Sunday, June 29, 2014

Update

My goodness. Working people have no time for frivolous things like blogs.

Here's what has happened. I keep going to work. Cook keeps going to work. Skipper and Duchess have a very nice babysitter, who did not quit on us after her first full day, during which (with Duchess gone on an all-day playdate) Skipper peed her pants, barfed in the babysitter's car, and then went into her room and refused to come out. Skipper is struggling with the transition. She has been very clingy with me, when I finally get home every night.

Duchess loves her new ballet class, which comes complete with a stern ballet teacher. Cook described returning to the class after hanging out at the playground with Skipper for a while, and hearing the teacher say crankily to Duchess as he came in, "Well, if you can do it in one direction, why can't you do it in the other direction?!" - Duchess apparently just shrugged in response. Cook felt the only way the teacher could have been more perfect is if she had a Russian accent, and maybe a wooden leg.  However, Duchess seems to be enthusiastic about the class at least in part BECAUSE the teacher is stern. Duchess feels that reflects a seriousness about the whole venture that she appreciates.

Skipper is tearing up the pool in her swim class, laughing and joking with the teachers, and working very hard. Mostly the girls are enjoying not having to go to school, though Duchess seems less interested in reading than normal, and has several times complained of boredom. It's probably a good thing that they have a babysitter who actually does stuff with them.

And we went camping this weekend! It was a lovely experience, and also allowed Skipper to confront her general fear of anything new. She was pretty crazed the first night, when we arrived late*, set up camp in the rain, and went to bed very late. "I want to go home!" she cried in despair, "I don't even know where I am!"  The next day we went to a hot spring nearby, and Skipper was very concerned about it. She had no idea what to expect, and that's a state that she can't abide. It turned out that she loved the hot springs. We barged in on the stoned skinnydipping vibe and ruined it completely with our swimsuits, children, and general loud ruckus,** but Skipper was absolutely down with it. She rolled silently around in the water, immersing herself totally and looking tremendously peaceful. Odds are good that she's going to end up working on an organic farm outside of Eugene in fifteen years, river rafting and hot-springs-lounging on her off days.

Anyway. That's the report. Work takes up a really unfair amount of time. My daughters are growing up. All is well.


* after a daunting drive that trailed off into what felt like remote wilderness, with a dubious turn and no confidence that we were going the right direction. Skipper said mournfully near the end of the drive, "Duchess? I think I'm having trouble... keeping myself... up." 
** not to mention my helpful commentary on the slimy rocks, the extremely hospitable environment for bacteria, etc. I think hot springs are pretty icky. Well, not necessarily hot springs, but hot springs with people in them. Ew.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Changes

Do you remember how I was looking forward to a relaxing summer with the kids? I got a call recently from an old boss (from an internship way back in the pre-Skipper days) who was looking to hire me for a short-term job that she needed to get rolling right away. I have mixed feelings about the job, but it pays well, is in a relevant field, and will get me out interacting with other people who might then think of me when THEY have short-term jobs to fill. We hired a babysitter* and I started work for real today.

So that's different than I expected.

However, the girls' summer has started. Duchess is doing swim team again, and Skipper has swim lessons during the same timeslot. They both work very hard. Skipper is fully on board with swimming now, and is determined to get better. She's still having trouble getting to the top of the water, as her tendency is to sink to the bottom. (This is weird, because she used to float without even trying, like her butt was made of styrofoam.) She is Ottering up a storm, though. And Duchess successfully convinced her kung fu best friend to do summer swim team, too, which makes the hour-a-day swimming routine a lot more fun for her.

