(Sidebar: I totally forgot to do my Question/Comment/Complaint headers these past weeks. Doh.)
This is one of the many pressing questions I have on my plate of late.
I'm seriously extroverted. My son is seriously introverted. He finds crowds of people hellish, and loud noises, and big parties absolute nightmares.
My daughter, on the other hand, like me, would like to have people over pretty much 24/7. It's all about chatting and playing and snacking.
My husband? Decidedly in my son's camp.
So what do two extroverts do for their social/entertainment fix when there are two dear introverts in the family to consider?
I guess one solution is going out, which we do: mostly to birthday parties both guys in the family would rather have their fingers filed off than attend.
But what about having people over to our house?
The thing is, the world is skewed in favor of extroverts. So our introverts, at least some of the time, have to deal with crowds and noise and mayhem. Yes, they can always climb back down into their sub-basement office at CalTech where they're getting their PhD in computer science, but they still have to go to the grocery on Saturdays.
So I'm not sure where this leaves me. Trying to fulfill the needs of one child necessarily does not take into account the needs of the other.
It's Spring Break (woo.) This leads me to much time while my kids barrel around the house and I glue myself to my only social outlet: the computer.
Sad, but true.
Actually, to be fair, I did indeed interact with real, live humans today. So I'm not a total ScreenHead. But I have spent a lot of time being bored online.
And I did something that kind of creeped me out: I went looking on Facebook for the guy I had a total and massive crush on junior and senior year in college in New York. It doesn't matter who he was, or is, really. A guy. I always wondered what became of him. I expected great things: underground theatre, Obie awards, write-ups in alternative magazines with his tortured, crooked grin on the cover.
But I (da! da! da!) looked at his wall. Why? Because I could. Like the rest of the Facebooking world, I read comments and looked at links. Hell, that's why they're THERE, right?
But I kind of wish I hadn't.
The lesson? Be careful what you go looking for.
Because this guy, over whom every girl I knew, including me, was 300% gaga in 1987, is not...really...all that...exciting.
I'm sure he's still nice. At least, I hope so. And I have no reason to suspect that he's a jackass or anything. But his page made him seem a little too...normal...real...and thus, not a former object of fantasy.
It's kind of like learning the truth about Santa Claus, the adult version.
The people you obsessed about when you were 19 are, in fact, human, and are not perfect. They never were.
But memory is a tricky business.
Because I had imagined this tortured, beautiful-in-a-geeky-way ultra-talented actor, with his loft in Tribeca or wherever the hell it's cool to be in New York these days (I'm sure it's not Tribeca, do not mock me, Solipsist!) and his fabulous artistic oeuvre and his beautiful kids and gorgeous partner, and their fabulous parties and fashionable eyewear.
And I can infer from what I saw today, that this is NOT the case.
What I did today was burst a bubble.
The guy I dreamed about when I was 19 and angst-filled is an ordinary guy. He likes video games. It sounds like he drinks kind of a lot. But who am I to say?
After 43 years, I can actually stand up and say it, as the proud Canadian that I am:
I like hockey.
(And the crowd gasped.) (Do you need to sit down? Cold drink?)
Yeah, I said it.
I went to my first ever professional hockey game today and...it was...fun.
We had a fancy shmancy box seat, avec sandwiches et assorted treats, but the food wasn't what sold me.
The players were.
Man, they look so awesome gliding along the ice, managing the puck, and each other. And the crowd's oohs and aahs? It's actually fun to cheer with other people.
Where have I been? Oh right, Canada, land of no cheerleaders.
The only other hockey game I ever saw, back in college, as I may have mentioned here way back when, involved massive fighting and copious amounts of blood. I had turned my back on the sport thenceforward.
But today, I am a changed woman.
Seeing as I can't even stand up on skates, I find people who can manoeuvre a puck, a stick and massive amounts of molded plastic, quite impressive.
No, I don't like the fighting. But I can see why people go gaga over this sport. It's fun.
But to watch. From a nice box with a great view.
The only job I could handle would be driving the zamboni. And even that is probably beyond my skill set, eh.
