The Boy’s Take on The Move

When I thought about it, the moving to VT was horrifying and made me cry because all my friends lived there. I had moved before, but this is my first time I REMEMBER moving, making me used to MD. Before we found a permanent home, I spent 3 days with Dad’s best friend. It was good except 2 problems for me (no offense Bobby, you are awesome). One was two cats (allergies), the second one was 4 kids! Being a single child, I was not used to many kids. They annoyed me like heck because they were talking so much and telling me stuff I already knew, and the second night I puked! I was 100% ready to leave.

Unfortunately, we did not yet find a permanent home, so we stayed at a hotel. The service was great, with only a few things wrong; no food at the entrance, and a bad pool. Other than that, it was good! We also found an affordable home, which was the first one we had our eye on. =)
After only 2 days, we got settled in our new home, which had some neat features which belong to our landlords; a koi pond, hang dryers, a mudroom, and a duck (quack!) farm. Our house is cheap, large, and there are a lot of rooms! Hang drying saves us some money and is great for the environment.

For me, the bad news is internet connection is horrible because its 25 years old. I want fast internet connection so YouTube videos won’t use up data or buffer as much, I can play multiplayer on my games, and so I can Skype my friends. I was not using Wi-Fi so I had to stream my videos and use up data. I didn’t know how much I used until dad said I used $200 worth of data! I felt so stupid! That also meant no electronics unless otherwise noticed. I have to write an essay like this to get my electronics back, iPod first. I was able to hold in my sadness until I talked to mom. I still get tears when I mention it.

Luckily, Downtown Brattleboro is a bike ride away! There is a pool, a great snack place, some activities, and many biking/walking trails. 12,000 people means less careless people and hopefully less law breakers. I honestly love this place!

Dull Old Dad

This post was originally written about three weeks ago, but due to connectivity issues in our new rural environment, I was not able to publish it.  So don’t worry, you have not stepped into a time warp when you find that other post seem to be following rapidly

I have been teaching the boy the art of boredom recently.  To be fair, he brought this on himself.  He is the one who, despite countless warnings to the contrary, used up almost $300 of mobile data by streaming You Tube videos about Star Wars and Minecraft.  So we are all on a data diet and he is prohibited from using electronics.  He will be earning them back gradually by providing weekly essays, which I will post here.

Still, he has plenty of options for entertainment.  On nice days, we can bike to the pool, or take the dog for a long hike.  He has plenty of books to read and toys to play with.  He can practice his karate and his music and of course, work on those essays.

I came across a fun acronym (of course, all acronyms are fun!):

Be creative

Outside play

Read

Exercise

Do something nice for someone

He has all the tools he needs to keep himself occupied, but still I hear “There’s nothing to do,”  After he moans that a couple of times, I go over with The Boy (for the thousandth time) all of his options.  But is it wrong that I take pleasure in him staring at the ceiling, thinking?

I remember how my imagination raced on those days when I was bored as a child.  I recall my parents not being able to provide constant entertainment.  I recall coming up with diversions which grew into obsessions.  One winter, my room was strewn with over 100 paper airplanes of a variety of designs.

In this family, we love technology.  I know my son has more “screen time” than many of his peers, and I am okay with that.  But I also like when he is pushed to find his own interests in the real world.  I sometimes think that we, as parents, feel the need to provide a constant source of stimulus.  But sometimes boredom is a powerful tool, and laying back, watching clouds, is the best way to spend a day.

A Bittersweet Goodbye

There is a move on the horizon.  Due to way too many influences to go into in this particular forum, The Boy and I will be moving to my old hometown this summer, with LW and the mutt joining us in the fall.  This has gone over with the boy as well as expected, like an orb of Pb filled with He.  (We’ve been studying the periodic table – educate yourself)

Not surprising was The Boys reaction when we let him know about the move.  Tears, anger, and a full hour when he would not talk to us.  But he recovered.  One of the traits I have always loved most about him is his ability to forgive and return to his natural smiling state.  This does not mean that he is happy about the move.  If the word “Vermont” is mentioned, he tears up, but fights them back.

Of course, the biggest fear of moving, aside from just the trauma of leaving what is known, is parting with friends.  For the past four years, he has been walking distance from his best friend’s house.  And in the last year, through home schooling, he has made a number of close friends.  This will be a hard move for The Boy.  But with the magic of computers and Skype, he will be able to keep in touch with most of them and play online games with them.  And our homeschool friends are always willing to travel.

I know he will grow to love my home state.  There will be new friends made, more freedom to explore and be autonomous.  Autumn hikes, Winter skiing and Summer days spent at the river.

There is something a bit surprising, and I will apply my pop psychology to it.  (I took Intro to psych in college, I think I am qualified to answer any and all questions of the mind).

