Day: January 30, 2013

An Evening of Discussing Blogging at the Orem Library

Funny how I can attend a great event where people had good questions, where my co-panelist was excellent, where I sometimes had exactly the right words to say, and yet on the drive home the critic crawls out of the back of my brain to attempt to convince me that I did a horrible job and everyone else at the event was just humoring me. It is fortunate that I recognize this for a pattern and I am self aware enough to be able to combat it with specific instances that demonstrate at least rudimentary competence. What really makes the voice shut up is coming home. The kitchen was a mess of cold pizza and various other snacks mixed in with school papers, notebooks, writing implements, and toys. Gleek had a pile of new stuff to show me, because while I was off at the library talking about blogging, she went to the New Beginnings program which tells all the teenage girls what sort of fun things will be coming in the next year. Gleek is very excited that she will now be part of the youth program instead of the kids’ program. Patch wanted to show me the new game he found on the internet, something to do with plumbers. Link was happy to see me home and Kiki needed to bend my ear to tell me all about how Gleek interacted with the other teenage girls. Howard texted me to see how the event had gone. I called and we chatted for a few minutes before he went back to work. Even the cat had things to say to me. It all washed over me like a warm tide and that critical voice faded to a whisper.

I come away from the event impressed with the Orem Library and their staff. They put together excellent free events all the time and I was happy to get to participate in this one. The library has a brand new blog which keeps people informed of happenings at the library and its collections.

The difficulty in talking about blogging is that there are so many different ways to go about it and people have so many different goals that they hope to achieve from it. From the questions I could tell that we had people just aching for a way to tell their stories, others who wanted to approach blogging as a business, some whose first interest was in how to attract readers en masse, others who wanted technical guidance, and those who wanted to learn how to pour their hearts into words. We would answer questions and I could tell that the answer which was perfect for one person was not for another one. More than being “not useful” I know that at least some of the things I said were exactly opposite what some of those audience members need to do to achieve their goals. I tried to express that during the discussion. I hope it came across, because there is no wrong way to approach blogging so long as your means are suited to your goals.

C. Jane Kendrick was a wonderful co-panelist. She spoke from her experiences as a professional blogger with a readership far larger than mine. The thing that impressed me most about her is the way that she listens. She goes quiet in her whole body, completely attentive to the person before her. She listens, she thinks, then she changes. I counted three people in the audience I knew were there for me. The rest came for C. Jane, but like her, they were gracious and smart. They asked interesting questions. One of the things I love about giving presentations is that I learn things. I learn from my co-panelists and sometimes I learn from my own answers.

I wish I could give a coherent point-by-point summary of all that we discussed, but the question and answer format bounced the topic around so much that I can’t use flow to help me remember it.

The time went by quickly. We could have continued talking for another hour I think. In fact many of us did linger and talk for a while afterward. That is one of my favorite parts, when I get to talk one on one with a person who has a question. I can listen to them and see if I have something useful to say in return. Often it is the listening which matters more than anything I say. Most people have the answers they need already if they are free to talk until the answer tumbles out and surprises them. I love being present for that moment.

The library was closing as the last few of us wandered out to our cars. We picked our way carefully through the clumps of slush and snow. It made me even more grateful to those in the audience who’d traveled far distances to join in the discussion. Then came the voice of self doubt, then the tide of reassurance at home, and now my thoughts unspool through my fingers and into my blog as I unpack and store this experience. This is one of the purposes that blogging serves for me. Through the words I write, I sort my life experiences and try to make sense out of them. Sometimes I succeed, others not so much, but the practice makes my life better.

Gleek and the Science Fair

During my freshman year of college I took a class called Human Development. I’m pretty sure I picked it to fill a general education requirement, but I think things I learned there have been pretty pervasive in how I developed as a parent. One of the things which I remember clearly was a lesson on how emotional needs drive child behavior. The classic example is the child who misbehaves because he wants attention. Punishment does not resolve the behavior because it is rewarding the behavior with attention. To extinguish the bad behavior it needs to be ignored while some desirable behavior gets the attention reward. The example is used because it is simple and clear. In practice the manifestations are much more complex.

Gleek has a science fair project and she has been stressed about it from the moment it was assigned. This puzzled me because Gleek likes science. Many times we have experiments in progress residing on windowsills or in corners. She likes to take notes and she watches science documentaries for fun. It seemed to me that a science fair project would just provide an excuse for a more elaborate than normal experiment. Instead she was stomping around the house declaring hatred for science and stating that she would just get a zero. I helped her look up options and pick a project. We set it up and the actual process seemed to soothe her. Measuring into jars and taking notes was happy. I thought we were past the stressful part.

The deadline loomed. Gleek had to take her happily-collected data and turn it into a display and a short presentation. The stress, stomping, and emotional declarations returned full-force. Gleek turned into a little ball of stress at bedtime one night. It was a night when I was already worn out, because that is always when kids schedule their massive emotional melt-downs. Gleek resisted all my attempts at reassurance or problem solving. She kept declaring a desire to just fail, which is pretty much to polar opposite of her usual desire to excel. After forty minutes of unpleasantness, during which I did not always wear my best mom hat, Gleek finally said something which made sense to me.

“I don’t want to be judged!”

It was not the science or the complexity of the display board. It was not fear of presenting in front of people. It was the fact that the science fair is a competition, and those always push Gleek’s anxiety buttons. She is the kid who deliberately makes mistakes so that she does not have to be in the spelling or geography bee. The only way she could see to escape the competition was to fail the project, but she was caught because, unlike the spelling bee, the project was also part of her classroom grade. In this new light all of her stress and stomping made sense. But until those words came out of her mouth neither of us knew where all the stress was coming from.

The emotion ebbed and we found a few ways to separate the competition portions of the project from the school work portions. Because Gleek is right. Competition is not the point of science fairs. The projects should be their own reward. I just wish we’d figured out where all the stress was coming from a month ago when the project was first assigned. We could have saved a lot of stomping.

The project is due on Friday. The display board is sitting partially assembled on my front room floor. Gleek came home sick from school today. I don’t know if the sickness is related to the stress or if she has caught one of the many varieties of flu which are making the rounds this winter. We’ve found the emotion which was driving the behavior, and that has defused it, but not completely. There are more threads and emotions involved here. I just hope we can muddle through and get the project pounded into something that will be satisfactory. The part that was not covered in my Human Development class was how the parent’s emotions play into these troubles as well. As I try to navigate us through this stress, I have to ponder if I’m really willing to let her fail or if I’ll provide assistance to get the project done. I have to decide how much help I’ll provide. Most of all, I have to look at my choices and evaluate whether I’m making them based on some need of mine instead of on what is best for Gleek. It is possible the best experience she could have would be to fail this project, experience that failure fully, and pick up to do something else. If that is what is best for her, I should let her do it. Even if it makes me look like a bad or uncaring parent.

Right now she’s not aimed at failure. Shes inching her way toward a completed project, which makes me glad. Later this evening I’ll help her tape things to her display board. Hopefully all will be well.