I'm speaking at the moment of little girls, but, frankly, this applies to us full grown ones as well.
One minute, it's nasty snarks and exclusion; the next, a lovefest.
I watch my daughter navigate our new neighborhood full of girls and wonder, will she be a leader or a follower? And once that choice is made, will she use her (relative) power for good or evil?
That is the question.
There is a pecking order in every social group. And now that spring has sprung and the kids are outside pecking about, it will likely become much clearer who the leaders are, where the lines are, and who's who.
Some girls are nice when nobody else is around, but terrors in a pack.
I think that pretty much sums up some of my experience with groups of women: in small groups, they're great; in a pack, horror show.
Partly I guess I just don't understand truly mean girls. (Or mean boys, for that matter. But that's another story.) I mean, I wasn't a mean girl. I was mostly a follower, stayed under the radar and got high off the fumes of my mother and sister's popularity as I trundled through high school. (My mom taught there and was beloved.)
I didn't do mean things to other girls; and luckily, other girls didn't do mean things to me. So I don't know the mean mentality. Or maybe I do, but I'm lying to myself that I don't. I mean, it's not like I've never been a bitch as an adult. But as a kid? No bitchy. Seriously. Ask my mom.
So what makes a mean girl? What makes a victim?
Bet you can guess where I'm going with this: research time. Beam me up, Amazon.com. Stay tuned for the results.
So the Little Boy Who Has No Boundaries continues to push the envelope.
Today he walked straight into our house, without asking, (natch) marched straight up to my son's room, took his book and a bunch of his toys and marched outside to head home for the day.
Um, excuse me?
His mom was passively standing in the road, talking to other people, not monitoring her son. But it seems that even when she is watching, she doesn't appear to have the will or the power or the something to control her child, even a little.
Is there something I'm missing here?
Anyway, as Mom II, I attempted to lay the boundaries. Since this little boy is calling me Mom, he calls my son "Brother", which is really starting to annoy the kid. My son is a sweetheart, but he doesn't like people playing role playing games on his ass when he's not in the mood. I mean, can you blame him?
PLUS, it turns out that yesterday LBWHNB took my husband's headset, and tried to force it on my husband's head, against his will. Daddy was more than a little non-plussed.
So this child, I can see, is going to need to be gently corrected on a regular basis. It takes a village to raise a child, indeed.
But it also brings up the whole living in a community thing. I mean, where are our boundaries? I love being neighborly, but I don't want kids to think that every time they need to take a whiz they should come and splash my tiles, you know? (This really happened, of course.)
There's a little kid on my cul-de-sac who last fall didn't give me the time of day. He basically accused me of stealing our new house from its former occupants, and then he spit on my porch. (Really). He had absolutely nothing positive to say to me.
He calls me "Mom."
This is only slightly wierd, since little kids do like to play pretend.
What I find, shall we say, slightly vexing, is that he does this, IN FRONT OF HIS OWN MOM.
Wouldn't that make her feel wierd? It sure makes ME feel wierd.
This mother is very, shall we say, passive, with the little guy. He appears to have very few boundaries. She basically seems to follow him around. When I first met her, I practically had to throw myself in her path to get myself introduced to her. She's not warm and fuzzy.
And now? Much, much friendlier. And still passive. And still watches as her adorable little guy crosses the social lines a little too freely, by wandering into other people's houses, taking their toys, ripping concrete from their porches, and so on.
It's all a little odd to me.
I don't mind that he's pretending to be my son. But I feel really strange about it with his real mom right there; especially because she doesn't do anything except follow him around. If he were my son, I'd have him on a tighter leash, I can tell you what.
But I'm sure there's a shitload I don't know about their dynamics and history.
Here are the things I did today: vacuumed the entire house, washed, dried, folded and put away three loads of laundry, washed all the wood floors in the house, cleaned up my bedroom, my daughter's bedroom, my son's bedroom (he helped, marginally), wiped down and shop-vacked two cars, supervised an unofficial playdate, put away clothes that had been out for weeks, and swept the floors again after the playdate.
