Friday, April 12, 2013

Recycling Center field trip

A pretty great thing about the homeschool co-op is that other people think of and schedule fun things to do that you may not have come up with on your own. It adds variety and diversity to the days, plus other kids and parents who are more likely than the average bear to share or at least understand your approach to education.

Thursday's trip was to the recycling center.

The cubes of aluminum cans, weighing in at 800 lbs. a piece, were popular with the kids.

I can tell you that I did not expect it to be as cool as it was. I had done this type of tour in another city where I taught middle school, and there wasn't nearly as much to see, touch, and hear about.

As the facility coordinator talked about the bundled newspaper, which they sell to a Missouri company that makes it into insulation, Woody and Fox got distracted by a single panel of the comic Beetle Bailey visible on the side of the bale. (My boys. In a stack of a million words and pictures, they zoom in immediately on the military-themed one!) Woody asked about comics, and newspapers, and marveled at how many people seem to read the newspaper. I couldn't help but wonder what that pile would have looked like 20 or even 10 years ago when so many tens of thousands more people in northwest Arkansas were regular newspaper readers.

We spent the afternoon at the library--a third wonderful trip in a row--and then at our small neighborhood park. The park was busy with a group of six or seven kids, aged maybe 8 to 10 or 11. They were rowdy and rough with each other, and were calling each other names and putting each other down a lot. Wisely wary of that energy, my boys mostly stayed to the periphery of the playground and on the smaller sets. At one point, one of the older girls pointed to Woody, who was then standing on a nearby hill playing a sniper game by himself, and announced to the other boys that he was looking at their butts. I don't know if Woody heard or not. I was maybe twenty paces from her, so I walked over and told her that wasn't a nice thing that she'd said. She looked surprised, but said nothing. Another kid, maybe trying to be helpful, asked if I had meant what she said about farts wasn't nice? I said no, that what she'd said about my son looking at their butts wasn't nice, that she wouldn't like it if someone said that about her. Another girl quickly agreed, "Yea, that wasn't very nice." The first girl denied saying it. I told her I had heard her, and seen her point, that it was OK to have made a mistake, but now she knew it was unkind. Fox was pulling on my arm to take him to the garden, so we walked away.  We left the park after a little while and came home to eat burrito dinner. 

I don't feel as conflicted about these types of interactions as I used to. When Woody was three, and we had our first outing together after Fox was born, something like this happened. An older boy of maybe 5 (his name was Gunner) tried to get his friends to gang up on Woody and keep him off of the bridge. When it was just talk, I ignored it and played with Woody on other parts of the playground. But when Woody wanted to play in the little playhouse, the one boy pushed him out. Woody was beside himself. The older boy's mom didn't even notice; she and her friend were talking close by, but she didn't even look up when the squabble started. I wanted to shout down that child and smack his mother. (I reeeealy wanted to smack his mother.) As it was, overwhelmed with anger, hurt, disappointment in myself, and likely a good swell of postpartum hormones, the best I could do was pack us up and leave. 

I was a sensitive and naive young mother, and also unrealistic in my expectations of other people. But, that's where I started, and everybody needs a beginning to their story. I'm more experienced now, and have had the great benefit of being friends with other mothers who have been at this much longer than me, and who offer empathy, wisdom, perspective, and unconditional love. (Candice and Maggie, thank the heavens for you both.) And I've come to the conclusion that unkindness almost always needs to be checked, and it's good if it can be checked in a way that's clear and calm and leaves room for the other person to reflect without feeling resentful. The situation at the park Thursday was still hard on my sensibilities, but it was short-lived and OK.