October 31, 2007

From Euphoria To Crap And Back Again, Part 2

It's the morning after my birthday. Seeing Regina Spektor with my husband was the perfect way to spend a birthday evening.

Now, back to the more immediate issues of parenting and unschooling. Yesterday, I left you with this:
Just when I thought we were cruisin' along right smack in between "okay" and "euphoric"--CRASH!--I ended up feeling like crap. It happened yesterday at chess class. I'll call it the "chess incident." The good news is that today I had a brief but heartwarming moment of euphoria. I'll call it the "Tom Waits incident."

Let me explain.

Tuesday was my birthday, but Tuesdays are usually pretty hectic in our house because Jerry goes to three different classes during the day, then usually plays at a friends house in Hollywood, which means I spend the day driving all over town.

So, I decided we'd celebrate my birthday on Monday. I wanted to go to the Norton Simon Museum and I wanted Jerry to accompany me without complaint. I know. I know. He's twelve. He's "not a museum person," as he puts it. But, I thought playing the birthday card might change things. Stop laughing--I'm an optimist!

The museum opened a 12 so we spent the morning on our computers. I know. I know. I said we had a deal about no screen time before 4 p.m. but I was working on editing a newsletter, so I had to be on my computer and it seemed unfair to make Jerry stay off his. Besides, he was finding all kinds of really cool magic tricks, science experiments, and stop motion videos. It seemed silly to make him stop.

Around 12:30 we packed up Jerry's chess stuff, since we'd be going directly to chess class from the museum, made a shopping list of supplies for creating some of the cool things he'd discovered online, and took off for the Norton Simon.

We had a really nice time at the museum. It wasn't completely free of complaining--on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd put the complaint level at about 6. That's pretty good for a child who once refused to enter the John Steinbeck Museum and sat in the lobby moping for an hour while his dad and I explored.

We spent most of our time in the South Asian Collection because they have a really cool audio tour that tells the stories of the Hindu and Buddhist Gods. Then we had lunch at the cafe and Jerry worked on his chess homework. He gave me the answers and I wrote them in for him--teamwork at its best.

That part was the "euphoria--" the morning and the museum, and sitting in the garden doing his chess work together.

Next we picked up the supplies he needed and headed to chess, about thirty minutes east of the museum.

As we pulled into the parking lot Jerry slumped down in his seat. "I don't really want to go to chess," he moaned, "I'm bored with chess. I'm just not a chess kind of guy."

"I drove all the way out here," I said, "I paid for the class through today. You need to go, at least to this class, since we're here."

I won't bore you with all the whining and lecturing that went on. I will tell you that a well-meaning man at the ISP tried to show Jerry how to give himself a little energy pick-me-up by doing jumping jacks, which ended with Jerry being embarrassed and giving me a pretend punch in the side of the head (in slow motion) because I was laughing, and the man saying "Surely you're not so tired that you need to be disrespectful to your mother." I think that was the straw that broke the mother's back.

I hate it when people do that. Jerry's action didn't seem disrespectful to me until the guy said it was. It was certainly no more disrespectful than me laughing at Jerry's embarrassment. But once he labeled it disrespectful I got really mad. At Jerry.

So, tears were shed (Jerry's), blood boiled (mine) and we left. This was the "crap" part of the day.

On the way home, I told him he had to pay me for the class that he was skipping out on. I told him he had to wash my car to make up for my time spent driving out there. I told him I was so angry.

He cried.

I wanted to say more. There were a million things running through my head--mean things--but I knew they would all make him feel like a terrible person. I think I managed to keep them all in, but he felt like crap anyway. We both did.

In the end we got over it. Jerry was extra attentive at home that night. I was kind of mopey and tired. But, before bed we apologized to each other and had a good hug.

The following day--my real birthday, Jerry was still extra attentive. On the way home from Japanese he asked me to put on a CD and I chose Tom Waits' "Mule Variations." Jerry doesn't usually like to listen to Tom Waits but he didn't complain once, he just put it in the CD player and pressed play.

He read the lyrics as the music played and when the first song, "Big in Japan," ended he said, "I liked that song." My heart went a-flutter. I know it's silly but I love Tom Waits' music and it made me so happy to think that I would finally be able to share it with Jerry. From there it only got better because Jerry said he liked "House Where Nobody Lives" which is a ballad and Jerry usually hates slow songs. And then (joy of joys!) when we stopped at home so Jerry could grab his trombone he actually paused the CD before running into the house!! He didn't want to miss any of the music!

Ah, euphoria.

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