Posted in differences, education, know better do better, mental health, parenting

The Kid’s advantages

Three things that came together recently:

1- The Kid had a sleepover the other night. Big fun!

They played with LEGO, jumped on the trampoline, drank hot chocolate, read about sharks, played in the yard, and might have even slept in there somewhere.

At breakfast, I was making pancakes, and they had made up and were singing to each other a song asking how many pancakes they could eat.

This led to a conversation (between them) about really big numbers. Sextillion. Googol. Googolplex.

They’re in second grade.

2- While going through Facebook memories, I found one from several years ago where I was showing gratitude for having the education and the means to know how important preschool is and to send him to a good one. (No rigor or that bullshit. But that’s for another day.)

3- I read a piece that another mom wrote, talking about how her 8-year-old daughter often asked to bake or cook, and the answer was often no, because it was going to make a mess or it wasn’t safe or any one of the myriad of reasons tired parents say no.

And then the mom went to see what the girl was doing instead, and she was watching an episode of Chopped, Jr.—same idea as the regular version, but with kids. Apparently some of them quite young.

The mom had an epiphany that the girl can’t do those things because she, the mom, had been saying no and not giving her the opportunity. She changed that and while the kitchen was often messy, her young daughter learned to cook really well in a fairly short time.

How does that all come together?

The Kid has such an advantage over so many other kids. Because his parents aren’t stressed about basic necessities. Because he’s been read to his whole life. Because when he asks questions—regardless the topic—he gets answers. Because we’ve been able to say yes to most of the things he’s been interested in. Because we have enough self-awareness to let him pursue his interests instead of pushing him to pursue our interests (whether current or from our youth).

And you know what? I want that playing field to be more level. Not just among disadvantaged groups, necessarily. But I want kids—all the damn kids—to be given the opportunity to learn and imagine and become, not just because they go to school and get what they get at school. I want home to be a place of nurturing, of growth, of learning, of exploring, of safety. So kids can feel confident and stable and loved. Which will allow them to be kinder to others. Which would lead to a whole ton of adults who were emotionally secure and aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

Nothing but good can come of that.

Posted in about me, audience participation, ebb & flow, know better do better, motivation, parenting

I’m tired of being busy

Variables confound.

As a kid, I was interested in a lot of things. In the six years of junior high and high school, I did band, orchestra, jazz band, marching band, flute choir, show choir, flute lessons, art lessons, basketball, softball, school plays, school musicals, German club, student council, creative writing. Not all of them every year, for sure, but that was all in there. Probably others I’ve forgotten in the intervening decades.

In high school, I maxed out my electives, including getting permission from the teachers to take two at the same time one year (just keeping up with work in each for the days I was in the other).

I’ve always looked for approval, and all of these feed that. Is that why I was doing All The Things? Or was I really just interested in a lot of stuff?

Hard tellin’.

Still, I’m interested in a lot of stuff. It took me years to be able to put things on the “to do later” list instead of trying to do as much as possible all at once.

I don’t have a lot in common with people who spend a ton of time watching TV or who retire and don’t know what to do with themselves.

I got better. I became pleasantly occupied—not so much as to be overwhelmed, not so little as to be bored.

It’s been a while since I’ve been pleasantly occupied.

Having a kid plays into that, for sure. But even without the kid, if I work, exercise, and cook dinner every day, there’s not that much time left. Weekends, I suppose.

In addition, though, I’m writing, and I’m learning photography. I play ukulele but not as often as I’d like.

And the list gets longer.

I would like to spend time every day meditating and reading and stretching and foam rolling. I’d like to spend time regularly (though not necessarily daily) in visual art: drawing, calligraphy, even just coloring. I’d like to spend time daily book-learning Spanish, in addition to the practice I get here and there.

It just doesn’t all fit in a day or a week.

I’m in the process of making a routine for us during the week. Make sure his homework gets done. Make sure he has time to play. Make sure we all eat well. Make sure there’s time to exercise. And to do something from the list of “things that make me feel like more than a worker bee/home life secretary.”

It still feels like a lot. Just the main stuff. I think, though, it’s because other stuff is weighing in. Housecleaning. Projects around the house. Stuff that comes up that isn’t part of the planning—because there’s always stuff. Maybe I should block out time for “stuff that comes up.”

It’s overwhelming.

Somewhere in there, I want to find time to spend with friends, and sometimes I can make the time … but do my free time and theirs match?

In that way, having kids makes it a bit easier, because we get together, the kids play, the parents (usually but not always moms) talk.

If those times line up. And if the friends I want to get together with have kids. Who he likes to play with.

So I’m still trying to figure it out, how to have life that doesn’t always feel frantic.

