Monday, October 31, 2011

Goodby Halloween, hello NaNoWriMo!

No kids came to our house, as usual. But we did manage to take Cloud trick-or-treating twice today, and while I was idly waiting, I hacked out a jack-o-lantern. Which I would post here, but I can't find the camera card port. Sorry.

Then I toasted the seeds. Burned them slightly, but who cares. Cloud won't be eating any. All he wants is chocolate and lollipops. He really likes lollipops. He chooses them over anything else, which means there's less chocolate for me. But I have pumpkin seeds.

Tomorrow we will leave all this behind us and start NaNoWriMo, during which I and my husband will each write a 50,000+ word novel in a month. In the month of November, no less. Funny funny. I don't expect to succeed, but success is hardly the point. I just want a solid track record. I don't want to have to admit that I skipped out for a year because I have a small child. That year could turn into two or five or ten. No thanks. I'd rather write about nothing and fall far short on my word count than to admit defeat before I've started.

In fact I don't have an idea yet.

I'm starting tomorrow anyway!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bad words out of the mouths of... wait, what counts as a bad word?

I was at my mommy group last Tuesday, and the topic of children speaking bad words came up.

(I have a mommy group now! It only took me two years to get into one!)

One mom's elementary-school-age daughter came home from school with a citation. For assault. Her crime? Making a razzberry at her classmate. The mom reported that she supported the teacher's decision by giving the girl a very stern lecture.

Another mom described how she caught her son saying, "Darn it!"

My husband and I are... hmm, how shall I put this? We are not like that. We yell the S word when we drop things on our toes. we refer to the TV show "Bullshit" by its proper name. We wonder what the hell has gotten into people. We laugh at silly euphemisms. ("We gotta get these monkeyfighting snakes off this Monday-Friday plane!")

We have a game we play with our son. It goes like this:

Cloud: "Oh geeeeze!"
Me: "Oh man!"
Daddy: "Oh drat!"

On and on, ad nauseum.

Can my kid get in trouble at school for talking the same way at school as he does at home? My guess is, absolutely! And then what will I do?

Teachers believe that I should support their decisions. I know because I'm married to a teacher, and because I read articles on the internet by teachers making this request. It's a reasonable request. Teachers don't want to be stuck in an endless cycle of discipline drama. When a parent supports the child over the teacher, it undermines the teacher's authority, and losing authority means losing control in the class.

However, I can't be sternly lecturing my child over every unfair citation given to him over silly behavior disagreements. I don't want him to be a bully, but I don't want him to be completely unexposed to the idea of childhood teasing either. Teasing is a fact of life. It happens in adulthood, too. What will happen if he grows up, and then one day finds a comment on his blog that says, "YOU SUC YOU STUPID MORON I HAVE PERSINNAL EXPEIRENCE WITH THS TOPIC AND PPL LIK YOU DEZERVE TO BE SHOT!"?

Of course, in today's culture, the slightest teasing sentiment is met by admonitions that the kid has just irrevocably traumatized his classmate. It's the hit-a-fly-with-a-sledgehammer style solution. I know that kids can be cruel to each other. I was, if not excessively teased per se, at least not very far up the social ladder.

(The social ladder is a terrible construct, and I think encouraging kids to abolish it is a better solution than shaming them for teasing each other. Teasing is just a symptom of the social hierarchy game. It used to be that kids formed a social ladder naturally based on their ages, but when all the kids are the same age, they tend to try to force a social hierarchy into existence. They don't have to. But once a few of them start the process, it consumes everyone.)

Anyway, I think there's a middle ground between letting my kid get away with bad behavior in the classroom and stomping on him every time he scowls at his classmates. I can't support a really bad discipline decision made by the teacher. For one thing, my stern lecture will sound totally insincere - I have a policy of honesty with my son, and I'll let him know my true feelings. How else will he learn how the world works? Superimposing a partly fictional world of false rules and imaginary order onto real life helps no one, not even kids.

(That's why I'm not pushing the Santa Claus thing. When people ask me why I'm doing such a sloppy job at convincing him of Santa Claus, I say, "Come on, it's not that good a story. If I'm going to pull a fast one on my kid, it'll be over something much better conceived.")

And for another thing, if self-esteem is the issue here, I don't see how citing small children for tiny infractions will help their self-esteem. The girl performing the razzberry knows it was grossly unfair, the girl who received the razzberry knows it was grossly unfair, and the teacher's authority has been usurped by a sense of distrust and suspicion. I know. I harbored distrust and suspicion for every teacher who ever shamed me and/or treated me unfairly. There was no particular teacher who did it a lot. Most only did it once. But one incident would make me shut down in front of that teacher forever after. I was a deeply distrustful kid. It really took unfailing and genuine fairness to keep me open.

I think I'm much more forgiving now. I let small things slide. But I have my limits, and I still have the instinct to protect my kid.

I just don't protect him from the eight words you can't say on television. And this new thing about protecting kids from mildly negative words like "darn" and "stupid" and "hate" ain't happening. I can't imagine the amount of self-censorship that would require. And to what end? If you remove the word "hate" from a child's vocabulary, you take away his ability to express a lot of really important thoughts! At least until he learns the phrases, "That bothers me" and "I could probably stand to live without that."

I can't wait that long. I know what it's like to have a kid whose ability to communicate lags far behind his ability to think of things he wishes to communicate. I want him to have his tools as early as possible! Even if those tools have the word "hate" in them.

Also, the "Oh darn! Oh geez!" game is really cute.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Playdates, or, Mama and Cloud both get social lives

You may have noticed that this blog rarely contains mentions of other people. There is my husband, there are random encounters with people in public, and there are occasional references to relatives who live far away.

All of that is... probably not about to change very much. I've been making better efforts at befriending other moms and their kids, and having more success. But I'm going to respect their privacy by not talking about them much.

However, meeting them has affected me, and I'm always happy to talk about me. Likewise Cloud.

The first friendship was a long time coming. I met her on the playground a long, long time ago. I looked at her Asian kids and she looked at my Asian kid and we said, "Hey! Adoption connection!" But we sorta let the opportunity slide by, and then next time we saw each other we were both in a hurry, so she slipped me her business card and I found it a year later and emailed her asking if she remembered me. That email turned into a playdate, which has turned into a group playdate because she already has friends and she invites all of us at once. Neat. Instant group.

The group is mixed age, and all but one of the kids is older than Cloud. That's good for him, though. The older kids give him language models and, for better or for worse, behavior models.

My other new friend is the mom of one of Cloud's preschool classmates. The four of us have our playdates at the library after school gets out.

Thirdly, I have joined a parent chat organized by a local child development group. It's at a preschool, upstairs where the kids don't go, and we may leave our kids in the preschool if we bring them. Three other moms participate, and two of them have four-year-olds. The other has two children in grade school. I like the group a lot - the moms aren't exceptionally similar to me, but we all want the same thing out of the group - support and adult conversation.