Arts and Crap

Thursday, September 29, 2011

From the title of this post, I suspect some of you can already sense where I am heading, right?

Yep. You guessed it. Art as Process and Art as Product: and Why "Art Projects Bug the Ever-loving Shit out of Me".

Some of you may recall my "Holiday's aren't Curriculum" Post whereby I broke down why I banned Holiday's in the child care center when I was director. Yes, partly because I am mean and have a tiny, shrivelled heart, but also for sound basic curriculum and anti-bias curriculum reasons. Not to mention socio-economic realities for families.

So here is why I detest Art Projects:

1. They are nearly never done by the child.

What you end up seeing is 15 seconds of "work" by the child and 20 hours of copying, cutting and arranging by the Adult.  I don't need to see an Egg that opens into a Chick. I don't need to see a Turkey Hand Print. I sure as hell don't need to see one of those terrifying Paper Plate Leprechaun masks.

I know. I know what some of you are thinking: "But Dawn, the Parents LOVE these projects".

"Ok Then", I say, "But be honest with them and give it to them from You, the Adult, to THEM, the adult - cause their kid had as little as possible to do with making the damn thing."

We do ourselves no service when we perpetuate these types of "projects" onto children and families. It lies to the adults and is of no benefit to the child.  Stop doing this, I beg you.

2. There is NO developmental skill being utilized

When a child takes a marker and randomly scribbles something on a paper, it isn't Art. Telling them it IS art is a dereliction of teaching duty, in my opinion.  Same with gluing something on a paper so they can get back to what ever they really want them to do. And Please, don't get me started on those useless color and cut worksheet pages. If you are relying on a workbook to assess how children are using scissors,coloring and drawing, then there is something seriously wrong with your teaching.

Yeah, I said it.

Children WANT to create. They WANT to use scissors and glue and markers and crayons. The materials aren't the problem. It's the presentation.

3. You are teaching Nothing about Aesthetics

When children are asked to do one of those aforementioned worksheets, we are stripping something essential from the Art experience. Beauty. Texture. Sensory Input.

You don't need to have an atelier to inspire children, but the space does need to be well organized and well stocked. NOT overstocked, which is a common misconception, but well ordered and well stocked.  If blows are being come to over who gets the One red marker than you need more red markers.

If no one can find one piece of drawing paper, or the paints are all mixed in together, or the brushes are all chewed up, then No. No one is going to attempt to make anything.

One of the best teachers I ever saw work made her art space a thing of beauty. Glass containers for brushes, lovely baskets for crayons, with small trays set out for personalized space. Her space invited children to sit down and think about what they were creating. The space was always incredibly well organized and neat - In fact when I would cover her during nap time, I would often sit and re-sharpen the colored pencils, or sort out the broken crayon pieces, or test markers to make sure they weren't dried up.  Sometimes she would cut paper into different sizes or shapes to present different options to work with, and there was always a basket with collage pieces cut from the larger pieces of paper , salvaged when bigger Art was being designed.

When the materials are presented respectfully, the children will respect the space. Our job as adults is to design and stock the space; to give ample time and opportunity to explore a material.

We should be watching children to make sure their fine motor is coming along and they are learning to work scissors ( even Toddlers), hold pencils, and markers, and paint brushes.

We want to see the glory of glue being tested - Will it hold? Will it Dry? What will it do to tissue paper? What does it taste like since it looks a lot like milk?

We want paint to be applied, to know watercolors and fingerpaint and the variety of textures and colors we can produce. We want to paint with q-tips, and pine branches and cones, and wildflowers and sticks.  Put a bowl of bananas in the middle of the table ( for inspiration and snack) and a variety of yellow paint shades.  See what you get. You might get an intensely interesting conversation on shades and shadows and yellow-ness of yellow. You might get kids who eat bananas while they glue things together.

I've seen children paint to Mambo Music, choosing colors that reflect the sounds they are hearing, I've seen children paint to cuban lullabies, moving their hands to the long notes being sung. I've seen easels with partner brushes that can be held by two children at once, so they must negotiate with their partner as to what to do, what colors to choose and where they want to place the brush strokes.

