Monday, December 29, 2008

redcaps and hinkypucks

One of the parenting/unschooling boards I'm on just had its annual Great Santa Debate - its a board for families with younger children, obviously. This is a Big Issue for some families. At the tail end of the thread someone posted an article by Jan Hunt that suggested treating Santa like any other fictional character. Here's an excerpt:

I found this puzzle to be surprisingly difficult to resolve. But after much thought I felt that there might be a middle ground. If a child were simply told the "Santa story" about a kindly old gentleman who leaves gifts for children in his make-believe world, but who remains within the fictional world of the story, there would be no need to undo the lie that he is leaving gifts for the child in our world. Parents and children could play the "Santa game" by leaving gifts for each other, just as Santa does in the story. This allows the opportunity for children to learn the pleasure of giving to their parents and siblings, as well as gaining the knowledge and appreciation of their parents' efforts on their behalf - an opportunity that is completely missed in the traditional approach.

Interestingly, we've always told Morgan that Santa was a fictional character - always in the context of one of her favorite characters, like Clifford, that she "plays" with as a sort of imaginary friend. The trouble is, to paraphrase Sartre, there are other people in the world. Other kids wanted to know if she Believed. That threw her for a loop. So we explained more directly this time around about fiction and "the Santa game" and she didn't want anything to do with it. She was pretty offended by the idea of a game where she doesn't have any input into the rules, as well as by the fact that there's allllllll this misinformation out there, aimed at people like her.

On the actual 25th she was rather put out by the lack of snow. All the holiday propaganda shows snow! I've mentioned in the past that it didn't necessarily snow for xmas, but I could tell it was one of those things where she wasn't convinced that I was right. Like tadpoles turning into frogs or corn growing on a plant - she didn't believe either of those until she saw it, either. So this year it failed to snow on Dec 25th and Morgan was affronted. The horror! The world is full of misinformation! Gasp!

This is the part where I get to say something insightful about organic learning and opportunities and not having to teach lessons, blah blah blah. Feel free to imagine I just did that.

We've been having some lovely times. I had five days off and will have another five this weekend. I've gotten a lot of work done on my one commissioned piece, a whole lot of cleaning and scheming, and some carefully calculated lounging around. I even had a few drinks at a party on xmas itself. Ever tried Grappa? We passed some around at the fete and most of the festive gagged over it - I actually liked it! Of course, now I'm going to have to try some of the stuff when I haven't already had a glass of wine and a Cosmopolitan, but I'm sure the opportunity will present itself one day, even if I have to buy some myself.

We've really only begun to celebrate. This week we get to start spending xmas money. New linoleum...ahhhhhhhh. And I'll even have time to put it on the floor, how perfect. We're also going to get another PS2 - ours is fading, and the computer is getting crowded with Everyone wanting to post and chat and play games, too. George is talking about Trains, so we're going to look into that. Mo has enjoyed the one cheapo train set we got last xmas, and she and George need more projects they can work on together. I hope they can manage to work on the trains together, opinionated people that they are!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

work-a-day mom

This month's unschooling "blog carnival" is on the subject of unschooling parents engaged in gainful employment, and I thought I'd chime in:

Every morning around 430 George gets up and makes me coffee. He's sweet like that. Now that it's turned cold, he also builds up the fire in the woodstove. We sit in bed together, drinking coffee for about half an hour, and then its up and breakfast and put a lunch together and find the mp3 player and if its Monday I grab the week's laundry to leave in my locker and its out the door I go, to change into my plaster-covered work clothes in the restroom at work, before clocking in.

This is where I work, if you're interested and/or have a hankerin' for some really fancy crown moulding:

George's sweetness in the mornings carries me through the first part of the day, and often the whole day. Most of my coworkers aren't terribly sweet, so the thought of dear, sweet George at home with the kids is a kind of balm when the negativity starts to peak. Its amazing to me how negative some people can be. I'm not talking about cynicism, per se. Its more of an attitude of "I just don't give a shit". About everything. Today one fellow was complaining that the preacher at his church gave a sermon on "Love" - went on and on about it. The other guys commiserated: "You shoulda walked out." I stood there thinking about George, curled up against my shoulder just that morning saying "I love you" and "Thanks for being nice to me." Sweet.