The Boy has requested to go back to traditional school when we move.  This has left me gobsmacked.  I love being at home with him, the good days and bad days, and I think he enjoys it as well.  But (and here is the psychology I promised) I think I get it.  The move is out of his control.  This is one thing he can exert control over, since we are willing to consider his educational preferences.

In the past year, he has made more friends than he ever had in either public or private school.   Still, he feels it is necessary to “make friends” by going to traditional (boring) school.  I have explained the downsides, earlier bedtimes, earlier wake ups, homework, all of the things we hated.  He remains committed though.  I will wage a soft battle here, introduce him to the HS community in VT, emphasize the benefits of being at home schooled.  But as the time comes, if he remains unswayed, we will let him go to school.  The agreement is that he would have to give it a full month, after that, we would pull him out again if he so wishes.

My fingers are crossed that he will want to.

Things we will miss:

Hanging With Friends

Hanging With Friends

Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum

Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum

 

National Zoo with Mom

National Zoo with Mom

Arlington Cemetary

Arlington Cemetary

The Great Dadini

We push our kids.  That is a part of parenting.  For The Boy at least, if it is not easy at first, there is not really a point in learning.  I think part of this comes from the fact that a number of things have been easy for him.  Music and math come very easily to him.  Most physical activities do as well.  So we push, we prod, we encourage and little by little, improvement occurs, and maybe a new interest as well.  The mantra is “Give it a shot, you never know if you’ll like it.”

In addition to his inherent stubbornness (I blame this trait on LW), The Boy also has a touch of shyness.  Speaking in front of a group, meeting new people, and worst of all, performing, makes his little heart weep.  So despite my own enthusiasm for the event, The Boy was not happy to have been signed up for his first karate tournament.

He’d had a couple of set backs in karate.  He had not been eligible for his belt test to is still at the same rank as he has been for the past eight months.  A karate instructor, trying to help him improve, got The Boy mad because “He just wants me to do everything perfect, and nobody is perfect!”  So as the tournament drew closer, he grew less and less interested in it.

The day before the tournament, we were talking over lunch and I, not realizing how he was feeling, enthusiastically asked him if he was excited for the tournament.  He set his fork down and cradled his head in his hands, tears welling up.

“What’s wrong buddy?”

“I hate tournaments!”  He’s never been in one, really, but I let that slide.

“How come?”

“I don’t like to compete,”  Said the kid who is always challenging me to race him.

We chatted about how he was just going to do his best and his mother and I are proud of him no matter what and he just had to be brave and it wouldn’t be very long and…and…sigh.

Day of the tournament dawned.  I made pancakes with bacon and banana slices shaped into a smile (though I think that it really looked more like an angry gorilla).  LW went to get him up and give last minute encouragement.

“This is the worst day ever!!!”  he moaned

“Why’s that?”

“I have to go to a tournament!”

“I’m going to be there to watch you and daddy,”

“And tomorrow I have to clean my roooooom!”

Unbeknownst to me, they made a deal that if he went to the tournament, LW would help with the room,  Life is full of compromise and bargaining.

We made it just in time to get The Boy to his first event.  Slowly, he started brightening up as he talked to kids near him.  I tried not to be an Alpha Dad, scoping out his competition, but couldn’t help myself.  There is a small chance I have a bit of competitiveness myself.

Image

There is a moment, a glorious moment after his first event, that I saw a look of satisfaction on his face.  It then turned to confusion as he was asked to line up again. and then:

ImageImageImageImageAnd things kept getting better:

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Two second place trophies.  The punchline?  The Boy looked at me and said, “I wish I’d gotten first place,”

Good thing he is not competitive.

Gut wrenching names

It really is the little things that cause upset.  A reaction to an unfamiliar situation, a recollection of previous wrong, all can send one it a spiral of guilt and swallowed tears.  I’m talking about me here, not The Boy.

The Boy, as has been previously noted, can be a little socially tone deaf.  If he makes a faux pas, chances are he is unaware, so if someone is bothered by what he said or did, he is not quite sure why.  Take for example a recent instance.  During a weekly co-op meeting, there was an episode of minor vandalism.  I say minor because it was done on paper (other children’s artwork)  and really it was a case of kids being stupid. And let’s be honest, even the smartest kid does dumb stuff.

When we, the parental units, asked who did what, there was in general a unified wall of defiance…broken only by the boy.

“Did you see who drew on the artwork?”

“Yes.”

“Who was it?

“I don’t know,”

“Was it [Friend A] and [Friend B]?”

“Yes,”

[Friend A] “No I didn’t!”

The boy looks confused, “Yes you did,”

[Friend B] “Tattle tale”

I may have taken some liberties with the precise conversation, but you get the drift

As we left, The Boy gave a cheery wave and was puzzled with the responses of turned backs and scowls.  Hadn’t he done right?  An adult whom he knew and liked had asked him a direct question.  He answered it.  Grown-ups were giving him kudos for his honesty.  Why would the other kids lie?  He really did not get it.  A few days later he even asked me, “Dad, why were my friends mad at me?”