I've seen children study small posters of van Gogh, or Renoir, or Kandinsky or Klee and try to not replicate, but utilize what those pieces of art are saying to them.

The mind is integrated and firing on all cylinders. It is intensely beautiful to witness.

All of these goals can and should be accomplished with the end result being Art to cherish, made by active and engaged children who are alive within their sensory-rich environment, being guided by sensitive adults who are sharing the beauty the world has to offer.

Which is not located in the construction paper pumpkin produced by every kid in the class.

*Yes, I know some children love using coloring book pictures. No problem, if they CHOOSE it as a self selected activity and not because everyone needs to color the pumpkin because now it is Art Project Time.

*Yes, this takes time to model. You can't expect anyone to use materials properly when the teacher has them locked in the cupboard constantly, only to be whisked back into fort knox once the project is finished.  Deprivation does not teach discipline.

* I have some beef with the Toddler Art Market. All this Oversized stuff is ridiculous. I've seen Toddlers pick up the smallest piece of garbage possible, nearly indiscernible to the human eye. They can handle a regular pencil.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I am a supernova, quiescent.

Belief in my own powers to dazzle is what keeps me resilient. Reminders that I am everything I have said, and promised and know to be true about myself and where I am meant to be purl in gilded loops around my conciousness.

I fill out forms. I enter data into online systems. I coordinate and send packets of electronic words, words and more words to people I will never speak to or meet.  Not that I want to meet them, really.

I curse the time I should have spent writing stupid things just to get my name in journals, instead of living in the beauty of my head, seeing the small things around me. So much time to be made up, so much to recover from.

How do you word that?

How do you say "Listen to the words amid the silences"

"My potential is not yet realized, but it will be. And when I burst forth, I will be incandescent."

Yet, all I can do is endure.

Wait for the ruby under my dusty countenance to shimmer and catch someone's eye.

And trust that it will all work out the way it should.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Yesterday, I got out the lint roller and spruced up all my vintage hats. Reshaping them, giving them a good de-fuzzing, preparing for hat season.

Later, I reflected on the fact that I spend TIME reshaping and de-linting wool hats from the 40's 50's and 60's so I can sport them about in jaunty combinations with scarves and vintage cashmere coats I have rescued from the local thrift stores.

This all, of course, made me giggle. Softly, but nonetheless.

We went to Burlington on Saturday, lured by bookstores and promises of things I can't find here in Montreal. 
As we drove, the blue of the sky behind me illuminated the side mirror. 

These small things give me such pleasure now. Simply the noticing. 

As of late, Coco has assumed a Guard Rabbit position next to my bed. Jackson, while much larger, is also much less formidable. He'd hand me over to any beastie in order to save his skin.

But not Coco.  She wants you to know that she will Mess You Up. Or at the very least make you fall and break your ankle.

My protection, it seems, is fail-safe.

Also, I wore my glasses into the Shower today. Just thought I'd share.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Parental Guilt, revisited

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When I made the announcement at Mother Daughter book Club last night, the last thing I expected was to be awake at 4 a.m., later that night, in full panic attack mode, envisioning my daughter as a destitute crack whore living in the crevices of St Catherine.

Now in my defense, I have been off my meds since last week when I ran out.  Since I couldn't see my doctor until this coming Monday, I have been Med free for nearly two weeks..... for the first time in more than 10 years.

 (And don't get me started on how the pharmacist wouldn't refill and the doctor couldn't be gotten to fax a script in to refill and me, off meds and getting increasingly angry with myself for not being more on top of things and thinking vaguely that I DESERVED withdrawal, but I increasingly digress as the symphony in my head gets louder and adds in more critical voices. Sigh. )

It was the utter silence, I think, that unnerved me.

In choosing books for the upcoming months, and trying to work schedules etc, there was a sudden uptick mother voices talking about the high school entrance exams and how they aren't sure if they are going to be able to make the October meeting because everyone has eight billion entrance exams scheduled. Now, this isn't just for private schools in Montreal. Oh, No. They do this shit for the "better" public schools too.

