Idleness Is Not The Devil’s Workshop

wive's tales, idleness is the devil's workshop, parent bad example,

Workshop? What workshop?

Portuguese  Cabeça vazia é oficina do diabo (An empty head is the devil’s workshop)

French “L’oisiveté est la mère de tous les vices” ( Idleness is the mother of all vices )

Egyptian Arabic
الإيد البطّالة نجسة el-eed el-baTTaala negsa   (roughly translated: the idle hand is impure)

Finnish   Laiskuus on kaikkien paheiden äiti.  (Laziness is the mother of all the vices)

Spanish  “La pereza es la madre de todos los vicios” (“Laziness is the mother of all vices”)

Italian “L’ozio è il padre dei vizi” (Idleness is the father of the vices)

When I was growing up my mother used to say, “idleness is the devil’s workshop.” Apparently this is one powerful saying, because variations of the same adage can be found in Finland, China, France, Italy, Egypt, Portugal—actually in nearly every country. Hearing this must have affected my character development. If I have a few spare moments I can’t rest until I find something useful to do.

Well, that is, until a few years ago. My husband and I were meeting friends for dinner in about an hour. I figured I could finish the plantings for our back balcony if I hurried. I carried a nearly empty bag of potting soil from the shed. On second thought, I dragged a heavy new bag just in case I needed more. My youngest, Sam, who was 8 at the time, offered to help. Together we scooped soil into the pots and spoke companionably to the seeds and plants as we tucked them in, introducing them to their new homes and pot-mates.

We tamped the dirt down, watered each from our iron-rich rusty sprinkling can and stood back to admire our work. The pots offered plenty of space for the plants to fill in yet already they were abundantly textured with greenery and blooms. Our large back balcony would be graced with color. As soon as I got the pots up there.

“Are we going to carry all of these through the house?” Sam asked doubtfully.

“Good question,” I said.

The balcony has no stairs. Carrying the muddy pots through the house, past a jumping dog, and out on the balcony didn’t seem like the most reasonable idea. I thought of an easier method. Our house is built into a gentle slope, so the balcony is almost low enough for me to hoist the pots above my head and onto the balcony floor. Afterwards I could walk through the house unimpeded to arrange them as I pleased.

When I announced this plan to Sam he didn’t seem convinced. He was downright alarmed when I pulled a chair directly under the balcony’s edge.

“Mom, isn’t that the chair you got from the garbage?”

“Yes, someone it threw out, but it’s still perfectly good,” I told him. “Remember? We’re going to sand and paint it. It’ll look great outside.”

“But you’re not going to stand on it now are you?” he asked.

“It’s fine, see?” I stood on it to demonstrate the chair’s worthiness. It held as firm as a rickety discarded wooden dining room chair could.

“Now hand me the first pot, Honey,” I said confidently. “I’ll just scoot it up on the porch.”

“That’s not safe Mom.”

“Come on, it’ll be fine,” I told him. “You’ve gotta try new ideas sometimes.” Clearly I wasn’t passing along my mother’s time-honored adages. Ones like, “Pride goeth before a fall” or “Better safe than sorry.”

He handed me the first pot. I wasn’t quite as steady as I’d expected and the pot was a lot heavier than I thought it was, but I was determined to be a good example for my little boy. I hoisted the pot up and onto the balcony floor just slightly over my head. I didn’t even make too many “ooof” noises in the process.

“See,” I said, somewhat euphoric with success, “it’s not hard at all.”

Sam continued handing the newly planted pots up to me as I smiled encouragingly down at his trusting blue eyes. When the last of the plants were finally lined up above us, I smugly explained to Sam from my lofty perch on the chair that it’s important to trust ourselves. After all, I said, how would anything ever get done except the same old way?

Just about to hop down from the chair, I noticed the unopened bag of potting soil. That would be handy to have in the house. I could repot some houseplants in the laundry tub without making a mess.

He hauled the heavy bag from the ground and, with some effort, hoisted it up to me. I grabbed it. It was much heavier than the pots and worse yet wobbly as soil shifted inside the plastic. I reached up, extending my arms as far as I could reach. I still couldn’t get the bag quite high enough to slide onto the balcony floor. I stood on my tiptoes, the bag teetering above my head.

