The Texture Of Things

What We’re Reading

September 27th, 2007

KLee wanted to know when I had re-read Harry Potter 1-3. Well, I have done it. In fact, the tot and I are working on Goblet of Fire, and I think I understand better now why I had a hard time with and eventually bailed on this book. It’s going better the second time through. I will try to put together some thoughts when I get further along in this one.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of my daughter, the would-be reader.

tot-book.JPG

This is mostly whine, but I didn’t mean it to be
when I started.

September 26th, 2007

It is an effort, these days, to anything beyond the very basics. It’s not that there’s any single huge crisis in these parts; instead, it’s simply that there are so very many “basics.”

I am teaching two sections of Comp II. Both sections are filled, so that means I have 54 students. Because my course plan is rigorous, they have to write (and I have to grade) about a billion and three papers. I have no idea why I do this to myself every effing semester, other than “it’s the right thing to do.”* My job is to prepare them to write at higher academic levels, whether it’s a Lit course or a 400-level Bioethics course. I can’t do that without making them write and write again.

/sigh.

I love my job. I do. I just lose myself in the workload so easily.

I’m also working three days a week at my mother’s store because my uncle is still unwell. He’s been struggling and sick all year, so I’ve been covering for him as much as I can because I’m the only one besides him and my mom who knows the business. Also? I guilt easy, so there is no way I could refuse to help out down there. Also, also? I like money, and I do manage to earn my keep there most days. (Not today, though, because I’m training a new highschooler.)

Good news on the horizon, however, in the form of a new teaching assignment for next semester. I’ll be teaching a developmental reading and writing course. It is the course that comes before Comp I, and it is what I’d like to be teaching. It’s difficult to get this assignment as a part-timer because the full-timers hog these sections. It’s 6-credit hours (three of reading, three of writing) and has a cap of 20 students. But I get paid by the credit hour, so I’ll earn the same amount of money next semester with 20 as I do now with 54. You can see why the full-timers would snatch these courses up before the adjuncts have a shot at the schedule.

To be fair, and honest with myself, it will be hard because it will be a brand new course prep and the students will likely be students who have struggled with reading and writing. That’s okay, though, because those are the students I love to work with. But the course prep is likely going to kill me.

So I’m working. What a boring excuse for being away. It’s not just that, though. I’m ‘whelmed’. Let me explain how I mean that word.

Back in the height of my Panic Disorder, one of the things my therapist encouraged me to do was to use this goofy little magnet thing that HG had gotten somewhere years before. It has a couple dozen little faces and each face is demonstrating some emotion. You’re supposed to take a little square magnet and lay it on top of the face showing the emotion you’re feeling. This raised awareness of my emotions was supposed to help me keep track of the spans of time when I wasn’t panicking and the roiling emotions that typically led up to a panic.

Almost every visit in the beginning I would tell her that I spent the week on “Overwhelmed.” We both knew I was turning a corner when one night I told her, “You know, there isn’t a face on the magnet for me anymore. I would choose ‘Overwhelmed’ except I’m not. I’m only a bit ‘whelmed’.”

And that’s where I am now. I am whelmed. I haven’t been overwhelmed in a while, but the pendulum is swinging back toward whelmed these days. I realized it when I left a comment on a blog last week and felt a pang of guilt that I hadn’t even checked my texture email in weeks, let alone post. And then, it took until tonight to do it.

Plus, I think I’ve pulled away because I have two unbloggable things going on right now and I have been fixated on them. Actually, they are contributing to my whelmage whelmness whelmitude. Whatever. You know what I mean. I will do what I can to get back here shortly with something. And, I owe Jennifer a response to the Power post.

*Points to the first person who can say the second half of the slogan. Bonus points to the person who can identify the product. Super Awesome Bonus points to the person who can remember the spokesperson’s name.

a quiet evening at home

September 4th, 2007

The scene:
Small girl on a piano bench
Pounding notes on the keys, then
A fit of wet coughing.
A deep, raspy voice announces,
“This is my favorite thing.”

A mother wonders,
“Playing piano?”
A father asks,
“Piano?”
A child answers,
“No. Coughing.
I’m doing it again. See?”
A follow up fit of coughing ensues.

Power, One Kind of

September 3rd, 2007

Standing in the shower thinking
About what makes a man
An outlaw or a leader
I’m thinking about power
The ways a man could use it
Or be destroyed by it …
I’m standing in the shower thinking
–Jane’s Addiction, from Nothing’s Shocking

I have been thinking about power lately. Again, I should say. It’s not a subject that strays far from my mind, especially as I have a child, and whose power is more pervasive than a parent’s?