Me being Me, cheerfully announced that I opted Emily out of ALL of that - that our stance was it was all Bullshit, and we weren't going to put Em through it.  "No reason", I said. "The tests are meaningless. She has two parents with PhD's in education, she is going to be just fine."

I might as well have announced that I had conceived Emily through Alien anal probing. (although god knows, Terrance does try every now and then)


One of the Moms who knows me a bit better smiled at me. I am the quirky parent after all. Who KNOWS what Dawn is going to say.  Sweet Dorothy even said "Well, that is really refreshing!" I know she was sincere. I am sure it WAS refreshing. I may have been the first parent in the history of English Montreal who made that statement in a public room with other parents present. I may as well have said "I hope for Emily to be a stripper in one of Montreals various skin clubs. Maybe a stripper with Herpes. And a Meth addiction."

In that moment of silence, the panic saw it's opportunity and nestled itself in my reptilian brain.

In the light of the day, I can look at that panic. I know it well. It was the same panic that came to stay when her brain injury was first diagnosed and I envisioned her, 32, living in my basement and walking to her minimum wage job. No college. No marriage and children. Nothing.

And it was my fault. Me. Her mother. I didn't do something right. I was depressed. I drank coffee during my pregnancy. I put her down too hard in her crib one night. I didn't love her enough and I ruined her life before she could even escape me. It is part of that panic that whispers to me to have another baby, you know. Have another baby and prove you can do it better. Be absolved.  Which is ridiculous. And uber Crazy.

In the space of hopelessness it feels like something. Something I can do. Prep her for a test. Make sure she gets into the best high school, make sure I am doing everything right so if it goes wrong, I can be held blameless.

It is our collective parental nightmare. Our moments of indecision, of selfishness, or disinterest or sheer exhaustion in parenting are going to revisit us. They are going to sit in our kitchen and stare at us with dead eyes and accusing words.

When Terrance found me flighty and sleepless this morning, I garbled all of this out to him.

"We are doing the right thing, right? It will be all right, right? This is the best thing for her and she will end up in a good school? She will be happy? Should we start looking to see if she should take these tests?"

He soothes me. This episode was small compared to the panic after her  tiny brain injury diagnosis when I curled in bed and sobbed for my daughters imagined future. Professional Dawn has taken a powder break and left the Uncertain, Anxious parent in her place.

He holds me. "Dawn, if there was ever two parents who can exert sheer force of will, it is you and I. She will be fine. This will all be fine. We will find the right place where she will be happy and succeed, we always have..."

I hold the panic at bay.

A year later, and I am sure I did the right thing. Emily is in the place she is meant to be...thriving even. 
But the panic never stops. The second guessing never stops. In the end, I suppose we can really just do the best we can and hope for the best.

Who suspected Life Sciences was so exciting!?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

While this is *only* a book on Sharks, it reigns supreme as possibly the most tremendous book title ever.

My thought upon seeing this?

"I am hanging out in the wrong Libraries!"


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The other day I was standing in the aisle o' razors at the store that I hate more than I hate lima beans.

In some twisted logic which can only be born of minimum wage, passive aggression and paternalistic logic, all of the Blades for the non-disposable razors had been taken away from the aisle. All that was left were disposable razors.

I stood. Befuddled and increasingly riled.

Finally, in my exasperation, I blurted out:

"Where the fuck are all the razor blades?  Is this some conspiracy to deny the non-disposable razor users? Fuck me!"

Emily, who is (sadly) accustomed to these types of outbursts merely smiled to herself and resumed looking at things on shelves.

A not-unattractive gentleman of approximately my age began to laugh. I looked over at him, unaccustomed to others finding my lack of social graces to be amusing.

He smiles at me.  I now have an audience.

I smile back, and begin to gesture to the shelves -now barren of real blades.

"Where have they gone? This makes no sense!", I finally end.

He makes some small talk and explains that he has seen them towards the front of the store, near the registers. Ok. I acknowledge. That is an incredibly asinine place to locate razor blades, but I will go look there.

Emily trails behind me.

"That dude was totally crushing on you, Mom."

I stop short. "what!?"

I am shocked, people. SHOCKED.