The unusual pressure on the potting soil bag took its toll.

The bag split wide open.

Keep in mind that some reactions are beyond our control. So when my eyebrows tensed and my mouth opened in an involuntary expression of surprise and dismay, it just so happened that this took place at the exact second that the bag’s contents sprung free. It emptied in a sudden rush, piles of dirt cascading in my hair, down my collar, and directly into my open mouth.

I jumped off the chair and did an improvised dance to shake potting soil from my hair and clothes, spitting dirt and laughing while I whirled around the backyard. Sam, bless his heart, never said, “I told you so.”

Later that evening as we enjoyed dinner with friends (my hair still wet from a hurried scrub) I realized the old adage about idleness and the devil didn’t really suit me. I’m giving up the tendency to fill each moment with a useful task. When I have a little time a-wasting I remind myself that all work and no play makes a woman spit dirt.

bad example, kid's common sense, lack of common sense,

An old story from our farm site

Posted in humor, memoir, mothering, role models | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Recognizing Each Child’s Particular Genius

 

Free Range Learning, children's gifts,

A child’s gifts can be difficult to recognize, perhaps because they tend to unfold in mysterious ways. What we might consider idiosyncrasies or problems may very well indicate a child’s strengths. Oftentimes we can’t see the whole picture until long after the child has grown into adulthood. It’s worth remembering we can’t easily see our own gifts either, even though they have whispered to us of destiny or wounded us where they were denied.

A little girl creates chaos with her toys. She won’t put blocks away with other blocks nor put socks in her dresser drawer. As a preschooler she creates groupings that go together with logic only she understands. One such collection is made up of red blocks, a striped sock, spoons, and marbles. She sings to herself while she rearranges these items over and over. The girl is punished when she refuses to put her puzzles away in the correct box or her tea set dishes back together. She continues making and playing with these strangely ordered sets but hides them to avoid getting in trouble. This phase passes when she is about nine years old. Now an adult, she is conducting post-doctoral studies relating to string theory. She explains her work as a physicist has to do with finding common equations among disparate natural forces.

A young boy’s high energy frustrates his parents. As a preschooler he climbs on furniture and curtain rods, even repeatedly tries to scale the kitchen cabinets. When he becomes a preteen he breaks his collarbone skateboarding. He is caught shoplifting at 13. His parents are frightened when he says he “only feels alive on the edge.” Around the age of 15 he becomes fascinated with rock-climbing. His fellow climbers, mostly in their 20’s, also love the adrenaline rush that comes from adventure sports but help him gain perspective about his responsibility to himself and other climbers. His ability to focus on the cliff face boosts his confidence on the ground. At 19 he is already certified as a mountain search and rescue volunteer. He is thinking of going to school to become an emergency medical technician.

James Hillman explains in his book, The Soul’s Code,

I want us to envision that what children go through has to do with finding a place in the world for their specific calling. They are trying to live two lives at once, the one they were born with and the one of the place and among the people they were born into. The entire image of a destiny is packed into a tiny acorn, the seed of a huge oak on small shoulders. And its call rings loud and persistent and is as demanding as any scolding voice from the surroundings. The call shows in the tantrums and obstinacies, in the shyness and retreats, that seem to set the child against our world but that may be protections of the world it comes with and comes from.

Itzhak Perlman, one of the preeminent violinists of our time, became fascinated when he heard classical music on the radio as a three-year-old. He wanted to feel the same rich notes coming out of a violin in his hands. His parents lovingly presented him with a toy fiddle when he was four. He drew the bow across the strings and was horrified at the cheap squawk the toy made. Enraged, he threw the instrument across the room and broke it. His imagination had already taken him to the place in himself where beautiful music was made and he was unable to bear that awful sound. We normally call that behavior a “tantrum.”

Then there’s R. Buckminster Fuller, whose young adult years were marked with struggle. As a college student he hired an entire dance troupe to entertain a party, and in that one night of excess he squandered all the tuition money his family saved to send him to school. In his 20’s he was a mechanic, meat-packer, and Navy commander before starting a business that left him bankrupt. After his daughter died of polio he began drinking heavily. By conventional wisdom he’d be considered a total failure at this point. But while contemplating suicide, Fuller decided instead to live his life as an experiment to find out if one penniless individual could benefit humanity. He called himself Guinea Pig B. Without credentials or training Fuller worked as an engineer and architect, inventing such designs as the geodesic dome and advancing the concept of sustainable development. He wrote more than 30 books and registered dozens of patents. Fuller once said, “Everybody is born a genius. Society de-geniuses them.”