This after imbibing a decent amount of wine (good stuff first, then Bull's Blood) and staying up well past my bedtime last night.
So you see, of course, that I am WAY too tired to write anything more tonight.
Except this: A perfect quote, from one of Adrian Mole's Diaries (by Sue Townshend):
(I'm paraphrasing, but I know I'm VERY close to verbatim)
"Drank a half glass of Bull's Blood wine and felt dead sensual and talked with consummate wit for half an hour."
One of the reasons it was great was because I did something I absolutely suck at, in front of hundreds of people.
I played basketball, (and I use the term "played" lightly), in front of the entire population of my kids' school, which is also where I work part-time.
I went out in a t-shirt and sweats, and ran around like an idiot, leaping in people's faces and never being sure where I was allowed or supposed to be. (I called the "key" the "horseshoe". I thought Coach was going to have a seizure.)
Why did I do this? Coach asked. And Coach is an institution. He's only in his early fifties, but he's been at the school for over 30 years. You don't say no to Coach.
So I flailed around, got some cheers from some of my supporters, and didn't throw the ball the wrong way, or fall on top of anyone. I was quite good at waving my irregularly long arms at people, at random, when I thought they might have the ball at some point in the future.
I didn't score any points. Nada.
But I didn't lose the game.
We won by two, and that was good enough.
Sometimes, it's very liberating to do something you know you suck at. And just embrace the suckiness.
At the very least, it's highly humorous.
But for next year? I really should practice my foul shot. Or at least know where to stand.
What do you do about mean girls whom your little girl adores?
What do you when your child adores a girl who is fickle and manipulative, at AGE FOUR?
Because my newly-minted five year-old girl is already running with a posse of neighborhood girls, mostly older, and I'm already balking at the tones they use and the way they talk to each other. But the main culprit is younger than her. She seems to know my daughter's weak points, and she exploits them at will.
She tells my daughter she doesn't want to play with her, so that my daughter will cry. She pinches my daughter when she's having a rough day. Her mother explains it as "being tired", and I can see that this mom is trying, but shit: DON'T PINCH MY KID!
I just project ahead and see this mean girl's mean future and I don't want my kid anywhere near her.
Did I mention we're next door neighbors? Crap.
It's easy to get melodramatic about this. And I remind myself that my daughter will need to be tough in today's world. Blah blah blah. But she's my baby, and I just fast forward to the mean girls in high school who bully vulnerable girls and it makes my blood both boil AND run cold.
Guess it's time (Already? Hell.) to start reading books about dealing with mean girls.
And even though I've aged at least twice that much since her conception, I am so glad she is here.
She is energetic, bright, strong, fiery, intense, hilarious, creative, stubborn, funny, loving, snuggly, delicious. Sometimes we drive each other CRAZY. Perhaps it is because we are so alike. (I like to think so, anyway.)
I know I just became one of those people I swore I wouldn't be: a child gusher.
Most people don't give a rat's ass about your kids. But you know how you feel; you would throw yourself in front of a bus for them. So you gush a little, on occasion. Hey, I don't even post pictures of them on the Web, so I'm gush-free on that count.
Anyway, this five year-old spitfire made me barf multiple times a day the first trimester, put me on bedrest the rest of the time, showed up 9 (NINE) weeks early and stayed in the NICU for six weeks.
When people talk about seeking opportunities (personal or professional), they say they are sending out ships and waiting to see which ones will return.
And today? Email is a ship.
I'm slowly edging back into the workforce, and as I do so, I am realizing how much has changed since I was in the workforce lo these many years.
So much is done on email now. More and more of the job screening process is not done face to face, but laptop to laptop.
There are now inquiry emails, application emails, and follow-up emails.
Whenever I send out a job inquiry of any kind, I get a heady little rush right after I push SEND. Because once it's out there, it's out there.
It's like how you used to feel when you left long, rambling messages on someone's answering machine. Once it's done, it's out there, baby, and there's nothing you can do about it. What will be, will be.
It's still hard to know when you are crossing a line, especially in work-related emails. You want to avoid the desperate/pathetic/needy kind. And you really want to avoid the badgering emails.