"It was a conversation about razor blades....", I say.

"Oh no, he liked you.", explains my daughter.

"Emily", I say. "I look ridiculous.  Comic book tshirt - jean shorts three sizes too big, toenails that really need a new pedicure and my hair looks like birds are nesting in it. Yelling Fuck Me! in the razor aisle. I think you are insane."

We get to the razor display. Fuck me! again!

How am I supposed to know what type of razor I own among this ocean of razor options?  It is a razor. I put a blade on it and use it until my legs scream for mercy whereby I clue in that I am shaving with the equivalent of a butter knife.

As I stand shaking my head in exasperation at the ludicrous display, the man from before walks over.  He makes more small talk. I respond. I make a choice and walk away.

Emily smiles at me.

"See", she says, "he likes you - even though it is totally creepy to see someone crushing on my mother."


Friday, September 16, 2011

I woke shivering. The tip of my nose, where it peeked out of my summer duvet was icy. I could hear the rain from my wide open windows, accompanied by the absurd sound of the street cleaner going past our house.

My toes already planning their protest of the shoes I was going to have to wear. Closed toes, confining.

I'd slept poorly, my mind whirring.

"Nuzzle" was the word that burst to the forefront as soon as my eyes opened. "Remember Nuzzle", my brain was shouting. "Look for Nuzzle".

This is how it is for me when I am writing and the information competes with the other things in the jet stream of my awareness. The journal article pushes all else out of the way, shouting "Nuzzle" like a crazed prophet, as soon as my eyes open.

Knowing my tendency to lose these thoughts, I think "must make a list" as I roll back over to find a warm space in which to try to reenter sleep.

I must go to McGill today, but I don't mind. In a compromise with my toes, I have selected one of the beloved pairs of rainboots to wear.

I have dutifully written a list and emailed it to myself, not trusting it to survive the mess of my bag. Remember to copy this, email this to them, find this book, walk to this building and pick up this form....all the things that must be done but which I know that I will forget if I find something more intriguing or interesting.

It isn't that I have become more inattentive, simply that I find myself able to be captivated by other things.  I will be walking from the main library to the education library and suddenly stop.  Staring at the rock wall. Looking at the patterns of the rain on the stone.  Wondering where the large stones have gone, and pondering the strange beauty of a forgotten spiders web. 

Or the beginnings of a slender smile when I consider what would happen if we started tucking notes of prayer & reverence or supplication into this wall.

Undergraduates part as I stand still, moving around me like water, diverging and then reconnecting on the other side of me, chanting their own rogations. 

I move on, up the hill. I place my books into the car and look up.

I wave off the hopeful driver who thinks I am about to abandon a coveted parking space.  No. Not leaving yet. Another Library to visit, more stacks of books to adore. 

I stand in the gutter, looking up the hill to where the library waits for me.  I let the water wash over my boots, an unexpected sluice in it's path. 

Then I walk on.

Portrait of an afternoon

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Irises and Apples

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

For the first part of my life I lived with my maternal grandparents. My mother was young, just 19, and although she was married my father had enlisted in the Marines and was gone. The Vietnam War was fully engaged in 1970 and my father didn't need to be drafted ... he went willingly.

So there I was, in 1970, a newborn. My mother was in Nursing School despite being both recently married and so recently pregnant. I suspect the nuns were less than thrilled.

Irene Riester - age 13
While my mother was at class, my grandmother cared for me. I think my youngest Uncle was 10 or so and my grandmother had miscarried a pregnancy in October of the previous Year. In fact, both grandmothers, maternal and paternal, had miscarried about the same time. There had been a distinct possibility that I may have had an Aunt and/or Uncle who would have been my age peer, but I was the lone survivor.

My grandparents - With my great-grandparents,  Marie and Nelson Rickus

I loved my grandmother, Irene Ann Riester Rickus. My memories of her are of her being incredibly patient with me and my incessant exploration of  her jewelry box and closets and all the places that I had no compunction about opening and emptying.  It was her sewing machine that I fiddled with, constantly, despite being warned off - sternly- about breaking the needles (and still breaking them pretty frequently).