One way? We need to get rid of at least a quarter of the stuff in the house. Probably more, but a quarter would be a good start.

That would reduce the time spent on Stuff Maintenance: organizing, cleaning, etc. And along with that, if we could work on acquiring less, we’d spend less time shopping, we’d spend less money shopping, we’d waste fewer resources and produce less trash.

Of course, cleaning out a quarter of the house takes time. “Clean out [something]” has been on the to-do list maybe forever. Some of it has gotten done. Some of it needs to be done again. Some of it hasn’t gotten done yet.

Some of the cleaning out has technical blocks. For example, I haven’t looked into how to get my old cassettes, if they still work, into some better format, whether CD or mpwhatevernumber. Then I could get rid of the bin of cassettes. One more thing gone. But that’s nowhere near the top of the priority list … which is why now, years later, it’s still not done.

I’m getting better about “what if I need it?” and giving away things I’m realistically not going to need. Things that are used occasionally are generally well-organized so I don’t go out and buy another of a working thing I already have.

I’m getting better about getting rid of things that I don’t really want but have some sentimental value.

Both of those, I have ample room to improve but I’m not nearly at the level of packrat that I used to be.

It’s easier to resist buying something than to get rid of it after it’s bought.

I am a wanter of stuff in waves. Right now, I have a list of fairly random wants. Other times, I’m content with what’s here already.

Most of that list? I’m not going to buy.

Then I get stuck in: would my life be better (by whatever metric) if I did buy All The Things (and use them), or am I just fine without? I mean, I feel fine, but every now and then I acquire a thing and it just makes my life better.

For example, I have a friend who has always given me great earrings. I never ask for jewelry because my tastes are a little quirky (I know, hard to imagine), but she is amazing in that way.

I have another friend who has often given me great kitchen tools—sometimes things I didn’t even know would be useful that I now use often.

So that’s what I mean. These things make my life better, but I would have gone on just fine without them. Are they now part of the problem? I don’t think so, but I’m really not good at making that distinction at the point of sale, so most of the time, I err on the side of not buying.

Wow! I’m a long way from where I started. (Tangent city indeed!)

I need to purge my stuff and I need to purge my schedule, both to the end goal of having time for what I want to have time for … at least sometimes.

Anyone here not overwhelmed by their schedule? How do you do it?

Posted in know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness

Your car is a death machine

From my Facebook archives. I wrote a bunch to go with it, then decided it speaks for itself.

Some students from my school were crossing a 6-lane street. They were half way across, and traffic stopped in order for them to complete their crossing. There were cars in only two of the three lanes. Someone was in a hurry and gunned it in the remaining lane, hitting the youngest of the group just a step or two from the curb. He died earlier this week. I teach two of his siblings.

Please be careful when you are driving. Whatever the hurry was was not more important than this boy’s life. Neither is a text, a phone call, your makeup, or your meal.

 

Posted in differences, know better do better, mental health, mindset, podcasts, socializing

Perhaps a bronze lining would be better

I recently discovered a new podcast: The Happiness Lab. It’s fairly new—there are only eight episodes so far—and I learned about it through a plug on Revisionist History.

This coincided perfectly with a personal goal of adjusting my mindset in certain areas so I can be happier.

Episode 3: A Silver Lining.

They talked about how of the three medalists on the podium at the Olympics, the silver medalist is typically the least happy, sometimes not happy at all. And how this lasts well beyond the end of the winner’s national anthem.

They talked about making less money but double the people around you, versus making twice as much money but half the people around you … and how when asked which they’d prefer, people responded overall in a roughly 50/50 split.

The whole episode was fascinating to listen to. And had some moments of familiarity.

Whether you compare yourself physically, financially, socially, emotionally, or some other way, we all do it sometimes. The more we do, the less happy we are, because Top Dog is a difficult status to achieve and harder to maintain.

Where are you only happy if you’re better than the people around you? And where are you happy regardless of the state of the people around you?

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, parenting, tips

Be careful!

There is no shortage of parenting advice out there. Its quality varies, and its application varies.

I’ve also figured out that many of the pieces that are excellent are applicable to all humans, not just little ones.

Avoid saying “be careful.”

Why?

It’s useless.

Give specifics. What do you actually want them to watch out for?

For example: be careful crossing the street.

Instead: Cross the street at the corner. Remember to look both ways before you cross, wait for cars to go before you go, and walk.

Yeah, that’s a lot of directions. If they don’t have those in place already, maybe they’re not ready to take that one on alone.

Much of the time, when we tell someone to be careful, it’s not because we think they need the reminder but because we’re trying to do something with our own anxiety about their safety.

So instead of telling them to be careful, tell yourself to be calm, give useful directions if needed, and on we go.