Friday, July 6, 2012

Screaming, preschool, feminism, community

Simmering. That is what the acid in my stomach is doing. No more rest for me tonight. That's ok. I climbed into bed at eight. I didn't sleep for over an hour because I was reading, but I did rest my body. I seem to be heading into the "need less sleep" portion of life. It's about fucking time.

All of the kids I spend time with are in screaming phases. For some of them it comes and goes for some of them it is mostly a constant state of life. I'm struggling. More than once lately I have gotten up and specifically walked five feet away from a kid and clasped my hands firmly behind my back before I had the ability to speak to them about a situation without hitting them. If I stayed in striking distance I would have lost it and hit. I don't think I am on the verge of giving anyone a terrible beating.

I have always told myself I "wasn't hit much". That's a big part of my story to myself. My sister and my brothers were fond of telling me I wasn't "really" hit. My mom didn't leave bruises because she wasn't strong enough. I wasn't hit by my father so it didn't count. Mom hitting didn't mean anything. I was hit a lot. I was hit fairly constantly as a means of exerting control over me. I am learning it more and more as the years go by with my kids. Truth be told I was hit far less than any other child in my family in the generations before me. The generations after me weren't hit much due to a change in public social climate and because I god damn hit back. My mom became afraid of hitting kids. The kids were now so disrespectful that they defended themselves.

It is hard to look at every impulse I have all day and think, "It's bad. What should I actually be doing?" It's exhausting. It is hard to find any love at all for such a nasty, fierce, mean-spirited person. I don't want to turn my kids into competent adults! I want to turn them into quiet and polite children! Well, not really. Have you met my kids? Quiet will never be the word. Thank G-d. But that is my impulse. It really is.

Part of what I like about this parenting gig is that it is the most unrelenting training ground I have ever been through. Other people (sane people) take more breaks from their kids than I get. They have jobs or they have families or daycare or something. They get away from the kids. They are not in the house with the children for 21+ hours of most days. And for those ~ three hours we go out... I'm with the kids! How I am with them is how I am. That is how I spend my time. Who and what I am to my children is pretty much all that I am right now.

They see someone who has some pretty hostile facial expressions and someone who needs a fair bit of personal space sometimes but mostly I am patient and kind. Why don't I believe that is who I am? It's one of life's little mysteries.

Lately I am in one of those super clingy phases where I initiate a lot of sex! Five times in three days! We didn't keep going because Noah was tired. As much as he says, "It's ok to wake me up for sex" he is a human being with limits and when the kids aren't sleeping... yeah. Not so much. That's ok. I need to touch him. I'm feeling like a fraud and invisible and bad and touching him makes me feel better. He loves me and wants me. I'm safe.

I don't think that most modern wives look at their husbands and feel gratitude the way I do. Without Noah my life would be very different. When I sat down and wrote out a list of what I wanted--I think it was even before I left Tom--Noah had more than 80% of the things on the list.  What he didn't have then he has since changed. It was like I created Noah out of thin air. I don't understand why he likes me so much.

Well, until he explains how badly he feels about his interactions with the wide world. I don't think I understood that nasty isolation like I experienced really doesn't have to be about abuse. It can just be. Being rich doesn't make you safe. What makes you safe is not needing anything from people.

Things are kind of awkward with the home schooling group. The other moms are actively trying to become friends. I'm trying to let Shanna make friends. I often sit on the edge of the crowd with a book. I can't fuck this up. It's not fair to my kids. This is the largest and most active home schooling community in our area. I can't fuck this up. That is a terrifying kind of pressure for me. I fuck everything up. I get run out of every god damn community. Or I leave when I stop finding people to have sex with. One or the other. I'm not hunting so I'm waiting for pitch forks. I think I hide behind the men who want to fuck me in most communities. I feel like status is highly transferable and I am allowed to stay and be tolerated as long as I can find someone willing to take responsibility for me. I am not part of communities in my own right. I'm there as ________'s person--even if it is only person-of-the-night. Someone wants to talk to me. I'm allowed to be there.

Noah gives me the freedom to exist. I don't think I have offended him much. When I hysterically demand that we stop speaking about _________ he listens and that topic is gone from the roster. He adapts to me seamlessly and enthusiastically. I don't think I have met another man in my life who would have been a good coparent for me. Not like Noah. Noah wants me so bad that every hurtle is just an impetus to run faster as he sees it coming so he has the power to fly over it. Right now Noah is the reason I can leave the house. Noah wants me. I'm allowed to be here.

