While I’ll admit I’m still figuring out this parenting thing, I have been around for awhile. I’ve seen a few things. Maybe learned a few, too. I typically crush Alexa’s question of the day at dinner. So when the girls have questions, I’m usually pretty quick with the answers unless it deals with show tunes, classic Saved by the Bell episodes, or carpentry. Then I tell them to ask their mother.
But what if this font of knowledge built on flash cards and rote learning was actually a bad habit?
Cecilia finally made it to long division this week and I couldn’t have been happier. It was like slipping into a warm bath with a good book. Or a pit of vipers. She hated it. She liked her old (i.e., new) way of doing it. I wanted to tell her she was nuts. One hundred years and countless nuns could not teach math any better. This new math was a touchy-feely fad. Trust me, I’ve been around.
I didn’t say that. Instead, I had her teach me the new way again. I didn’t find it better or worse. Just different. And we discovered that together. If you always have the answer, you aren’t learning.
So just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse, it actually has me rethinking new math. Clearly, the glitter is going to my head.
So Cecilia won’t be graded in sixth grade and this makes me… slightly itchy. I actually think it will be very good for her but as someone that was schooled in the 80s and 90s and was pretty good at tests and rule-following it is a very different middle school experience. Add remote learning on top of that and I sometimes find myself a bit adrift as a Dad.
I find myself stuck between chastising and cheering. Yes, they need to do the assignments but if they wander off and get interested in something else along the way? If they try to figure out how to make a quick bread rise with the right leavening ratios? If they do their assignment while pretending to be filmed for their YouTube channel? It’s all good. In fact, maybe it’s better. Maybe this weird school year will let the kids roam and not crush the curiosity out of them.
Even if it makes their conventional Dad uncomfortable.
I’m not one that loves the gore and guts of the horror genre but I do quite like a book that can disturb and unsettle without always resorting to blood. The type of book that lingers long after you finish. The type of book that doesn’t neatly fit into one genre but brings all sort of story elements to bear to make you cringe and shiver.
These are some of my favorite genre-bending books for the encroaching dark nights of fall.
One of Ally’s after school program teachers pulled me aside at pickup recently and told me how nice and helpful Ally is with her friends. I smiled and nodded. That’s always nice to hear as a parent. But she persisted. This wasn’t a one-off thing or making conversation while we waited. She really wanted me to know that Ally genuinely looked out for and cared about her friends. More warm glow…but gotta get home and make dinner.
That comment actually sunk in three days later as we labored over more reading. Ally is now starting to run up against some concepts that are hard or more difficult than kindergarten. She gets frustrated. Sometimes I get…frustrated.
Maybe I could learn something from Ally. The reading will come. Base 10 understanding will come. The capital of West Virginia…well, you can always Google that. What matters more in the long run is whether we care about and think about other people, or if the only thoughts in our heads are about ourselves. That’s hard to teach but thankfully Ally seems to have that covered.
Each year Chelle buys a big five-pound bag of candy. Each year we get between 2 and 4 trick-or-treaters. Each year I complain. Each year she says, “Just in case.” Luckily, this is also how she approaches buying wine so I have plenty of opportunities to pair the remaining 4.8 pounds of candy with the perfect red.
Both girls wore off-the-rack costumes heavy on the glitter. Feels like we passed into a new phase this year. They both embraced the vampires and skeletons motif over princesses or ruffles. There were still sparkles but also fake blood. Sort of had me missing Minnie Mouse.
They did their own makeup, too. I’m pretty sure this was the part of Halloween they enjoyed most even though it appeared as if they both took heavy hits of lithium before applying, but the end result certainly fit their ghoulish look and we avoided tears. Wins all around.
Can I share the happiest fifteen minutes of my week? Believe it or not, it involves the trombone. Like many new kids starting out on an instrument and dreaming of being Katy Perry or T. Swift, the reality of learning an instrument quickly sets in. Practice, say for the piano or trombone, for instance, can quickly become a grind, for parent and child alike.
To her credit, Ce’s enthusiasm for the trombone remains high after almost a month and this week I feel like we might have crossed some magical rubicon. Typically, Ce will practice by racing through each song, good or bad, three times and calling it a day. It drives me crazy. I’ve been preaching for the last year about deliberate practice. Don’t just play the song, work on the song. Go over a sticky measure a few times. Or practice her scales. You can imagine how that went over. About as well as suggesting doing flash cards for “fun.” Fun!
However, this week, out of the blue, she used the piano to help find some notes for the trombone. And then she went over that string of notes over and over. Deliberately. It felt like the heavens had cracked open. I’m honestly not sure if she knew how to practice before. It was like a veil was lifted from her eyes. She was excited. I was excited. At least until she went back to Hot Cross Buns…