My Grandmother, Mother, Aunt and Uncle with her Father - And Garden

I loved my grandfather - George Baird Rickus-  too, but differently. Him of the scratchy face in the morning and the ever present smell of his aftershave. He was the jokester, my grandfather, the trickster. It was with him that I recall being in trouble with if I fooled around too much in church. Yet it was also he who would recruit me into carrying the wine down to the alter during mass, and I would feel incredibly important as I solemnly walked up the aisle beside my giant of a grandfather.
Their House  -  Purchased July 1956
They were both children of the Great Depression, of immigrants.  Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Austria, Czechoslovakia; I am the eventual progeny of the mass movement of people in the late 1800's.

My Mother, her brother and sister  (and cousins) - 1961
My grandmother was one of three sisters - the middle girl. It was her mother, Emily (Emilie) Dvorak,  who was one of the dual name sources for my Emily. My grandmother used to tell me that I looked like her mother, but I don't know.

My grandmother was the Reader and had a vast amount of knowledge from books. The rooms of her house were stacked high ( literally) with books.  More books on shelves and in the basement.

My grandfather was one of 11 ( I think) siblings. In the pictures of him as a younger man, he seems very silly and rather handsome. He was a minor league baseball player too - tall and lanky, and could play musical instruments like no one I have ever known - mostly by ear and without any kind of training.  I can see why my grandmother was smitten.

My grandmother was the gardener, and my grandfather loved his trees.

I can remember walking with my grandmother when she would do her rounds of her flowers, plucking off the dead ends, looking at the vegetables to make sure no errant animal had made it's way into the beds. Irises and Lilies always make me think of her, and bath tubs full of tomatoes or cucumbers that she was getting ready to can. There was a hedge of spearmint too, and I loved crashing through it - the smell following me as I burst through from one side to the other.

Their backyard, February 2009

There were all kinds of fruit trees; apples, pears, peaches, cherry and walnut. My requests for pies were rarely  turned down, particularly if I had helped pick the fruit. I also loved the tart and tangy taste of the green apples and got in trouble with my grandfather more than once after getting into his trees before the fruit was ready. I would often ride the pony from one grandparents house - over the ridge - to these grandparents house, and then get in doubly in trouble for letting the Pony eat the green apples. A miscreant from the beginning, was I.

In their back yard I perfected climbing trees ( if my grandfather wasn't watching me) and catching fireflies until it was darker than dark.  A backyard orchard is a divine place to catch fireflies in the summer.  I would keep the glass jar, filled with grass and leaves and sparkling with the green yellow glow of fireflies, near my bed.  It was in that back yard that I was allowed to play in the rain ( as long as there was no thunder), no matter how hard the rain came down.

My grandmother kept canaries and would let them fly around the house sometimes. Her favorite was a little yellow one she named GB, in honor of her husband.  She also loved the cardinals and other birds the gardens and orchards invariably attracted.

At my grandmother's funeral in 2009, the priest exhorted us to remember her not in death, but in life. In that moment, a memory came and kicked down my adult facade of concern and grief.

I was maybe 4 or 5, and had been outdoors, exploring on my own. When I returned indoors - most likely to find something to eat - my grandmother sensed ( or smelled) that something was awry.  Eventually I had to confess that I had decided to relieve myself in the neighbors yard. And I don't mean liquid.

The funny thing is that I can recall the internal dialogue I had with myself about that decision. It was just so Far back to the house to walk and Animals just went outside all the time. I knew I shouldn't - but.....

My grandmother got her shovel and asked me to lead her to my "deposit". She scooped it up with shovel and carried it over to the statue of Mary that overlooked the back yard.  She excavated a small hole, and tipped the contents of the shovel into the hole.

I stood and watched next to her.

"Mary won't mind.", she said. "but don't poop in the yard anymore."  And then she took me in for a bath.

This memory made me begin to giggle in church, making my uncle glance over at me quizzically. Had my grandfather, who died the following year, been able to hear me ( he was very nearly deaf by that point) , I suspect I would have gotten in trouble. 

They loved me, and I them. I wish I'd known them better when I became an adult, but that can't be helped now. These things I wish for as my origins move further away.

