For Now…

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment

One morning this past week I woke up and realized it was time to put an official end to this blog. Maybe temporary, maybe not. Most likely temporary. One morning in the future I know I might wake up and know it’s time to resume. And resume I will. But now, it feels like it is a good time to stop.

At least a half of the time when I dig my little black journal out of my backpack, it is still to jot down a thought related to the blog and not to my stories. The blog has become an important part of my life. A tool to share and connect, a tool to comprehend, sort out, express, a tool to keep the words flowing.

In the past month or two, I thought about the blog frequently. My son, my husband, and I went through a big change: Andrei started preschool. Full-time. From never being separated from me to about  thirty hours of preschool a week away from me.

No, it was not what we originally  planned. We thought it would be a good idea to start slowly. A few days, a few hours a week. But looking for a preschool turned into this serious and largely draining journey. After we toured tens of preschools that felt either too new and not well-thought-out (while still outrageously expensive)  or inaccessible as they had a three-year-waiting list (which would have meant that I should have put Andrei’s name on a few preschool lists before he was even born), we saw an ad for a preschool that was under the umbrella of the Settlement Music School of Philadelphia, in existence for over twenty years but accessible only to those who qualified based on their low income or special needs until this past summer.

Within a day Andrei and I toured the school. I fell in love with the arts-integrated curriculum (four classes of music, four classes of art, and four classes of creative movement a week) the school follows, called my husband, and said, This is it! I try to do a lot with Andrei, but I can’t give him what this preschool can.

The only problem was that there was no part-time option. There was only one option: five days a week, six hours a day. You are in, or you are out. Read more…

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More and More Baffling…

September 6, 2012 1 comment

While building and expanding on his sense of self, my three-year-old absorbs and imitates all sorts of people. Mostly us. It’s scary sometimes. You don’t want to see your most funny mannerisms in your kid, or find out how many annoying phrases you tend to use in your imperfect everyday speech.  But what’s even worse is when you can’t even track down the  role-model for a specific behavior, or if you do, you know you can’t eliminate it from your life as it is simply part of the larger environment.

My son suddenly likes to pretend he is smoking. Now, I have never smoked a cigarette in my life, and my husband quit smoking a year before Andrei was born. Andrei doesn’t watch television, but we live in a big city and he has definitely seen numerous people on the street smoking. So now, he pretends he is smoking.

My husband and I tried to explain (as simply and clearly as possible) that this is a dangerous habit. We also tried to simply ignore it. Nonetheless, Andrei still “smokes” at times. And he definitely does a great job of imitating typical smokers’ mannerisms and “blowing the fire out” as he calls it. Read more…

Rewards, Stickers, and Praise

September 6, 2012 3 comments

Sometime ago I wrote about my wish to instill internal motivation in my son. Indeed, it is so important to me to raise a kid with a strong sense of self, who will not spend his life looking for other people’s recognition of his abilities instead of simply enjoying those abilities and letting them lead him. And in this context, I try hard to reduce the amount of praise I offer to my son to force him to discover that place within himself that will feed him and offer him all the praise he needs.

But here is my problem. So many childrearing advice is based on some sort of a reward system.

You ate a good meal, you get to EAT/HAVE whatever.

You behaved well when we were out, you GET whatever.

You did your pee-pees in the potty, you GET whatever.

Read more…

Blowing Glass and Revising Stories

September 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Something else happened while I was away, sometime in early June: our friend Phil was in town. He was spending a day blowing glass in the East Falls glass-blowing studio and my husband, Andrei and I drove there to see him.

When we got to the studio, Phil was in the middle of blowing a vase. We positioned ourselves maybe five feet away from him and watched him work for a while. My husband was fairly familiar with the process, but I wasn’t. I had never seen anyone blow glass before. I don’t know why, but I was actually surprised to see the process included blowing in its most literal form. I was also surprised at how repetitive the process was. Put the glass into the fire, take it out, blow, back into the fire, out, blow, then all over again.

I watched the process in fascination. I sweated. It was maybe 120⁰F in the room that had several ovens. Phil was one with the vase, moving precisely the delicate vase-to-be, repeating the same steps over and over again.

I sweated and thought about my writing. More particularly, revision and editing. Over years, I’ve become less and less willing to work hard on revising my stories (or whatever else I write). Weighing every paragraph, every sentence, every word. I came to hate the repetition – read, read again, and again, until you are sick of it, then put it away, start all over again tomorrow.

I’ve become less patient. Less passionate about revising. More sloppy overall. More a fan of rawness.

