Showing posts with label happiness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label happiness. Show all posts

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Dear Teacher: It's Not You and Me Against My Child

I've never been a really big fan of school. I was good at it. Very good (no false modesty here). But I didn't enjoy it, and I left as soon as it was legal to do so. I left with Dad's blessing on the understanding that if I was leaving school, then I'd need to still be doing "something" and I immediately enrolled in an adult learning course anyway.

It wasn't the learning that I needed to get away from.

When my teachers discovered my intent to leave, there was a little bit of a fuss made. Like I said, I was "good at school". That kid in the top stream class who could consistently get high marks without trying, who very rarely disrupted the others, who was polite, and who was coordinated and fit enough to generally be one of the first picked in sports.

They wanted me to stay.

They didn't tell me that, though. They had the opportunity; I needed to go around each of my teachers to return my text books and ask them to sign my leaving form. Not one of them said anything then. But apparently they did in the staff room, because that evening my chemistry teacher, speaking for all my other teachers, telephoned my father and proceeded to try to convince him to make me stay at school.

This was one of the moments Dad got really, really right. He said: "It's not me you should be discussing this with," and handed the phone over.

Because, even though Dad would have preferred I stay at school, he knew that it wasn't him and the teacher against me but that I was a person with my own autonomy and preferences, and that to force me into something would only breed resentment. It probably would have hurt my love of learning too.

Now it's my daughter's turn at highschool.

She's nearing the end of her second year, and already she's hanging out for age 16 when it's legal for her to leave. She already knows what she wants to do, the learning she wants to move directly into and the places she'll apply to. She gazes at their pages on the internet often.

Over the weekend, she brought up with Mr. Me and I that she was having a lot of trouble learning in class because of disruptions from other students. She's not in one of the higher streams, and a good many of the children are there under duress. So we asked her to speak to her teachers, get their email addresses, give them hers and ours and to ask for ideas of what she'll be tested on and perhaps some exam papers from previous years to practice with.

She did it.

And she has one teacher willing to help. Who sees her as a person in her own right. Who instead of getting in touch with us, has emailed our daughter with all the information she needs, and offered to answer any questions she may have, or clarifications she may need via email as well as in class. Our daughter spent the evening trawling through all this information with no encouragement from us. Independently learning.

Her other teachers just saw a kid who had non-regulation shoes on, and took the time to email us about that, but nothing to do with her learning. Apparently what's important is a united front between teachers and parents. Apparently that's how we keep 'em in line. A united front and conformity.

I'm told that the common response from one of these teachers whenever the kids remark that they're not learning anything is: You don't know how hard it is to be a teacher.

It may be hard, but I believe the ones that manage it best are the ones who stop seeing their class as cats to be herded, but as a group of individuals to be respected and helped to learn in the subject you yourself are passionate about.

I do remember the teacher who phoned to try to change the fact that I was leaving school. I saw him again, in the same lab-coat he always wore, and chatting to a professor, in the corridor of the university chemistry department when I was attending lab classes some twelve years later. I gave him a wink as I walked past. He didn't look overly surprised to see me, but it happened that I was doing the same courses as one of the other science teachers at my old high school, who was updating his skills, so perhaps there had been talk. (Or perhaps I'm a bit conceited.)

I appreciate that he did care enough to phone, and he did try to talk me out of it. It wasn't enough, but I really do appreciate the effort.

And if I could have a do-over, I wouldn't change a thing.

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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

5 Things I'm Ashamed to Have Done to My Kids (that I still see happening all the time)

There's never been a time when I considered myself a "bad" mother. Since I've been one for fourteen plus years now though, I'd be remiss if I hadn't done some learning along the way, and if there's a parent who has not changed their style at least a little bit in the course of raising an adult, I really don't want to know them.

So there's no judging going on here. OK there's a little bit of judging, but it's the internal sort, whereby you judge, and then think I used to do that until I found a better way so you stop being critical. Still, you feel sad that they haven't learnt, or have and then decided they were fine all along, and you feel guilty for judging and a little bit superior and smug.

Yeah, I over think things quite a lot.

1) Telling your kid not to snatch, then forcefully removing said object (snatching) from the child to return it to the snatchee
I see this all. the. time. Parents and teachers do it obliviously. They must do, because I never see the furtive, embarrassed glance-around afterwards that would occur if they realised the hypocrisy. Actually, one time I stayed at daycare with my youngest to settle him for the first half hour because he was becoming more and more unhappy being there. The carer did this twice while knowing I was there trying to figure out why he was unhappy. And then she...