It's hard because status is not transferable up. I can't get status or worthiness or place from my kids in the same way. Shanna and Calli get to be active members of the home school group. I'm not much like the other moms.

For one thing I genuinely do not feel the desire to emulate the preschool experience. I am not preparing my children for "school" thus they do not need "pre-school" as a stage. It seems kind of silly to me. We do a lot of kinesthetic activities that are similar to some things in preschool but not much. And I'm not going to go through a lot of trouble to make silly staged art activities so they can "learn to interact with nature". I just have a different approach.

This is the way in which I feel insecure about my educational approach. I am not particularly giving my kids what is commonly thought of as "child hood" in my time and place. I'm not interested in shoving them into a large mostly homogenous group of children who are all the same age and mostly from the same place and who all have the same experiences going through. When people talk about school being how children learn about diversity I have to guffaw. I have been to a lot of schools. I have seen diversity in education. I'm pretty sure few of my classmates saw similar diversity. You don't know what you don't know. If you have been standing in one place your whole life you might believe you understand diversity. That's because you've never actually seen it! I keep my mouth shut at home schooling gatherings. My philosophies are not universal.

My kids have eighteen years where I am responsible for keeping them safe before they will be abruptly let loose on the world and they will have to make their way. That's not a long apprenticeship, not really. I don't feel like I have the time to waste on getting them ready for kindergarten. It seems like a besides-the-point set of activities.

I believe very firmly that extremely young children (under four) should not be encouraged to sit still at tables and write. That is a skill for older children. In this age group they need to be rolling around on the floor. They need to be figuring out how to move their body. They should be so brimming with energy you feel like you will lose your mind if you don't take them out to run laps. Then take them out and run laps. What they are working on are the building blocks of physical existence. Yes, language acquisition happens. It's very important. It should be happening incidentally. Take your child out to the mall and walk around. Get used to saying, "no". Talk about everything you see. Talk about the different kinds of furniture. Talk about wood and metal and plastic. Talk about manufacturing such items. Talk about food. Talk about the fact that food requires a lot of fucking labor to get it to you. Talk to them about their position in the world.

Seriously, they are going to figure out how to draw a fucking square. I don't need to sit there and pester them to practice. Give me a break.

For all of my choking social anxiety, I get over it and I get things done when I need to. I may feel bad why I am doing the things I need to do--but they get done.

When I feel generous towards my family I recognize that this was probably one of the most helpful lessons I learned as a child. Never expect things to be easy. Everything will be so hard you want to quit over and over. If you quit you will never get what you want. Ok, now how do you want to act?


My sister and my mother both go through very functional periods. Then they crack under the weight of life stress and mental illness. They don't describe things that way but I do. Given my life I get to. Anyway.

A friend sent me an essay on Unschooling as a feminist act that is sitting heavy in my mind. What kind of world do I live in, anyway? I live in a world that values my ability to produce products or do work that creates money. What I am doing with my life is... almost an irrelevant hobby.

I don't much care for the modern way of living. I want to have enough food and I want shelter and I do want money (I won't lie) but I don't need to always be striving for a bigger house. I don't need to go buy a new car because mine has dents in it. It's fine. It's functional. It gets me from point A to point B. I'm told that people have to care about their appearance because appearances are how people are judged. No wonder I don't fit in.

I think the lack of community in our country is oddly striking. We don't view children as a blessing. We view them as an unfortunate pestilence. They should be hidden away and kept out of sight as much as possible. They should sit still in chairs and be entertained with handheld devices. No one wants to deal with the endless questions and talking and running and...

I feel that way still. Who and what I am doesn't fit very well into the carefully constructed institutionalized view of the way people should act. I am not normal. I do things at unpredictable intervals. I can be silent when necessary.

I know a fair number of very quiet people who can blend into groups and feel comfortable anywhere. They don't need to feel understood in order to feel accepted. They feel group identity by virtue of standing in the right place and that is good enough. I don't have that. I need to be god damn wanted or I strongly feel like the right choice of physical action is for me to get away from the large group because large groups are dangerous. Large groups harbor bullies and predators. I get into trouble. I get kicked out. Not of every group but enough that I am not paranoid I am skilled at detecting patterns that really do come up time and time again for me.

The people who feel offended enough by me to send me nasty letters or emails or phone calls are in the minority. Why do I care?

Because unless I want all-out-war I have to avoid the turf of people who feel free to attack me. It's a tactical decision. Unless I want to fight I should avoid people who start fights. It seems practical.

