Friday, December 26, 2008

From the Icy Mountaintop....

Coming to you from 7000 feet above sea level at the in-laws, it's the post-Christmas review....

...or something.

So yeah, we did the Christmas thing at Amy's brother's. He's a decent fella; hard-working, roll-up-your-sleeves, shut-the-hell-up-and-get-it-done kind of guy, much like his father. He's got a kiddo, neat lil' dude about two years old. Most anyone who reads this probably already knows him. His mom and pop are very devoted to him, and it shows. (The in-law tradition of uberparenting continues; I refer to them as in-laws for some small degree of internet anonymity.)

Came to realize one of the impending signs of my parenthood - I found myself not enjoying Christmas for my own sake, but looking forward to The Ornery One's arrival - and doing silly stuff for that one's Christmas enjoyment. (Sidebar thought: Is this the sign of one's adulthood - when one becomes more interested in - or looks forward to - the enjoyment of one's children above the enjoyment of one's self? If so, some parents are not adults - and some non-parents are still adults. End of sidebar.)

Let's face it - for adults, like it or not, Christmas is STRESSFUL. (Thank you, Captain Obvious.) Even when we tell each other we have no expectations, the self-respect and personal desire to impress one's peers still push us. Kids, on the other hand, absolutely rejoice for the holiday. They get free stuff that they really want, and that's it. Now we could go on about how Christmas is intended as a religious holiday, but let's face it - the vast emphasis of the holiday is commercial and "gifty." I'm not condemning that - I'm simply pointing it out.

Christmas is basically a kid's holiday. What's the most favorite Christmas tale? Sorry, but it's not "The Greatest Story Ever Told" - it's "A Christmas Story," Red Rider BB Gun and all. Yeah, sure, it's a time for families to get together, but there's a reason kids get all the presents - we're trying to instill in them the magic of the holiday that we ourselves have let go of to some degree. Adults love Christmas because of the kids; our vicarious enjoyment of their rapture. Me, there's a second motivation - my own Christmas history involved going to a large, drunken gathering of skydivers and packing parachutes in the afternoon while getting presents in the morning. Great way to wrap up the day, fa la la. I want my own kid to love the day and not have any reservations on it.

Easter's the same way, if you think about it. Valentine's, not so much - kids love their candy, but Victoria's Secret is the big retailer on that day. (Rawr.) Halloween is kind of split down the middle; kids love it, but lemme tell ya, the guys don't mind seeing the ladies in the getups most choose to wear on that day. (By which of course I only mean my dear and darling wife.)

I'm not sure I have much of a point, here. More of a rumination on holidays in general. Christmas is need. It's a lot more neat with kids. I think I must be - on some level - mentally preparing to become a dad, because I start thinking in terms of what this holiday means to kiddos.

On another note, it's just started snowing here in Ruidoso. It's a day late, but it's a sort-of-white-Christmas. Heh. Hopefully there'll be enough and it'll stick so that we can see how ol' dogface Lily reacts to it tomorrow. Maybe I'll post two blogs in two days. Oooh. Exciting.

-MT out

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tis the Season to be....something or other

Christmas is a rough season of the year for me. I'm one of those people that associates negative memories more so than positive ones with the holiday, largely due to the…. Unusual nature of my childhood. Being a teacher, it also tends to be more tiring and stressful. Being an expectant father, it is even more of both. (Seriously - expectant father and teacher, at Christmas-time, who has had lousy Christmas-pasts, and feels like he has to fit in with The Perfect Family now - I ought to just check myself in to a loony bin, neh?) Right now I feel more at my wit's end than I have since my first year of teaching at Christmas, so this blog may very well be more pathetic than usual. It will be filled with self-doubt, pessimism, and discouragement. Attach a big fat "DEPRESSING" to the top and move on with your ho-ho-ho'age if that's your desire. Don't blame you. Go drink egg nog and put on Nat King Cole and close this thing.

