I began this morning excited about hunkering down once the kids were off to school and working on the numerous writing projects that I have in my head.
My excitement quickly faded once I realized that a two-year-old’s attention span is better developed than mine.
So what did I decide to do? You’re looking at it. Perhaps if I type some of this out, I can prioritize and move forward or at least get some the sludge that’s weighing me down out of my head.
I don’t know, you guys. I go through phases where I feel more action-oriented and productive, but lately I’m stuck in my head and feel like all I have the ability to do is the bare minimum. Now if I’m truly honest with myself, this is still a lot. In a given day, I get a good bit done — more than I ever dreamed possible in my life before children.
I’m afraid the problem is that I’m not getting the things done that I want to get done. I’m going through the motions and I’m feeling a lack of accomplishment. Do I need to reframe my thinking? Do I need to adjust my definition of the word accomplishment? I’m not sure.
I remember my wise therapist observing that I seemed edgier than usual and asked what I thought that was about, because don’t they just always do that? And isn’t it annoying? And don’t we all want to scream Please just tell me what it’s about and don’t ask me to flipping figure it out on my own!
Maybe that’s just me. Anyway, I told her the normal stuff — I have too much in my head and I feel overwhelmed and I can’t seem to prioritize all the things that I need to do. It’s likely that none of this came out as succinctly as the above, but it was something of the sort — you get the idea.
She said that she has noticed that when this happens in her life, it often means that she hasn’t been practicing self-care and is overloaded with things she has to do and isn’t getting fed in return. She’s giving way more than she’s receiving, and the result is that she gets snappy.
Well, hello. Didn’t she pretty much just sum up parenting young children?
Yes. This has been my experience since giving birth to Piers in 2007. And it’s like every time I think I have a handle on things as a parent, I’m thrown another curve ball. There’s also the problem of me not being able to sit back and say — Ahh, things are calm and okay right now — I think I’ll be grateful.
Instead I’m all in my head — Holy sh*t! It’s too calm. The bottom is gonna fall out any minute. Things are NEVER this okay. Something’s going on that I don’t know about. OH MY GOD!!!
I’m in the process of setting up a meeting with Piers’ first grade teacher. He’s had a few behavior issues in the past two weeks, mostly “not following directions and not staying on task.”
I want to yell — He’s my kid. If you knew his father and me, you would totally get it. We’re the exact same way.
I struggle with deciding how much to tell them. Gil vows that I’m reading into things too much and he’s the one who looks at the notes from the teachers and ONLY notices the positive things they say.
Then there’s Wallace, my kindergartner. He’s exhibiting more and more signs of anxiety and almost obsessive tendencies. Last week he threw some sort of tantrum in the middle of class because he had to move on and wasn’t able to finish his artwork. His teacher insisted that he had adequate time to finish and that he didn’t appear to even start on it until two or three minutes before the class had to move on to the next activity. In other words he sat there formulating his vision in his head which left inadequate time to actually carry out what he wanted to do. I see this in him all the time and I have done this sort of thing my entire life — I think and analyze every possible way to do something and then once I get it the way I want it in my head, I often don’t have time to actually see the process through.
I totally understand that Wallace can’t throw fits in class — and for what it’s worth, his teacher began the conversation with “this is VERY out of character for him” but I can’t help but feel like there are some things that are good about this. I want to help him figure out what he wants to do and help him make it happen.
I’m trying. Both of my children are different and don’t seem to learn the way that schools expect them to learn. HOWEVER, before I jump too far into the schools aren’t nurturing my child’s gifts — I must say that I fully believe that children like mine thrive in a structured environment. At the same time, I recognize their need for downtime after being at school from 8-2 everyday. It’s a tough balance, and I just want to help them through it.
I think all of this is weighing on my mind more than I realize. Gil and I had a very hard time scrunching our square-pegged selves into the round holes that we were expected to fit in as students. We managed. And many people say (my mother in particular) that we turned out fine and so will our kids. We may have “turned out fine” but both of us seriously struggle in the self-esteem department and THAT is what I don’t want for my own kids.
I don’t give two flips if they make straight A’s and if they score in the top percentiles on standardized tests. I want them to know that they are so much more than numbers on a piece of paper. I want them to have enthusiasm for the work they do in the world. I want them to be able to walk into any room and feel comfortable with themselves and know that they belong there.
Additionally, I want them to be kind, empathic and compassionate. I want them to notice the inequities of the world and be motivated to do something about them. I want them to be grateful for what they have and not rest until others have the same. I want them to have the confidence to speak up when they see someone being bullied or treated unfairly.
I want them to notice beauty in the world and I want them to be able to use their creativity constructively. Art is not only beautiful but in my opinion it is so necessary. My kids love music; they love drawing and creating characters and they’re enthusiastic and theatrical.
Unfortunately, I’m already seeing children who think this sort of self-expression is wrong and should be squelched. At seven and five my kids still spend a large amount of time pretending and I love it. As we were leaving a soccer game the other day the two of them began recreating some Star Wars-like scene, imaginary light sabers and all. It was great — they were running and jumping in a big open field — sound effects and all. I thought nothing of it, probably because I see this from them all the time. Another kid from Wallace’s team wandered up beside us with his parents. I chatted briefly with them but was perplexed when the dad asked, “What are they doing?”
I suspected he was asking because Wallace was way more enthusiastic and agile in his pretend world than he had just been during the soccer game.
“Feel free to join them,” I told Peyton. “They’re always happy to accommodate extra storm troopers.”
Peyton shifted nervously and walked over to my kids. Piers immediately assigned him a role, but Peyton said, “I’m not a storm trooper. I don’t want to do that.”
Wallace continued, “Well, you can be whatever you want to be — even Spiderman if you want!”
Peyton wouldn’t have it. “That’s weird.”
His parents didn’t seem to get it either, and while I’m old enough to not give a damn, I saw Wallace look at the ground self-consciously. He is very sensitive to the opinions of his peers (another concern of mine lately.) It just made me sad.
Piers wasn’t remotely deterred, so I’m hoping Wallace will grow out of this — Piers seemed more eager to please his friends last year in kindergarden. First grade has brought out a renewed confidence in him.
Wallace walked over to me and said Peyton was mean, which in Peyton’s defense, I didn’t see that he was saying what he said to be mean — he just had no clue how to interact in this way.
What kind of world do we live in if children in grade school are too old to pretend? Am I the weird one? Fortunately, my kids have plenty of friends who are thrilled to jump right in to fantasy mode. They just weren’t around that day, but it seems that it’s more the exception than the norm.
I suppose I’ve moved into a different stage of worrying about my children and I’m trying to figure out the best way to help them through the world. I have a lot more to say about this, but I need to wrap it up.
What do you guys think? Do your kids still play in this way? Maybe I need to do a better job finding activities where they can channel this part of themselves. Obviously, I have a lot on my mind in regards to my children.