Monday, February 18, 2013

The Cold Fire of February

In the interest of keeping it real, kicking my game face to the curb, and writing from inside the fire (without having first escaped or put it out), I thought I'd add my voice to the growing choir of those proclaiming this month "Suckuary."  It totally is and does:  Suck the spirit out of me, that is.  (Recent episodes of Downton Abbey have not been helpful on this front, either.)

Dwija at House Unseen and Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum recently wrote exactly what I'd thought  regarding this topic, so now I feel redundant and late to the party on top of everything else.  Furthermore, my birthday is also in February.  This year I am troubled to know my 30s are nearly over,  which is weird because I'd never thought I'd be the type to fear forty.  Assuming the mantle of "middle age" in lieu of "young mother" is admittedly tough on my psyche right now.

One problem with this February Morass now miring our collective lives is that it makes me angry.  I get snappy; I momentarily lose the desire for virtues such as patience and forbearance because I can't take it anymore.  My mouth opens and my cranky un-napped inner four-year old emerges with a bad attitude, after which I feel guilty for being such a witch lady.  For context: I shouted at the kids in the middle of a lesson.  And then I chucked a pencil out the door.  That's a tantrum, right?  The sort of thing I give my children time outs for, yet I just modelled this manner of "dealing" for them.  Does that constitute a mortal sin?  Ugh.

This bad behavior on my part isn't for lack of trying.  My current reads are How to Talk so Kids will Learn and Dr. Meg Meeker's book, Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Boys.  These titles join countless books on parenting and education I've gathered and digested over the years.  My brain is saturated by everyone's "expert" advice,  a real hoot when experts' advice and methods contradict one another.  I can normally hold these contradictions in my mind and select what fits and release what does not... but not in this month.  During "Suckuary," the expert disagreements freeze my mind, and nothing I do in response to child needs feels natural or right; I fear I've become a walking, incoherent contradiction.   The experts look down from their shelves above, finally agreeing on one point: "That mother hasn't done a thing we've said."

The other problem with Suckuary is it makes me self-obsessed, paranoid and self-defeating.  I start thinking the world is out to get me.  Worse yet, I start thinking maybe the world should be out to get me, because I suck.  Just who do I think I am, not conforming to worldly standards of how a woman should live?  (Same story different decade, eh, ladies?)  Who gave me the authority to teach my kids at home, when one child so evidently suffers from ADD or ADHD (we're boarding that train to diagnosis now) and damn, did I give it to him with my lousy parenting choices?

There are days I skip showering.  My skin is dry and my nails go unpainted.  I don't know why other women love expensive paisley purses so much.  The laundry pile never shrinks, there are toys scattered everywhere, and some days dinners don't get made.  Evidently, I am missing something here.  These signs point to my failure.

Why don't I just go out and get a job, and suffer the worldly slings and arrows which my husband faces as he goes to his public teaching gig each day?  I mean, earning money is the sign that I am in fact contributing, right?  Earning money means I have earned a place on the planet, no?  If I'm not earning something, I must be leeching something, right?  Isn't that the message pitched to us from both sides of the political spectrum these days?  In Suckuary, my confidence is weak and I am exhausted enough to wonder:  Are they right?

I taught high school English for ten years before choosing to walk this path.  My husband alone supports our brood via the public schools.  We don't do this homeschooling thing because we hate teachers.   We are teachers.  We're just... well, we're complicated.  And in February, the teacher in me struggles without a faculty room to retreat to or other people to kvetch with me over coffee.  I slug it out here alone.

But it helps to remember that in February, my colleagues in classrooms everywhere struggle with this beast of a month, too.  (While I think of it, academic integrity compels me to cite my friend Kelli, a teacher in Massachusetts, for introducing me to the term "Suckuary." For all I know, she coined it herself.) It helped to hear Dwija and Kelly and a slew of others sound off on this topic, too.   This isn't just me.

My husband is having a hard week at work, because the world can be an ugly place, even (and especially?) in the field of education.  Every co-Dependent bone in my body screams out to FIX IT for him (and everyone else) because it ISN"T RIGHT; where is the happiness and love in the world, if it isn't in the very environments our society places our children into?  What happened to caring for children's multiple intelligences?  When did we become more like communist Russia, hell-bent on getting seven and eight year olds prepared for their careers in this "global economy" instead of encouraging critical thought and offering guidance to children so they can discover their individual calling?  Why can't we allow kids to know they are loved and worthwhile for something beyond just being a functional cog in a machine?  Why the hang up on test scores and data?

Why must the world force itself upon our kids, and us, and seemingly conspire to make our family lives miserable?  When self-actualized adults do wish to opt our kids out of that rat race (or try to anyway) why must strangers and bureaucrats get ramped up about our choice?  I run across stories like this one, or this one, and rather than mounting a campaign to speak out against well-intentioned insanity, I want to nap and hide my head under a mountain of pillows.  I can't fight city hall in February; I feel like giving up in the face of it all.

Of course, I know in my rational brain that I'm not just marking time.  My son's reading and writing have now hit a more fluid and rapid period of improvement.  We have an appointment with a Behavioral Optometrist to begin putting together what other pieces are needed in his education, above and beyond the Occupational Therapy I've brought him to for the past two years.  He is a smart and critical thinker, with an impressively extensive memory.  My oldest daughter's piano playing and writing are off-the-chart awesome for a kid her age.  Her math skills are not bad.  My kindergartener is learning to read and to add, and is amazing with art.  I give her as many opportunities to learn on the artistic front as I can think to give.  Both girls are independent learners.  We are waxing, not waning, when I step back and look up at it all.

Yet... these are facts that I have trouble feeling good enough about in February.

Why am I hanging all of this out there?  Just as it was a comfort for me to hear that I am not alone in this mid-winter quick-sand pit, I hope to let some other soul know that she is not alone, either, nor is she bad or strange for her feelings.  All "bad" months come to a close; even "Suckuary" shall pass. What seems frozen or ugly is not truly that way.  Not forever, anyway.

This is just one of many seasons.  Remember Ecclesiastes 3?  I say: cue the music.


  1. Wow. A bit overwhelmed and blown away by the intensity and raw honesty of the writing. Why can't you be as complacently self deceitful and delusional as the rest of us?

    1. Oh, Fr. Sal... I am as expert at self-deceit and delusion as anyone else! In fact, hiding what I think or feel is my default setting in real life. I've just learned that I make myself and my life crazy if I give myself room to indulge that temptation.

      It is far better to be uncomfortable in my honest representation of myself than to have sham comfort with some stylized persona I've crafted to stand in lieu of the "real me." Better/saner to be me and be done with it. "The truth shall set you free," and all of that...

    2. Well, I'm not talking to you any more! Such honesty is scary. It might even be contagious! I guess I have to cross you off my list of codependent codependents. There's nothing harder to deal with than someone who speaks the truth in love to oneself and others. There's just no way to manipulate someone like that!

  2. If you ever want me to come down and kvetch with you some afternoon, let me know..or if you feel like schlepping up here to kvetch, ditto.

    1. Thank you for the offer! I very much look forward to our kvetching!