Posted in ebb & flow, know better do better, mindset, parenting

Kids, skills, and the long run

Last night, The Kid approached me with urgency.

“Mom! You have to do laundry!”

Turns out, he was down to one clean pair of shorts.

I do the laundry, but it’s his job to stay on top of it and let me know when he’s running low on socks, underwear, short, or pants. (He has a bazillion shirts and doesn’t run low on those.)

“Also, Mom, my laundry basket is SO FULL!”

This morning, I asked him to sort his laundry. Socks and underwear in one place, everything else in another.

His laundry holder is a netted thing hanging on the back of his bedroom door. It has a zipper down one side so it doesn’t need to be taken down to be emptied. (Also, it has a backboard that lights up when you hit it.)

He unzipped it, pulled everything out onto the floor, and began to sort. Each item had a sound effect as it hit its basket. He took a minute for each sock to make sure it was not bunched up inside itself (inside- or rightside-out doesn’t matter). Forgot the sound effect for one, so he took it back out and put it back in with sound.

The whole process took a really long time. By “really long,” I just mean “longer than it would have taken me to do it” … maybe exponentially.

But it gives him a chore that is well within his capability, gives him responsibility for his own stuff, and takes some off my plate.

It doesn’t matter that it took seven minutes instead of two.

When he was little, he “helped” in the kitchen. He had a wavy chopper and could help with even the hardest of vegetables, as long as they weren’t thicker than the knife was tall.

It took way longer to make dinner when he helped, and I often had to fix some of his cuttings.

Fast forward four or five years and I have a kid who is legitimately helpful in the kitchen and can comfortably and safely use a small serrated knife.

He won’t do onions. (I don’t blame him.) And the one time he did a jalapeño, it ended badly. But the other day, he asked to help dice celery. (“Help? You can do it!” And I moved on to other things.)

As he learns new skills (measuring spices is big right now), he’s not great at them, and they take way longer than it would take me to just do it myself.

That’s how we are with skills. They take time to learn. We mess up. We need help sometimes, whether from another person, a book, the internet. We get better as we go until we reach a point where we’re content with our competence or just not willing to work any harder.

Let kids do stuff. Without hurrying or intervening constantly. That’s how they learn.

They need basic skills at home. How to take care of their stuff. How to cook. How to clean. How to do basic maintenance.

But it takes patience, because it’s both tedious to watch and takes years for payoff.

Do it anyway.

While we’re at it, if your spouse is learning a new skill around the house, give them the same grace. Maybe more, because it’s more vulnerable as an adult to be in that position.

When you know better, do better” is much easier when the people around you let you do better. At all ages.

Posted in differences, ebb & flow, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation

Judgement and baggage, bravado! Oh my!

Things about me that make me “weird”:

  • don’t watch TV
  • don’t eat meat
  • don’t eat much fried or sweet food
  • don’t drink coffee
  • don’t drink alcohol
  • rarely drink other delicious crap (I miss you, chai latte!)
  • avoid plastic
  • don’t typically spend much time, energy, money on “girl” things (hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, purses)

I have been judged for all of these things. I’ve been spoken to harshly for all of them (some more often or more recently than others) and ostracized at one point or another for most.

Finally I’ve learned that those sorts of reactions are not about me.

Many people are defensive about what they’re eating when I’m with them. But the thing is—unless you’re my son or you’ve hired me to help you with your eating, I’m not concerned about your diet.

Your defensiveness comes from something in you. You feel like you should be eating differently. You feel like you would like to be eating what you think I think you should be eating and you’re not.

Some people take that discomfort and explode it out onto me. They assume I’m taking a position of moral superiority and try to defend themselves and knock me down a notch.

The thing is: there’s evidence of this defensiveness all over the place, not just in immediate reaction to a personal situation.

Bumper stickers I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks:

  • Yours may go fast but mine can go anywhere (on a Jeep)
  • My [dog/kid/weaponry] [is smarter than/can beat up/can kill] your honor student
  • Lots of creative ways to kill a back window stick family

The backlash against people (usually women) who are competent at Pinterest-type crafting and baking is enormous. So is the backlash against people who do maybe silly creative work (videos online and such).

People. It’s OK for other people to have interests and strengths that you don’t have. You have interests and strengths that they don’t have.

If you feel shame about not having their skills, that’s your baggage, not their bravado.

Shall we get into motives for a moment?

Crossfitters, vegans, runners/triathletes/obstacle racers, MLMers, Realtors among others have a reputation for talking incessantly about their Thing.

Why do people talk a lot about A Thing?

Maybe they’re insecure and bragging about their Thing makes them feel a little bit better for a moment. (I wasn’t intending to talk about penises, but when I went back to edit, you could make it go there if you need to.)

Maybe they don’t actually like the Thing but they really want to like it so they keep doing it and keep talking about it to talk themselves into it.

Or maybe they’re just really excited about their Thing.

When I talk a lot (maybe too much?) about a thing, it’s usually because that thing has taken over my brain. This thing that I’m trying with my kids at work. This thing that is going really really well or really really badly at home. This thing that is perplexing that I’m trying to solve. This thing that I’ve gotten into and am suddenly loving. This thing that challenges my thinking. This thing that just delighted me and I want to share my joy.

Regardless, if it’s not something you’re interested in hearing or talking about a lot, politely set a boundary. But you don’t need to assume negative intent, and it might not be about them in the first place—it might be about you.

So. Let people be good at stuff that you’re not good at without putting them down. We can’t all do All The Things—there’s not enough time (and truly, are you interested in doing all of it??). Skill you wish you had? Work on it. Otherwise? Be glad someone else is doing it.

Posted in ebb & flow, education, gratitude

Out with the old; not yet in with the new

Teaching has some qualities about it that are unique.

Today—for better or worse, as with every year before—was one of those unique-to-teaching days.

The kids left.

They’re not coming back until July. (We’re on a modified year-round calendar in my district.) The oldest ones aren’t coming back at all.

Every year, the clock starts on the first day and runs relentlessly to the end. TV timeouts only. No stopped play for fouls, for rule book consultation, for rowdy fans.

Sometimes, you had a great school year with this crop and you’re sad to see them go.

Some years, time can’t run out fast enough. The mix of personalities or the way you and they work together (or don’t) can make even the simplest of tasks grueling.

But every year ends, whether happy or sad, and in a handful of weeks, we get to start over, to try again, a little bit wiser than we were before.

We get “new years” twice a year—once by the calendar and once by the school year. What a privilege!

My brain is busy with ideas of how I want to start the year next year—the beginning is critical because it sets the tone—and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to try again.