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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why Don't Domestic Goddesses Get Sick Days?

I've been sick for going on three weeks now.  It started as a simple cold, blossomed into bronchitis, infected the rest of the family, and is still stubbornly hanging on.

I've gone through all the prescriptions I've been given by my doctor, and am now trying to do the classic 'rest and drink plenty of fluids' thing.

But the thing is, I'm a Domestic Goddess by profession.  And Domestic Goddesses don't get sick days.

We just had to hunker down for a little Frankenstorm you may have heard of called Sandy.  Not knowing what to expect, my sick husband and sick me had to tag-team taking care of our sick children (who still--somehow--have disturbing levels of excess energy) and stock up on all the essentials in case we lost power for a few days.  It turned out to be unnecessary as we never actually lost our power, but we couldn't have known that beforehand, so we had to scramble around.

And the kids still need help getting ready in the morning.  Naomi needs a clean diaper and help getting dressed, and Spencer needs help reaching the big-boy-underwear in his top dresser drawer.  Cereal doesn't put itself into bowls, nor does juice pour itself into sippies.

Peanut-butter sandwiches don't make themselves, and proud announcements of "Mom, look what I just made with my blocks!" need to be responded to.  So do custody battles over those same blocks, which, apparently, aren't quite plenteous enough for two children to share.

Halloween doesn't care that I promised to make the kids' costumes back when I was feeling a lot better, so red shirts with large white circles labeled "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" needed to be sewn today.

Nobody's going to get better without a healthy diet, so the cooking had to be done.  And then the dishes because, even though Mommy's sick, so is Daddy, and of the two, Mommy's actually doing a little better.

And a certain two-year-old knows she's turning three in a week, and knows that birthdays include parties, cake, and presents, and I can't bear to disappoint her with the words, "Sorry, Sweetie, Mommy doesn't feel well."

Don't get me wrong; I'm not SuperMom.  I'm in my PJs right now not because I got ready for bed early but because I never bothered getting dressed this morning.  My dining room floor crunches when you walk near the kids' chairs, and I expect it to continue to do so until I spit-shine the house in preparation for whatever passes for Naomi's birthday party.  I called in sick to my unit of Clinical Pastoral Education last week, and I have no idea if I'll be able to make an appearance there tomorrow.  Whatever is not absolutely necessary is simply not getting done right now.

But that still leaves an awful lot.  The work to turn a house into a home never ends, regardless of how I feel, but that's my job.  And despite the occasional minor discomforts and struggles, living in a home where everyone knows they're loved and cared-for is well worth it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Unexpected Teaching Moment: Prejudice

The other night I watched West Side Story with my kids.  I love the movie and haven't seen it in years (over a decade, at least).  My kids really enjoy movies with good music, especially when there's singing and dancing involved.  Especially Spencer.  He's also getting tired of watching and re-watching his usual flicks.  So I saw it as a win-win: Spencer got to see something new, and I got to watch something that wasn't made by Pixar.

Now, let me describe for you what it's like to watch a movie with Spencer.  My son is apparently unable to process a thought silently--he verbalizes his stream of consciousness.  And there's a lot to process when watching a movie (even after he's seen it three dozen times, he still processes it as though he's never seen it before).  He's constantly asking, "What just happened?  Why did he do that?  Why are they walking?  Where are they going?  What's going to happen next?"  And so on.  I usually respond with a steady stream of, "You were watching, you saw what happened.  Just wait, and you'll see.  Watch and you'll find out."  Until I finally resort to, "Just be quiet and watch the movie, Spencer!"

West Side Story started off with the expected questions:  "Is that a playground?"  Yes, Spencer, it's a playground.  "Why are those boys in a playground?"  Because they want to be there.  "Why are they dancing?"  They just are.

And then the questions began to get a little harder.  "What are they doing to that other boy?"  They're letting him know they don't want him there.  "Why not?"  Because they don't like him.  "Why don't they like him?"  And then, before I could come up with a four-year-old appropriate answer to that question, "Who are those boys?"  They're that other boy's friends.  "Are they fighting?  Why are they fighting?"  Because those two groups of boys are enemies.  "Who are the good boys and who are the bad boys?"  Uh, they're all pretty good boys.  "Then why are they fighting?"  Because they don't like people who are different from them.  "Why not?"  Because they just don't.  "Because they're mean?"  They're mean to the people they don't like, and they're nice to the people they do like.  "But why aren't they nice to everybody if they're good boys?"  Umm, some people are like that.  And then, "Why don't they want that girl around?"  Because girls aren't allowed.  "Why not?"

And this was the first ten minutes of a two and a half hour movie.

As exasperated as I was trying to answer these questions, I loved the fact that they proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that my son doesn't understand prejudice.  He doesn't understand how people can decide to be mean or nice to someone based on their skin color or accent.  He doesn't understand why someone's gender would make them ineligible to join a certain group.  And when I tried to explain it to him, he gave me a look that clearly said, "Mom, that's got to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard you say, and that's saying something!"

And he's absolutely right.  It is stupid.  It's pointless.  It makes no sense.  And it's not a natural part of who we are.  Spencer didn't understand prejudice because he's never been taught prejudice.  He's never been taught to exclude others for arbitrary reasons, and he's never been excluded for arbitrary reasons himself (though I'm sure that day will come).  Children don't hate others until they've been told that they should, and taught how.  It may not be done intentionally, but they are very observant, and they will act the way they see the adults around them acting.  Too many adults don't think about what they're teaching the children who idolize them.

I wanted to introduce my son to one of my favorite musicals.  In doing so, I also began to teach him about the darker side of some human interactions.  He liked the music, even when I sang along.  He liked the dancing.  He thought the girls were pretty (both the Caucasians and the Puerto Ricans).  He didn't like that he had to hug me and pat my arm reassuringly at the end and say, "It's OK; everything's going to be all right" when I was crying hysterically because some people died for some really stupid reasons.  Why couldn't they all just get along?

I think we'll watch Fiddler on the Roof next.  Then I'll get to explain religious persecution to him, as well.  And sing along with more of my favorite showtunes.