It's both much easier and much more complicated to look for a job. So many opportunities are available to you 24/7. The downside? Everyone and their sister is online, applying for the same jobs. You never know if your email is even going to be read at all. At least if you speak to someone, you know you are on their radar, however briefly.
It's just so hard not to read into things when you email: does "Thanks for your application" mean "I'm glad you sent it because you're interesting" or "Whatever" and it's straight to the trash folder?
Still though, it's a little buzz to send out an email. You can agonize over it, ponder its fate, but ultimately, once it's out there, you've done all you could, and it's time to move on.
Okay, look: I can't sustain this happiness, sunshine and roses thing.
To be honest with you, I'm having a hard time blogging without my rants and raves. After all, isn't that what blogs are for?
When I tried to change, I realized that I am not Gretchen Rubin or Ariel Gore or Al Ben-Tahar. So why was I trying to emulate them? That is NOT the road to happiness. They have good points, but I'm not them.
The big point in Rubin's book is, BE YOU. As annoying as it was to keep reading that the author needed to "Be Gretchen!" , she has a point.
I'm going to be Emi Ha.
And Emi Ha can be bitchy, opinionated, irritable, loud, sarcastic, annoyed, as well as amused, goofy, curious and content.
I'm actually pretty happy right now. So I need to drop this storyline and get back to what I'm best at: questioning, commenting, and, natch, complaining.
or Why I'm Disillusioned and Despairing About the State of Education in this Country, Possibly this Continent, and Maybe Even the World.
I'm just sotired of worksheets. And of boring assignments where kids are asked to read and answer questions. Even at the swankiest schools in our country, the kids are still saying, "What page? What do I do? What page?" EVEN WHEN IT'S WRITTEN ON THE BOARD IN FRONT OF THEM.
Our kids have no independent thinking ability.
They need to be spoon fed the answers.
Or just taught to the damn test. (hideousness, don't get me started)
We have trained our students to dislike school.
And boy, have we succeeded.
No matter how progressive the curriculum, it still feels like we have to trick kids into learning, because the idea of learning is boring, and most ways of learning are boring to most kids. In other words, SOME kids like to do hands-on things (a lot, actually) but you don't always have time for hands-on things, they're a lot of work, a lot of prep. Then you can do visual stuff, for the visual learners. But everyone else is bored and/or confused. It just always seems to end up a worksheet or some canned assignment from a textbook designed by academics who've never spent a day of their adult lives in school.
HOW CAN WE MAKE SCHOOLS LESS PRISON-LIKE and MORE UNIVERSITY/LAB-LIKE? (and bite me if you don't like the flow of that sentence; I spent the day corralling wild fifth and sixth graders who were immersed in a travel fair (a good example of INTERESTING curriculum) which also included many fattening, tasty treats, and who were so hopped up on excitement and sugar the room was vibrating.)
Why am I a teacher when I hate (most) schools? Where are the schools where kids actually enjoy themselves? I had sixth grade students today pouring their hearts out to me about how nobody listens to them and how they aren't allowed to have opinions, and how futile the disciplinary system is. I agree that this is a problem. It's also part and parcel of being a teenager. But these kids want to have CONVERSATIONS. They want to engage. They don't want to do worksheets.
And frankly, thanks to recent research (Alfie Kohn in particular), he very concept of punishments have been proven not to work very well. Ditto for rewards.
SO WHY DO WE KEEP USING THEM?
We're not thinking outside the box. We're not even thinking inside the box. We're on lockdown in the box, sucking our thumbs and strumming the hem of our blankies saying "La La La, I'm not listening."
Today I got to the point where even I, ever the idealist, sent two kids to the office.
What happens when they go to the office?
I don't know.
The point is, you can't FORCE a kid to do something (s)he doesn't want to do. And you can very easily suck the joy out of learning.
This depresses me at the moment.