Sweet was the first compliment I ever gave George. I remember him wriggling and glowing with embarrassed pleasure. He's still sweet. He's been fretting about all the things he can't do now that he's hurt his shoulder again (did I tell you? He slipped and fell on his bad shoulder and its hurting again. Bummer!) and he's kind of fallen into a rut with the kids so I've been helping him and them think of projects and games and activities and just Things to Do Together. Especially indoor things, since its chilly and damp and its a hassle to keep both woodstoves going (house and barn). This week I've come home to sweetness and smiles. Not as many dishes are getting washed, but I'll help him catch up on the weekend. I'll take smiles over dishes.

Okay, to be utterly truthful, most of the time I'll take smiles over dishes. There are days, though, when I come home and shudder. Not that I was a picture of tidiness when I was the at-home parent! But there are days when I'm worn out with Doing - casting and cleaning and patching and cleaning and sanding and cleaning (plaster is messy!) - and the idea of coming home to wade through the detritus of an unschooling day and have to wash my own coffee cup is enough to make me shudder. Some days I sensibly take an emergency chocolate break before I go home, but sssshhhhh! don't tell on me!

I'm glad to have been on the other side, as it were - to have been the one at home. It helps me to envision the happiness that led up to the scraps of pink and yellow and blue cupcake wrappers all over the house, the pile of muddy shoes, the trail of sugar leading halfway to the stairs (or maybe from the stairs), the total absence of spoons. I'm lucky that way. I can piece together the stories from the scraps and smears and random comments.

I'm lucky, too, that I had time to absorb all the sweetness that comes from living an unschooling life. Not that every day was cupcakes. Not that I was (or am) always the sweetest person in the world. But to live in a home where sweetness is valued! To live surrounded by love, sometimes inconvenient, sometimes stuck all over with juice and cat hairs, sometimes grumpy or awkward or just plain tired, but love, nonetheless. It makes it easier for me to go to work, just knowing I'm supporting that kind of life for the kids and George.

Most of the time I enjoy my job, even if I'm not always thrilled with my coworkers. I like being on my feet most of the day, and I like creating things. So much of what I do at work comes down to attention to detail and dexterity - I love that. Its satisfying. I like the fact that so much of what I do teases at the very edge of what I already know - I'm always learning! I love that part. I love the fact that the Ops mgr runs up to me in a panic and blurts out questions like "do you think you could cast xyz in some material you've never even heard of before?" I love saying Yes! to those sorts of questions. So I have no idea what he's talking about! I'll learn!

I really like working for a small business, too. That's something I've done before and it fits my skills and lifestyle and quirky ideology all at once. I certainly can't support small local businesses by buying from them very often! The owner and ops mgr are sometimes amused and nonplussed at my starry eyed idealism. I come by it honestly, though - my parents and brother are all idealists (yeah, I'm on to you, dad) in their own ways.

I love the fact that I can go home to a family where optimism and enthusiasm are part of the daily life. I remember the homeschooling days of trying to shove Ray into learning, and the school days of homework and stress and above all, aversion to learning. That was ugly. That's the kind of attitude I run into with my coworkers! An aversion to learning and trying new things. Even when one of the guys gets excited about learning something new he has to temper it in front of the other guys - shrug and find something to complain about. Now and then one of them will share a little enthusiasm with me. They know I'm safe, in a way. I still jump up and down and clap my hands when I get to try something big and new and impossible.

I miss my days at home sometimes, but I'm fascinated by the new relationships developing between George and the kids. He's still getting his feet under him, in some ways - his troublesome shoulder combined with his guitar making keep throwing kinks in the wheels. But he's figuring out how to do what he does and be a full time Dad, too. That's exciting. In a way, its part of what makes the whole having to go to work thing more than simply a chore I'm slogging through for the sake of the family. We're all learning to do and be differently than we were before. It only looked impossible from the other side.

lovely evening

When I got home from work, this evening, there was half a pan of chocolate cupcakes waiting for me, along with my smiling family (stuffed full of the other half of the cupcakes... ahhhh).

And then later, walking out to the barn I could hear the lovely sounds of Ray and George playing music together - another ahhhhhh. A brisk almost-winter night, two really bright planets next to the moon, and the sounds of my guys jamming. It just doesn't get any better than this.