Few young people have clear indications of their gifts. Most have multiple abilities. A single true calling is rarely anyone’s lot in life as it is for a legendary artist or inventor. Instead, a mix of ready potential waits, offering a life of balance among many options. When we emphasize a child’s particular strengths we help that child to flourish, no matter if those gifts fall within mainstream academic subjects or broader personal capacities. Traits such as a highly developed sense of justice, a way with animals, a love of organization, a contemplative nature, the knack for getting others to cooperate—-these are of inestimable value, far more important skills than good grades on a spelling test.

Free Range Learning,  all kids geniuses,

Although society confuses genius with IQ scores, such scores don’t determine what an individual will do with his or her intelligence. In fact, studies have shown that specific personality traits are better predictors of success than I.Q. scores. Genius has more to do with using one’s gifts. In Roman mythology each man was seen as having a genius within (and each woman its corollary, a juno) which functioned like a guardian of intellectual powers or ancestral talent.

What today’s innovators bring to any discipline, whether history or art or technology, is a sort of persistent childlike wonder. They are able to see with fresh eyes. They can’t be dissuaded from what they want to do and often what they do is highly original. Sometimes these people have a difficult personal journey before using their gifts. Their paths are not easy or risk-free, but the lessons learned from making mistakes can lead to strength of character.

We must leave ample space for these gifts to unfold. This takes time and understanding. The alternative deprives not only the child, it also deprives our world of what that child might become.

Acknowledging that each person is born with innate abilities waiting to manifest doesn’t imply our children are destined for greatness in the popular sense of power or wealth. It means that children are cued to develop their own personal greatness. This unfolding is a lifelong process for each of us as we work toward our capabilities for fulfillment, joy, health, meaning, and that intangible sense of well-being that comes of using one’s gifts.

 

This article is an excerpt from the book Free Range Learning. It was also published in Life Learning Magazine

Posted in challenges, early education, gifts, imagination, learning, optimism, parenting, selfhood, success, teens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Interrogation Tips

lying kids, getting truth from kids, parent humor,

Image: anndoing

My daughter is a feisty, fervent 9-year-old. An astrologist friend calls her a true Scorpio. I mostly call her bluff.

A few months ago Claire cut off her bangs. Bangs she had been trying to grow out. They were in her way, so she dealt with them in her way. She snipped them right up to her scalp. They looked ridiculous but she didn’t mind at all.

Growing them out seemed to take forever, but gradually the strands were long enough to pull back with clips. Soon I knew they’d merge into her ponytail. Finally, an end to the shorn look!

But this morning while Claire read a library book and I started brushing her hair, there they were again. What were once her bangs stuck out on the sides of her beloved face, blunt stubs obvious as badly trimmed shrubs flanking a front door. I called attention to it, rather casually I thought.

She said belligerently, “I didn’t do it!”

Oh no. Once a child’s untruth crosses the lips it tends to be repeated like a mantra.

“Maybe just a little snip?”

“I didn’t do it.”

“You could say, ‘I was just trying to cut one hair and the scissors slipped.'”

“I didn’t do it!”

“Okay, you didn’t do it today. How about yesterday?”

“I didn’t do it!”

“You didn’t do it with scissors. Maybe you did it with nail clippers?”

“I didn’t.”

“A knife? A hatchet?”

“I did not!”

Her tone was increasingly strident but her face couldn’t cover waves of conflicting feelings.

“You shut the door too quickly and your hair got sheared off?”

“Mom!”

“Crocodiles chewed it up?”

“MOM!”

“The lawnmower ran over it?”

“I. Did. Not. Do. It!”

I plucked the library book from her unsuspecting grip and said in a dramatic accent, “No books until we get to the real story.”

I knew it was the cruelest threat to a reader. But once a parental declaration is made, the line of hard-to-go-back is drawn. I reviewed my Tell The Truth Guidelines— “You know that if you tell the truth I won’t get mad and yell.”