For me, the nature of a parent’s power is troubling because the forms it takes are so arbitrary. While the tot was less than a year old, I attended a La Leche League group in a neighboring university town known for its crunchy hippies. I was surprised to hear, then, one of the crunchiest experienced moms in the following conversation.

Mom of Toddler: He wants to be independent, but he just melts down when it’s time to make a choice.
Crunchy Experienced Mom: Offer him two choices only. Take all other options away so he’s not overwhelmed.
MT: How do I pick which two when there are plenty?
CEM: Just pick two randomly. It doesn’t matter which. He just wants to exercise the power to choose. You have to make it a choice he can manage.

Let me clarify that I do not think CEM was wrong – she was offering advice to help mitigate age-appropriate tantrums – but it got me thinking that day about my Option C child. You see, when I applied CEM’s advice with a 14 month – 2 year old Tot, this is what it looked like:

Tot [in car seat, happy]: Want music! Wanna listen to music!
Me [rummaging through cds in van, finding Wiggles, Laurie Berkner, Backyardigans, Cow Songs, and a billion more]: Okay, we have Wiggles or Cow Songs.
Tot: Laurie Berkner.
Me [to myself]: Crap. Did she see them? No, she couldn’t have seen them up here in that bin.
Me [aloud]: We have Wiggles or Cow Songs, sweetie.
Tot: :tantrum:

Everyone with whom I have talked about power agrees with CEM: a parent’s job is to assume power and use it. My question has always been, “What if I don’t care?” What if I don’t care what music we listen to? What if I suggest Wiggles or Laurie Berkner but the tot suggests They Might Be Giants and suddenly that sounds good to me too? Holding my ground in this exchange will only serve to make us both unhappy, so why must I be unwilling to surrender some power and be open to her ideas? Is it solely for the sake of teaching her that adults wield power for the sake of wielding power?

That’s crazy talk.

I could be walking into a minefield by approaching parenting this way, but it seems to make more sense to me to teach my child about authentic power rather than arbitrary power.

For instance, this weekend I bought two boxes of Whoppers, one regular and one strawberry. She wanted to play with the boxes on Saturday and I let her. She asked me to open them so she could eat them. She has never eaten one yet, and as excited as I was to think she is interested in melty things, I told her no. No, we cannot eat candy right now because it is breakfast time. She protested. I said that we get to eat enough treats between lunch and bedtime. We could certainly wait until then to eat them. Of course, come afternoon her interest waned. Then first thing Monday morning she asked for them again and my answer stayed the same. She pouted and went on with her day.

Having a reason behind the “no” is authentic power.

When the tot behaves herself and is good about getting into her car seat, she is rewarded by getting to choose the music in the car. She knows I keep a pretty good stash in the van and I am pretty easy going about what we listen to. So it’s fairly common for me to offer this, that, or the other thing and for her to request a different other thing. I say, “Really?” and she repeats herself, I put it in the stereo and we’re on our way.

Letting go of power-for-power’s-sake is authentic power.

If she asks for Cow Songs and I’m really burnt out on Cow Songs, I tell her. I tell her, “No, sweetie, Mama’s tired of Cow Songs. Can we listen to Giants? Or Backyardigans?” Usually she’ll fuss but pick something else. If she does it without flipping out, I’ll comply with her second request. If she flips out, she knows we will listen to nothing. She knows this because I have meted out this consequence a billion times and I make it clear each time: “Settle down and take a breath. If you don’t like these choices, then we’ll turn it off for now.”

Applying power consistently is authentic power.

For another instance, this weekend we went to the nearby outlet mall to catch the Labor Day sales, and the tot asked me for a snack. I peeked into the bag and told her we had pretzel sticks or Ohs (cheerios). She replied, “Kix.” (WTF? We don’t even have Kix at home right now.) I said, “Sorry, Bubba, I’ve only got pretzel sticks and Ohs. Which is it?” She thought for a moment and chose the Ohs.

Being honest about the reason for exercising power is authentic power.

There is so much literary pollution on the topic of parenting that when I got pregnant, the only independent thought I could muster before becoming thoroughly overwhelmed with the reading was this fundamental piece:

I want my child to trust me. She might not always love me, but I want her to trust her father and me, if nothing else.

In order to get to that place, I feel like I have to let go of the ways power was used in my family when I was growing up. Surely I am not perfect and I often resort to how I was taught, but I am trying to be realistic and logical as I consider how my actions now affect the journey.

This is by no means a complete essay on my thoughts about power. I have more notes, but rather than waiting until I have time to write the whole beast, I will post this and return to it with more.

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