Saturday, July 9, 2011

Back to the Salt Mines

We've now been back home for a week. Recently I had lunch with my mother (Hi, Mom!), and she asked, "was the trip the right decision?" My answer was an unhesitating "Yes."

Before we left I had my doubts. I was worried that we were planning to spend 2 months together in a small house, without any organized child care or backup in the form of friends or activities for the kids. I could see myself in a newspaper headline: "Mother of Two Goes Berserk", you know the sort of thing.

As it turned out, we got along pretty well. It was a welcome chance for all of us to have the pressures of school lifted. I was able to stop fretting about Younger Daughter as a problem to be fixed, and see her for who she is. She's a bright, athletic kid with an active, thoughtful mind. She's not verbally precocious in the way that schools reward, but she can certainly express herself, as in: "I know I'm supposed to think about God, but I mostly think about feeding the ducks."

Before we left, I was planning to work hard with Younger Daughter to make up for the subjects she had not learned at school. But it was such a struggle to get her to read every day that we wound up reading maybe once or twice a week, and I wonder whether it's worth the fight. What she gains in reading ability she loses in the desire to read. Now I'm inclined to just give her the rest of the summer off, and let her next school deal with her reading in the fall.

For Older Daughter, the absence of school meant she could catch up on her sleep. She missed her friends, but she was able to chat with them through texting and Skype.

A friend asked me, "What was your favorite part of the trip?" For me, it was the chance to be in a new environment, far away from the preoccupations of our usual life.


  1. Good for you! It sounds as though it was a very healing trip in many ways.

  2. Thanks, Happy Elf Mom! Now the challenge is to try to reduce stress here at home.

  3. Just stop caring about things and you'll find it goes down a way lot. Serious. (OK, sad but serious.)

  4. PsychMom adds:

    Welcome back..and I'm with Happy Elf Mom.

    I stressed out about toilet training because my mother believed my daughter should be toilet trained by age two. It took much longer because I was stressed out. Bottom line.

    I stressed out about the lisp my 5 year old had, and listened to the teacher's advice that speech therapy was necessary. Oh and the hand writing was atrocious and needed remedial help. When the speech therapy didn't help we stopped. "Miraculously" the hand writing improved over the summer between Grade 1 and 2. The lisp disappeared on its own too when kids other kids' opinions started to matter.
    All this to say that, more than ever, I believe many of the worries we have are created because we feel we have to align with what some system is expecting. Let the expectations's more important for the person to grow. Though I used to think they kinda were, kids aren't topiaries. We can't decide what they should look like and then trim them up to look like that.

    Kids are more like those foam sponge shapes that are compressed into gel capsules. We don't know who they'll be when we get them...they have to soak up a bit of life and their form will be revealed.

  5. PsychMom say..

    Thanks Chris. It's probably my own exhaustion talking...sooner or later you just have to admit that you just don't have that big an impact. My child came to me through adoption, and she was very young, and I thought I could be an influence.
    But now I just think I provide the medium for growth. Food, shelter, stability, affection. And if she learns that she needs to provide those 4 things if she decides to have children some day, I'll consider my parenting a job well done.

  6. PsychMom -- It's funny, I've been working on a post about how so many people think of kids as basically like Gumby figurines, to be easily twisted into whatever shape they think best. But does anybody even know who Gumby is anymore?

  7. PsychMom says:'re right, the reference could be dated. It was a 60's thing, Gumpy and Pokey.

    But I get your point. There is such concern that things need to be done to children or else they won't grow up properly. A hundred years ago they needed to be mistreated, so that they learned discipline and didn't run amok. Now they have to be overstimulated, so their brains develop appropriately. And in both cases, no appreciation of the child is considered.

    I think about a piece from Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk where he describes the fictional scenario of entrance interviews kids go through in the States to get into exclusive pre-schools. He describes a small child standing in front of a panel who look at the child's record and sees..."What, you're three years old and this is all you have to show for it! You've done nothing!" Sir Ken makes it sound hilarious, but it's sadly ironic what with the programs and courses young children are expected to take before they start school.

  8. PsychMom adds:

    FedUpMom, I just wanted to mention something about your daughter saying: "I know I'm supposed to think about God, but I mostly think about feeding the ducks."

    I think feeding the ducks is such a kindly spiritual act that you really couldn't get closer to god than that.

  9. I thought you would come back with a kinder attiude towards those who do have to make YD do stuff....and I believe you have

  10. Wow, Anne, I don't know about that.

    Now that we're back in the soup, making the rounds of therapists and school administrators, I'm re-experiencing a lot of the frustration that I had before we left.

    But maybe that's my next post ...

  11. I'm in summer (cottage) mode, so I just have a silly comment to add. Chris and PsychMom: my kids have Gumby and Pokey toys, so they would get the reference! (And I'm assuming most adults over 35 would too.) But then their favourite TV show is Mary Tyler Moore!