“I didn’t do it and you are mean!”

I flapped her book pages enticingly, so close but still so unreadable. “Come on, yonder words beckon…”

I knew the hair had been cut since I had tucked her in bed last night. I was pretty sure Bad Haircut Fairy hadn’t visited. I gave it another try.

“When I was a kid, I’d tell a lie and I’d nearly believe it myself. I’d moan to my mother, ‘You don’t believe me.’ I could even make myself cry. My mother was fierce when she launched one of her inquisitions, yet here I am, annoyingly cheerful, just asking how your hair got cut.”

You’d think she would be a little less obvious but Claire squeezed out a few tears and insisted, “I don’t know how it happened but I didn’t do it!”

She pulled away from my ponytail-making and stomped off to the bathroom. She was gone a long time. Of course I thought she was hiding from my queries. “Are you planning to come out in time to leave?”

“I have diarrhea.”

Ever the persistent prosecutor, I said to the door, “Your body trying to get something out of its system?”

No answer.

I provided a few plausible excuses, “Gee Mom, I just remembered that I did cut it,” or “Oh yeah, I cut it but I was too embarrassed to tell you.” Claire emerged from the bathroom. I tried one last phrase, delivered in crisp Shakespearean tones, “Peace comes to she who confesses, yes I cut my lovely tresses.”

She rolled her eyes. “You are not being fair. You can’t take away all my library books. I’ll hide them. You can’t make me say I cut my hair.”

“Think of it. Years and years of watching the rest of us reading happily while you suffer.” Just then I spied the book I’d removed from her hand now cleverly tucked in her backpack.

“Aha!” I plucked it from her bag. At least she wasn’t practiced enough at deceit to hide it more effectively. I had only minutes before she’d be out the door. “You’ll feel better when you confess, and I’ll try to keep myself from jumping up and down saying, ‘I was right, nah nah nah boo boo!'”

She zipped up her coat and smiled despite herself. With no drum roll, no explanation why it took her so long to tell the truth, she said simply: “I did it.”

I jumped up and down singing, “I was right! Nah nah nah boo boo!”

She kissed me goodbye on one of my down jumps, stuffed the book back in her bag, and went out the door. Her hood couldn’t staunch the glow from her bright face, illuminated by truth and flanked by bristles of stubby hair.

 

This is a throwback post, published long ago on Errant Parent

 

Posted in humor, memoir, parenting | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Create Lasting Family History: 8 Ideas

 

My family, probably like yours, has only a few pieces of tangible family history. Receipts saved by a great great grandfather. A nearly illegible diary written 70 years ago by a young soldier. Recipes with notations in my grandmother’s handwriting.  Solemn photographs, many unidentified.

Still we recently managed to trace part of our lineage. We found it exciting to uncover a family tree reaching back dozens of generations. Maybe having a Nordic ancestor named Malcolm the Big Headed explains my protracted labor with our very-big-headed third child. But discovering the names of ancestors isn’t entirely satisfying. We want a wider glimpse. We long to know what sort of men and women these people were. How did they feel about the events of their time? What were the stories that made up their lives? What personal traits did they pass down to us?

Our ancestors may not have left us much to go on, but chances are we’re leaving even less for our own descendants. The richest details of family history come from sources that are rarely if ever utilized these days. Families once saved newspaper clippings, but there aren’t many local newspapers reporting the details of club meetings or family reunions. Few of us are avid letter writers with copies of our correspondence. The tradition of travel journals and daily diaries are largely forgotten. We may have extensive digital material but there’s no real assurance that our videos, photos, blogs, and social media sites will be saved let alone accessible in 100 years or more.

There’s a solution.

Create family memorabilia intentionally. This isn’t a one-shot deal, it’s a long-term approach. Working together on any of the following following projects not only promotes close ties, it adds to a storehouse of rich family memories. Choose the methods that work best for your family.

 

Write Annual Autobiographies

Each year help your young children make a new “All About Me” book. Start with a scrapbook or blank book. Include a self-drawn portrait as well as photos. Write about favorite foods, activities, and places. Use the same prompts each year such as “What makes me happy,” “What I am good at,” “What makes me mad,” and “What I want to be when I grow up.” Don’t show surprise or dismay over any answers, just help with writing, transcribing if necessary.

