Monday, August 22, 2005

Mighty Mom Battles Mighty Bean

It started like any other day. I’m cleaning out my daughter’s lunch pail, and I see a Mighty Bean fall swiftly down the sink and into the drain. I reach my hand down the hole and gingerly finger the slimy muck, hoping the disposal doesn’t automatically turn on like the appliances in the movie Gremlins. I can’t find it. Somehow it has slipped down to the next level.

(For those of you who don’t know, Mighty Beanz resemble jumping beans. They are tiny little oval shaped plastic figures with a tiny marble inside that rolls around and makes the action unpredictable.)

I decided to go ahead and turn on the garbage disposal, and see if I could chop it up and send it on down the drain. (Okay, I know that seems dumb now, but at the time it seemed perfectly reasonable and if it worked, I could avoid the disposal repair bill.)

The results were what you’d expect. It made a lot of racket, and didn’t go down the drain. I guess there must be some kind of mesh screen below that point. Now I have to call the repairman and give him my sad story (you see there was this Mighty Bean and I couldn’t get it out so I decided to chop it up and…)

Tears welled up in my daughters eyes. “Which Mighty Bean was it?” she asked in a trembling voice, as if one was more cherished than the others. You could buy ten more in a pack for a dollar, but you see, it didn’t matter. Because whichever one it was that I destroyed, that would have been the best one.

My daughter took it personally. This is totally my fault because one time when she refused to pick up her toys, I picked them up and threw them in the trash. I know that sounds cruel, but I was trying to make a point that she didn’t care about her toys so we may as well throw them away. Looking back, it does seem mean, and parents sometimes do things we’re not proud of.

So anyway, she thought I chopped up the Mighty Bean because she didn’t take care of her toys, or because I’m just cruel and got an evil urge to destroy her toys and her life. I’ve probably scarred her for life. In future psychiatric sessions, she’ll have multiple appointments on the Mighty Bean incident. It seems like such a small thing, and I probably shouldn’t have even mentioned it to her. Parenting is a minefield, and you never know you’ve blown one of the Beanz until it’s too late.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Multi-tasking and organizing emotional breakdowns

My daughter entered third grade yesterday. This year they begin to focus on organizational skills, and the school has provided an organizer for each child. The students need to record all their assignments in it, and parents have to initial the records each day and record whether the homework was complete. If the child (and their parent) don’t do their organizer correctly, or forget to return it each day, the child misses recess.

I had a visceral reaction to this new plan. I don’t know why this bothers me so much. I’m familiar with using Outlook, calendars and PDAs. I guess I had a fear reaction. All of these children are going to be infinitely more organized than I am; the kids are leaving me behind in the electronic dust.

I also am not sure why it is necessary for a third grader to carry an organizer. Why do they have so many activities and homework? Do we have to train them to be type A personalities so they can grow up and take on too much work and have too much scheduled in their lives? What’s the point of all this? We aren’t churning out happier people. Perhaps I’m getting old and feeling lost in the digital shuffle.

They also train in email and the internet this year. I would think they would learn these skills on their own. Shouldn’t we be discouraging these skills, and encouraging good nutrition and sports instead? I thought we didn’t want the kids sitting in front of the computer and video games all the time.

The schools could strive for a bit more balance. To counteract teaching all this fast paced technology, maybe they could teach them meditation, theatre, art, or social skills like manners or resolving interpersonal conflict. Why can’t they quietly read during class time?

I’m getting a little tired of the pressure. Not only do I have to fill every second of my day with work, but my child seems to be required to do it, too. We’re all collectively maximizing and multitasking our way to a nervous breakdown. Or, maybe it’s only me.