I just returned to Hong Kong after spending an unprecedented ten days away from my family. Throughout the entire trip, people kept asking me, “Do you miss them? Is it weird? Is it awesome? Are you relaxed?” And I lied all the lies that I always lie.
Of course I miss them.
It’s so weird it hurts.
It’s awesome to feel so relaxed.
In truth, it felt kinda like life always does. Maybe I have more problems than I thought, but in my little mind, when one stressor is removed, another always jumps the queue. And I don’t usually miss people, because I’m typically pretty involved with whomever I’ve replaced them with.
At the end of my trip, though, I did honestly miss my kids. I missed their bodies. I missed tending to them. I missed their affection and their humor and their sass. Even their sass.
But I didn’t appreciate the experience as a break from the norm until I returned to the norm.
And now here I am, falling a little bit more in love every day with the vacation from which I just returned.
Homeschool, I think, is still the right choice for my family. But it is absolutely not without its flaws, and as we struggle through jet lag and exhaustion and change of routine to get back into it, the flaws seem abundant. Like weeds in a garden that was supposed to be a whole lot prettier.
My husband leaves the house every day around 6:30. On a good day, he returns home by 5. Because he’s the head of his department, he has a lot of social obligations that he has to entertain just so he doesn’t look like a jerk. Because he’s human, he also wants to play soccer a few nights a week. Because it doesn’t line up nicely with our values, we don’t employ anyone to do our cleaning. (Firm rule in our household: you made the mess; you clean it up.)
All of this means that it all falls to me. I’m with the kids, alone, usually for 11 hours a day. I’m with the kids for almost all of their waking hours. I do the cooking, the cleaning. I also do the educating. I remember the birthdays. I do the shopping. I do the laundry.
I do a lot.
I didn’t realize how much I do until I didn’t do it for a week and a half and then had to suddenly do it again.
It’s not hard, and I know countless people have it ridiculously harder, so I’m not really complaining. But the tricky part for me, the part I’m struggling with, is that I do it in isolation. When I’m here, I’m glued to my phone in an unnatural way, because I’m desperate for human contact.
And yet, by the time my husband comes home, the absolute last thing I want is more human contact. I have been smothered all day long by people with the wanting capacity of bottomless pits. After dinner, my husband almost always takes the kids to the park. It’s usually the best exercise they get all day, and I’m happy to have the house quiet for a bit. But while they’re gone, I clean up. My husband says to leave it, but if I do, it’ll be 10 pm before we can both sit down together. So I do it.
On the weekend, my husband will almost always offer to take the kids somewhere for the day. If I include myself, I never get a break from the kids. If I let them go while I enjoy the quiet, we never have any family time together.
Last year, I took every opportunity I got. You want the kids? They’re yours. I will happily sit my ass on the couch and not move or speak.
But that doesn’t help the isolation factor. And it certainly doesn’t help our family. It made things worse, to be honest. Every time I took the option of alone, I just felt alone and resentful that I do all the dirty work and he gets the beach days. My friends don’t want to hang out on the weekends. They want to see their family that they haven’t seen all week.
I think homeschooling, and indeed raising a family altogether, is best done in groups of like-minded people. I’m struggling a bit on my own.
My kids have a modelling job, and it’s killing me.
In case you’re wondering how exactly a kid gets a job modelling, here’s a brief timeline:
*My kids say, “Hey, did you know that (insert name of any of their friends, because they all seem to model) gets paid a lot of money just for wearing different clothes? If I did that, I could buy the really big Lego sets.”
*I nod and ignore, per the ushe.
*The boy repeats said statement at the exact moment someone posts on my town’s local Facebook page that some company is looking for a boy model, age 6-9.
*I say, “Oh yeah? You want me to send your photo in?” He says yes.
*I find some random pictures, taken by me, with my phone. I don’t even click the little “‘retouch” thing. Or crop his sister out. I just send them.
*A week later, I get a call that he’s been chosen.
*A month later, I get another call, asking if I own the cute little girl who wasn’t cropped out of the photos I sent in. Yes, I do. Great, they’ll take her too.
That’s all it took.
Well, kind of.
Originally, the photo shoot was taking place over two days. Day 1 then got canceled because a tropical storm. The reschedule got canceled because of a hurricane. They rescheduled again while we were in Thailand. No big deal. Salary drops by half; they’ll do one day instead of two. It’s still plenty of money for a Lego set. Day 2 gets rescheduled because of monsoons. And again. And again.
It’s done nothing but rain all fucking summer.
Okay, so now Day 2 is fixed, with a backup day scheduled in the event of rain. To clear these two days that kept changing, I had to change my kid’s drama camp three times. Three. That’s more drama than a whole year of drama camp.
We haven’t even talked about clothes yet.
At first, the agent was all, “Weigh them, measure them, send the details my way.” Nice. I do this. She comes back with, “Okay, we’ve got a wardrobe of 10-12 outfits for both of them. Please photograph and send 4 outfits for each of them for backup.”
The outfits cannot have loud designs on them. Nor can they have popsicle stains. Nor can they be the booty shorts my daughter wears exclusively. They can’t have Darth Vader on them. Or ghasts. I’m fucked. My kids dress like hobos. They learned it from their mother.
Thankfully, this modelling shit is coinciding nicely with everyone’s end-of-season sales, so I was able to pick up a few solid-colored t-shirts for, like, free. I even got some for myself, so I can model more-than-hobo. Done.
Then the agent texts, “Make sure they wear their white shoes.”
Let me tell you what we wear every day. Flip flops. That’s it. That’s dressing up around here.
