Tuesday, March 31, 2009
When I was a first time mother, I was fairly insane. Looking back on it, the fairly seems a generous modifier. I do remember taking my son to the pediatrician and explaining to the doctor how I had all these books and notes on how to take care of (my then) one week old son. He looked at me, and asked why I had done all that.
I thought that was pretty obvious. "So I don't make a mistake."
He was an elderly man, almost ready to retire. He laughed when I said this. "Honey, you are going to make mistakes every day. Get used to it."
I didn't believe him. I read all the parenting books in the same manner I had once read all of Jane Austen's work - only I took more notes on the parenting books. I had color coded charts on the wall. I rinsed his toys in a bleach solution -- every night, then triple rinsed the bleach off them. I bought air purifiers. I banished the cats.
I didn't view any of those behaviors as mistakes.
I do wonder now if we ever know we're making the mistakes WHEN we're making them, at least as parents. I seem to get it only in retrospect. Of course, I have teens and a younger daughter, so they help me see my mistakes, at least with her.
Yesterday, my daughter came home from school a little upset. She had a substitute in the afternoon, and her regular teacher had left instructions that they write a piece for their writing folders. My daughter is obsessed with fairies, and she wanted to write a story about two fairies who lived inside a walnut shell. The substitute teacher told her, "No, it doesn't say in your teacher's lesson plan that you can write fantasy."
"But that's what I like to write," Emma protested, "and I already started it."
"I'm very sorry," the substitute teacher said, "but you'll have to work on something else."
My daughter leaned over to her friend and said, "You know how they call Dumbo Dumbo because his ears are big? Well, maybe we should call this teacher Dumb-Butt."
Of course this was overheard, and the substitute told Emma she would report this to the classroom teacher. (Emma has never been in the slightest trouble before, and so far, no calls from the classroom teacher)
After school, I listened, and her brothers listened, too.
I responded first by saying "I don't get why you couldn't work on the fantasy story. Did it say that specifically? Emma can't work on her walnut fairy story?"
"I don't think it's up to the substitute to determine what genre you can work in at all. That's ridiculous. She's not an editor."
Christopher looked at me. "It's like the only part you heard was about her writing. You can't say anything about someone's butt. She's the teacher."
Philip, who is no stranger to school trouble, said, "If that was me, they would have sent me to the office for the rest of the day. Lucky you got away with it."
"But, Philip, she should be able to choose her genre."
Christopher rolled his eyes. "Mom, this isn't about the genre. It's about listening to the teacher."
Emma, looking a little better, said, "I feel like just because they're taller than us they can tell us what to do all the time. They don't have to be right, they just have to be taller."
"I just really disagree with her picking what you should write..."
"Mom! It's not about her writing," Christopher said.
Christopher looked at his sister. "You can't say stuff like that in school."
"I know, but I was mad. And her butt was gigantic. It plopped over the chair seat."
"It doesn't matter," her oldest brother continued, "you can think it, but you can't say it. You'll get in trouble. Only not with mom. She just wants you to finish your story so she can read it and send a copy to Grandma."
I opened my mouth to protest.
Only he was right.
I missed the parenting book that offered advice on what to do when the kids point out your mistakes.