And it really has arrived. There are more leaves on the lawn than on the trees, we've had a frost or two, and that wonderful, odd silence that's a part of changing seasons is hanging in the air, which is quite still. Finally turned the heat on, too...
Cai helped me harvest the last of my green chilies and tomatoes last week. (Not a great crop this year - due to the relentless record rains of June.) Sad to see the gardens go to sleep and, as always, a reminder that cycles continue...
Speaking of cycles, the school year is progressing, which means homework, which means I'm learning (again) how to group addends, determine commutative number problems, find the values in the tens, hundreds and thousands columns and, in all ways, help my son with his take-home tasks... All of which brings us to the feature of the month: "One Year Later."
Be sure to visit the "Happenings" department, where you'll find the goods on a new teleclass series for Dads. More cool goings on are on the Cirrus site, so do stop by...
Thanks for reading, and take some time to play in the leaf-piles!
PS: If you enjoy what you read, pass the DadsNews on to other folks and help spread the love! Thanks!
Aunt Ellen Introduces Cai to Mad-Libs...
One Year Later
Depending on your perspective, I'm either blessed or cursed with a steel-trap memory. At least long-term...
My earliest memory dates back to when I was three years old, standing with my mother on the concrete patio of our beigy-pinkish house in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. I remember reaching up to touch my mom's belly, which was round as could be as my yet-to-be-born sister, Ellen, was still using it as temporary housing.
I have vivid memories of sitting in class at Brookdale Avenue Elementary School in Verona - also New Jersey - staring at a darkened autumn sky out the tall windows of an institutional green classroom. I was day-dreaming, of course, to ward off boredom...
I didn't hit my (tenuous) academic stride until sometime in my senior year of high school, but that's another story altogether...
My recollections of homework are not particularly romantic. I was a tough kid when it came to bringing work home from the office. I had other things to do - build model airplanes, run around outside, explore the brook that ran through our back yard - and was far too busy to be bothered with the three "R's." I became a master at the game of procrastination, willingly giving up my amateurcrastination status in the name of... Well, in the name of anything except that which others said needed to be done.
Really... How good an idea could anything be if it came from someone else..?
Homework, of course, was an idea that originated elsewhere, so who could be bothered?
I remember banging heads with homework and, by extension, anyone who was brave or foolish enough to attempt to "help" me with mine. Sometimes things got ugly. I wasn't always receptive to outside assistance, and in those moments, even those who meant well and really did have my best interests at heart weren't equipped with the tools they needed to reach me. (A couple of good tutors did help, largely because they were people to whom I could relate and open to.)
The Universe is a strange, abundant and magical place, filled with mystery and, I've heard, wisdom. Some wise aspect of that abundant Universe saw fit to deliver unto me a child who relates to homework in about the same way I did. From where I stand, I think he's notched it up a bit... But that may just be the voice of my inner, overly responsible parent. As Cai would say, "yeah, whatever..."
I see loads of similarities between his and my third-grade learning styles. A psychologist might even tell me that I'm projecting my own stuff onto my child. Fortunately, however, I'm not a psychologist.
What I know is that a year ago, I would go nutty over this stuff. On one front I was at war with the education system. (FYI, I haven't entirely given that up...) On another front I was at war with Cai. ("Why can't you just DO this stuff..?) On a third front, I was at war with myself. (Much wringing of hands and the eternal question: "where did I go wrong..?")
All of that warring makes for great drama. And when the curtain drops, there's still the question of what to do...
Much happens in the fullness of time and, sure as the year that has gone by, the face of homework has changed. For one thing, it seems to go faster. Cai is a year older, more sophisticated, and integrates new ideas in a speedier fashion. He still drops into perfectionist mode on occasion, yet seems more willing to make mistakes.
I'm not getting hooked as easily as I did a year ago, which helps keep the level of drama from escalating. It is, after all, hard to put on a two-character play when only one character shows up.
Speaking of play, we're doing a lot more of it at homework time, and it's paying off. I had one of those precious moments of enlightenment where, standing on the precipice of significance, feeling the ledge under my feet shrinking, I saw a golden light on the horizon. Before the light, a small plane flew - a red Piper Cub puttering along, pulling a banner that read, "Hey Buddy! Yeah, you... the bald guy! Why are you taking this so seriously?"
"Well," I answered, "it is serious..."
The Cub reeled around, and on the other side of the banner I could just make out the words, "Yeah, whatever..." and it was gone.
"Hmmmm," I thought. (It's what I think each time a significant belief of mine is shattered.) "What if I am taking this just a bit too seriously..."
I swear that I saw the little airplane on the horizon again. This time the banner said "PLAY!"
"Hmmmm... Is that an option?"
"Yup," read the banner, vanishing over the horizon again.
You know, I go away to lead these workshops, and people tell me that one of the things that makes it so easy to learn is that I bring my playful side, which brings out their playful side. Soon the whole room is playing, and the next thing you know, everyone has learned. What if we applied some of that play to this homework thing?
So we started playing with Cai's homework, and it was good. We created new worlds. We invented squidgey widgets to sell at a fair so we could learn how to make change. We composed silly sentences in the name of spelling practice. There was peace in the land, learning happened, and it became fun.
Yeah, we each have our moments when we slip back into warring mode. We're so stinkin' human that way.
In the broader picture, it's a year later and much has changed. Maybe it's him, maybe it's me... More likely, we've both gained another year's worth of wisdom, love and respect for one another.
Then there's that whole "taking it seriously" bit. Yes, education is serious stuff. Yes, there's still that nagging voice that wants to pour serious goo all over anything having to do with school. But play greases the wheels of learning like nobody's business, so play we shall.
Wish us luck, because so far, it's working...
The road of fatherhood is filled with bumps, scenic overlooks and unexpected detours. Sometimes the going is smooth, sometimes… well, sometimes it isn't!
“Love, Anger, Joy and Fatherhood” is an experiential exploration of both the personal and universal states of fatherhood.
• What kind of expectations are you facing? Do they come from within or without?
• How do you handle anger: by hiding it, denying it, expressing it, or using it as a fuel source?
• How do you want to spend your time with your children? How satisfied are you with that time?
• If fatherhood were a game, are you out on the field, or warming the bench?
• As a man, do you bring all of you to your role as a Father..?