Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ship of Doom

There are days, and then there are days.

Yesterday was one of those days.

I can't even describe how things went wrong, except to say that I felt stuck in an accumulating cycle of negativity. OK, when I was in junior high, one day my entire seventh grade class went to an amusement park to celebrate the end of the year. My friends and I decided to ride on of those pirate ships -- you know those giant boats that rock back and forth on a pendulum-type thing, getting higher every time? So the first time, we were sitting in the middle of the boat, and it was fun, like a nice swinging back and forth, wind in our hair, isn't this fun, wheeee! That was when I made my big mistake. I agreed to ride again, and this time sit at one of the ends. OH MY GOSH. The trauma still remains. We were swinging SO high, and everyone around me was gasping and squealing in terror, but a DELIGHTED sort of terror, actually ENJOYING the sensation, when I was gaping down, convinced that at any moment I would plunge over the flimsy restraining bar and catapult to my dismemberment on the machinery below. I was screaming, "I WANT TO GET OFF!" every time we passed the ride operator, but he just watched with an idiotic grin, thinking, if indeed he was doing any thinking at all, that I was just one of the happy shriekers aboard the Pirate Ship of Doom.

So, that sort of describes my day yesterday. In fact, at times I feel that the Pirate Ship is an apt metaphor for my whole emotional life, but anyway. I felt so angry and resentful at one of my children's "bad attitude" (in contrast with my sweet and pleasant one, of course), not to mention chronic lack of enthusiasm for whatever I present by way of academic stimulation. There were conversations that should have gone better had I the fortitude to use some of my listening skills, but instead turned into zero-gravity nosedives. Example:
Me: We're going to do a craft on Thursday before Spanish with Rhynn [Eliza's friend] and her mom, and hopefully Kevin and Christopher too.
Ian: Rhynn is my enemy. Not only so, but she is my NEMESIS. [OK, the reason for this is that Rhynn is too much like him! She is very precocious, tends to dominate and spew facts regardless of audience interest level, and is eager to impress upon Ian her superior intellect and body of knowledge. Nevertheless, she is four and he is seven, so ...}
Me, somewhat patronizingly: Well, Ian, why do you say that?
Ian: Because she talks about how she's so big and smart.
Me: [feeling the weight of my duty as a parent to grind good social skills into my child and also to convict him of the malevolence in his heart, and also perhaps somewhat being influenced by the discussion with my neighbor you all read about that has somewhat exaggerated my paranoia about whether my child might grow up as a disgruntled sociopath, you know, sort of a Bill-Murray-in-Groundhog-Day sort of character]: Well, honey, YOU do that too! ... (blah blah blah blah blah). [And I KNOW how I'm sounding, but I can't stop myself!]

Then I catch him making a face, so I send him instantly to his room.
And we've only been interacting for, oh, ten minutes!

In hindsight, I was able to see that I could have defused the whole situation with humor: "You know, I think you secretly LIKE Rhynn. I think you'd send her a big bouquet of roses if you could." (In fact, I did do this later that afternoon, and I don't know if it was the "right" thing to do, but it sure changed the temperature of our interchange!) But, it was just a day pockmarked with a multitude of those incidents when I was in the grip of my negative emotions and we were just OFF, just not connecting, just frustrating each other. Eliza and Caroline were, fortunately, a bit more manageable, but still, I wondered whether JetBlue might have a direct-to-Tahiti flight that might be leaving that afternoon. Blue potato chips, all to myself. :-)

So one thing that came of it was a tearful discussion with Tim last night when we decided to take a little break from any kind of formal "schooling" for right now. I'm going to focus more on doing things with Eliza, who is always receptive and eager for a little sitdown with the letters or numbers, and on doing some hands-on stuff like arts and crafts (the holidays are a good excuse), and not even try to do a math lesson, as fun as I try to make them. I will read aloud, but attendance will not be compulsory. Hopefully with a little time and space to experiment, to truly let go of my expectations that are, at bottom, mostly to meet my own needs for a sense of achievement, to pray more, our direction will become more clear. The last thing I want is for our homeschooling style to be toxic to our parent/child relationship, and so here we go, feeling our way long, taking a break, keeping an open mind, trying to remember, and give thanks for, all the delightful qualities of my spirited children that I tend to lose sight when I'm looking down, down, down.

I have to laugh at myself a bit, because you know how they give out those Web Awards for Homeschooler Blogger of the Year or whatnot? Clearly, we're not in the running! Are those people EVER grumpy or unsure of themselves? Maybe those posts go in a password-only file and we, the public, don't get to see them. Instead, we think they just float companionably from one joyful learning experience to another. How about a Brutally Honest Homeschool Blogger Award? Now accepting nominations! Get in line behind me!

The prize: seats on that flight with an extra bag of blue potato chips.


Tracee said...

I'll nominate you if you nominate me!! Hehe. :) BTW, Good idea about the password protected only section. That's where I can put all my non-heroic moments! ;)

Jenny said...

I've never ridden the Pirate Ship of Doom that you've's always looked like the type of ride I would puke on. ;) (Yes, I ended my sentence with a preposition...why am I so paranoid about my grammar when I write to you?? LOL)

Homeschooling a child with learning differences definitely takes something special...try to remember that when you're reading those blogs of the "happy homeschoolers"...they're not really living your life, yk?