Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Honorable Mention

"The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels."

- Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Phone; bane of my existence did not ring this morning. I have not worked since last Monday, which sounds worse than it is (Sort of). On Tuesday, they didn’t call, which was good since I would’ve had to cram packing in after school, before we left for New York. On Wednesday, I took the day off because we were in New York. Thursday and Friday there was no school for the Thanksgiving holiday. This week, back to Monday with no call, and now today, the phone is silent. I fear to see my next paycheck, which will be paltry in the midst of the holiday $pending season. One main downside to subbing (besides: erratic schedule, no class of my own, low earnings) is no work equals no pay.

The upside to being off today is that I can work on my manuscript, Indigo in the Know. My father-in-law edited about one-third of it, and I’ve had some ideas to make it avoid the trap of telling, instead of showing. I’m slow, but I think I finally understand that my character needs to reveal more in action than thought. (Duh!) I wanted to tinker with it yesterday, but there were all of the chores to be done after our road trip: unpacking, food shopping, cooking, laundry, and ironing (Oh, and the blog). A day of breathing room from chores is a rare and precious treasure. If I have to feel guilt-ridden that I’m not getting paid today, at least I don’t have to feel guilty about household tasks.

My feminist rant yesterday was cathartic, but I thought perhaps one-sided. I’m not speaking of the man’s point of view, but rather, the positive impact that my children have had on me. I don’t want my blog to become “Kids Say the Darndest Things”. As a rule, I try not to shove my children down people’s throats (Unless they ask). Besides, I pride myself on being woman-mother, instead of a mother-woman. But my children are still a large part of my identity, and there are moments when something they say or do stops me in my tracks. I've compliled a few highlights:

  1. My daughter periodically and sincerely tells me that I’m beautiful.
  2. My son is a gourmet, so if I make an effort with plating, it never goes unappreciated.
  3. When my daughter was a baby, if she was hysterical, my humming would be enough to soothe her.
  4. When my son was just out of babyhood, he was struggling to attach two Little People farm fence pieces. Determined, he kept at it, until he exclaimed, “I did it,” which demonstrated his perseverity, dexterity, and first three-word sentence.
  5. When my daughter was two, she idolized and tried to keep up with her big brother. He was a in big Star Wars phase at the time, so she’d circle the house with him, toting a play gun and squeaking, “Byoom, byoom, Storm Troopers.”
  6. My son is a voracious reader, which makes it hard to believe that he ever went through a long and painful period of insecurity about learning to read. When he’s excited about something he's learned, he has to tell everyone about it in vivid detail. I'm not the only one to call him a walking encyclopedia.
  7. Until my daughter turned five, any time I checked on her while she was sleeping, she would instinctively turn towards me, and try to burrow into me without waking up.
  8. My son has a strong sense of fairness, is kind to his friends, and avoids troublemakers. Because of his “calming influence”, he won Class Peacemaker at the end of fourth-grade.
  9. My daughter dives into everything with enthusiasm. She has passion for anything that she does. An aura seems to radiate from her, and her eyes sparkle when she's excited.
  10. One evening, my son to watched my daughter for a couple of hours. When I returned, he had cleaned the dinner table (okay, coffee table, where they ate dinner and watched television - I'm a bad mother), washed the dishes, and was in the midst of microwaving apples that he and his sister had cored and spiced. Even though they sometimes fight, she adores him, and anytime he’s in charge of her, he takes the responsibility very seriously.

There are many reasons to treasure the time I spend with my children. When I pick them up after school, I get to hear about their day before they forget the details. In order to give them fresh air, I bring them to parks, where I also get fresh air. Although I have to cart the kids around to their activities, it also means I get to relax while they engage in them. They constantly amaze me with their sophistication of language and thought.

As little ones, they went through some of the same phases, like babies giggling at silly things and toddlers lining the same type of toys in a long row. My son is stubborn and bossy (like me), but can be so thoughtful that my heart swells. My daughter is easy-going (except when she’s not), and possesses an intuition to gauge people’s moods, and responds accordingly. My son screams like a banshee when he’s angry, and my daughter has a gift of throwing herself on the ground when she’s furious. Sometimes I’m enraged when they behave this way, and work on teaching them self-control, but other times, I have to smother a smile.

Before I had children, I was sure that differences in gender were nurture, rather than nature. Then my son turned one, and everything that had wheels and could move, became sources of fascination. Each interest after that was testosterone-based: police, fire trucks, construction vehicles, guns, Star Wars, army, and World War II. When he turned two, I bought him a doll and carriage, which he had zero interest in. When my baby daughter had only begun sitting, she’d gravitate towards baby dolls and pretend to be their mother. As soon as she turned two, her favorite color became pink, which lasted five years. Although she’d play war with her brother, she used her pastel dolls and animals alongside his army guys. In other words, they've learned to compromise in unique ways.

Just like when I teach, I learn something from my own children every day. Raising them is a privilege. And having the luxury of time to do so is an honor.