I was thinking, “This woman is smoking crack. Who the hell wears white tennis shoes?” Then I remembered that in Hong Kong, all kids are expected to have one dark pair of shoes and one white pair of tennies for school. Oh, right. Lots of days, my kids never wear any shoes. Having to wear shoes (and pants) basically pushed us into homeschooling.
I refuse to budge on this one. I hate buying shoes for my kids. They hate it. I’m not doing it. I’m sorry, I say. We don’t own white shoes and we’re not buying them. Fine, she says. She’ll do it.
The modelling is supposed to happen in two weeks’ time. It’s done nothing but rain for the past two weeks. I am flying out of the country the week after. If it doesn’t happen the day it’s supposed to, it’s not going to.
All of that is enough stress, but you want to know what’s super ridiculous? My daughter HATES having her picture taken. She promised me, before she accepted the job, that she’d smile and be polite. That she understood that having her picture taken was not just a part of the job, that it IS the job. But six is a fickle age. I have no faith.
I think I’ve become a zealot, and I hope I’m not the only one surprised by that. Alternately titled: Ramona Quimby is an asshole.
I’m pretty sure I’m not a dick, but if I am, this is definitely a sign of it.
My kids and I read from chapter books every day during lunch. (This is made possible by the fact that I eat my lunch while making theirs. Not because I want to read to them, but because I’m typically too hungry to make food for someone else without eating it first.)
Our last chapter book was from the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary. I remember reading these when I was a kid, and they get rave reviews all over Goodreads, so I got number two in the series: Ramona the Pest.
The story follows five-year-old Pesty Ramona through her first few months of kindergarten, where she learns the ins and outs of the school house. The climax of the story comes when Ramona gets herself removed from school because she keeps pulling Suzie’s hair. (Suzie?? Fuck, I don’t know what the kid’s name was. Something.) When she gets kicked out of school, she comes home from school madder than hell and proceeds to kick the wall of her bedroom. She then stays home from kindergarten at her own behest, because she feels like her teacher doesn’t like her. When her teacher sends a note home, saying something to the effect of, “When are you coming back?” Ramona decides her teacher does indeed like her, and she’ll return.
My kids, let the record state, loved this book. Actually, it’s too young for my son, but my daughter loved this book. She keeps asking me when the next one is coming from the library. She really, really got a kick out of it.
As for how I felt about it? Ugh. I’ll give you the good bits first: I genuinely liked how Ramona misinterprets sayings, situations, lyrics to our national anthem due to her age. Cute, and interesting to think about how a kid understands the world around them. Also, I think Ribsy is a fabulous name for a dog.
But honestly, I’m not too interested in having my child understand why Ramona feels it necessary to kick the walls of her house. Mostly because my children do not kick the walls of our house. Nor do they pull other kids’ hair. I don’t know if it’s a complete fluke or if it’s down to our parenting or what, but my kids have never once, I don’t think, pulled another kid’s hair. They don’t call people names. They do not, bless their little hearts, kick walls. And I have to think that they don’t do this now because they understand it’s bullshit to act like a dick, but that they didn’t do it when they were younger because they knew their punishment would be quick and unapologetic if they did.
So, having given up my job, my sobriety, my friends and my life to try to turn out kids who know right from wrong, who have a really good moral compass, who will challenge the world around them, I really don’t want Ramona and her adult buddy Beverly Cleary trying to justify the ‘need’ to pull folks’ hair.
I kinda spent the whole book thinking that Ramona was going to end up inpatient somewhere. I also thought, “This child is desperately craving attention. Why is this entertainment? It feels kinda sad to me.” I mean, I know little kids do dick things, but I also kinda think that by age 5, you probably shouldn’t be pulling hair. Am I wrong? Here’s where I’ll give a little. If your kid IS pulling hair, I do think this is a good book for them, because it does give voice to the angry feelings and help bridge the gap between emotion and action a bit.
So, how does this make me a zealot? Because I don’t want my kids reading stuff like this. The other day, on a whim, my daughter and I turned on a movie about some girls in some gymnastics competition. I turned it off when they started mean girling each other. This is a kids’ movie, y’all. Made for children. And it showed one group of girls being awful to another. Look, my kids don’t KNOW that sometimes groups of kids act like little shits to other groups of kids. It would not be on their freaking radar if it weren’t for movies like this telling them that, oh well, it’s just something everyone goes through, so let’s resolve it quickly and nail that back tuck, shall we?
I go back and forth. I don’t want my kids being entertained by shit that normalizes bad behavior. I also prefer not to raise sheltered little weirdo homeschooled kids. My attempt to work around it is a lofty ambition. I hope to fill their little heads with real problems and help them work towards real solutions. Our environment is fucked. Here is how it’s fucked. Here is the potential fallout from it being fucked. Let’s think up some stuff we can do to unfuck it.
But can you skip it? Can you just leave out that part? There’s a tiny chance that my daughter may never experience the relational aggression so common in girls. A teeny, eeny weenie chance that she may never be mean-girled. Do I have to expose her to it, even if I’ve built her world to not include it? Can I fill in the real problems of the world in its stead? Do we slay the beast by not feeding it? Or do I just need to look for literature that sides more with the “Ramona has issues” camp and less with the “It’s normal for a five year old to hurt people and kick walls” camp?
I get to this point, exactly, in my reasoning, and then I think, “Holy shit, if you said this stuff out loud, every single person in the room would think you were fucking insane. Let it go, yo. Let it go.”
But I don’t. Because I still think it’s important.