Sunday, June 21, 2009

Can We Move Away from Lukewarm Please?

The school year is over. Phew! I am so glad to be shut of it. I know that those of you who know me will probably be surprised to hear that because my children are doing well in school, but believe me when I say this: I am glad to be done with this school year.

Why? You ask. I'll tell you why. I am glad to be done with this school year because I am tired of dealing with people who don't have my children's best interests at heart. This year has emphasized for me that people in general do only what is absolutely necessary to get by. My children are all very intelligent. I am not bragging when I say this. I am just stating a fact. They think about things in interesting ways. They continually surprise me by the complexity of thought that they are capable of on a regular basis. If you are connected with me through Facebook, you will see a good example of what I mean. My daughter wrote a poem for a class. It is amazing. And she writes stuff like this regularly.

And the school does nothing to encourage her writing ability. Her teacher this year was terrific. But she had a class of 28 to manage. She barely had enough time to handle the requirements of MCAS preparation, let alone focus any attention on a budding writer.

The teacher my son had this year for kindegarten does what she does. The kids tend to like her and benefit from daughter loved her when she had her. But my son could take her or leave her. He did very well in school and brought home glowing reports. But when asked if he would miss her he said, "Nah. Not really." She did nothing memorable with the class, and I can't recall one single thing that Christopher came home bubbling about. Nothing.

So my children cruise through their educational experience unchallenged. They don't stretch themselves. They aren't challenged. They are learning how to conform, to not rock the boat, and to do what is expected of them.

I suppose I should be happy that they are getting A's on their report card. I should expand my chest with pride when reading the "Is a pleasure to have in class" comments. Part of me is glad to see those things for sure. Having friends whose children are really struggling with the world of academia makes me appreciate that I don't have those struggles. (Boy, did that sound snotty or what? Sorry.)But I am not completely happy. I'm not happy because my children can become background. Because they do not have a "problem," they can get passed over. Their talents may not get recognized, polished, or developed. I want them to develop what they have to the fullest potential.

So what do I do? How do I help them to develop the talents and skills that they have? I want them to enjoy being children. I don't want to load them down with extra "work," but I want them to challenge the things they take for granted as constants. I want them to ask why and what if. I want them to poke, stir, add to, change and create. I want them to play. I want them to inquire, investigate and hypothesize. So where do I turn?

My children are amazing, talented, creative, smart, funny, compassionate and kind people. I don't want those things to wither on the vine, unnourished. So where do I turn to feed these soul traits of theirs?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Parenthood...What a Rush

I love watching my children. I am so glad that I am a mother. We are on this crazy ride together and I don't know how to work the control panel, but I don't care. I get to ride with them. I am honored. I close my eyes tight from fear sometimes, but then other times I raise my hands and scream in excitement as we take the next turn and go down the hill.

So life has been exciting lately. It's one of those times where you raise your hands in the air and wave them and scream. My daughter's softball team was in the playoffs. She got to be a part of something really fun. They had their ups and downs, they played their hearts out, and in the end...they took second place. It was a thrilling ride.

Sure, there were parents who were living vicariously through their children. There were a few occasions where I felt I wanted to scream at some of the umpires for forgetting these girls were 9-11 year olds and not pro-level players. And there were times that I wondered if my daughter really wanted to play or if I was pushing this too hard. But in the end, it was a terrific experience for her to be part of a team effort. It was good for her to see that working together for a common goal can turn some real results that feel wonderful.

And you know what? I think she really had fun too. She learned about how to play the game, and I think she learned a little about herself. She learned what was for her and what was not for her. I think we'll sign her up again next year.

Learning about competition is a good thing as well. I mean, so long as she isn't learning to be cutthroat about it. The world is full of competition. She isn't going to get praised for just existing by anyone but her parents. She has to learn to put her best efforts forward. She has to work hard to earn what she gets, and Mickey Mousing it won't cut it. She also needs to learn to be part of a team. To cheer her teammates' efforts on, to pick them up when they are feeling low and to come together and create the positive energy one needs to succeed. She needs to learn to be a good sport too. To learn how to be graceful in the face of defeat. To acknowledge when someone is just better at something than she and that she needs to practice more. Those are important lessons for her to learn.

Christopher learned something this spring too. He learned that he can actually enjoy something we sign him up for. He is the "close your eyes tight and resist" type of guy when it comes to trying new things. He doesn't always understand that sometimes, even though you don't know what something will be like, it might be a good thing. He was so angry with us at the beginning of the spring for signing him up for soccer. He cried, threw tantrums, and refused to participate. But after his first day he discovered that he actually likes soccer. He made some friends, got to do some running (which he loves), and learned a little bit about how to play. So now, not only does he like soccer, but it is actually his favorite activity (yes he did say that).

My Daniel is learning things too. He is learning how to express himself appropriately. He is so affectionate and creative and imaginative. It's wonderful. But he has the soul of an artist I think. With that creativity comes a moodiness. He can go from one extreme to the other in the blink of an eye. Sometimes his emotions get a hold of him and like a tornado, they whip him into a frenzy. He screams, he yells, he stomps his feet and tells you that he doesn't want to see you ever again. But then the storm passes, and he is throwing his arms around you and telling you that he loves you a billion times infinity.

I am so proud of him lately. He is learning how to manage the intensity of his emotions very well. Despite his reluctance to do things that seem hard to him, he is coming along and learning to manage how he feels.

He is learning to follow directions as well. Instead of hiding when he is told to do something, he actually makes an attempt to do it. He may get distracted by other things, he may not complete the job, but he does try. Instead of stuffing his dirty clothes under the love seat, he puts them on the washing machine or near (if not in) his hamper.

Now if we can just get him to hold his hands in the air and scream in excitement, life will be good.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Confessions of a Stow-Away Student

So I decided to go to grad school. It's something I have been wanting to do for the last 18 years, and I finally just jumped in and began. I was worried about the money. I was worried about finding the time to study. I was worried about having the ability to achieve academically at this level. I was (and am come to think of it) very worried. But I decided that I wouldn't let that fear keep me back. So I took the plunge.

I am attending Kaplan University Online. My first class is Business Communications. I really hope that I do well, but if my first graded assignment is any indication...I'm in for trouble. I spent HOURS fretting over this assignment. I worked and reworked it. Finally, I turned it in. It was a "Request for Funding" memo. I was clear, I was concise. I had no spelling errors. I had well-structured sentences. I was creative. But I never ACTUALLY asked for the funding. When my teacher pointed this out, I felt like such an onion head. How could I miss adding the main focus of the assignment?

So I am going to go sulk right now. I am doubting my abilities and I think I will console myself with ice cream. Rocky Road I think.