Thursday, December 07, 2006

"It's a good tantrum but it lacks pathos."*

Possible titles for this post included the poorly punned: "I never promised you a prose garden" and the drier yet pointedly accurate: "She's creative, but she lacks self discipline."

I was complaining about this awhile back, my not writing and I justified it by reasoning that there weren't too many folks reading anyway so I wouldn't really be missed. An old friend commented that I should not stop writing because there were no readers. But that's not really it. Partial blame must certainly lie in my lack of self discipline and well documented tendency to procrastinate. But, I'm beginning to think the biggest reason why I haven't been writing lately is actually some form of depression. It happens every year about this time so I could be seasonally affected but there's still more to it then that.

It's a good thing nobody actually reads this because I would be vilified across the momosphere for what I'm about to say. I live for summer vacation. I hate having to send my kids to school in the fall. Every August I start to feel the dread creeping up on me in anticipation of the coming on slaught. Book fairs, product sales and I mean product! Over the years we've done candy, calendars, wrapping paper, cookie dough and, astonishingly, meat sales. (Effing MEAT for gawd's sake!) Then there are the holiday concerts with their accompanying dress codes, classroom parties, field trips, dances, the expectations of parental involvement run from the mindnumbingly mundane (laminating documents one afternoon a week) to the dangerous (chaperoning dances) Additionally, my prescient mind skillfully scripts the inevitable emails, phone calls and worst of all, the parent teacher conferences! Good Goddess, how I dread the parent teacher conferences! Maybe I just have too much negative transference going on here but I tell you, I used to live in fear of these things! More so with Ebo though, I think I'm better at it now that I'm a more experienced mom.

Huh, experienced. Let's digress on that point for a second. Maybe that's not the right word. I remember when John and I got together, Ebo was going on 5 and we were discussing the parenting questions and discipline and it was a great discussion, very productive with much honesty about expectations. (I love you honey!) But at some point he said something that really struck me and led to something I perceive as being key. He said that he often deferred to me on parenting and disciplinary questions because I was the experienced one in the relationship. I was the expert. I thought about that for a second and countered that while I appreciated his deferential approach I wasn't sure it was the wisest course. After all, once I became an expert on 4 year olds, Ebo had turned 5 and so it had gone throughout his life. Therefore, through our interactions I was always learning as much about being a parent as he was learning from me. Of course PJ has proven that I was never an expert on anything, least of all whatever age he happens to be at. He challenges me in new and enigmatic ways I never dreamed of. I ask you? How can two boys be so different?

Anyway, history shows (again and again, etc.) that parenting continues to be a work in progress. Sometimes I feel sorry for Ebo because he's had to be the guinea pig his whole life! PJ gets the experienced parents AND the smart, funny, fairly responsible and incredibly protective (sniff, I love you baby!) older brother. It's really not fair but, there you have it, the bane of eldest children everywhere.

For me, it was helpful to think of each stage of development as a continuous tug of war with a push-me-pull-you. They keep testing the boundaries, you keep determining whether the boundary needs to stand or be redrawn. Then you have to do that. You must act whether you're pushing back, standing down or retreating. Engagement is imperative. "Quality time" is for suckers. Real time is the only thing that matters. They need to know your really there. This is how you must keep the lines of communication open. (By whatever means necessary.)

Among the things I promised I would never say to my children you'll find one of my dad's favorites, "the subject is closed." (Wow, SEETHING RAGE, just writing that!) I hated that more then anything. As a Libra, I tend to think that things are ALWAYS up for discussion. Telling me the subject is closed is like telling an Aries not to be impulsive. He may have shut me up temporarily, but it was never because the subject was closed in my mind, it was only out of fear. (Not that he was ever physically abusive, mind you. I don't want you to get the wrong idea about my dad, but he was a big guy with a big voice and he could be very, um, intimidating when he wanted to be.) I always wanted my children to feel like they could tell me anything and so far, I think this is working. As I always say, he's only 15, the jury is still out.

Another way we engage in the pushmepullyou activity is by increasing their level of responsibility. For instance, I was relying on a certain EBOSKI to keep me informed and supply me with any pertinent dates and paperwork but the conference schedule apparently slipped his mind. Maybe that's just too much responsibility for a freshman, ya think? So I missed his first set of conferences this year but I did get a letter (ahem) or two and some email addresses and we've had some discussions (sigh). Interestingly enough the timbre of the discussions graduated this year. It's been nice. He now realizes what he needs to graduate and he understands that this is on him so instead of harping on him to get me an update on his grades, I simply reminded him that he was almost an adult now so I expected that as he no longer needed a babysitter, he would be able to retrieve this information sans further nagging from yours truly and low, the skies parted and the sun shone down and he did delivereth. Of course he's still on the edge in at least two classes but I've absolved myself of responsibility. I see him doing homework every night, he has all the necessary supplies and planning tools. I honestly believe he can do this. I have faith in him, he's a good kid and I think he really wants to go to college so, there's his motivation!

