Gender Roles

I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.  Honestly, until my ovaries demanded children, I never thought of myself as being a mom at all.  Or a wife.  I wanted to be a physician.  There are days when I long to go back and kick 20-year-old Lisa in the freaking teeth for making the choices she made, but oh well.

I don’t regret my husband or children at all.  At.  All.  I don’t.  I only wish I’d realized, when I opted the three of them into my life, that I was simultaneously saying ‘no’ to a lot of other things.  I foolishly bought the shit we tell our kids, even more forcefully, today, “Honey, you CAN do WHATEVER you put your mind to.”

Actually, you can’t.  You need to make choices along the way, and each choice has a trickle-down effect, making other choices obsolete.

I’m big into feminism.  I’m also big into parenting, as a concept.  Although it is undoubtedly the right choice for gads of other people, I could not imagine putting my kids in day care or hiring a nanny.  To me, each tiny choice I make for my kid comes from a lot of research, a lot of soul searching, and a heavy perusal of our values.  The very language I use when I speak to my kids is laden with values and deliberate decisions.  I can’t imagine farming it out.  (This post is not about daycare vs. stay at home parenting.  We are both right.)

So I expected that either I or my husband would stay home with the kids.  He had a good job when the kids came along.  I didn’t.  He won the right to work, and I won the right to stay home.  This post will not be a discussion about who does more work, because anyone who has ever stayed home with two kids, 18 months apart, will tell you who does more work.  Come Sunday night, a little light comes back into his eyes, as he imagines dealing only with 30 kids in a classroom instead of two kids in a shower.


I have tried, desperately (and, I now believe, in vain) to instil in my family the idea that having a vagina doesn’t mean you do laundry and having a penis does not mean you do the grilling.  Every chance I get, I flip that shit.  I’m all, “Hey, looks like we need to start a load of whites.”  And then I hold my breath, because he doesn’t know how to do a load of whites.

Yesterday I drew up a big list of chores that needed doing, divided them in half and assigned each kid a list.  They then randomly chose a parent to team up with.  It so happened the girls were on one team and the boys on the other.  The tasks were, purposefully, mixed.  The boys cleaned out the fridge; the girls cleaned the air conditioner filters.  Etc.

This morning, I went to use up the leftover pumpkin to make pumpkin muffins and, to my absolute horror, there’s no freaking pumpkin in the fridge.  I storm into our room, wake up my still-sleeping husband, and bark, “Where’s the FUCKING PUMPKIN?  WE LIVE IN HONG KONG–THERE IS ALMOST NEVER PUMPKIN.  YOU CANNOT HAVE THROWN OUT THE PUMPKIN.”  He did.  He thought it was soup.  Side note: he also threw out the double batch of cauliflower chowder that I made the day before.

My point is–he threw it out because he doesn’t really know enough about it to give a shit about it.  He doesn’t know what it looks like, what one does with it, how long it lasts in the fridge, how hard it is to buy in the store. The reality is that he is at work for 12 hours a day, 5 days a week.  When he’s home, he’s fully present, but I can’t honestly expect him to have an equal interest in pumpkin, the same as he can’t expect me to really care about whatever he does all day.

I can’t hold him accountable for the pumpkin.

Or the whites.  Or the grocery shopping.  Or the homeschooling.

And I can’t keep getting angry because he doesn’t know these things.  The same as I made choices that made other choices obsolete, so did he.  When he chose to take on an administrative role at his school, he unwittingly also chose to not ever give a shit about canned pumpkin.  Because that’s how this thing works.

As we get older, I find myself doing more and more of the ‘female’ tasks at home, just to keep the freaking circus running.

Boom.  I’ve fallen into a gender stereotype, despite all of my hard work in avoiding it.  I made that choice nine years ago, without realizing that I’d made that choice.

The truth is: you can’t have it all.  It seems we need to find a new way of embracing that.  My challenge now is to teach my kids that having a vagina doesn’t mean you have to learn about pumpkin, but that somebody probably should.

It Ain’t All Bad

This homeschooling shit is starting to sort itself out and be less of a jerk, which goes to prove what I always think (but never say)–that when things seem like they just cannot continue, it’s because you’re on the cusp of something.  If you stick with it without changing a damn thing, something different is about to happen.

What’s happened is that we’ve fallen into an easy, lovely routine.  Nobody cries anymore.  And my kids are learning like crazy.  Homeschooling is back to feeling like a privilege and not a chore.  Thank gods.