Instead, I honor them by creating something beautiful to distill all my memories into a lasting tribute that my (maybe) grandchildren will run across, someday.

And so it begins

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Emily: Can I have the next skirts for school shortened?

(Me laughing hysterically)

Me: Um, No. They are at your knee, as specified by the handbook.  You are not having your skirts shortened.

Emily: (exasperated): But everyone else has their skirts shorter!

Me: I could care less if they have their skirts up to their belly buttons - YOU are not having your skirts shortened.

Emily: I look like a nun.

(exit the stomping 13 year old)

Hold me, internet. 


Thursday, September 08, 2011

"You need to have a plan", she said.

A plan.

I've spent my whole life making plans. Plans about plans. Plans about plans if the other plans fall through, or don't go exactly as planned. My mind  instinctively maps out plans, sub-plans and the alternate route flow charts should all else fail. Because I know it will. And so I plan.

In this almost-done-space, I feel the restlessness of an overdue pregnancy. I am Heavy. I am Bloated and Cumbersome. I am willing to put up with any amount of finite pain to just be past this.

The PhD is coming to a close and while I should feel gratitude or relief or even joy, I feel none of those things.

So I trudge on, throwing everything into a panier to place on my back and search again for a new home, a new nest to grow a new Dawn.

"A plan", she said. "Make a plan."


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Truly, my only other super power would be my amazing ability to tell you the barometric pressure is dropping, due to my dysfunctional sinus set up in which evolution left a tiny (but extremely effective) barometer in my nasal cavity. Seeing as this won't get me recruited into the X-Men - except, as I have posited, as some hype-man for Storm - the power to offend remains my only hope.

Have I mentioned my super power? The one in which I can offend nearly anyone new - somewhat unintentionally - within ten minutes of being introduced to that person? If I am drinking, that time can be cut down to maybe three minutes.

Being a rather hermit-like girl, I forget sometimes about this particular power. I avoid new people like the LITERAL plague. Every Leap Year, something awakens in my reptilian brain and I make a new be kept - FO-EVER! Like Sartre, there is no exit from being friends with me once I have decided we are friends. I also Imprint on people in service evidenced by my recent proclamation to "Glen" that he is my new Hair Stylist. When my old stylist went on Maternity leave and never came back, I waited 2 years until I couldn't stand it and found Glen. But let's leave that little creepy tidbit aside for the moment.

This morning after I dropped Em at school I swung by Second Cup to grab my perfectly brewed coffee. Yes, these kind souls will BREW me single cups of the coffee I like. In return, I will never buy coffee anywhere else in the city. Yep, they are stuck with me. For whatever reason they seem to like me. I fit in with the humor and tone of the joint. Therefore I forget that others may be unfamiliar with my essential "Dawn-ness"

Hence, today's vignette:

I walk in and wait in line. Chris, the owner, is chatting with a middle aged woman in her early 60's. She is talking to him about "day care" for his three year old son. After several repeats of the word "Day care", I can no longer stand it and butt in to say in what I thought was a semi-friendly/joking tone:

"As an Early Childhood Professional, I would just like to say that we prefer the term "Child Care" as we have never cared for a "Day"..."

I trail off and smile.

Chris, the owner laughs. This woman does not. She stares at me.

"Are you correcting me as I get my coffee", she asks.

"Well, Yes. Yes I am. As someone getting a PhD in Early Childhood, I feel strongly that terminology defines the importance of the work we do..." I trail off again.

"It's my field too", she counters, handing Chris her Card with the Moniker of a Large well known provider of Child care in many countries.

She turns back to him - "You should get your son on the list for preschool, like Yesterday..."

Not in the least deterred I pipe up, "I put Emily on the list at the Child Care I directed when I was two weeks pregnant!"

This was said to convey empathy for the plight of searching for the right child care and camps and programs and how you simply don't KNOW about this little kitchen nook of Hell until you try to navigate it.

Here is where she thinks she is going to Get me, I later realize. She is preparing to deliver her parting Blow.

"I stayed at home with my kids when they were little until they went to school and I just loved it."

