Friday, April 27, 2012

Back and pissed off.

Somebody forwarded me this page as a guideline for how things "should" be running at my house. And it's not that I don't think children should be taught these things or know how to do stuff independently, it's the whole smug, preachy tone that gets up my nose. Like, my ten-point-seven-five year old does not know how to mow the lawn or change the freakin' fuses (which is not an issue anyway - what, are we in the fifties? I have not seen a burned out fuse since I was 12 and it was about 1984. And that fuse was from THE FIFTIES.), therefore I should feel BAD about myself and realise that my mothering is NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Even the title irritates me now. My kids aren't that busy, but I'm still happy. What does that make me - an underachiever? I have enough to worry about in my life, thanks so much, without lying awake nights thinking "oh CRAP they don't know about WATTAGE."

So in response to this, we blew off school yesterday and I took the kids to the park for the entire afternoon. I laid on my stomach on the grass and read "Kristin Lavransdatter" while the kids kept BUSY, doing this

and it was great.

Disclaimer: no offense, heavy scheduling is fine, do what's best for you, blah blah blah.


Valerie said...

What a stupid list! There's certainly a fixation on electricity once they hit 10 years old. Basic electrical repairs by and 11 year old?! Define basic electrical repairs please!!

And I don't want my table set by a 5 year old who's been cleaning the toilet, thank you very much.

Your day at the park looks like one well spent!

Shan said...

Valerie, thank you so much for the best, spontaneous, gut-busting laugh I've had in years!! I think I woke up not only my dog, but my neighbour's. "5 year old who's been cleaning the toilet", priceless.

Anonymous said...

But, Shannon! What if your kids don't succeed in LIFE? How will you face knowing it is your fault they can't clean their brushes and combs on their own? They won't be able to CLEAN their BRUSHES. I hope my caps are conveying the sense of urgency I feel about this. It would mean failure as a mother, a person, and a society.

Some of my favorites (this makes me wish I still had a blog):

Age 4: "Sit quietly in church." I like this one because they give permission for the kids to read books. Also, I need to find a church in the next two years or Milo is going to be way behind.

Age 6: "Pour milk into cereal." Painfully inane.

Age 11: "Learn basic electrical repairs." Woops. Missed the boat on that one. I'm about 22 years too late.

In my slightly-less-than-two-years as a parent, I have learned that benchmarks are important for kids. Without them, how would other parents know their kid is better than mine? We should make our own list like "understand that people are different and have different skills and also who gives a crap what they do?" or "try not to be a judgmental prick with a superiority/inferiority complex."


kate said...

I love your disclaimer mostest. Blah blah blah.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Um, Shannon, could you tell us old barren spinsters what the hell you are talking about?

(when we need electrical work done, we cook dinner for our lesbian friends ... teach that to your kids)

Dave Hingsburger said...

ok, I took a look and found the link, the scariest thing was that I discovered I was four years old.

Carolyn said...

Kristin Lavransdotter .... I should go read that again. I wonder if it's available as a Kindle freebie? (No, it's not. Sniff.)

One can get into all sorts of trouble with lists. Many moms of children who can undress themselves at age 2 wish their delightful offspring did not have that ability, as they could not then practice it in public. And where is 'turning a sock heel' on the list? All proper children used to be able to do that by age 5, I'm told.

Suelle said...

I didn't know my 12 year old should be able to check & change all car fluids! Wow! How about I just farm him out to Jiffy Lube? Also I didn't see it on the list but I'm wondering when they're supposed to know how to hang drywall. We could do with a remodel after they're done rewiring the house.

kristieinbc said...

I think your response to that list was perfect. I never could understand lists like that either. They operate on the presumption that it would be impossible to learn any new skill later in life if and when the need arose.

I have a Kristin Lavransdatter book sitting on my shelves but have never cracked it open. Are you enjoying reading it?

Anonymous said...

I would also like to point out that, judging from her "note" at the bottom, apparently distinguishing between to and too and proper use of a semicolon are not essential life skills.

Annalea said...

I'm just kind of sad at the responses I've read here . . . whether or not the mom who wrote that list was preachy (and I missed that totally--where did you see it?), would that whitewash snarky responses? Reading these, I feel less safe here, since I'm something of an outsider (strictly a "bloggy" friend, so to speak), and from a world/place/cultural tradition much more like that mom's than I think you realize.

