I’m hard on myself about what I consider the failure of my “Housewife Project.” I had fourteen months to be a stay-at-home-mom, and I had lofty goals of finally getting my cluttered, disorganized house into shape and setting up a cleaning schedule that Odie and I could maintain once I’d gone back to work.
I’ve always been terrific at sitting down with my journal and writing a perfect life. Whether it’s how I’ll clean for an hour a day, stop eating sugar and flour, or take daily walks with the dog and the kids, I can cover pages in a beautifully bound blank book. I have boxes of pretty journals filled with ink and plans.
But I was never a stay-at-home-mom. I was a teacher on leave. I always knew that at the end of those fourteen months, I’d put Pringles in day care and go back to my job. It was an amazing opportunity to be with my baby. Additionally, in this world where work is a religion and we still live the remnnants of the Protestant work ethic that helped
steal found this country, I got a “holiday” from my career few people will ever get. A spiritual walkabout. A hiatus. A break.
In the spirit of reframing, I’m letting myself off the hook. I’m going to stop calling myself a failure and call myself an experiment.
Now that I’m back at work, I bring my judgmental-ness to that as well. I oscillate between trying to implement every new idea, trend, and tool and keeping it simple and pure. What has technology brought to my students? Information at their fingertips, yes. Most times, though, it’s low quality information. The teens don’t know the difference between good information and bad. To them, “Ask.com” and “Yahoo Answers” is as good a source of facts as The New England Journal of Medicine. When I went to school, “Cliff’s Notes” was the way to avoid reading. To this generation, “Cliff’s Notes” is too much reading. With the way we are expected to water down curriculum and lower our standards these days, I’m surprised we don’t just teach the “Cliff’s Notes” version of everything.
I’m feeling bitter about it. I spend a great deal of time modeling techniques for my students like a Dialectic Journal. I have this nifty document camera called an ELMO (not the red furry Elmo who allegedly has a thing for sixteen-year-old boys), and I can write my dialectic journal while talking them through my thinking process. And they copy, copy, copy. And it’s quiet and I think, “YES! They’re learning!” Know what they’re learning to do? Copy. Back before the printing press, books had to be copied by hand. I have about 30 out of 60 teenagers who are trained to do a job that has been obsolete for about six hundred years. Like my lofty goals of being the perfect housewife, my goals of being a great teacher… Well, you get the idea.
It’s a Sunday morning and Odie has taken Pringles for a walk in the backpack. Viva is watching “Charlotte’s Web” for what is likely to be the first of two or three viewings today. We finished the book together last week, so everytime we watch the film, she announces, “THAT wasn’t in the book, Mommy.” As a friend pointed out, she’s ready for a compare and contrast essay. Now I have a whole new set of songs stuck in my head. During a midnight trip to the bathroom, I’m humming, “Isn’t it great, that I articulate? Isn’t it grand, that you can understand?” The film mirrors E.B. White’s impressive vocabulary-building. “Salutations is my fancy way of saying ‘hello'” is not only good dialogue, it teaches children the definition of a new word in context. Wilbur defines “frolic” for Templeton with synonyms and demonstration, who then says he doesn’t do any of those things, “If [he] can avoid them” and he then offers some alternatives he prefers, effectively introducing the concept of the antonym.
Also, as an added bonus, Debbie Reynold voices Charlotte the spider. She is the mother of Carrie Fisher and therefore is one degree of separation for Star Wars.
Odie and Pringles have returned, so I have to wrap it up, though I’ve just begun.
I am so grateful for all of the comments on my last blog entry. The feeling of never having a break from my two jobs has has me quite blue. Nevertheless, I am able to see that I am being self-indulgent with my self pity. I have tons of work and very little down time. Writing is difficult to find time for. On the other hand, I am grateful for my husband, children, friends, and my job.
Friday night, we went to our dear friends’ house for a birthday party of another very dear friend. I took place in a ritual blessing the birthday girl and was forced to confront my own blessings. At this same house, a decade ago, I attended a work Christmas party and realized I was falling in love with someone completely unavailable to me. Our eyes met across the living room and an acknowledgement passed between us. We were in trouble.
Ten years later, our eyes met across that same living room, surrounded by most of the same friends. This time, it was an acknowledgement of a different kind. Not our mutual distress over a blooming love that we couldn’t pursue because neither of us was available. Instead, our mutual amused frustration over the difficulties of chasing a 17 month-old and a 3 and-a-half year-old around a dinner party, arguing over cake and climbing stairs. This must be how Brad and Angelina feel.
Except for the money. And the physical perfection. And the fame. Yeah, nevermind.