In the morning, they’re free to do whatever they want, so long as it doesn’t involve a screen.  They know they have to be fed, dressed, brushed, with beds made and room tidied by 9.  This gives them about 2 hours of free time in the morning, and honestly, it’s probably where most of our learning happens.  My son usually gets dressed as soon as humanly possible and heads outside.  Sometimes he goes to the sea and goes fishing.  Sometimes he finds a tree to climb.  If he’s inside, it means he’s got a good book.  My daughter likes to keep things fresh–playing with the pets, drawing, reading, baking, building Legos.  I get housework done and answer emails.

At 9, we start.  I’m still pretty didactic.  I do honestly believe that kids learn just as well in a more relaxed atmosphere, but I know I’m not going to sleep at night unless I’ve ticked the old-school, probably unnecessary boxes.  We do grammar, handwriting, spelling and math daily.  We do science and history three times a week.  We do art, formally, at least once a week.

I took them out of Chinese, because I hated it.  I realized that I don’t have to be a martyr and that I get a vote too.  Chinese?  Gone.  Ask me if any of us miss it.  We don’t.  I sure as hell don’t.  Nothing like trying to teach a kid a language you don’t freaking know.

I keep saying we are adding Latin and Spanish, but it hasn’t happened yet.  My son, however, honestly wants to learn Spanish, so that’ll have to happen soon.  I’m okay with Spanish.  Latin may well wait an entire year, I don’t know.

We are done with homeschooling by noon every day.  There are no more days when it drags on to the afternoon.  We eat lunch and then we are all free to move about the cabin.  The kids can have an hour of screens, if they want, but because we finish homeschooling at noon, it’s pretty outside and they typically just want OUT.  We do the beach, hike a bit, hang out at the playground.  As they get more independent, I’m able to leave them alone for longer periods.  I often drop them at the playground and run errands.  It’s so nice, for all of us, to have this independence from each other.


Sprinkled throughout our entire day is reading.  Independently, together, quietly, aloud.  We read so damn much.  I think the part that feels like it’s really working is that all of us are now really eager to learn.  It’s weird.  I see everything as a chance to learn or to teach, and that’s definitely new.  And kind of exciting.

How do I know this is working?  Because last night both of my kids were curled up, for hours, with chapter books in their dirty little paws.  Because they make casual references to Sargon.  Because they correct each other’s grammar.  Because the other day, when Dylan announced that he was no longer going to play with so-and-so, my six-year-old daughter said, “Uh oh.  Dylan’s about to cross the rubicon.”

I’m cranking out total geeks, y’all.

I love it.


I go back and forth about the ADHD thing.  I’ll tell you why, and you can tell me why I’m wrong.  Because that’s how the internet works.

When I worked in New Orleans as a social worker, every child I saw (and I only saw children) had a diagnosis of ADHD.  Every single one.  And it wasn’t like you looked at the kids and saw this common thread running through them and nodded your head and said, “Yes.  I saw a lot of children with ADHD.”  It was more like every single child was so completely different, in behavior and circumstance and everything else, from each other that you thought, “There’s no way these two kids have anything in common.  But supposedly they have the same thing.”

I came away from it fairly sure that ADHD was a diagnosis handed to kids who had been improperly parented.  Seriously.

When I had my own kid assessed, he was given a diagnosis of ADHD.  When I told people, namely his grandparents and close relatives, this, they almost all responded the same way.  “Oh lord.  They give that to EVERYONE these days.  Why can’t we just let kids be kids?  So sad.  So fat.”

And I agreed with them, because my other option was to believe that there was something wrong with my kid.

But there are days, and lately we’re having a lot of them, when I am far less than sure about any of that.

Because although all kids are fidgety and restless and talkative, not all of them lose the shoes that they’re wearing.  Twice in a week.  Lose them so irretrievably that they have to take buses back home barefoot.  Not all of them, when they are told to go wash their hands, wind up in the shower instead, because they’re on autopilot and don’t think.  Not all of them, I presume, go outside wearing nothing but a towel just because they managed, on their way to getting dressed, to veer close enough to the front door that their little systems were completely overridden and they just did what they usually do when they get close to the front door: go outside.

My child is good.  And sweet.  And smart.  And funny.  He’s amazing.  But his level of distraction, I think, is beyond typical for a kid his age.

