May 09, 2008

Nothing more than feelings

Parenting magazines are full of advice about how and when kids should do their homework. Every kid should have his own desk, a quiet place in his bedroom perhaps, where he can sit down without any distractions. This advice sounds lovely, of course, but it's not realistic unless you live in a big house with lots of separate rooms. The living/kitchen area of our house is one room and that's pretty much the whole downstairs of the house. My kids do their homework sitting on the floor or on the couch, usually several feet away from siblings making music or eating food or talking about random stuff. And I'm there, too, doing my work while listening to their conversations.

With-a-Why: Ugh. This is the worst kind of homework.
Me: How bad can it be?
With-a-Why: I'm supposed to write about my feelings.
Boy in Black: (laughing) Oh, that sucks.
With-a-Why: MY FEELINGS.
Shaggy Hair Boy: I hate that crap.
With-a-Why: Yeah.
Me: Let me see the sheet.
Boy in Black: Is this for English? Just make up some bullshit.
Boy in Black: (giving me a crooked grin.) English teachers like that.
Me: (reading aloud) "Describe a time when you felt uncomfortable."
With-a-Why: I'm never uncomfortable.
Me: What? You are like, the shyest kid in the universe.
Shaggy Hair Boy: But he's comfortable with that.

Boy in Black: (reading aloud) "How did you get through the situation? Give details about your FEELINGS."
Shaggy Hair Boy: Oh, god. (He turns back to the piano and begins playing again.)
Me: How about that time I tried to get you to take swimming lessons? And you were too shy?
With-a-Why: I built a sand castle.
Me: You could write about that.
With-a-Why: I didn't feel anything.
Me: You guys! Stop playing for a minute and help out. What do you do to get through uncomfortable experiences?
Shaggy Hair Boy: That's ridiculous. (Begins improvising on the piano.)
Boy in Black: You don't have to do anything.
Boy in Black: You can't stop time.
Boy in Black: You get through stuff whether you want to or not.
With-a-Why: I just sat there. And then it was over.
Me: Okay, pick another experience.

Boy in Black: (snickering) How about the time you went on Mom's blog and saw a naked picture of her?
Shaggy Hair: He didn't get through that.
Boy in Black: He was scarred for life.
Me: You. Are. Not. Helping.
Shaggy Hair: I felt slow today. Everything felt slow.
Me: You have a cold. That makes everything slow motion.
Boy in Black: We are out of milk. Again.
Me: Can you think of a time when YOU felt uncomfortable?
Boy in Black: Stuff doesn't make me uncomfortable. Because I don't care.
Shaggy Hair: How about that time you got roped into going to the prom?
Me: Hah! He's got you.
Boy in Black: What was I feeling? Like, I want to get the fuck out of here.
Boy in Black: Like ... I'd rather be playing Ultimate.
Shaggy Hair: Even my layouts were in slow motion.

Me: How about your first piano competition?
Shaggy Hair: Write about the time you had this stupid English assignment.
Shaggy Hair: And it made you uncomfortable.
Me: I mean, you had to talk to the judges and say the name of the pieces you were playing.
With-a-Why: (scribbling) And I was supposed to bow.
Me: You can write about the music -- you know lots about music.
With-a-Why: I can't write anything too complicated. The teacher won't get it.
Boy in Black: Just put in tons of shit about your feelings.
Shaggy Hair: Do you think she'll know what allegro means?
Me: You were okay once you started playing. You were probably the best musician in the room.
With-a-Why: Of the kids. But that judge might have been pretty nasty on the piano.

Boy in Black: We don't have any milk.
With-a-Why: How's this?
Me: I just bought some yesterday.
Boy in Black: Three gallons is never enough. You can't just buy three gallons.
Me: You just need one last line.
With-a-Why: Where did my pen go?
Me: Boy in Black, you go to the store next time.
With-a-Why: (reading aloud) "My love of music got me through the experience."


Sandie said...

This is so cool! I could write very similar conversations from around here too. I mentor homeschoolers and this year 7 of them at older teen boys and writing about their 'feelings' is pure torture. I really enjoyed this glimpse :)

Kelly said...

This is a fabulous conversation. I just had to post about it.

It made my day :)

PJ Hoover said...

This is really great! Makes me want to start recording conversations and transcribing.

Zhoen said...

They have lots of feelings, but no accessible vocabulary that seems right to them. But the people who wallow in their feelings and use them as an excuse not to cope or act have as much of a problem. Tricky.

readersguide said...

I loved this --

merseydotes said...

I love the way your children interact. And it sounds like you got With-a-Why through his assignment and he did a good job!

FWIW, I had a room of my own with a desk in it, and I always did my homework sitting on the loveseat in the living room and used the coffee table and end table as my desk. And I was a straight A student.

OTRgirl said...

I can remember it being far more satisfying to do homework on the kitchen table in the midst of the family bustle than tucked in my room (where it was too easy to fall asleep).

Your post about the lion in your dreams reminded me of the Charles Williams book "The Place of the Lion".

Jenevieve said...

You know, for kids who hate talking about their feelings, they sure are articulate. :)

Also, I seriously love your family. I'll give you Hosea from ages 7-17, okay? I'll even take your kids for awhile.

kathy a. said...

love your family.

but i think boys have a particularly hard time with expressing feelings in words. and that it is right they are challenged on that, because it is important.

HipWriterMama said...

Kelly from Big A little a pointed me towards your post. This is great.

TC said...

Any chance of you adopting my 7-year-old for a few years? He totally needs a Boy in Black and Shaggy Hair in his life.

BlackenedBoy said...

Ha, ha, they sound awesome.

It seems like you have some very strong, unflappable sons.

I bet you they drive their teachers crazy.

EA said...

"My love of music got me through the experience."
--and THIS is why I am a music therapist!! :o)

Sharon said...

Read my blog post from tonight, and you will know how much I mean it when I say I am ROFL...and I NEEDED THAT!! :)

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

Hahahaha. I loved this. Total flashbacks to me and my mom rolling our eyes together about some of my stupider English assignments. Feelings? Ugh.

liz said...

I love this!

Do you think that WaW could say, "Your request for me to describe my feelings about my discomfort on that occasion makes me uncomfortable?"

Cloudscome said...

It's the multiple layers that make this post so great. "Three gallons is never enough. You can't just buy three gallons." That tells so much!

Lilian said...

This is AWESOME, absolutely awesome. I continue wanting to be you when I grow up. All I need is to convince my husband to have two more kids... just kidding, of course, He'll NEVER EVER agree to that! ;-)

wow, all that milk drinking, I guess that's our future too, all that food.

And the piano classes... we got to get them started ASAP. I teach piano, but I cannot possibly teach it to my own kids, oh well :-(

Oh, and I absolutely love the things With-a-Why said, like the last line of his composition and the statement about his teacher "not getting it" -- he's just so bright that he already knows his teacher's limitations.

Now... would you say that this disregard for "feelings" thing has to do with the fact that they are boys? I'm sure your sons are sensitive and full of feeling... are their attitude towards this issue brought on by their maleness?

I know... silly questions, but I thought about this all the while I read it...

O'Leary said...

Oh, this is all so familiar - right down to the milk.

argon(one) said...