As your children get older, encourage them to keep up the tradition. These books are an invaluable record of growing self-awareness. You might write one of your own too.

 

Save Online Journals

Many of us post entries on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, blogs—well, you know. These regular updates are a form of journaling. They detail our struggles, joys, and interests—compiling exactly the sort of material family historians adore.

A simple way to preserve your blog or other online material is to turn them into books. Print out your most memorable posts on acid free paper and slide them into archival sleeves. Or bind them into books yourself (put the terms “book binding instructions” in a search engine). You may prefer to submit the pages to a custom book service such as Lulu.com, Snapfish.com, or Blog2Print.sharedbook.com Consider making copies for each family member.

 

Keep a History Cache 

Designate a special trunk or storage container as a personal history cache for each person in your family. Use it to store photos, once-favorite toys, copies of medical records, a few baby teeth, letters, artwork, stories written by your child, special ticket stubs, whatever you deem memorable. Whenever possible put items into acid-free bags, wrap fabrics in acid-free tissue, and slip papers into archival sleeves. Add important items to this cache throughout the decades.

 

Pass Around a Family Journal 

Once a month or so, your family may enjoy adding entries to a large-format, acid-free journal. This journal might include hand-drawn cartoons and sketches, observations about current events, and diary-like entries. Consider lists such as “things I want to invent,” “places I want to go,” and “people I’ll be friends with forever.” Each family member can respond to the same journal prompt such as “my idea of a perfect day,” or “the best part of my week.” Keep this activity light-hearted and non-critical to ensure that kids of all ages continue to take part. Such journals provide a messy and charming look at our unique families.

 

Make Collaborative Scrapbooks 

If you are one of the many talented scrapbookers carefully keeping photos and memorabilia, you’re ahead of the family history game. But make sure you include more than photos and themed decorations. To really capture the essence of your family you’ll want to include envelopes in your scrapbook pages where you can save letters (try having each member of the family write a letter to an older version of him or herself), lists, and notes about each child. You can also fill the pages with your child’s artwork and creative writing.

 

Put Together Family Zine 

A family zine or newsletter is a lively way to keep your extended family and friends up-to-date on your news. Include updates, inside jokes, funny quotes from the youngest ones, photos, family trivia (measure the circumference of your heads or all the proposed names for the new goldfish), memorable moments, favorite recipes. You may decide to create a monthly, seasonal or twice yearly issue depending on time constraints. Encourage each child to contribute something each time. Make sure you print out plenty of copies to save on acid-free paper.

 

Seal a Time Capsule

A time capsule is a great way to get to know what is important to each of your family members. Choose an airtight, heavy duty container if you plan to store it long-term. Ask everyone to contribute items they find personally and historically relevant. This might include photos, toys, artwork, coins, and magazines. For extra protection put each item into separate airtight acid-free bags, folders, or boxes. Include an inventory explaining the items; otherwise the significance of that plastic movie monster may be lost!

You may also choose to leave a written message for whoever will open the time capsule, even if it will be your own family in thirty years. You might want to write about an ordinary day, your concerns, your views on the news, current trends, and predictions for the future. Before sealing, toss in a few desiccant gel packages (these are often found in new electronic goods or vitamin supplements) to absorb damaging moisture.

It’s best to store your time capsule indoors. If it’s hidden, keep track of the location by noting its GPS coordinates. You may choose to schedule an opening at a special date or occasion, perhaps upon the birth of your first grandchild or New Year’s Day 2040. Send those GPS coordinates and plans to as many people as possible for safe keeping. Also, register your time capsule with the International Time Capsule Society.

 

Keep a Memory Jar

This is the easiest idea of all. Write the label “Memory Jar” on any large container and keep it visible. Or use a locked box with a slot. Encourage family members to scrawl memories, even a sentence or two, on any scrap of paper. Each one needs a date and name before folding it to tuck in the jar. Decide in advance when the jar will be opened. Once a year? After a few decades? Here are more ideas for keeping a Memory Jar.

 

As you work together on the projects you’ve chosen, you’ll find that making intentional memorabilia is fun. It’s also highly educational, builds family closeness, and creates irreplaceable resources for future enjoyment. Now that’s a legacy.