Skipper also had her first hip-hop dance class. That was pretty hilarious. She actually participated the whole time, except for a brief sulk during which the teacher pointed at her from behind her back, looked at me, and mouthed "Is she okay?" and I smiled and gave a thumbs-up, which she seemed to correctly interpret as "I don't know if she's okay, per se, but she's probably not incurring any really deep emotional wounds, so carry on!" And Duchess went to her first beginning dance for older kids class, and actually refused to participate, which is a first. All the other kids in the class were small six-year-olds in tutus, so it really wasn't a great fit, and parks and rec is fantastic about customer service and will readily refund for classes, so I was fine with letting her drop the class. But she wept; she didn't want to be a quitter, and she didn't want the tutu girls to think she's a quitter. I did not say "Fuck 'em, Duchess, it's your life, not theirs," but I hope I managed to communicate that. She decided to switch to a "ballet basics class" parks and rec class to save face (still tutus, but older kids and more serious instruction).

Anyway, summer. I'll be working M-Th, mostly, but I'll be working long days, and it's a big change for all of us. Cook will be going to work very early, and I will be coming home fairly or very late all summer, trying to avoid paying for nine hours of babysitting a day. This will be the first time since Skipper was a baby that Cook and I will both be so busy, and I'm dreading it a bit. It's so nice to have one parent home at least part time to run errands and start dinner and handle doctor appointments and whatnot. But hey, I have a job! 

*This was actually very hard, as we were fortunate enough to have TWO candidates whom we all really liked. When the one we finally decided on (the older, more mellow one who has experience in caring for kids for a week at a time) showed up for work this week, Cook reported that he felt a pang of sadness that she wasn't the other one (the high-energy, dancing, world-traveling one with only casual babysitting experience). But the one we chose is working out great.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Rats, racing

It has just come to my attention that I am incredibly spoiled. I worked an 8-hour day today. I have not worked an 8-hour day since 2009. I mean, I have, but not as part of a series of 8-hour days, just as an occasional aberration in a part-time life. This day, as part of my 35-hour, 4-day workweek, and also full of revelations of exactly how much I am expected to do how quickly and with how little support, felt very, very long. I take my hat off to all you working stiffs.  Also, I would like to know why we have not had a labor uprising yet.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Five kilometers is a long way to run.

Portland Parks and Recreation runs a series of 5k races every summer. They cost $5 per adult entrant, and kids under 18 run for free. So we paid $5 (months ago, as the races fill up very fast) for Cook and Duchess to run the 5k together, and Skipper to run the 1k Kids Fun Run. (I cheered. I also ran the 1k as support.) The kids had never been to a race, and had no idea what it would be like.

















Skipper was not enthused about running the race, which was not surprising. As always with new activities, we encouraged her to run, and acted casually as though we expected her to, but said that it was totally fine if she didn't. She lined up at the start, standing in a silent unhappy hunch. When it started, she started running, and also immediately started crying, her face a mask of misery. I ran alongside her, and I kept telling her she could stop, or walk, or hold my hand, or whatever she needed. Being Skipper, she angrily rejected all my offers, and pushed me away when I reached for her hand. She cried the whole kilometer (making me look like some kind of monstrous pushy parent, forcing her unhappy child to run), but she ran the hell out of it.






















She got a participant ribbon that she did not want to pose with.

Cook and Duchess lined up for their race. 
This is close to the end of the first lap (of three).
























 This is the finish. At that point, Duchess looked about as happy as Skipper had.






















Cook beat her.






















Everybody was pleased in the end. Duchess has big plans to win her age group next year.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The future

Skipper's teacher made a poster of the kids with signs identifying their career plans. (This is a ridiculously adorable and sometimes moving activity that I've seen lots of teachers doing lately.) I took a crummy camera photo of it while attending the Big Graduation Ceremony on Friday. See if you can find Skipper.






















The key here is to look for the kid who is hiding. While also clowning around. (Pitstock's photo is directly underneath hers, by the way.)

















And there she is. She explained to me later that she was specifically thinking about saying she would be a paleontologist, but decided to keep it open-ended.




Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

I'm doing it.

I'm linking to an NPR blog. As if you had any delusions that I am not the sort of person who reads NPR blogs.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rehashed

I'm unemployed! Hurrah! I kicked off my unemployment by getting my teeth cleaned yesterday morning.* Hurrah! The kids have two more weeks of school, and then we're all summer all the time.

