So January is almost over, and I haven’t stopped drinking coffee, lost any weight, or managed to put any money into savings.
I like to think we’ve simplified our lives somewhat, but then again, it seems like more items keep entering the house than manage to exit it. And I keep thinking of things I want to sign Ryley up for…ice skating lessons, horseback riding, children’s choir, and fencing. Yes, fencing. These are all her ideas, her requests. Silly girl. But they all take money. And time. And money. And time. And well, it doesn’t matter because we have neither. :-)
So we’re doing swimming again, because at the end of the day, she loves it most.
And always piano. Because it’s wonderful. And because it’s free. :-)
I am constantly amazed at what her friends are doing. One friend does group piano lessons, soccer, ice skating, and Odyssey of the Mind. Another does Suzuki violin lessons and horseback riding. Huge time commitments. When these moms tell me what their kids are doing, I feel like my eyes bug out a little bit. They’re seven. Sure, I was an overachiever in high school and enjoyed being involved in activities that would expand my knowledge and enjoyment of the world. But when I was seven, I played “house” in my bedroom and picked the dandelions on the soccer field, completely ignoring the ball if it came my way. So with Ryley, why do I feel behind?
I read an excerpt from Amy Chua’s new book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” and I found it fascinating. There’s some good wisdom there about the fact that we can certainly expect more from our kids than we currently do. But I just don’t know.
In recent weeks, we had some trouble with Ryley and her homework. Her language/spelling homework was taking more than an hour each night, and most nights it was becoming a battle that ended in tears. This was in addition to the math and reading homework she was also bringing home each night. It was ridiculous. It wasn’t that the homework was hard; it was simply that there was too much. And because she knew it would take awhile, she didn’t even want to start on it. And when she finally did, she was so overwhelmed by it that she was rushing through and not learning what she was supposed to learn. So then she wouldn’t do well on the test the next day, and as a result, she would earn even more homework for that night. She was caught in a vicious cycle, and we hated what the situation was doing to her love for school.
So Ryan and I did something that was very hard for the competitive spirit within both of us. We asked Ryley’s teachers to move her back a level. This was difficult because we don’t like to admit defeat… and because we know that Ryley is bright. Even so, we could see that she was overwhelmed, and we didn’t want her to start hating school in the 2nd grade.
But the teachers had a meeting and decided that Ryley shouldn’t be moved back; they determined she was correctly placed in the right group and that she would be bored in the group below hers. They would, however, change her homework requirements so that there wouldn’t be so much take-home work.
It’s two weeks later, and what a difference this small change has made! Giving Ryley less homework has changed the entire situation. She has been doing better on her tests because she is able to focus on the work being tested on the next day instead of being punished for the poor test results of the present day. It’s cyclical. She still has about 20 minutes of language/spelling, in addition to math and reading, but she has much more confidence and is much more cheerful about everything.
Anyhow, I don’t know if that proves a point or not. It’s just a story. :-)
If anything, we are learning what works for our individual daughter. We are learning what she needs. And at this time in her life, when she’s still the sweet age of seven -- with an active and interested mind, no doubt -- we’re learning that less is more.
On the flipside, I find that I need projects in order to stay focused and driven. Maybe I haven’t made any life changes or achieved any real goals within the last month, but I have finished two of the three big editing projects that have been hanging over my head since August. And that is a big deal for me.
For five months I have felt guilty any time I am watching TV or doing something frivolous.
“You could be editing,” the little voice tells me. “You are such a procrastinator!”
“But I’m not!” I respond defensively. “I work full-time. I am a wife and mother. I deserve the chance to chill out for a little while.”
The war within me wages on.
What’s worse, I can’t (in good conscience) edit unless the house is clean and the laundry done, so I spend all of Saturday trying to clean so that Sunday I can edit. But then Sunday comes, and I just want to rest. After all, God did, right? Ha ha. But in reality, the house didn’t get finished on Saturday, so I still have some housework to do anyway. And then with what remaining time I have, I get sucked into Facebook. And then suddenly it’s Monday morning.
I feel guilty all the time, no matter what I’m doing.
So last weekend I spend 12 hours finishing up one project, and though it felt great, I never really felt like I got a weekend because of it. Then I finished another project on Wednesday. So now I am, in good conscience, taking a few days of reprieve before diving into the next project, which is also due a lot of work. And when that one’s done, I think I’ll be done for awhile.
The interesting thing is that with only one project hanging over my head, I feel much more excited about editing in general. Truthfully, I love editing, and this upcoming project is going to be fun. And without all the guilt and pressure of additional projects looming before me, I expect that I will have more confidence and motivation to get it done in a timely manner. I pray so.
Plus spring is in the air, don’t you think? We’re past the “winter of our discontent.” We’re learning more and more about ourselves, and we’re learning more about the ones we love. We are stretching and growing.
Only good things can lie ahead.