I love working with kids, and when I get the chance to actually teach content of some sort, it's wonderful. But there's so much bullshit in between. Especially for a sub. I had a teacher have me review the kids' math problems for a test today. This has happened to me twice! WHY is the teacher doing this? You don't attempt to reteach, in a subject not your own, freaking wordproblems to hyper sixth graders on travel fair day! I mean, DUH.
Why can't we make learning interesting and relevant to kids? Why do our schools, both private and public, continue to suck?
That's the farthest/longest I've ever run in my life.
This makes me very happy.
I'm training for a half marathon, my first (natch). There's always the chance I'll bail at the last minute, but my sister is driving down from upstate to run with me so I think I'm gonna have to do it. Yikes.
So I need to think about things like song selection (just like American Idol) because I've noticed that songs by The Cure and Nirvana really get me going, and lounge music slows me down to a crawl. I imagine I will be crawling by the end of the race, but I digress.
I don't care what my PR is. (Yes, I've learned that PR is Personal Record. That makes me sound like a serious runner.) But I have been reading these magazines I got for free for signing up for the marathon. In their pages are things like sprints, splits, aches, pains, diet tips and lots of people writing about their PRs. Apparently this is a big deal to a lot of people. And apparently you can always be striving for a new PR. It never ends, the striving.
Warning: If you don't think you're that fit, do not pick up a running magazine. These things make Billy Blanks look like a slacker. These people are fit. Hard core.
So I'm having fun with this. When I line up for the race in May, I won't care how long it takes me to get to the finish line. Any time is a PR. And just getting to the finish line is a major triumph.
Well, everyone who said they would come, came, to the little fete I had last night.
It was very fun, and I found myself admiring/liking all of the women who were there.
I think I'm in danger, however, of level-jumping on these friendships. I just want to move faster to get CLOSER, but that's not how it works.
As Morrissey sang, "these things take time."
And I am just so tired of waiting in a new place every ten to twelve months to start cultivating friendships again and again.
At present, I don't really know these women that well; some of them already do know each other quite well, which I didn't know, but it makes sense. Some of them have been at the school for two years already. And they're neighbors.
How do you compete with that?!
There's this one mom I really like (not like like) but I can't tell if she likes me. I mean, she certainly doesn't actively dislike me. But I'm wondering if she is overwhelmed by my loud personality, and/or is an introvert, and/or doesn't need any new friends.
I've been trying to go for a run with her for awhile now, but she has been politely putting me off. Which tells me that I should probably back off.
It's amazing how you can feel like an insecure kid again when you're trying to make friends.
Anyway, I've done all I could, so I am going to have to let this go, and look for other friends who are more enthusiastic. It just all feels like high school again, and who wants to go back to that?
Making friends is never easy. There are always jealousies, envious moments, insecure thoughts, times you said too much, or not enough. And you have to be patient. I tend to use most of my patience on my kids and my job. Not much left over for me.
So I'm having some women over tonight for drinks and food. I've done the prep, I got gussied up, and now I'm waiting.
And I feel like I'm 13 again.
Because I'm inviting women I don't know very well. For an unstructured event. It's not the party of one of our kids, it's not a school event, and it's not a jewelry/tupperware/lingerie party.
I just decided, in my quest for happiness, to reach out to a handful of women I think are cool. I just invited them over, and let the chips fall where they may. Women need friendships in order to thrive, and I'm new in town, and it's hard to find time to have any kind of actual conversation with someone when you're helping your children get their boots off while you're double parked outside the school. Hence, tonight.
It's an experiment.
I have of course talked to all of them before. And they all have kids at my kids' school. But other than that, who knows what we have in common?
Time will tell.
But waiting for the magic time when the first doorbell rings? Is a little nerve-wracking.
Today I filled in for three different teachers in a single day, and although it was generally fun (and definitely not boring) I have this to say at this time:
FIRST GRADERS ARE NEEDY.
Perhaps this isn't such a newsflash for some of you, but in my experience teaching, I never spent a whole day (or most of one) with a group of six and seven year olds, attempting to do Math and Language Arts, among other things. I usually just spent an hour or two at a time with them. I'm not into the rhythm of being an every day first grade teacher. And man, is it HARD.