2) ...said hey, can I have a look at that? and prised a toy from another kid's hands. He then tried to take it back, so she held it away from him, where he couldn't reach, and made him parrot "please can I have that toy?" after her.
She looked at me for approval after that. A look that smugly said: see how I teach them manners? We left then. And after two more times of my little one screaming and crying when he realised we were going (not when I was leaving; it's not a separation thing at all), we withdrew him from that place completely. But I've done it too. I can point at that daycare and say: "look, how horrible" but the truth is, for my eldest, that would have been situation normal.

3) Spanking, smacking, physical punishment, whatever the kids are calling it these days.
This is a hard one to admit, but there was a time when I even advocated for it. I decided myself and tried to convince others that it was the only way to reprimand a child who didn't have the vocabulary to understand your, what I considered must be, lectures. Until one day about 10 years ago, when my daughter was curled on the floor with her hands over her bottom and I realised I was angry at her, really furious at her, for trying to stop me from smacking her. And I recognised that for the atrocity that it was. It genuinely took another six or seven years for me to get to a point where I didn't feel like smacking - to change my brain chemistry to the point where I automatically thought "how can I help?" instead of "stop it you little...."

4) Sat with my kids at the table until they'd finished every last bite of their dinner.
At the time, I thought I was doing right; teaching them not to be wasteful and such. What I ended up with though, was one child, my poor first born who wore the worst of everything, who now finds it difficult to leave anything on the plate, even if she's so full she feels sick. I should have known better, I think. I myself am unable to eat when I have a blocked nose, because I'm unable to breathe. Breathing through my mouth is not an option for me whilst eating. Thankfully I didn't do this for very long. Just long enough to do damage, obviously, but now, at 14 years old, she's just beginning to figure out the food quantities that are right for her.

5) Told them if they didn't hurry up, I'd leave without them.
It seems fair on the face of it, but the bottom line is that I now have an 11 year old who panics when we say we'll wait for him in the car. It's not the relatively good sort of panic where you do things in double time, but the awful, paralysing kind where you can't think, let alone act, and everything just becomes too hard. Poor guy. We're working on it.

This isn't a full list, by any means; I'll probably write another post next week entitled, "5 MORE things..." and I could maybe even write a third post. But there are a lot of things I've done right, as well. And one of those things I've done right, is learning from all the things I've done wrong. Well... all the things I've come across anyway.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I Love You, But I Don't Give A Rat's Bum!

I had come to the conclusion that being a mother often meant feigning an interest.

Not always. Sometimes your kids have really interesting topics of conversation, things to show and tell and questions to ask. And that's awesome. But how many people have you met that have all the same interests as you?

OK, now how many seven year old kids have you met that have all the same interests as you?

Yeah. S'what I thought. None.

But we love 'em, don't we? And we love that they're excited about things and learning, even if it is about Pokemon (who knows, he could be a future animator or game programmer!) but it never occurred to me, going into this parenting caper, that I'd have to listen to incessant chatter about things I am completely apathetic towards.

Then I realised how fake that was, and if I modelled that fakeness, I'd be teaching my kids that the correct response is to be dishonest. So where to go with it? Obviously we want some middle ground between "I don't care, please don't talk" and "Tell me all about your belly-button lint, I'm enthralled." I want them to know they can talk to me about anything at any time, but for them to also have the empathy to know that some people just aren't as interested in the same topics as they are, and if we want a captive audience, we need to appeal to them.

At any time is also a biggie for me. Yes, I'm available at any time, but I don't want to be woken up so that I can be shown a new colour of nail polish, or be asked through the toilet door if there are any chores they can do to earn money. Surely it's not that time sensitive that it can't wait five minutes?

Sometimes I find myself at a loss as to how to teach these things. And then realise that always, if there's a behaviour that's happening, good or bad, it's been modelled before.

Was it me?

There have been times, I'm certain, that I've callously interrupted what the kids were doing: pulled them away from a game so I can go out shopping or bill paying or visit a friend or relative or any number of things they have no interest in. Because I'm "bigger and more important" you see. This is the default setting of pretty much all new parents. And if it's not, we're weaned into it because little babies don't really have a lot of preferences in that way, and it becomes habitual just to say "let's go" and expect it to happen.

I also remember often interrupting a game just to "remind" them of things they should do, or to ask them if they'd tried on those new, blue shoes yet... something that may be completely uninteresting to them or not time sensitive, because I unconsciously considered myself bigger and more important.

