Today was filled wall to wall with things to do and things to think about. Here's some of today's mental smorgasboard:
Early this morning, checking Google Reader, I read Tonguu Mama's take on a new, apparently very inflammatory, article on parenting by a Harvard law professor named Amy Chua. So I had to skip over and read it for myself, and boy, people weren't kidding about inflammatory! Later in the day I saw it was one of the headline articles on Slate, so it really made the rounds. Chua talks about her 'Chinese mother' parenting style, which horrifies most 'Westerners'- in her eyes, it's expecting excellence, and in many others' eyes, it's control-freak parental bullying at its worst. (Never accepting less than an A in school, mandatory piano and violin, no playdates, no sleepovers, no acting, just getting ready for Harvard... and achieving this by railing at her kids about the family honor and how they're 'garbage' if they balk at her dictates or don't want to work hard). It really is a thought-provoking article, though, because she makes a couple points that are really valid: 1) that kids don't enjoy the practice necessary to become excellent at something- they only really enjoy it after they get really good at something, and should be forced to that point; 2) that hard work is a valuable skill in itself and parents should not accept laziness from children. My knee-jerk reactions are to agree with those points but still not agree with her methods in achieving them by putting a crushing load of guilt and pressure on her kids.
At school, I was deluged with the usual torrent of tasks to get done, and spend much of the morning immersed in helping students understand Jim Crow laws (they were reading about it online but, as usual, having lots more problems with comprehension than I'd expected them to have). Then in the afternoon with the 8th graders, I was answering all manner of questions about their World War II research topics and helping them find books and encyclopedias.
When I picked up Madeleine from daycare, I learned that she had a Very Bad Day, getting into trouble all day long, so J and I talked for a long while about what different consequences we could try. I'm really at a loss right now, as she doesn't seem to mind either timeouts or spankings, and I don't really want to increase either of those in frequency, as I don't think it'll make a difference. I know she's seeking attention (she's hitting the other kids, taking toys, saying "I don't like you") but I don't know why or how to help her find better ways (or, actually, tell J what I'd like her to do, since I'm not there to do it myself). Honestly, as soon as I heard about all this, I felt even more strongly that we've got to find a way for me to stay home and be Madeleine's primary caretaker- not because J isn't doing a great job (she is!) but because it's my job as her mom to be her teacher, her consistency, her nurturer.
Interestingly, then I read that a friend of mine (former Awana crony) -who blogs about her life as a stay at home mom- is joining the writing team for a site called Raising Homemakers. The purpose of the site is to raise one's daughters to be homemakers, and for them to be "stay at home daughters", living at home until marriage. This is one of the latest conservative evangelical trends, or so I gather, and appears to be headed for "I kissed dating goodbye" status as the idea everyone loves or hates. I went over to read my friend's profile on the site, so I scrolled through some of the other 30 or so contributers' profiles as well. One of the very first ones, that caught my eye, was a 19 year old girl who description includes "loves the Lord", blah blah, all the usual Christian description, and then says something to the effect of 'her talents lie in the area of academics, but her deepest desire is to serve the Lord at home'. That made me grate my teeth, because that sounds suspiciously like saying, "I'll bury my God-given academic talent that could influence the culture for good, as a teacher or professor, because at age 19 I already know that being a homemaker is what God has called me to, even though I'm not married and don't have kids yet". I know how quickly, in Christian women's circles, the idea that being a homemaker is an excellent way to serve God becomes the idea that being a homemaker is the best way to serve God. How can a 19 year old possibly know that? How much is my friend, whose daughter is 5, going to hint to her over the years that she is destined to be a homemaker, when God could call her to be a working mom? I have a suspicion that many of the blog's contributers might say that God never calls a mom to work outside the home. (Admittedly, the fact that I wrestle with my choices in this area all the time might make me just a tad bit oversensitive to this topic.... but still).
After all this, good thing that the education seminar I was supposed to attend tonight turns out to be next week. Now all I need to do is go figure out a way to teach 7th graders, in 45 minutes, about the injustices done to Native Americans by western settlers in the 1880s. In a differentiated, interactive, critically-thinking way, of course.
And then I'm taking my poor overtired brain off to bed!