Si's lack of work ethic. You could really tell the difference at the tryouts, he said, between the kids who actually practiced regularly and those who practiced as perfunctorily as possible whenever their parents remembered to nag them. And the ones who practiced were the ones who were getting the callbacks right away, he added. None of this stretch it out for three weeks crap.

While I have had occasion to complain about the as-yet underdeveloped work ethic in the house preteen as well, I said that maybe M.'s getting a little tired. Just speculation. Maybe M.'s feeling taken for granted. He agreed. I mean, no one will ever say we have a driven kid who likes to work just for the sake of work. But he's pretty average, in a good way, and he's average also in that while we (M.) lavish untold amounts of time and money on his baseball hobby, at the end of the day he's all like, that's great, but when I can I play MineCraft?

"It's not really possible for him to appreciate what we do for him," I argued. "I don't think I even really appreciate yet what my parents did for me. I mean, it's really hard to. Because it's impossible to pay back. It's hard to even say thank you, because it's so incredibly much." [Mom and Dad: thank you.]

Meanwhile, we're still working on that work ethic.

And in good news, Si did get on a team for fall. His first choice, even! And it doesn't cost a million dollars! It doesn't cost a hundred, either, though. Somewhere in the middle. Sigh. And it will be four or five times that somewhere in the middle for spring baseball. (*putting fingers in ears, not thinking about that now, not thinking about that now*)

I've been reading Unequal Childhoods,  a study done in the 90s about how middle class and working class parents raise their kids differently, and how those differences lead to different types of adult attitudes - entitled vs. constrained. Entitled in this book means more than just its negative connotations - adults who feel entitled to be taken seriously are much better equipped to advocate for their own needs - but it doesn't exclude those connotations, either. In other words, all this schlepping and prepping and working more than I want to in order to feed the extracurricular beast is leading directly to the creation of some more entitled young adults. Who will be much more equipped to be successful, and also to forget to call me on my birthday.

So when I get out my checkbook to write another eye-popping check for this or that activity, I can murmur soothingly to myself, concerted cultivation. Instead of, I don't know, one less backpacking trip through Scotland. Or whatever it is I would be spending money on if I didn't have kids.