Day: April 16, 2013

Homework Consequences

I’m sitting here typing on my laptop while my ten year old son is crying over his homework. This is not the sort of moment that gets immortalized in photos or regaled over Thanksgiving dinner. It is not a moment that makes me feel like a good mother, but it is exactly this sort of moment where I am one. My son is crying because the work he is doing is work that ought to have been done yesterday. Not only did he not do it yesterday, he implied to me that it was done. He didn’t outright lie, but through some verbal mumbling he managed to slide by without doing it. Then at school today he was not prepared and that was unpleasant. Then his teacher communicated with me and I had a talk with him about responsibility and paying attention in class. We talked about how all humans, me included, have a tendency to procrastinate and avoid work. We talked about how we have to curb that impulse in ourselves and learn to do the work anyway. We talked about carrots, sticks, and motivational plans. We decided on a point system and a reward structure. Then I declared that if any work is overdue, he is not allowed to play on a computer or video game until it is done. This last part was not news he wanted to hear. So now he is working and sniffling. I am watching, typing, and hoping that inside his head he is taking responsibility for his choices instead of ranting about how mean I am.

Snapshots of the Tayler Household Today

I sat on the couch next to Kiki, her legs draped across my lap as she told me about her friends. Kiki loves them and worries for them, but is not sure how to help them as they struggle. I listened to Kiki and tried to give her good advice, but mostly just to listen because the answers she finds for herself are better than any I can give. This is true for her friends too. They must find their own answers. But being the one who sees a good path, and has to wait for a loved one to stumble around blindly until they find it can be hard.

Link and Patch sat at computers side by side, Minecraft on the screens in front of them. Listening to them made little sense because the words seemed like random phrases punctuated with laughter, half the conversation was typed in text on the screens in front of them. Lately Link has been saddened by the fact that his gaming abilities far outstrip everyone else in the house. He wants to play with his little brother, but sometimes it is hard because of the skill disparity. On this day they’ve found a happy medium, a place where they can meet and have fun.

I sat with Gleek on the leather couch with the therapist across from us and we had no tales of meltdowns to share. I suppose it is good to be in that position, where most of the stress evaporates, but it does feel odd to have it happen just before the measures which were supposed to help have had a chance to affect anything. There are still things to work on, we’re not going to simply shrug and assume we were mistaken. On the other hand, the breathing space is very nice. Instead of discussing recent crisis, we talked about how it might be time for me to back off on managing Gleek’s homework. I went very hands-on while we were in the middle of the stress, it is time for me to back off again. Gleek didn’t like that idea much, she likes having a security blanket. This lets me know it is the right approach, because the point of all of this parental and therapeutic effort is to put Gleek in a position where she has the tools and strength to manage by herself. I expect it to take years, because really that is the entire developmental purpose of adolescence.

Last week Howard had diverticulitis which resolved fairly quickly with antibiotics. Unfortunately strong antibiotics have consequences of their own and these hit Howard hard yesterday. I can’t count the number of times when Howard and I have bemoaned how we just want to have an uneventful work week. Howard has a final push on the Privateer Press project, a final push on The Body Politic, and regular buffer work. We just need him to have several good work days in a row. For the moment, he’s sleeping late because, as he tweeted at 2am: “Exhaustion, dehydration, diarrhea, and insomnia: these are the four horsemen of my current apocalypse. They are very effective team players.”

Hours after the couch conversation with Kiki, just before bed, she came to my room and gave me a hug. She’d prayed for her friends and felt strongly that they would be fine. “Mom, I don’t know how anyone survives without prayer and inspiration.” I don’t know either. I know people who seek peace from other sources. I’ve seen those sources work for them, but I have to say that I’m glad to see my children choosing prayer and inspiration in times of stress. They are choosing resources that are familiar to me which means I am able to help them as they seek. It is really hard to not understand (and thus now understand how to help) someone you love when they are in pain.

I bought Talenti Sea Salt and Caramel gelato. It sits in my freezer waiting for the days when I write 1000 words of which 500 are fiction, a small treat to encourage me to write. It’s presence in my freezer demonstrates that the writing portions of my brain are ready to unfold again. The fact that it has been opened and the first serving removed is a triumph. I’ve tasted writing success for the first time in two months. It tastes of caramel.

“Can you send me some pictures of Kiki for the stylist?” the text said. So Kiki and I took some quick shots with my phone while giggling because neither of us ever pictured her getting to have the services of a stylist. Yet this is part of the package deal that comes along with getting to borrow an amazing dress for prom. The dress is being tailored to Kiki and she agrees to pose for a fashion photo shoot while wearing the dress. The dress designer has the satisfaction of seeing the dress worn more than just for a runway, the stylist has the chance to practice her art, the photographer also practices, and all of the professionals walk away with photos they can add to their portfolios. Kiki gets a dream come true experience and owes a few drawings to the dress designer. This is one of the things I love about being part of a creative community, people coming together to create something amazing just because everyone loves the idea of it.

“Gleek’s focus for the history project is not yet approved. She has some fascinating facts about East Germany, but she needs to show a specific turning point and how it changed the world.” It was not news Gleek wanted to hear, but she did not melt into a puddle of stress. Instead she and I talked through how to present various escapes over the Berlin Wall as turning points in the history of Germany. It is the escapes that fascinate her, the bravery and ingenuity of people who risked everything to change their lives, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Once her project is approved, we’ll have a diorama to make. I’m certain that before this project is complete, Gleek will have ample opportunities to feel anxiety and manage it. So far so good.

It was time for me to drive Link to school and I heard conflict downstairs by the computers: Link’s angry voice and Patch crying. Link had gotten up from the computer to leave and Patch sat down and logged in. Using Link’s profile and password. Which Patch had memorized. It was a thing Patch had done dozens of times before, Link has been happy to share his Minecraft profile with everyone, however at that moment Link realized that he’d lost control of the profile. Patch was using it without asking. All. The. Time. Fortunately it is an easy fix. Link is right that he ought to get to control the profile he purchased with his own money. Patch is right that he needs to be able to log in without having to bother Link to type the password. After school we’ll sort it out and all will be happy in Minecraft again.

My house needs to be organized. Every room has piles in the corners. They aren’t big piles and mostly they’re full of things that sort-of belong in that room anyway, but it is cluttery. I’ve been too distracted to require chores and too tired to do it all myself. Yet on Saturday I tackled the front room. Looking around now, I’m really not sure what exactly we removed, but it is a nice place to be again. I hope in the next two weeks I can give other rooms the same treatment before the coins start to arrive and shipping begins in earnest. That will make a mess all over the house until it is done.