The idea that I'm bigger, and therefore more important, created second class citizens of my children.

That's not just.

I don't want them growing up believing anyone is second class, not because of their age, or because of their skin colour, or religion, or because of any physical or mental capabilities they may or may not have.

It's true, there are things I must do that are very important. It's also true that my children are the responsibility of myself and my partner and so there will be times when they have to do things they'd prefer not - so to us all in life. But there should never be times when preferences aren't listened to and considered. Very rare are the times when negotiations can't be entered into: generally, yes I can wait fifteen minutes for you to finish your game of Monopoly, and I'm sorry I didn't discuss this with you earlier.

From experience, kids get much better at these negotiations with time and practice, or they can be born into it (which is so much easier, you wouldn't believe it!) but when there are slip ups, the only way to deal with it is without hypocrisy. To politely ask for your personal or psychological space back (in an age appropriate way) and remember you're probably the one who modelled it in the past - you or a teacher they had no choice but to spend six hours per day with, but that's a story for another day.

Ahh, what I love about this blog is that I start writing about a problem and then as I'm writing, I find the solution and write that down too. I think that's what I've done here, so thank you so much for listening! You give me a reason to regularly sit down and get inside my own head for a bit, and I appreciate it.

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Monday, 22 October 2012

I'm Grateful for Things Too!

Just now, I was having a gaze through my list of blog posts that just need a few finishing touches before publishing. It's not that I don't feel like writing, but we have a mildly ill wee guy in the house today and he's always going to be more important at times like this. Also, there's lots of clean ups and washing to do, as happens with a tummy bug. Right now though, little one is having a relaxing shower with Daddy and so I thought I had a couple of minutes just to add some minor bits and pieces and then publish - as you do.

Only, all of the titles seemed pretty negative, or broody, or critical, or introspective and I'm not really in a mood for any of those.

Today I'm just happy. Not fully sure why because the day didn't start ideally, but when it comes, you just take it, right?

It's Tuesday, but it feels like a Monday since yesterday was Labour Day here. Mr. Me and I both do what we do from home and day of the week is not a huge factor: things get done when they need doing, not because of the day of the week - for the most part. I think this is totally cool. I remember hating Mondays and dreading the alarm (and sorta liking the alarm a little bit because it was the radio and I'd listen to it for an hour before even pretending to be awake, but I digress...) and knowing time wasn't my own again for another five days. I vowed not to do that again a couple of years back, and there have been times when I have buckled under the pressure, but know that long-term the way to freedom is to be in control of my income, not let some employer do it. And that makes me happy.

Even though the little fella is unwell, he's still in great spirits and it makes me feel all squishy when I'm thanked for doing what all parents see as their duty anyway. Turns it from a chore into loving care. Or maybe the egg came before the chicken, I don't know, but either way it's awesome. Now after his shower, he's asleep behind me on the couch giving his little body time to fight off whatever bug is inside it. And that makes me happy.

I can smell sausage rolls for lunch. It's a rainy day, and I've hung the washing anyway because of the sheer bulk of what needed doing and my hands smell like synthetic white lilies and cherry blossom. I actually like the smell - I guess it makes me think of clean, fresh sheets. I always have the best sleep on clean sheets. I've been noticing nice smells all morning - I'll let my facebook update describe why:
In the early hours of this morning, I woke to sniffing snuffles and "Smell that! Smell it?" Obviously I was intrigued "Smell what?" I asked the littlest person in our house. My words woke him (I didn't know he was asleep). I asked him if he'd been dreaming and he said yes, and I asked what about... "Baking!" "Ohhh, did it smell nice?" "MMmmmmm ye-es!" Haha - I want that kid's dreams :)
And that makes me happy.

It makes me happy when people just make me coffees because they know that 90% of the time, if they ask, I won't turn one down.
When people have the opportunity to argue and fight, but they don't.
When seeds I have planted, germinate.
When I can give things away.
When people say really smart things that make me think...

Even the fact that I've been writing this post over the space of three hours makes me happy, because I have got so much else done in and around it. I wasn't going write at all, but I'm happy that I have, and that I've been able to. Now there'll be a more positive post in with the rest. That makes me happy too.

There are many things that have happened today that I could grumble about. In size, they maybe even outweigh the good things. But, through no effort on my part, today seems to be the day for me to only see the good in life. As far as wins go, I'll take it, and be grateful.

And I hope you guys are all happy too! (Cos that would make me happy.)

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