But the real trauma came of this father’s breast.  Oh, those days on the school yard!  To be considered a rat, a narc, was to be someone who couldn’t be trusted and therefore not a friend!  I fretted, I lost sleep.  He’d been doing so well, making new friends!  Was this going to cause him to be cast out, spurned by his peers?  I fought back tears for my clueless little boy.

Here’s the thing, though.  While I remember the rules of the playground, I forget that kids are in general, more forgiving than adults.  Other than each of us having a conversation with our offspring about respecting property and telling your friends when something is a bad idea, there was no further social fall out.  Four days later, one of the friends came over to play, and there was nothing!  A week later, there was an overnight with the other friend, and great frustration on the part of The Boy when it came time to leave!

I had put all of my anxiety into the situation, but the fact is, stupid kids are so much smarter and more forgiving than their worry-wart parents.  They know that amongst their peers, sometimes, things just don’t matter.

All is Forgiven

All is Forgiven

Spring is coming

The weather is finally starting to break.  Tentative blades of grass are pushing out through the mud.  The bird feeder is populated by Junkos, Cardinals, Doves and Nuthatches.  I still am keeping my eyes peeled for that predictive first Robin of spring.  Yes, after a long, cold winter, we are all starting anew.  And if I may wield that metaphor like a sledge hammer, so are we.

As noted in an previous post, The Boy and I had hit a rut.  The days had gotten tedious and the teacher tiresome; and tired.  We had days of waking late and staring at each other as the mind raced for something exciting to do.  Some days worked.  The question would be posed, “What do you want to learn today?”.  Occasionally we would get something good. “I want to learn about life under the sea!”, and after I stopped singing songs from The Little Mermaid, we read, watched and explored.  Other (most) days were less successful.  A weak attempt at creating a sense of excitement over something I was having little excitement over myself.

But, as happened in so many of the stories I read as a kid, inspiration came in the rabbit warren of a used bookshop.   A day of tension release, granted by also tense LW (Lovely Wife…Not Little Woman) led to wandering through bookstores.  And there, glowing like the Holy Grail, was a book entitled The Dangerous Book For Boys.  With eager hands, I flipped through its pages. How to build a Treehouse, Five  Pen and Paper Games, Insects and Spiders, a treasure trove of jumping off points!  Things to do, study and talk about!

In the first week, we made paper airplanes and learned how planes fly and how planes are made, studied the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, learned to tie five knots and attempted to make a battery using quarters and vinegar.  Today, we read about fossils and watched a video on the Triassic period.

So here we are, rejuvenated and excited to shrug off the stiffness of winter, and buckling down on a new “text” book which is opening up all new worlds of study for us.

Before the New Book

Before the New Book

 

Making a Battery using a Dangerous Book

Making a Battery using a Dangerous Book

 

Hooray spring!!

A Socialism Revolution

“But…Socialization!”

The battle cry – or the final, desperate squeal – of the parent/therapist/adult who refuses to believe that homeschooling is a legitimate educational choice.  After we have covered reading (yes, The Boy is above grade level), history (Ancient, Middle Ages, Civil War…what?) science (Mom’s a molecular biologist – get over it)  math (yes, The Boy is above grade level) inevitably someone comes up with the bizarre argument that, if the child is not in school, then they will not meet other children their same age and therefore not be…socialized.

First of all, I “socialized” our dogs. You see, unlike people, dogs do not have the ability to reason as they get older.  So they have a binary code for the world around them.  LW is Good.  Squirrel is Bad.  So we socialize so they can start to understand the grey area and not attack or pee on other dogs or people who come within their circle.

Humans, on the other hand, are social by nature.  On one level or another, we seek out groups.  In school, we are thrown into a group of people who share nothing more in common with us than our biological age.  That’s not “socializing”, that’s sorting (and not in the cool Hogwarts way).

When the Boy was at public school, LW and I each upon occasion stopped by to have lunch with him.  Even in a crowded lunch room, the Boy was by himself.  He did not interact with his other classmates, nor they with him.  At recess, he played alone.  He never wanted to call anyone to come over and play.  During the year at private school it was made only slightly better by the fact that there were fewer children for him to not interact with.

So, where is the socialization?  Through homeschooling, The Boy and I have met people we never would have met, of ages with whom he never would have been associated.  As we have gone through the year, the group of friends The Boy has acquired are weird and wonderful.   Supportive and competitive.  Challenging and compelling.

He has been invited to more peoples social outings, dealt with problematic interactions, argued and made up with kids of ALL ages.

So maybe he isn’t being socialized, but he is making friends.

Mind Games at the Whitaker Science Center

Mind Games at the Whitaker Science Center