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Attempted fortifications

My consolation in knowing that my child is struggling, a lot and in a way I’m not sure how to help with, is that he has us, a reasonable stable family, and we love him and try our best to help him work through his stuff. Not every kid has that, so how indeed can they make it through those days when they hate school and feel like they have no real friends, and forget to do their homework, and can’t take it any more?  The stress is not only from everyday school stuff, like being surrounded by 90% immature kids such as yourself who aren’t thinking about kindness and courtesy and reaching out, but mostly the moment, and posturing and drama and survival. And knowing you’re different, your friends are different, and wondering how to fit in, and whether you want to anyway. And being the youngest at home and subject to a good deal of self improvement advice and teasing there too, and parents who are increasingly busy with work and all.

Also there’s this: trying to process all that “helpful” anti-bullying information such as, “Mom, did you know that there was a girl who was bullied so badly, she killed herself? And, sometimes I feel that way, and if things don’t get better, I…” And pretty soon he’s identifying with someone’s suicidal thoughts, thank you very much, school counselors. Whose idea was that, that every kid should hear that story? Now every day after school it’s me and my son talking over what he’s going through–nothing tremendous from what I can tell, but he’s taking every teasing, every innuendo, every deficiency of love and affirmation, as, maybe like what that girl experienced, which was actually too awful to mention to the sixth graders, thank heaven, but so he doesn’t realize that this is more about rolling with the punches. Right?

Other days he identifies with the boy who was bullied all through school and then when he became hiring manager at some important firm, in comes the bully to interview for a job, and it’s time for consequences, buddy! Those days are better. But it’s a real battle now to walk with my son through these feelings, and try to remind him that he’s strong, that he can handle this, that, yeah, sometimes people are jerks, but we’re all capable of being mean, or at least not as nice as we could be, but that’s just life. No, we realize that the counselor is not the sort of person one would want to talk to about that, but is there a way to tell someone you think would have the wisdom to keep an eye out? If not, just concentrate on learning, and keep your eyes peeled for someone else that needs your kindness. And be patient–people mature, and things get better.

And I pray that he’ll remember how much he’s loved, and discover each day those good deeds that the Father is providing for him to do, and be a blessing out there in the world. Because Mom is committed to working now, and can’t quit to homeschool you through this. I ask the siblings to pitch in with the support of friendship, and redouble my efforts to fill his love account to overflowing. And don’t you ever talk about suicide, boy, I want to say, because it makes me mad! Mad at people who aren’t loving, mad at people who are good intentioned but thoughtless, mad with grief. And I even tell him, I even say, the meanest person of all is the one who takes himself away from the people who love him. Maybe it’s a stupid thing to say, but there it is, and by God I hope it doesn’t do any harm.

 

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Education, Parenting & Family

 

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Just because we gardeners all have too many zucchinis doesn’t mean there aren’t people who want them

Just because we gardeners all have too many zucchinis doesn’t mean there aren’t people who want them

I went to “add new post” again, despite working on a dozen other post drafts off and on, desiring some kind of completion. But it’s a process, not just about products, right? And it’s for my own growth, to be able to understanding my inner and outer word, so as to determine my direction for the next fifty years and ten minutes.

Been thinking about the nature of freedom, and the layers of small but firm constraints on acting as a free agent from moment to moment. What is the difference between socially valuable inhibitions and constraints, and those which merely strangle individuality and maintain conformity? When does charging ahead with one’s own unique choices, despite barriers from the realm of fashion, habit, or cultural norms, enrich and delight, boldly knock aside meaningless or harmful mini-traditions of dubious origin, and when does it merely fizzle, or worse, hurt others?

For example, last week I set aside a zucchini and a cucumber to pass on to my daughter’s riding instructor, CB. I’d asked her what veggies she liked, since she ought to have some return from the manure I was taking each week. Not that she wasn’t grateful–wished I could take more, if only I had a truck. She asked if I had any zucchinis, and of course I did, brought her one a few days later. Now I was about to give her another one, since I had, as one does, too many. Mentioned it to my daughter as she was getting ready to go to the barn, and she reacted very negatively (she thought I was giving three zucchinis, if that clarifies things). It was as if I was about to do a shameful thing, something that would reveal me to be the pathetic not-to-be-associated with parent I really was. She tried to forbid me from bringing the stuff–three zucchinis? Just because she said she liked them? Implication: the instructor was only trying to be nice, but there was no way she actually wanted more than that first zucchini, if even that. My daughter’s distress really was of the sort that cries, “Don’t embarrass me, please!”