And because I didn't hear the slam until later, I responded "If I had stayed home with my daughter, it would have been a crime scene. A terrible, bloody homicide scene. Me, Her, my husband and the Cat would have all been killed. No, I speak for the Moms who would be a TERRIBLE stay at home Moms..."

Chris, the owner, is now in full guffaw. I am still smiling oblivious of the attempt on my dedication/ability/expertise as a Mom.

She shoots me a terrible parting look that clues me in that I was Supposed to be insulted instead of cheerfully detailing the ways in which I would have disassembled my family.

I stand, waiting for my coffee. I am now in internal dialog with myself and am coming to realize that this all went very, very poorly. Chris continues to laugh. I look up and say:

"And you just witnessed my superpower in action. The ability to increasingly offend any stranger in ten minutes or less..."

He smiles at me. "That was spectacular", he says.

Sunday Afternoon in September

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Today I was required to buy a tube of Super Glue.  Then I had to figure out how to get the package open...followed by how to get the tube open.  By the time I worked it all out, I rested and pondered how dangerous this product had to be, given the time and effort placed into sealing it into consecutive layers of plastic security.

The reason for all of this was the pencil sharpener. Emily had broken it nearly immediately after we bought it, twisting the back off and somehow detaching it.  I carefully applied the Glue of Doom and gingerly placed it on the Porch step.  Because I did not want to be seen attempting to fruitlessly pry the plastic pencil shaving container from the metal stairs, I placed it on its side to dry.  Besides, these stairs and I have history and there was no way I was re-fighting those battles.

Of course, all of this necessitated Loki coming out to investigate.  Plus, since he has the most Fur-to-body ratio, any contact with the Glue of Doom would be just disastrous. And we all know who would be placed in charge of shaving the cat, right? yep. Me.  So There I sat.  Watching the Cat. Watching the Glue Dry.

Following a lengthy bath and claw sharpening session on the side of my leg, Loki settled in to pretend he likes me. (I'm not kidding - you can see my torn up leg there in the corner of the picture) I am his least preferred Adult.  I am the least preferred Adult of all the animals.  You'd think they would know on which side their bread was buttered. geesh.

And then, because there was no one there to tell me not to, I lay down in the grass and listened to the crickets sing to me of the borderline between seasons.

Spare the Parents of Teens/Tweens a Thought

Friday, September 02, 2011

I rarely poke around the blog world anymore. As the Mom of a 13 year old, I just don't easily relate to those parents who are dealing with bottles and diapers and first steps or words.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike parents with young children. I know how hard that stage is - I have BEEN there. I know how cute and sweet, funny and frustrating the Kindergarten age and younger child can be.

Its just that when I look at most blogs aimed at parents, I see a plethora of Baby, Toddler and Preschool blogs or articles. Parents of kids older than 6 seem to have been tossed aside by both Media outlets and Magazine or online communities. We, as my friend Marsha noted, are the marketing Cast offs

Now if you are a parent of a Tween - which is loosely defined as the 9 through 12 age group - the irony is that you need the shoulder and advice of other parents More than ever. Issues with teachers and school, the eternal quagmire of Friendship, Body changes, the onset of Puberty and the general transition from adorable young child to still cute but at-times-hard-to-love tween.

The road that you must walk in these years is one that most of us have either truly forgotten...or forcibly pushed from our minds. No one rushes up to coo over your least no one that you don't suspect should be in custody. No one offers you advice on the street, no one stands with you in the school yard and swaps tales of "signs of puberty" with you the way you poured over the details of your ( and others) babies transition to solids, or toilet learning, or sleeping in a big girl bed.

Sure, you may get a sympathetic look when your 11 year old rolls her eyes at your suggestion that she perhaps Put the hat on her head rather than carry it on the Zero degree Celsius weather, or endure the knowing looks when your daughter loudly yells "Leave me Alone and Go to Work!" as she runs towards her friends. However, the sense of belonging is gone. You are mother islands unto yourselves. Like we are all in our own personal Parenting Fight Clubs, where the first rule is....Don't talk about how much harder this part of parenting is shaping up to be.