 

Published by Natural Child Magazine  March/April 2014

Posted in family, history, memory, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Leaving Little Love Letters

mother's love notes,

Image: Ebineyland

My mother regularly wrote little love letters to her children.  They started appearing on our pillows when we could first read, at least one every month or so. Sometimes her notes would reference something we did or said but mostly they simply gushed with affirmation. Her standard ran along the lines of, “You are the nicest, most wonderful seven-year-old in the whole world.”

Her one or two sentence notes were usually written on a scrap of paper. My mother made “scratch” paper out of junk mail and school fliers. She tore paper on the fold lines, getting three pieces out of a standard letter-sized sheet. This made the flip side of her little love letters unintentionally quirky, with references to bank policy or reminders about choir practice. My brother and sister got their own notes but we never mentioned them to each other. They were a private and cherished connection between mother and child.

By the time I was nine or ten years old I wrote little love letters to her too, hiding my notes in her shoe or tucked into her jewelry box. It was easy to tell when she’d found one. She’d dole out a big hug and whisper a line I’d written back to me.  It seems these notes meant as much to her as they did to me. After she died I ran across some of them stuffed into her favorite cookbook, effusive words penciled in my best handwriting.

I know all too well that family life sometimes scrapes us like sandpaper against those closest to us. We don’t talk enough about what amuses or delights us because we’re busy saying that the towels aren’t hung up, shoes are blocking the door, and food is left out on the counter. We may also be dealing with doubts kindled by worry and annoyances that can spark into anger.

Sure, we linger over tender moments that we wish could last forever. We praise the effort (as all those relationship experts tell us to do). But there’s something special when we take the time to write down our very best feelings for one another.  A note is a tangible expression unlike any other.

I won’t kid myself that I’ll ever write as many tiny love letters as my mother wrote in her life. But today I’ll be writing a few sentences to my loved ones and hiding those notes where they’ll find them. I know there’s a sense of completion when we say what’s in our hearts.

Posted in attention, family, gratitude, memoir, memory, mothering, parenting, selfhood, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Witty Bitching

witty bitching, creative complaining, complaint choirs,

Image: tarelkin

I write a lot about mindfulness and gratitude. These are survival skill for many of us. I’m all about being positive, but I like to kvetch as much as the next person. It’s cathartic, necessary, and downright fun as long as it’s done with good humor.

Witty bitching, expressed with some measure of sensitivity, is actually one of the many ways nonviolence works. It’s a creative way to ease tension. More importantly, it humanizes us to whoever is annoying us while not denigrating the annoying person.

Let’s start with the easiest method—swearing. Apparently swearing is a good idea. Studies show that it can help relieve pain, but only for those of us who don’t swear often. It can also reduce stress, elevate endorphins, even promote group solidarity

I don’t swear often. I lean more toward creative cursing, you know, when you string together words that don’t usually go together for a specific-to-the-situation denunciation. Better yet are those phrases unique to your friends and family, memes within boundaries of shared experience, that are not only inside jokes but useful forms of communication. We have dozens of them. “You no see big thing like train?” is one. I’ll explain.

A friend drove a truck for a business started by an immigrant whose English wasn’t easy to understand. The business made money in part because of the owner’s extreme frugality, he barely even maintained the truck. One day the friend was making a delivery when the truck’s brakes failed. Unfortunately they failed as he was approaching railroad tracks where a train was stopped. It was a heavily loaded truck and much as he tried he only managed to slow down. He crashed into the train. He was fine, the truck was not. He called his boss to explain. The boss yelled, “What, you no see big thing like train?” This line has proven itself handy in many circumstances, thankfully none involving real trains or failed brakes.

benefits of swearing, why swear,

Then there are written forms of bitching. I indulge in it regularly. For example, a few years ago a publication that had asked me to submit an article didn’t respond. It’s hard to remonstrate the very people who are supposed to pay you. So this is what I emailed.

Dear ___,

I can take rejection, really. But it’s nice to finally get rejected. I sent as requested  _________ on ________. I know, I know, I should have given up by now but hope is a feisty creature, not easily strangled by silence.