Now on to today's topic: gender!  I've written here about gender and school socializing before, but it's always in the back of my mind, so I'll probably write about it a hundred more times before I'm through. I continue to be irritated by the way that every single teacher Duchess has had has embraced the same system, in which the Responsible Girls are tapped to help the teacher with chores. Duchess started out by escorting feckless classmates to the bathroom in kindergarten, and it's been all chores ever since. She LIKES the chores, of course, because they come with teacher approval and a thrilling sense of maturity and independence, and this is just the way the system works throughout school. But it really pisses me off. Boys are not expected to be Responsible. Girls who are Responsible are normal, just meeting the expectations of Girlhood, and boys are almost never even asked to do Responsible things like cleaning up the classroom unsupervised while everybody else is out at recess. Girls do extra work because they are Responsible. Boys do whatever they want, get in minor trouble (A reprimand! Sent to the office where nothing bad happens and they get to miss some class!), and never clean up. Even when everybody is supposed to be cleaning up together, guess who's doing most of the work? I was just reading somewhere** the theory that this socialization makes boys learn that failure isn't actually that big a deal - they experience first-hand, early in life, that the consequences of doing something wrong, or breaking the rules, aren't actually that bad. This leads to more risk-taking behavior in life and in work.** Girls often never get the chance to try breaking the rules, because they're steered so hard away from it, and if they DO break the rules, the social (and sometimes the disciplinary) ramifications are more unpleasant, because they're breaking social expectations as well as school rules. So they learn to follow the rules all the time, and the perceived risk of breaking them, or of failing to live up to expectations, just gets bigger and bigger in their minds. Boys can be careless, self-centered, irresponsible, and disruptive, without suffering serious immediate consequences. Girls have a lot less wiggle room. I asked Duchess what would happen if she said "No, I don't want to clean up the classroom. I want to go out to recess," and she said (understandably) that she just could not say that. She's nine, and she's already stuck not only cleaning up the classroom, but also feeling like a failure when she doesn't get 20 out of 20 on her spelling test.*** And we wonder why women don't become CEOs. (Or rather, only become CEOs when there's a mess that needs to be cleaned up.)

I understand why teachers lean so hard on the Responsible Girl model. They have a lot of shit to do, and very little time, and it probably doesn't occur to most of them that there's any problem with the time-honored Responsible Girl tradition.  There aren't any administrators I know of out there who are interested in doing the heavy culture-changing lifting it would take to break that model and try a model in which boys and girls are given the same expectations.

On a related note, Cook alerted me to this amazing piece of news: people take hurricanes with female names less seriously than hurricanes with male names. More people get killed by storms with female names than by those with male names because they can't be bothered to evacuate for a frivolous girly storm. This is disturbing in a lot of ways.

I feel overwhelmed by the way the world just beats down girls.  And don't even give me the statistics about how girls are over-represented in college. Whatever - that's just an advanced education in Being a Responsible Girl. (Also, being Responsible Girl means being diligent in avoiding being raped. Because that's your job, just like keeping the classroom clean and getting good grades.) What matters is all the rest of life, and I don't see any progress happening there.

And yes, there are many Responsible Boys and Men**** out there, and Irresponsible Girls and Women, too. And this is all pretty much just anecdotal. So there are all kinds of caveats on my repetitive ranting. But it feels very real to to me, and when I see Skipper busily picking up trash off the floor of her preschool classroom while the boys are coloring, my heart sinks a little more.


*I have had a crummy six months of dental visits, in which I've gotten a ton of fillings, including several along the gumline, which is extra-awful because the drilling for these, unlike the sort of top-down fillings to which I had been accustomed, somehow feels like it's rattling your ENTIRE SKULL. So just getting my teeth cleaned seemed like a cheerful fun adventure.

** And no, I can't be bothered tracking it down at the moment. I'm busy being unemployed!

*** Last week a boy in her class pointed at her 19 out of 20 score and said mockingly "Wow, Duchess, looks like you need to get a new brain." She cried. 

**** I'm married to a Responsible Man! So there's just no way that our kids are going to avoid being excessively responsible, given their genetics.