Anyway, when the school year starts we try to get ready for it but we still tend to get dragged into it kicking and screaming. In addition to school this fall PJ also participated in soccer where I stupidly agreed to be the team manager. Good grief, I never knew there could be so many rainy Saturday's in October! Holy smokes, that turned out to be way more then I bargained for. I was calling a dozen parents at least once a week, trying to keep track of schedule changes and team pictures. Sheesh! Oh! And I later found out that, as the team manager I was also the de facto assistant coach! Oh yes! ME, the antithesis of the athletic jock, me, who knows NOTHING, almost nothing about sports in general and even less about soccer. Oy. I think there might still be some juice boxes under my front passenger seat.

Let's see, what happens next, ah yes, Halloween. Gah, I can't even get into that one, this post is too long already. Suffice to say that I live in a family of artists, people who believe Halloween is the greatest holiday ever and that Halloween decorations deserve to stay up all year round. Also, they believe that any kind of housework or tidying up might disrupt the delicate balance of their collective artistic mind sets or some such trash. I don't really know but my house, which is usually just a giant toy box, becomes a giant toy box/craft room. Various glue guns dangle precariously, costume parts and decorations are haphazardly strewn throughout and bits of felt can be found in the most unlikely places.

You see where this is going don't you? It's not just the school thing, it's the holidays, the soccer, the cleaning, the decorating, the choir rehearsals, the drum lessons, the fact that we haven't done holiday cards in like...ever. The list? It just goes on and on doesn't it? It never ends and I wonder why I feel overwhelmed sometimes. I have to laugh about it otherwise I'd cry, for real.

Oh, and did I mention that we took a trip to Florida a couple of weeks ago to see the in-laws? And when we came home my mom was here waiting for us? Plus unexpected guests? And I drove the whole way. See, those are all good stories too. I'm just going to have to write more often if I'm ever going to get them all out. I've actually already written the beginning of that post. Resplendent details include my delightful Republican in-laws, the accompanying 2500 mile road trip, BABY SANDPIPERS and reviews of our hotels. (Please don't tell me how horribly politically incorrect Marriott is, I don't want to know! LA, LA, LA, LA, LA!) But I wrote it long hand and it needs to be transcribed and you know what that means, editing!

This post could have done with some of that but it's been so long since I've written, I figured I owed you a big one. (Yes, yes, I've got your big one right here too honey! ) But mom is off again, visiting one of my aunties in Pittsburgh so I have a modicum of privacy again so maybe I'll can make this more of a routine for awhile. I don't know, we'll see. I was really stressing about the Florida trip and now that it's over I do feel like I can breathe a little easier so I'm not as depressed as I was, but there's still that lack of self-discipline thing. Which is probably why I have a hard time teaching it to my children.

*Thanks to SnL for that quote, it's been borrowed fairly regularly over the past 15 years.

p.s. Updated to add that photo evidence is back! WOOHOO! Not having a camera all fall definitely put a damper on my blogging. I had sooo much I wanted to show you! Not being able to do that kind of caused a mental roadblock so hopefully we can clear that hurdle now.


Blogger Alwen said...

I don't think of it as self-discipline, so much as getting it to be part of my routine. How do I say this . . . getting it to be a habit that you don't think about. Like putting on your shoes before walking out the door. You don't think, "Should I do it, should I not do it?" It's something you do before you think about it.

12/08/2006 12:12 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

See, in a way that kind of illustrates my point, but only because I already know that you have more self discipline in the end of your little pinky toe then I have in my whole body.

It comes so naturally to you, you don't even have to think about it. I need the self-discipline to make myself do something often enough for it to become a habit! You just skip right over that part. It's actually quite amazing to watch in person, you have a remarkable will, my friend!

12/11/2006 6:35 PM  
Blogger Christina Shaver said...

Beth, Beth, Beth. I think if you bottle it up long enough, there's a novelist in you!! And I'm being serious.

I say nevermind about the frequency of posts!! Lord knows I've been waning more than waxing over in my neck of the woods. Sometimes life just catches up with you.

But THANKS for the update!!! I completely understand about the school responsibilities. I feel like I've lived at Evan's the past month, and he's only 2. I can only imagine what it will be when homework and, gasp, college start entering the equation.

Long story short, I'll read whenever you post. ;)

12/13/2006 9:17 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Awww, thanks, Christina! One thing for sure, I have to stop saying that "nobody reads this anyway" because you ladies are definitely both somebody!

Also, you don't know how right you are! I don't mention my work much (because I can't afford to be Dooced) but I've written well over 2000 pages in the past 5 years so yes, I could definitely write a novel!

Thanks for being here ladies, I'm not making any promises, but I'm not going anywhere either!

12/14/2006 11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, Beth. I was cleaning out my hardrive, (cookies, cache, history, bookmarks, etc.) and I found your blog in my bookmarks.

This is Syd. I just decided to drop in, drop a comment saying Merry Christmas, to you and your family.

Me and my mother are moving to Canada in the spring. I know I haven't gotten along too much with Ebo lately, and we've kinda drifted, but I thought I'd let you guys know that I still care about him, you, and the rest of your awesome hippy family. =P And since I haven't talked to you or Ebo in a while, I thought I should at least tell you guys merry Christmas, and happy holidays. (:


12/27/2006 9:39 AM  

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