Stepping back from some of the responding feelings in myself, of the child-to-child type of transaction, of maybe truly being pathetic, maybe tending to do dumb things about which knowing people rolled their eyes in private, I stepped up as parent instead, and asked her to explain. In the spirit of a teachable moment. She couldn’t calm down enough, couldn’t articulate, and resorted to muttering, “Oh my God! You just don’t do that!” under her breath. I said in my most level-headed manner, “Are you saying you don’t trust CB and me to be adults about this, for her to be capable of saying she has no need for more zucchini, or maybe next week, for us to joke about having too much zucchini and trading recipes just to get rid of it? That would be fine–whatever. But she told me she likes zucchini. And why would it reflect on you anyway? Why are you concerned at all?” I felt the need to teach her that its okay to act on one’s own despite pressure, as well as have her be unsuccessful, not rewarded, for pressuring another person is such a way. But I also felt her genuine distress and wanted to be compassionate and put her interests before my own, or that of anyone who might be desperate for a zucchini.

But suddenly I was questioning myself. All I wanted to do was share something, the fruit of my labors, a gesture of appreciation and consideration, but I might, in fact, actually be about to annoy or embarrass someone else, as well as look pathetic. Which then makes me angry–why should there be judgment on acts purely personal and creative, not harmful and not in the ethical realm? Why should it matter whether someone does what “people just don’t do”? And why, furthermore, could some people, the cool, self-confidently unique, socially cutting edge people, pull off such things while the rest of us get laughed at?

What came up in connection with these thoughts was the time my mother bought me a new pink plaid parka which I regretted picking out, didn’t like after all, was embarrassed to wear to school. My friend RR complimented me on it, and assured me, against my skepticism, that it was very nice. So I offered it to her. After all, she seemed to like it more than I. There was an awkward pause. She haltingly explained that she was only saying she liked it to be nice, that she didn’t really want the coat. I had completely misunderstood, committed a faux pas, not cool.

Another incident, of wanting to do something to specially acknowledge an education professor I respected, went better: I dropped in to his office with two homemade scones to share, a sort of breaking of bread together. He got it, this bearded, peace-emanating Christian professor, who shared Krishnamurti quotes for our consideration in Philosophy of Ed class, who used spontaneous role-playing  to explore questions of ethics, culture, practice in teaching. Said thank you, and quietly ate with me, listening to what was up in my learning process. No judgment.

I guess this reveals my level of insecurity and fear of social exclusion, of being misunderstood and judged. And the thread, in my life, of that conflict between being myself and being “normal.” Between fitting in and breaking out, playing it safe and taking those from-the-gut risks. Maybe it’s because this process in still alive in me that I feel prepared to help teens walk that road, desire to support those like myself whose special contribution to the world is in danger of being stifled. The process of facing social pressure from my own children, who, after all, I see as not having legitimate authority over my choices, is a learning process for me, as well as a chance to draw out some principles for them to consider in their own growth.

 

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All the wrong reasons to push our kids into institutionalized, standardized, centralized, professionalized, multiculturalized, secularized, age-grouped schools

  • So all of them will turn out above average.
  • To keep up in knowledge and skills with evil people who might steal our resources or beat us in war.
  • To free up parents be able to go to work at something more meaningful and productive.
  • To allow busy parents to escape the demands of children for a good chunk of each day.
  • Mass production is more efficient.
  • To get them socialized properly.
  • To acquaint them with the “real world” with its bad leaders, bullies, social pressures, deadlines, sacrificing personal for group goals, and system of extrinsic rewards.
  • Everyone else for the last two or three generations has done the same thing, so it must be a good idea.
  • To keep children from having too much time to themselves.
  • To standardize shopping seasons for convenient stocking, advertising, staffing, and inventory cycles.
  • To expand markets for goods promoted through peer socialization.
  • To keep children from spending most of their time with relations and people not not their own age.
  • So little boys will learn to sit still and do things they don’t feel like doing.
  • To keep public library books from getting overused.
  • To keep teens from having too much free time in which to get into trouble.
  • To create more jobs for lunch room staff, registrars, counselors, playground attendants, record keepers, bus drivers, curriculum advisers, administrators, text book publishers, portrait photographers, and others necessary to an institutional setting.
  • To provide easily accessible research material for scholars and market researchers.
  • To water down religious ideas and practices.
  • Because there is a specific body of knowledge that all children should learn at each age, and/or a constantly changing body of essential knowledge best determined by industry, government, and special interest groups.
  • Without school there would be no recess.
  • Schools are where all the teachers are.
  • We’ve already got the public school system going, so why not keep it going so as not to waste all that momentum?
  • To keep children’s immunization status current.
  • Classrooms are the best places to learn most everything.

Can you think of any more?

 

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