In case the clarity and understated wit of my piece knocked an editor to the floor, unintentionally hurtling my submission under a desk, it is attached again for your perusal.  Less dusty this way.

ever optimistically, Laura Weldon

They sent a very charming response that didn’t end up quite as I hoped. Turns out they were going out of business. (Story of what I call my writing career…)

Kvetch notes can be used to great effect on a neighbor’s door, the office coffeepot, and elsewhere.

kvetch, funny complaint, witty bitching,

Then there’s singing. In my family we tend to burst into spontaneous songs with made-up-in-the-moment lyrics. A mini opera about dog poo on the floor, a whining country-ish ditty when someone uses up the milk, a warbling ode to overflowing laundry baskets. Even Mozart wrote satirical tunes, including “Leck Mich Im Arsh” which, if you can’t tell, translates to something like “Lick my ass.”

The pinnacle of witty bitching? Complaint Choirs. The concept was dreamed up by Finnish artists Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen and Tellervo Kalleinen. Now people all over the world are putting their daily grievances to music. Their collaborative performances aren’t just hilarious, they build a sense of community. 

 

It’s all too easy to get mired in life’s minor irritations. A little witty bitching helps us move through them. That’s a survival skill too.

Posted in attitude, humor, non-violence | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Welcome Kids Into The Workplace More Than One Day A Year

role models, peer segregation, children in workplace, take your child to work day,

Finding out about real world work. (Clarkston SCAMP)

Twenty-some years ago, a radical idea was launched. One day out of the year take girls out of school and bring them to work for Take Our Daughters To Work Day. The practice was intended to give girls a glimpse into possible careers and break down barriers to success. From the start many parents brought both boys and girls. Then the project was officially expanded to include boys. Today it’s wildly popular. Last year 37 million people participated in the U.S. alone.

It’s hard to know how much impact one day a year has on a child’s career aspirations, let alone determine if it breaks down any barriers. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity,

The wage gap persists at all levels of education. In 2011, the typical woman in the United States with a high school diploma working full time, year round was paid only 74 cents for every dollar paid to her male counterpart. Among people with a bachelor’s degrees, the figure was also 74 cents…A typical woman who worked full time, year round would lose $443,360 in a 40-year period due to the wage gap. A woman would have to work almost 12 years longer to make up this gap.

Inequality remains firmly in place for women in business and the sciences. There are larger issues going on here, but spending more than one day a year observing the real world of work might help.

Throughout nearly all of their childhood and teen years our kids are segregated in day care, school, sports, and other activities. Even when they benefit from the very best programs, if they’re restricted to the company of same-aged peers they are deprived of the riches found through fully engaging in the larger community.

This subverts the way youth have matured throughout most of human history, when children learned right alongside people of all ages as they gathered food, built shelters, and performed every other skill necessary to sustain a community. Young people learned more than carving spears and tanning hides, they picked up character traits that would hold them in good stead through life.

Today’s kids still have the age-old desire to gain mastery in areas of interest and to model themselves after those they admire. There’s nothing like being exposed to people engaged in meaningful and useful activities to spark those desires. That’s why I’ve made a point of making sure my kids get the chance to see as much of the working world as possible. Along with members of our homeschool groups and 4-H club, my kids and their friends have gotten the chance to see, up close, the work of chemists, wood carvers, bankers, blacksmiths, forensic investigators, geologists, boomerang athletes, farmers, engineers, chefs, potters, horse trainers, entrepreneurs, and many other adults who are passionate about what they do.

Interestingly, when I’ve asked for our kids’ groups to observe or even take part in the work-a-day world people rarely turn us down. Perhaps the desire to pass along wisdom and experience to the next generation is encoded in our genes.

Age segregation goes both ways—adults are separated from most youth in our society too. After an afternoon together we’ve gotten the same feedback again and again. These adults say they had no idea the work they do would be so interesting to kids. They marvel at the questions asked, observations made, and ideas proffered by youth that the media often portrays as disaffected or worse. They shake hands with young people who a few hours ago were strangers and say, “Come back in a few years, I’d like to have you intern here,” or “We could use an engineer who thinks the way you do. Think about going into the field,” or “Thanks for coming. I’ve never had this much fun at work.”

If you want to help your kids benefit this way, here’s how to activate your knowledge networks and reconnect kids with the larger community.

Posted in community, learning, role models | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments