This week I met a woman named Colleen who runs a licensed day care in her home.
She braved an adventure to the city pool with 7 children, more than half of whom were under the age of 3. I had pulled my chair up to the kiddie bath to watch Christopher and Camille fight over...play with water guns while Colleen stood next to me lacquering kids with sunscreen. I had noticed her painstakingly lathering all the children up and so, as she rubbed white goo all over child #4, I said,"You must be exhausted at night, Colleen."
As a side note: My days are probably not that much different than Colleen's. Granted, I'm not running a day care, but I have 5 children in my charge at all times. This (rewarding) work makes me exhausted at night. When my head hits the pillow, it's with great anticipation and delight. I know what this woman does all day and I know it must be hard, even if she enjoys it, so I was surprised by her response, which was,
"No, not really."
"Really? You're not tired at all?" I said.
"No, I'm not," she answered.
She went on to explain that she loved her job (which is terrific), always wanted a big family (also great), and was hoping to adopt another child (beautiful). I nodded my head politely, but dropped the conversation.
Unless Colleen has an infinite amount of energy, I can't imagine the care and feeding of multiple children under the age of 3 day after day isn't tiring. Perhaps it's just where I'm at right now (hormonal, pregnant, and tired all the time) but it would have been really helpful to me if she had offered at least one way in which she struggled. OK, so she's not tired at the end of the day, but what are some of the challenges she faces caring for 4 children under the age of 3 all day?
I think the underlying issue here is that I often find myself in conversations with other mothers who showcase their status as Superwomen. Maybe that isn't what Colleen was doing and I misunderstood her (highly probable) but I do wonder, why do we women feel the need to perform for other women?
Part of the goal of the hyper-mothering or helicopter parenting or whatever you want to call it, I think, is to impress each other.
And I'm so over that. I'm tired of it.
This parenting gig is hard and it doesn't make you a bad mother (or day care provdier) if you admit it. We don't have to put our best foot forward all the time so we can impress other people with our mad mothering skills. Frankly, at this point in my life, I find it impossible to be friends with anyone woman who only uses pixie dust and princess wands to paint her mural on motherhood.
I like what Anna Quindlen says:
“The great motherhood friendships are the ones in which two women can admit [how difficult mothering is] quietly to each other, over cups of tea at a table sticky with spilled apple juice and littered with markers without tops.”
That's the kind of friend I want. Someone to say, "Yeah, this really sucks sometimes but you know what? I still love it."
I just finished reading Quinn Cummings book entitled The Year Of Learning Dangerously: Our Adventures In Homeschooling.
It's an engaging, quick read which details Quinn Cumming's decision to embark upon the unfamiliar territory of homeschooling. I identified with Cumming's a lot because like her, when it came time to put the pencil to paper ( ha, ha) and actually educate my own offspring, I felt completely incompetent.
She writes about hiding in her laundry room during her first week of homeschooling:
"I had a rock solid reason to be slumped on the linoleum wheezing into a paper bag. I had been homeschooling my daughter for two whole days and found myself suddenly, brutally aware of how completely unqualified I was for this assignment. Here was my child--my one shot at creating a decent, kind, productive member of society--and I was treating her like a goldfish I'd won at a carnival."
Exactly. "Look at me with my adorable offspring and look at what I can do with them! Now, blow bubbles, Topher!"
Part of Cumming's foray into homeschooling included investigating the various types of approaches to educating children at home--specifically by attending conferences or speaking toRadical Unschoolers, Classical educators (which is where I fall), Fundamentalists, and Gothardites. I particularly loved her honesty about her inability to "glow with delight" over her child. She she had attended a Radical Unschoolers Convention and writes about how different she felt:
"I sensed that none of these women had ever hidden in the laundry room to get away from her child. I could tell that none of them hated Candy Land. Not one single person at this entire conference had ever driven past the nearest public school after an especially long week and heard the low, dangerous voice say, "You know we don't have to homeschool. Legally, they have to take her. I could just leave her here." I was a horrible teacher and a thoughtless mother. And Alice would never taste a really fresh egg."
(Because almost all the homeschoolers she met raised their own chickens...yes, yes, and yes.)
I have some of those exact thoughts and desires every week and I frequently feel so out of place in a large group of homeschoolers.
All in all, I found the book to be refreshing but I must warn you: Cummings's is irreverent (which I love), so if you are a super religiously convicted homeschooler, you may be offended by this book. For the most part, I found her insights about the different types of homeschool groups (including the Conservative Christians groups) to be fairly accurate and insightful. I consider myself a Conservative Catholic but I have to confess, the observations she made about various Conservative Christian homeschool attitudes/practices were things I've encountered and often, these attitudes and practices are not attractive.
Patrick inherited a diminished stature, which is a nice way of saying he's a shrimp. Lately, when we're out and about the outside world, children make rude comments about his small size.
On the first day of swim team, for instance, a group of kids accosted him and said, "You're 9 years old? You look like your 5!"
"Why are you so small? What's wrong with you?"
(Another side note: when people ask me how I intend to "socialize" my children because I homeschool, I often want to say,
"Oh yes, it's imperative my children spend 5 days a week for 8 hours a day sitting next to other children who will teach them wonderful words like "butthead" and "retard". I also think it's important that they spend an excessive amount cultivating their self worth from the 9 year old punk sitting next to them rather than their parents and siblings who are able to offer them a clearer picture of their inherent dignity. Socialization in a school setting is so, so important. Thank you for the reminder.")
The negative comments, of course, hurt Patrick's feelings and he told me what the kids said when we got into the van to drive home. I've been thinking a lot about how to help him handle these kinds of situations (which have been occurring more frequently). Up until now, I've told him to respond kindly but to also not allow rude comments, but I realized last week we needed to come up with a list of retorts for him to offer those bullies. Patrick needs to have a way of communicating to these kids that he's not going to be an easy target for their toxic cruelty.
"Patrick," I told him this week, "you know how you told me kids sometimes make fun of your size? The next time this happens, I don't want you to get into a physical altercation with someone, but I don't want you to put up with their rude commentary, either. So when someone starts picking on you, I want you to say something like,
'Dude, I may be small but I'm gonna be your boss one day."
Patrick threw his head back and let out a belly laugh.
"That's awesome, Mom! I like it. But can I also say this?
'Dude, I may be small but I can pack some pain.' Is that OK, Mom?" he asked.
"That'll work, too, Son," I told him.
Which brings me to my point: I do think it important to teach Patrick how to excuse other people's rude behavior and to respond with kindness.
But right now?
Patrick needs to learn boundaries and that he doesn't have to put up with other people's crap.
One of my friends just had her seventh baby, so I offered to take some baby photos as a gift.
This one is my favorite.
John's new nightly routine involves a 30 minute jaunt on the treadmill.
Mine involves watching him sweat, a streamed TV show via Netlix and a delicious dessert unusually incorporating chocolate. The exercise is doing wonders for John's self esteem. I can't claim the same for my routine.
Christopher is allergic to sunscreen and breaks out in a wicked rash whenever I use the store bought stuff.
He's got red scabs and small bumps all over his face. Anyone know of a hypo allergenic sunscreen? I think I've bought almost every brand out there, but I'm open to suggestions.
I'm all out of words (ha, ha...NEVER!!!) but Jennifer has some great ones. Go see the others.