Ok, the screaming stage is hard. But why am I really freaking out lately? Part of the way that I avoid general arguments is I tend to speak very exclusively about my life and my experiences. I try to avoid larger commentary. It's a decision. It's not going to continue working as my kids get older. My experiences are unusual. I'm not sure how unusual. Everyone lies to me so I can't get a good guesstimate. But I need to unconsciously adapt to their experiences. I need to allow them to grow up and become them and they are very different from me. How do I figure out which things are actual systematic problems and how do I decide that something is just my problem?

The thing about "just my" problems is that I live with them. And the people who live with me have to deal with me. The people who are my friends have to deal with them. Oh wait. Maybe all problems are community problems. Why am I so angry? Because I have these problems. And a lot of them are things that I really need some fucking support for and I don't have anyone. How do I deal with that? How do I teach my children to deal with these situations? Should I teach my children that they should expect to be alone their entire lives? That no one will give a shit? That no one will show up when they need help?

Shall I teach them to conjure a partner out of thin air so they don't have to do everything alone? It doesn't work out very well. It's highly probable the bastard won't enjoy dancing. Even though he has all that wonderful, juicy status to share... it's not enough. I still want to take up space and have status in worlds he is not connected to. And I can't go fuck anyone else and steal their status. That's why I hid behind my girl-friends at the last dance event. I wasn't looking for a guy to fuck so I just didn't talk to men much. I was there to see the people who liked me. The two people who asked me to come. I don't need to interact with all of those people who are at best ambivalent about my presence. They want me. I'm allowed to be here.

I feel like part of my feminism is this pathetic need I have for community. It's not that I need a community of just-women (I'm not a separatist) but I need a community that values who I am and what I do. I don't get a lot of that from general men. I have men who value me: Taylor is the main one I think of who isn't a former lover. I don't have very many men in my life I haven't had sex with. If they stick around I eventually have sex with them because that is the trade--right? In order to bribe people to put up with me I will put out. It seems a fair exchange.

For the 4th we were invited to a friend's house. She has a five week old baby who is just out of the hospital after having open heart surgery. They didn't need to go anywhere. When I was there I had a great conversation with the dad. We talked about religion and spirituality. I don't talk about my relationship with unseen things very often because I can't deal with being ridiculed. Tom was fond of saying, "Anyone who believes in God is brain dead." That was accompanied by a loud chorus of laughter from all the munch guys. But I had a conversation with a man about what we believe. And he wasn't nasty to me. He didn't obviously think I was stupid even though he is older and has more experience. It was novel.

It isn't that I need a community of just-women. It is that I need a community of people who genuinely see what I am doing as good and worth doing. I need people who believe that I have worth. Outside of using sex I don't know how to find that with men very well. I have mostly found it in the last few years through parents. Other young-parents understand how hard what I am doing is. But there seem to be two general camps. Either they think it is a good and worthy thing to be doing or they think I am stupid and I should pawn it off on someone who is lower status/less able to earn money than me. Shouldn't I be above such menial labor?

What are we teaching children? That they should only be influenced by people who are too poor or too little educated to do something better than hang out with kids? Really? If you have more privilege/education/whatever you should go out to the real world. That world that doesn't have any children in it. Because children aren't real and they don't matter. You cannot look at America and say that I am wrong.

We want children to be entertained and Educated. By someone else. But we don't understand how to educate. You educate by allowing someone to do things over and over at their own speed. People do things in different orders. It is hard to predict what a child needs. Mostly safety, security, love, affection, and room to run. Time out in the woods.

Seriously? Every time in the woods has to involve sitting down and writing activities? For kids under five? Really? Yeah I don't fit in at the homeschool group.

We will write. When my children are teenagers they will be able to write long, complicated pieces of writing. I kind of know how to ensure that happens. Right now I take dictation for letters to relatives. That's the extent of me encouraging writing. I want them to think of the physical act of moving a pen/pencil over a paper as magic. It allows things they say to be "heard" by people far away. Typing is many steps more magical and we aren't getting there yet.

I want my children to think about the world as a place they can have influence on. What kind of influence do they want to have? I don't care if you know what a rhombus is while you are four. And no I don't need you to prove over and over that you know your colors. You fucking know your colors and we don't have to do yet another color scavenger hunt.

So I sit on the edge with a book and the kids play. I really don't have the extra physical energy to create a bunch of preschool-style activities. That shit is work. I would have to alter my priorities. Most people say that they give up cleaning. I uhhh don't want to. I don't think that it is worth that much of my time and energy to manufacture "entertainment" for my kids. In the overall scheme of my life I will be better served by teaching my kids that I god damn expect the house to stay clean. And I spend time every day helping them learn how to clean house.