I make typos. (Including ones like "too" for "to", unfortunately.)

I've written things that have been wildly misunderstood.

I come across wrong, I make mistakes, I'm human . . . a mom with too many things on my plate, and more good intentions than time.

When I read that list, I see a resource for moms who are wondering what their children could learn, at what ages, in a world that gives parents very little guidance. (When a 3" bouncy ball is labeled "WARNING: choking hazard", you gotta wonder.) I saw a thorough list of ideas . . . not iron-clad requirements.

On a lighter note, that list reminds me (loosely) of a TED Talk I saw called "Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Child Do" . . . which was taken from the presenter's book "Fifty Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Child Do".

Enjoy the spring!

Shan said...

Annalea, LOVE TED talks! Thanks for sending me another one.

I'm sorry you feel less safe here because of the responses. On the subject of blog-only friends, in my anxiety to allay any hurt feelings I would like to say that the only commenters I have met are Kate and Dave! The others are bloggy friends like you.

I freely admit that my response to the list was mixed up with my response to the email I received containing the link, first of all, which did colour my reception of the entire site. The email bothered me a bit, and therefore my back was up before I even clicked.

Ever since I had my first child I have always taken a stand against the type of parenting that I've heard called "Competitive Parenting" or "the Mommy Wars". Even BEFORE I had my kids I realised I didn't measure up. Somebody gave me "What to Expect When You're Expecting" - which I now think is straight from the typewriter of hell - and it only took a few pages before I knew I was going to be blackballed from this club.

I was a member of playgroups for about ten seconds back in 2001, until I cottoned on that it was not so much "playgroup" as "Infant Feeding and Sleep Habits, and the APGAR: Compare and Contrast".

Then, it carried on into unschooling, which has been a constant barrage of "So, are your kids in line with the Provincial Learning Outcomes?" for the past six years.

This is all to say that I am keenly aware of (and am oversensitive to) a prescriptive tone when it comes to parenting. I feel smugness coming from a person who outlines expectations for my child.

It's called "Defensiveness"...and I freely admit I'm subject to it at times!

The danger of attaching specific age milestones to skills is that you automatically create an atmosphere of "this is good enough, and that is not". People who see that other ten year olds apparently can make minor electrical repairs, and that this authoritative list indicates they SHOULD be able to, can't help but look at their own ten year olds, slumped on the sofa with a bag of Cheezies and their nose in "This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall", and feel terrible that THAT child can hardly remember to put their own spoon in the dishwasher without being reminded. And then, we ask ourselves, whose fault is that? Well, it's your fault, Mum.

When the truth probably is, we're all doing the best we can.

So I will now look into the mirror and acknowledge - the author of "busykidshappymom" is ALSO doing the best she can, and I don't blame her a bit for teaching her children those skills. Do I agree with her premise? Nope. Do I think scheduling and excessive chores might lead to problems for her children in the future? Yep. Do I think my lack of scheduling and chores might lead to problems for my children in the future? Absolutely.

We're all doing the best we can.

So, I apologise to you for my unproductive snark. And thanks so much for the discussion!

Anna said...

I like the premise of the list, the idea that kids can and should learn basic life skills, but find the list itself to be completely unrealistic. My kids (2 and 5) can not do the things the list tells me I should have already taught them. And some things seem strangely out of order. Cleaning a toilet is much harder than pouring milk into a bowl, yet kids are expected to do it two years earlier. I could think I am a bad mother, but instead I choose to think the list silly. And what about emotional and intellectual development?

Another Joan said...

Kids lonnnngggg gone from here but even they would agree that making pancakes "from scratch" and baking cakes "from mixes" are wierdly juxtaposed. Also: your Dave is SO right about electrical repairs. Lists are fine as long as we remember that they are someone else's lists. I like your choice of playground/park/sky watching. Go, Momma!!

Annalea said...

Thanks for the reassurance, Shan. I appreciate it. :o) It's good to understand more, too, where you're coming from. I've been MIA online, in over my head with moving and getting the house we're moving into finished. (Well, "house" is a dramatic overstatement. It's an apartment above a garage. ;o)

Have a great week!