When he went to ‘regular’ school, I got a lot of emails, and I bought an insane amount of water bottles, backpacks, socks, caps.  His school supplies were basically disposable, because they never made it through a week before being lost.  Part of why he’s homeschooled is so that he doesn’t have to feel like a jackass for losing shit over and over and over and over.  Because lemme tell you this–he is a GOOD child.  I think I can count on two fingers the number of times he’s deliberately disobeyed me.  He just doesn’t.  He doesn’t want to lose shit.  It’s important to him to please us and to respect us, and he’s devastated when he loses shit.

And part of why he’s homeschooled is because in a sea of 30 kids, he’s very, very likely to walk out the door in his towel.

I was, at first, fine with it.  He’ll learn.  Maybe a little humiliation and natural consequence is JUST what he needs.  But let me tell you something else: it’s not.  Because it doesn’t work.  You cannot humiliate this child into being able to follow a sequence of directions, because it will never, ever work.  Nor can you encourage him with money or discourage him with losing money or privileges or gold or fast cars.

If it were in his control, he’d be controlling it.

It was easier, much, much easier, to believe what I told everyone before.

I think he’ll grow into himself.  I do.  Or else I think he’s so freaking smart, he’ll just work around it.  He already does.  I don’t think he needs medication, because it’s not at a level that disrupts his functioning too much.  Plus, he’s homeschooled.  He’s got his MOM as a teacher.  And I’ve got all the time in the world, yo.


Everything I Know, I Learned From The Internet


It took me, like, ten years to give a shit about Instagram, but now that I’m a homeschooler, I use it.  I don’t post much, because I take pretty shitty pictures, have no interest in selfies, and don’t really like too many people looking at my shit.  But I do check in, at least once a day, to see what everyone else is doing.

I search by #homeschooling and #wildandfreechildren and #gooutside because these are three things that. . .uhhhh. . .kind of make up my world right now.  I have got the nuts and bolts of a classical education down, and I know my kids are learning.  Actually, it’s mind boggling how much they’re learning and how far they’ve come in such a short span of time.  I’m totally enjoying overhearing them talk to their friends and realizing how far ahead my kiddos are in the quantifiables.  (My six year old is ahead of her eight year old brother’s friends in math.  Booyah.)

But none of that is why I pulled my kids out of school, and I’m less than certain about how I’m faring with the rest of it.  The shit that actually matters.  Like, having my kids out in nature.  Having them manipulate their environments.  Letting them be creative and wild and free (but somehow still understanding the teachings of Aristotle).  I mean, I attempt all of this shit, but I don’t know how I’m doing with it all, and it’s easy for me to lose inspiration for it altogether.

So I cautiously look at Instagram and even Pinterest to see what other people are up to.  Some of their pictures are breathtaking, and all of it needs to be consumed only when I’m feeling at least 50% confident.  If my confidence dips below the halfway mark, I’m almost certainly going to be all, “I know jack shit about jack shit and my kids are going to be the weirdest, brokest, most homeless homeless people in the world EVER.”  Or else, even worse, I’ll be all, “All of these people are fucking LIARS.  NOTHING IS THIS PRETTY.  NOTHING IS THIS EASY.  YOUR KID DIDN’T MAKE THAT.”

But I’m not usually that bad off.

So anyway, the whole reason I’m writing this post is because I have noticed an unmet need in the online community when it comes to homeschool.  Humor.  Like, real, honest, dirty humor.  When you search “Homeschool Humor”, you get lame shit (that I’m too lazy to source and copy and credit, so you’ll just have to trust me) like Kermit the Frog drinking a cup of tea and saying things like, “My first year of college was so easy.  I remember it all from my sixth grade homeschool class.”  That’s not funny.  That’s, like, the opposite of funny.  If you’re so smart you have to tell people how smart you are, you’re a fucking loser.  You’ve gone too far in the smart department and you probably have no friends.  This is not the type of people I’m hoping my kids become.

Or else you’ll see that weird kid in front of his computer and it’ll say stuff like, “Phone call?  RECESS!” Because, ha ha, when the phone rings and mom answers, she can’t also teach you.  I fucking pray to god that by the time my kid is that kid’s age, he won’t need me to stand over his shoulder to get his freaking work done.  But even if he does, it’s still not funny.  (Also?  You really need to set that shit to silent during school time.  That’s Homeschool 101, yo.)

The Ryan Gosling meme is funny.  Kind of.  Except it’s still more dorky than funny.

If you look online, my point is, you will think that all homeschoolers are big, fucking dorks.  People who never drink, never swear, never get laid.

And this, THIS, my friends, is why my kids and I are lonely homeschoolers.  If you know of any truly funny, gritty, “I get it” homeschool stuff, please send it my way.


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