Right now I am worried about teaching my children mindfulness and connection. I'm not worried about counting. We count, sure. But I say, "Can you pick up three dolls for me?" I don't go get out a fucking counting activity with manipulatives like beans. Then I would just end up cleaning up the fucking beans as well. Fuck no.


I'm feeling some internal conflict about being a fascist because I took most of the toys away. I've noticed that their play hasn't slowed down at all. Shanna has brought me more bags of things to put up "Because I'm sick of having to pick them up and Calli keeps dumping them on the floor." I told her that was an excellent approach. So I feel a little guilty but not much. My irritating focus on cleaning is something my kids can learn to live with if I figure out how to make it manageable for them. Part of that is being fair in my expectations.

If it is possible that their mess takes a sustained forty-five minutes of picking up to sort out then it is above their skill set. They can't pull that apart. It's too hard. In giving them enough belongings that they are overwhelmed to the point of tears I am not serving them well. Ok! Pull back! Its been a week. Going well. At least I'm not feeling pissed off about picking up those toys. The screaming is of the "I told her not to follow me and she's following me" variety. Everyone wants privacy but no one can leave anyone else alone. All three of the girls are trading off these roles. I want to beat my head through a window. But they have to work it out. They will. It's not easy to figure everything out. They have to figure this shit out on their own. I should probably start putting ear plugs in the morning as a matter of course instead of waiting for the headache to start. See, writing is good for me. I figure shit out. Oy.

There are a lot of things in my head I wish I had time to sit down and Really Write About. I don't have the mental energy. I'm starting to try and think about scheduling. I try to look for predictive patterns in life. If I can find the natural energy cycles and schedule things that way then everything goes better. Things like: don't start a painting project in December when I'm focused on Christmas. Even if the pantry is pissing me off. There are also financial concerns for a lot of the things I would like to do. Self-control is hard.

Right now summer is just starting. Summer is the time to be outside. I need to deal with growing and preserving food. I need to be playing at the water park. I need to be running. It's not the time to do serious writing projects. I think that is a switch that has hit post-parenting. Now I want to do more than record the endless flow of my thoughts. I want to produce specific things. I want to make my own status. I want to be doing and not just being. I want to find how I fit into that world out there that I will have to deal with again in fifteen years. Ugh.

This intersects strongly with my feminism. My complication wants me to write about feminism. The thing is, that's on that list of "uhh... later" topics right now. I am too busy trying to construct what I believe to explain it. If someone believes the feminist battle is over then I want to know why I have to worry so much about staying "relevant" if I don't want to end up sitting alone in my house after my kids leave because no one will hire me to do anything else once I was stupid enough to stay home with my kids because kid care is obviously only done by people who are too stupid and uneducated to do anything else!

I have no interest in ever working in a setting where I have to behave but at some point I will probably work again out of boredom. What can I do? I can write. Blogging isn't shit and I know it. I have project ideas. I'm thinking about them pretty hard while I run. There are things I can say. It's scary to think of really being judged on products. I have to do it. I have to deal with people not liking me. That is part of being a functional adult and I have to do it and I have to show my kids how to do it.

I think part of my current food issues is another way of dealing with the conflict about being good/bad/defective.

I think I need to read more about potatoes. If I'm not supposed to be eating grains, how about potatoes? (I know they are a New World food. They probably aren't good for me. Maybe I won't read about them. I don't want to know.)

Anyway. I woke up really early. I don't have to go yet. But I think that is all the venting of my spleen I have at the moment. I'm a lot less frustrated. I suppose that's good. I like purging all of the swirling negativity. If I don't get it out in some form then it stays and intensifies. It's hard. I suppose it's like using a leech. You just have to get some of the bile out.

I was hella smart yesterday. I acquired supplies for making dinner in the crockpot today. Hella smart. That way I don't have to come home from the county fair and cook. Lately Noah has been making more dinners.

That's something I haven't written about lately. I've been thinking about Noah a lot. I'm thinking hard about how I am going to shape the book. It means I'm thinking really hard about Noah and his behavior. What am I going to show about Noah?

Noah has shaped my feminism. Noah appreciates me. Noah looks at me and values what he sees in a way I have never experienced before. Noah looks at me how I imagine people look at men.

Then the kids woke up. Oops.

3 comments:

  1. " I can't get status or worthiness or place from my kids in the same way."

    I have met lots of parents who do. Not sure why you feel like that won't work for you.

    DSH

    ReplyDelete
  2. "In order to bribe people to put up with me I will put out."

    Nice word play there.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Enjoy yourself some potatoes: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/potatoes-healthy/

    ReplyDelete