My journey to teaching began as a selfish impulse. I wanted to do something more meaningful and useful, but I also wanted more time for creativity.
Yes, you read that right. I went into teaching because I wanted more time.
Are you finished laughing at that yet?
I was still giggling about it as I sat at my desk on Thanksgiving eve wrapping up dishes and a last minute IEP.
Now as I write this, it’s the last minute of the last night of Thanksgiving vacation. I’m watching a winter storm bury us under at least 10 inches of snow as I try to figure out lesson plans for tomorrow.
I’ve also earmarked a little time tonight — and each day for the foreseeable future —- for blogging, always made a little longer because I illustrate most of my posts. The reality is, however, that I can’t complain about not having time for creativity. I can complain about having to squeeze creative writing into my day, but my day is nothing if not filled with the creative challenges of getting kids to engage with something other than an iPhone.
I heard a line in a movie recently that if you go to teaching, you give all your creative energy away to the kids. I don’t think that’s true. I think you give away time, but I think using that energy all the day is like exercising a muscle. It doesn’t get used up– it gets stronger.
I know the work-life balance will sort itself out as I get more experience, but, for now, I’m learning to distinguish when I am having trouble being creative and when I’m simply having trouble finding the time to exercise it exactly the way I want on a certain day.
I saw the homework folder neatly tucked in the backpack and decided it was safe to zip the big pocket. The sound of merging metal teeth brought seven-year-old Thing2 flying out of his room and into the living room.
“Wait!” he shrieked. “I left something in there!”
“What is it?” I ducked, trying to avoid his flapping arms.
“It’s going to snow today!” Thing2 unzipped the big pocket an pulled out his red satin cape.
“You’re not taking that?” I scratched my head, not even remembering seeing it a few minutes earlier.
“No.” Thing2 now unfurled the cape on the couch and then extracted his army green third-hand snow pants from the same pocket.
“Of course I don’t need it now.” Realizing I still have a lot to learn about the fashion rituals of the average rainbow-wigged superhero in the country, I popped the lunchbox into the front pocket and zipped entire the pack closed again.
“Well then,” I said, “leave the cape, but pack the cannoli.”
“The pretzels,” I said, “pack the pretzels.”
“Obviously I was taking the pretzels,” he said trotting out his favorite new adult buzzword and demonstrating once again that I have am achieving true wisdom because when it come to the inner working of my youngest child’s mind, I know nothing.
Thing1 is being punished. He’s being really punished for the first time in recent memory.
For most of the last twelve years we’ve been pretty lucky. For most of that time, he’s been good-natured and willing to follow the rules we set down. Infractions occur of course, but for the most part, they’ve been small enough that an empty, humorous threat to send him to military school puts a stop to restaurant antics or begging. When we do lay down the law, Thing1 usually plays the part of the gentle giant tolerating a well-meaning but misdirected mother and goes along. He seems to understand that – even when he thinks we’re totally nuts – we’re on his side.
That all changed today, as the fallout from a less-than-stellar report card caused the first serious fissure in his faith in our good intentions.
All kids have an Achilles heel as individual as their personalities, and Thing1’s is his love of all things computer. He has begun cracking open code on favorite games and spending hours Skyping with friends, gabbing about hardware and how to improve their favorite video game and which is the best OS for their purposes. It is a hobby and avocation that could be come a vocation. Now, however, it is bordering on addiction. So, fifteen minutes after the Big Guy and I read the report card, we had an intervention and pulled the plug.
Our normally tolerant twelve-year-old reacted like any addict who was being cut off would. He denied. Then he rationalized – the report card, that is. Then he protested. And finally, grudgingly he accepted the reality that his computer time would be restricted to school work.
Grudging acceptance has now taken the form of the silent treatment. He still obeys the easy rules without defiance. Gone, however, is the good-natured demeanor. Smiles are quickly extinguished when we make eye contact – even if we caused the smile. From his room, we can occasionally hear muted muttering that tells us we hit that heel with perfect aim.
At first we did pat ourselves on the back for being such clever parents. We felt guilty for about 10 seconds after we shutdown his favorite hobby, but, contrary to his belief, we’re not enjoying our victory. I know he needs the consequences, but I hate seeing him unhappy. I know there are things we can control in our own house and there things we can’t. This is one of the things we’re supposed to control. And while it hasn’t lead to happiness, it is giving me a bit of serenity in a way that I would never have thought possible when I was a teenager.
As the bearer of numerous crappy report cards, I was also the recipient of many groundings (pointless and redundant for Thing1 who lives in the middle of the woods) and privilege losses. I remember the profound sense of betrayal when I lost a favorite social outlet. Now, walking this mile in my parents’ moccasins, I’m finding yet another new understanding of their perspectives. There’s no forgiveness, of course – there’s nothing to forgive when someone’s looking out for your future. Instead, this is one of those moments when my mom and dad are getting a unexplained warm feeling in the back of their necks as their daughter writes that they were right about many things – even when it wasn’t fun to be right.
I am watching him flit from couch to chair to table to hall with a soaring grace that would put any trapeze artist to shame.
Sadly, his first grade teacher has yet to incorporate acrobatics into any homework assignment. But I figure I can get another sip of soda before tackling my daily feat of daring – talking his head down to the kitchen table while making sure his spirit continues to soar to the ceiling and beyond.