Or how much more frakking costly.

One would think that the media and purchasing people would be all over the parents of tweens and teens. Clothing and entertaining this age group is expensive. And if you thought your Baby outgrew things quickly? HAHAHAHAH. Try outgrowing 70 dollar sneakers every 5 weeks because her foot has decided to expand at inhuman rates. Or snowsuits that have gone from 30 or 40 dollars Total to Hundreds of dollars in order to get one that will last both the growth spurts AND Hard wear that an 12 year old will inflict upon it over the course of a winter. This summer Emily went from a size 7.5 shoe - to a 9. In under 2 months.

Do I need to mention the gift lists? These have changed too. Emily may be an only child, but she is not alone in having a cell phone and ipod of her own. Last Christmas saw her gifts include a Wii and her own laptop. Which she needed for her homework. Seriously.

Oh, and the homework. You thought the tantrums your kid threw as a Toddler were bad? The homework battles are worse. I would take ten flopping and rolling " You can't have popcorn" tantrums over one of my "I can't understand this math and I am so stupid and why does this teacher hate me and my life is terrible" tantrums. They get louder as they get older. And more articulate.

Did I mention the personal hygiene battles? You can't scoop them up and shuttle them into the tub you coax and remind and say things like "You don't want to be known as Sewer Breath Emily, do you? So BRUSH YOUR TEETH! and for the love of all that is holy, Put lotion on your ashy skin. I also know that you did not brush your hair, I can clearly see this, even though you are now crying and telling me you Did brush your hair, the half matted thing on your head indicates No brushing...."

So, Blog World, Spare a thought for the Parents of Tweens and Teens ...and perhaps even light a parenting candle for the parents of Teens. I know Babies and Toddlers are everything that makes our ovaries throb, bringing a tear of nostalgia to our eyes and a wistful reflection on the transformation the new people these creatures are becoming as well as the fierce love and tumult they have ushered into our lives.

Tweens and Teens are the people these creatures become - and they aren't as cute and loveable - and they kind of smell. The parents of these tweens and teens still exist and deserve the same types of places to gather for the support and comfort of parents who are riding this particular life rollarcoaster. They spend as much money - if not more - in stores and marketplaces.

The arguments I have heard - "But I don't talk about my Tween/teen because of their privacy" - strike me as false. You can not tell me that the privacy of your 5 year old counts less than that of your 13 year old. They may be more aware that you are talking about them on the interwebz is what you are saying. Yet that doesn't automatically equate to more or less Privacy per se.

Maybe you are more embarrassed about talking about unearthing the deep loam of what it means to be human...maybe your kid isn't talking to you the way he/she used to...maybe Sexuality and body changes and hormones freak you the fuck out. Fine. I get that. But "Privacy"? Puh-lease. If you published a story about their poop when they were 3, then save me the dramatic exhortations of suddenly seeing the light regarding privacy now.

My suspicion - and I could be totally full of shit - is that We (parents) get super uncomfortable when our Teen/Tween starts becoming "us" - as in more adult, more knowledgeable in the ways of the body and society. We distance ourselves from THEM because we either i) want to preserve some sense of them as babies/small cute people or ii) the idea that they are growing up and are about to launch into the adult realm of sexuality and attractions and love and exploration outside of the Family is we pretend it isn't happening. And we sure the hell don't talk about it.

When I asked Emily if it bothered her that I still write about her, she was her typical non-flappable self; "No", she said, "I can't stop you from writing. Besides you tell stories, it's what you Do."

Sometimes she even requests that I read my posts to her and she Laughs, heartily, at my story telling.

Emily will, of course, have her own stories to tell, someday. And I will not seek to control her stories any more than she seeks to control my stories. I do not expect to be represented in any way except how she sees me, and I grant that may not always be kindly.

But this continues to beg the question - Why no parents of teens on parenting Blog-empires-advice-consortium sites? Why no marketing attention? ( not that I want any , ugh - I do not like marketing pitches...)

Carve out a place for us. Its lonely out here, and a nice cup of coffee and some words of kindness could really go a long way.

Originally Published on CanadaMomBlogs - December 2009
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