One of my students routinely comes by at the end of the day during my last planning period to do her homework. She's a student aide during that time, and she's never needed in that role. (Why the hell this means she can't go take Art or Drama or learn SOMETHING during that time is beyond me, but I suppose she benefits from…something or other.) She sits, she does her work, and we talk about life, liberty, and so on. Today she saw the fatigue on my face and looked pretty surprised - she assumed (as most kids do) that teachers are made of steel and stone and feel nothing. Meh, she's nearly in high school, ought to know better. Fine, whatever. I explained that this time of year tended to be exhausting - more so for me in this case. She's got this play tomorrow night that Amy and I are attending since it's at the wife's school, and I did my usual grumpy-grouse routine about it interrupting my day, rescheduling my dinner, and so on - and she was quite surprised that Amy and I ate together at vaguely regular times. We got to talking about her schedule, and how all her friends had similar schedules with a million events going on at all times. Seems that's pretty strange these days among kids, families eating together at normal times.

I know Amy and I want that for our child. I also wonder if, by insisting they have some spare time to hang with the fam, I'm damning my child to the same life of being-different-from-day-one that I was cursed with. People look at me and the fact that in high school and college I didn't party, that I was nose-to-grindstone, the good little student, and say "It's good, it's the right thing, it's noble, etc, etc, etc"

Strangely, this doesn't do a damn thing to make me feel better about the fact that I didn't do what everyone else did. While I'm proud of the fact that my attention to learning is pretty clear (Couldn't control my overuse of knowledge and grammar if I wanted to) it's also pretty damning. I don't know about popular television - don't care; can't develop any attachment to obviously predictable storylines. I couldn't give two craps about pop-anything. I have no idea what most party beverages are - I never "learned the taste" in college to fit in. I'm as categorically boring-square as they come. I am, in every measurable way, different. Different interests, different viewpoint, different priorities, different sense of right and wrong. Some of it's tragically old school, some of it wildly, rebelliously new and different. I struggle with that a lot, but I accept it with a certain stoic pride; I like my life, I like who I am, and I like what I stand for. I don't fit in, and I'm proud of that.

Problem is, I sure as hell don't like how I got here. I think about what I'm planning on raising my kid by: regular family meals, not a million different after school activities so they can be a kid, demanding the best teachers and the best schools, not letting them stay out at a party till 4am, expecting a regular, checked-on, regulated bedtime…. and it hit me today how massively, profoundly different that is than most kids - including the very kids I teach, the best of the best, the ones I imagine my child mixing with in due time.

Am I condemning my own child to the hell of my youth? To the absolute certainty - before the child is even born - of being not a little different like their mother, but PROFOUNDLY, "wow, you're WEIRD" different like their father, because of not only who they are (and having Amy's "love the world" and Jesse's "eye the world with arrogant, bitter scorn" for parent role models, the kid is GOING to be a bit odd) but because of how they are raised? Will my kid be the one who has to go home and miss out on things because their weirdo parents want to have dinner with them, AGAIN? Will my kid be the one not in the clubs everyone else is in, be the one not at the party everyone else goes to because I don't want to pointlessly endanger them? Will my kid be the one that wonders what they missed while they studied and stayed in because I care about their grades? And if all that's true, will my kid be glad for it? Or will some small part of them always wonder if the sacrifices they made were worth it?

And most importantly - will they thank me for that choice that I made for them? The one and only good thing I give my mother is that she, for the most part and with one strict exception, allowed me to make nearly all my own choices growing up. I willingly embraced my elitist, arrogant, I-turn-my-nose-up-at-social-gatherings,-for-I-am-a-scholar place in the world.

By demanding my child be well-raised, well-educated, well-cultured and well-balanced, am I damning my child to social isolation and marginalism? Is being a good parent so unusual now that good parenting is in and of itself damning to the child?

For me, knowledge and control are bread and butter. Being ready, being prepared, understanding the situation and all it encompasses are my goals. I sacrificed huge amounts of my life and time making sure I had them - and it, for the most part, has paid off big. I'm doing exactly what I want with my life right now, even if I'm not being paid properly for it.

I'm coming to realize that for all I supposedly know… I don't know a damn thing about what matters most. Just like every other parent, I haven't a clue if I'm going to raise my child well, or ruin them. Just like every other parent, I am utterly witless in this situation.

Pregnancy: the great intellectual equalizer. Those people who see me as arrogant must be crowing right now.

So why the hell did I not go out more in college again?

Man, I hate the holidays. Next blog will be full of cheer and pre-parental joy. Promise.

-MT out.