Especially on a Friday. When there's a BOOK FAIR. And a BAKE SALE.
Look, it's hard enough to keep kids focused on something on a plain on Wednesday with nary a book nor a baked good to be purchased. So it's several orders of magnitude harder to keep up with said kids on a day like today.
On the up side, I did get some very tasty treats.
On the down side, I wolfed them down so fast, I barely tasted them.
Then I was grouchy with my own kids, after fielding questions, comments and complaints from a bunch of other people's.
"Why do you have your hair cut like a man?"
"He took my Legos. "
"I need help."
"She's not listening to me."
"Mrs. M, I need help."
"Can I go to the bathroom/nurse/library/cubby/backpack/office/drinking fountain?"
"Can I go now? How about now?"
"Mrs. M? Mrs. M? Mrs. M?"
"Why do you work here?"
Oh and the tears! The tears! These little ones burst into tears if they color the quarter the wrong color on their money counting page. Or if they spill yogurt. Or if they get in trouble. Oh, to have a stained shirt be the greatest of one's woes.
Anyway, I'm spent.
I tip my hat to all first grade teachers everywhere. You are my heroines and heroes, all.
Okay, so I made a tactical error having the Toys R Us website up when my daughter ambled over to see what I was doing last week. I should have closed the window, but nooo, she saw what was on the screen and in her uncanny-almost-five-year-old way, zeroed in on the crappiest, stupidest toy EVER. (NOT the one I was looking at, FYI)
Okay, maybe not ever, but close.
Zhu Zhu. The virtual hamster. In pink, natch. With cute outfits! (Clothes sold separately).
I caved. And several days later, there was Zhu Zhu, the electronic pseudo-hamster.
We turned it on. It squeaked, and its little wheels (wheels?!) started whirring and whirling about.
And kept going.
Apparently there was some sort of short in our finely-made piece of crap toy, and it WOULDN'T TURN OFF.
Withing seconds, both of my children were HYSTERICAL.
Ever the alert mother, I immediately found the screwdriver I kept on hand for such electronic debacles, and promptly removed the batteries.
So now my daughter has a very small stuffed animal with wheels. A very expensive small stuffed animal with wheels that she will lose.
Why, I ask you?
The only saving grace? I did NOT buy the thing any outfits. In our house, all hamsters, whether faux or real, do NOT wear bonnets or party dresses.
Are you digging Sayid's evil transformation? I just Hulued (it's a verb now, right?) last night's episode of Lost, and Naveen Andrews ROCKS.
He does good evil.
And Terry O'Quinn is dominating as the smoke monster/very very angry dude who is so evil he continues to make even the ever-eviller Sayid look like a boy scout.
And do you love Emilie de Ravin's Psycho Claire? I thought for sure she was gonna ice Kate when she told her that she (Kate) took Aaron. And I think she would have, but she was in that hole. Then when they all came out, she didn't even glance at Kate. They appear to be under the spell of the evil that inhabits John Locke's body.
Finally, Lost is getting good again. It spent several seasons yanking our chains and dropping threads left and right. I honestly don't see how they're going to tie everything up, but they at least are making some movement now. An end date appears to be a good thing.
It's fun to see these actors who played relatively virtuous or born-again-virtuous characters go so off the deep, bad end. I envy them. Playing bad is so much fun.
I haven't fully bought into these flash-sideways things, though. Why is the character's history so different just because they didn't get on a plane? Wouldn't they have had the same life up until the point of the Oceanic flight that never happened in AlternaSideWorld?
I'm just sayin'.
For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, count yourself lucky. It's a little late in the game to attempt to catch up on this convoluted series. But it's not too late for another ABC series, FlashForward, which not only has a Lost-like feel and vibe to it, but has one of the actors from Lost (Penny/Sonya Walger) starring in it.
It's only in its first season. But if you really want to follow Lost, they have all the episodes up on Hulu.
It just might take some time.
And when you get to the episode with Nikki, skip it. It will only annoy you.
Really, Hulu should be paying me for this free and hearty endorsement. Don't you think?