  1. I love the tribute to your kids...
    The attention to defining traits can make or break a worldview.

    People with blinders gives you... Fox news. : /
    Yeah, a blogger I like just did a rant post about them... Sigh. So I'm reading your archives to get a dose of intelligence.

    Hey, we've discussed gender identity... Interesting.

    What were you playing with as a child? For me it was books, video games, plushies, and trees. Often in combination. Baby dolls and war toys held little appeal for me. I guess my imagination provided better props than money can buy. : j

  2. Fox News. My in-laws watch it. I really don't get so few people see it for what it is.

    What did I play with? Barbies. They were my favorite. When I was really small, I had Little People and Weebles, I think they're called. I also played with dolls a lot. I was very girly, apparently.

    But I always wished for Legos and Tinker Toys. I liked building, so I did that with my male cousins sometimes. I tested really high in spatial relations. Too bad my parents didn't think to encourage it.

  3. Hmm... I think creative people tend to enjoy anthropomorphic representations to enact fantasies with.

    I recall playing with cousins as a child and being disappointed with the way they played with their overabundance of toys... No back story... No story at all really.

    "Hey. What are you playing?" "Racing cars." "Why are they racing?" "I dunno, they just are."

    I get the impression that, generally speaking, girls are culturally (in first world countries) more encouraged to be creative than boys. Or perhaps its innate... I'll leave that aside.

    For example, again with my cousins, "Hey, what are you doing" "Having a tea party." "Oh, neat. Who is that?" ::points to frog plushie in front a doll cup:: "That's Leonard, he works in bubblegum factory..." "Cool, what does he do there?" "He and Suzy ::points to puppet on the other side of the table:: invent new flavors of gum there." And then we go of on a story exploring how my toy, I don't remember what it was, came to the bubblegum factory to steal the new flavors.

    Hmm... That would be an interesting thing to study. I don't interact with children at all anymore so my impressions may be way off.

    Do you think if you had been encouraged to play with building toys you would have turned out differently?
    Tangent, I just discussed this over lunch with my colleague who has two daughters who are 9 and ten.

    The elder daughter loved pink from the start but convinced the younger that she (the younger) didn't like that color. Some years later, the younger decided that no, in fact, she did like pink... And then they got to an age where they realized the social significance attached to the color and they both discarded it.

    This lady tried to to give her girls a wide variety of things to play with and the following happened when she gave her 2 year old daughter a toy car. She played with it for a few minutes and then started brushing it with a hairbrush... ; j

  4. I used to think it was cultural until I had kids. Children are born with such specific personalities and interests. Parents just work around them, really.

    When my daughter was a baby, she loved playing a mom. Can you picture a nine-month old pretending to rock a baby to sleep? That was her. And when she turned two, she loved pink everything.

    My son when he turned one, loved anything with wheels or that could fly. He'd stare at construction trucks, police officers and firefighters would make him speechless - like meeting a rockstar.

    My son loved building. My daughter rarely built. All of her games were character based. She lost interest in baby dolls, but she loves Polly Pockets and little animals. Now it's all dogs and horses.

    My son went through phases: Star Wars, army, army again, police, Revolutionary War, WWII. And so on.

    It's funny to see how they figure out to play together.

  5. Related post=>

    So what do they do? Civil war in the polly pocket community?

    I'm leaning more and more towards it being an individual thing, because I've come across parents whose children at a young age (before outside influence/contamination) played with toys that were cross-gendered (stereotypically speaking), and later conform through peer/parent pressure, or just do so naturally... And of course there others who do not, or who break out of it in their teens.

    When did classical instruments become gender specific and who decided? I get occasionally get comments about playing the flute... And not just of the "who is strangling a cat?" variety. Shrug.
    Interesting side note...

    There is a group of people in France advocating the return of gender segregated schools, their idea being that:
    *statistically in France, the kids failing in school are overwhelmingly boys
    *boys and girls learn things differently
    *teachers are overwhelmingly women and kids are mostly helped at home by their mothers, so boys are getting "feminine" education that doesn't best match their way of learning

    Shrug, I haven't checked their research, this just something I heard on the radio...

    The facts I'm pretty sure are correct, but their conclusions seem... a bit hasty.

    Still it's an interesting idea, setting aside the science and fact checking, and the (im)practicalities in applying this information even if it were true; it's an interesting idea.

  6. I'll check out the link.

    My daughter's first sentence was, "Byoom, byoom, Stormtroopers," because she'd run around the house with a fake gun and battle with her brother. She wasn't yet two, but she could hold her own against The Empire.

    Lots of times she'd have to play battle with her brother, either with figures or legos, but she'd use her My Little Ponies or some other animals - I forget their name. Mostly, she had to play his game with her figures.

    Boys tend to be more physical and so they get labeled trouble. Some female teachers can't figure out how to work with them. Since I have an antsy son, I usually find some of it charming. Since I've always had male friends, I get boys. They are more challenging overall.

    Yes, many boy shy away from the feminine flute and the color pink. There's a 13-year-old boy in taekwondo and a kindergarten-age boy said, "You look like a girl." Lovely.