I am not sure this is a good thing. I am pretty sure it’s not. At some point I thought this new phase of mine might be related to my first job as a trade magazine editor. We edited every piece so many times until we wrung the last drop of life out of it. The authors carried the by-line, but it was we editors in conjunction with the publisher who wrote the piece. At the time I believed we were on the mission to make every piece the best it could be. I was fresh out of school, quite used to getting feedback from my teachers and spending hours addressing their comments while trying to learn everything about writing I possibly could. (Later I realized my teachers were not teaching me how to write – nobody can teach you how to write – but they were teaching me how to revise and edit, and those were important skills and definitely a huge part of the writing process.) Read more…

Two Sides of the Same Coin

August 5, 2012 Leave a comment

I am back  from this unplanned hiatus.  While “away” from the blog, I wrestled with the concept and the reality of that overwhelming busyness that pushes you from one thing to the next thing to the one hundredth thing without ever giving you a chance a stop. I realized that this state of busyness might never stop on its own, that it might be me who has to stop it.  It was only I couldn’t stop it because I couldn’t decide on what exactly  to eliminate from my life. After all, I wanted to keep every single particle so, consequently, I kept being busy. I neglected this blog, but I knew that neglect was temporary.  And, of course, I am back…

In the meantime, I turned forty. My son turned three three days after I turned forty. We celebrated and blew candles and realized nothing really changed. We kept living the same life we were living before.

In the time I was away, a few things caught my attention.  One of them was a Time magazine article titled “Should Depressed People Avoid Having Children?“.  In the article, Sarah Silverman said she opted not to have biological children in order to avoid passing her mental problems on her kids.

I understand this point of view so well and I absolutely respect it. But I feel compelled to talk about mine, slightly different, point of view and my choice to still have a kid. Read more…

When Things Don’t Work Out…

June 1, 2012 1 comment

My son is almost three. He loves music, no doubt. But, at this point it’s safe to say, he hates his music class. We are in the middle of the session, still quite a few classes left. What should I do? What’s the right thing to do (right for him)? I ask myself these two questions before every single class.

He is almost three. His understanding of himself and the world is getting deeper every day. He knows what he wants and especially what he doesn’t want. But, he is still a toddler who tests everything and everyone, especially me and my husband. Many stubborn Yeses and many screaming Nos are, after all, only his efforts to establish or maintain control. My husband and I answer to many of his Yeses and Nos, and, on the other hand, we choose not to answer to many of his Yeses and Nos. It’s a difficult age, for our son, for us, we tell each other almost every day.

So how do I know what exactly is happening when my son says, No, I don’t want to go to my music class. Every time I hear this, I remind myself that we enrolled him in this reputable-university-led early-childhood-music-education class because he loves music and because we wanted to nurture his passion. Is he capable of telling me what he hates about the class? Maybe, to a certain extent, but he is not giving me anything else but, I don’t want to go to my music class, usually in a whiny voice, even when I ask pointed questions. Read more…

The Parent Talk: “Greatness” and Motivation

May 11, 2012 2 comments

What is it with us parents – why can’t we just let our children be? Of course, encourage them to explore the world around them and their own responses to it, encourage them to build a relationship with the world and other people, but why put this heavy burden of our expectations on a little guy’s or a little girl’s shoulders? After all, these are all our own expectations that don’t have anything to do with our children’s passions and fulfillment.

So our son loves music. With every atom of his little being. We greatly enjoy his passion for music. Quite frankly, if I spent any time wondering what my son would be like and what he might like, music was the last thing that came to my mind. I certainly don’t consider myself very musical, and my husband seems to be more musical than I am, but playing music is not his passion. Rather, I thought, my son might love mathematics, like my father did (and like I did, the path I abandoned way too early in Serbian quite inflexible school system). Or, he might develop a passion for solving computer problems, like my husband, and he might delight in computer security and analyzing the codes that seem to me like they are beyond comprehension for any regular member of the human species. Or, like my husband, he might develop love of plants and animals, or of photography, or maybe, he might even love writing. My last thought was always, I don’t know, I don’t care, it’s none of my business, but I hope he has a passion, or two.

Now, at the age of two and a half, he loves music more than he loves anything else. I can’t even remember how old he was when we first noticed his passion for music. Maybe it was Goran Bregovic and his music that Andrei first fell in love with.  Sometime last spring, when he was about eighteen months. He would watch videos of Goran Bregovic and his orchestra’s performances and play his toy drum along. He spent many hours pretending he was playing a flute or a horn or whatever instrument he saw in the videos while using all sorts of objects (some random PVC pipe we had lying around, pen, syringe, etc.). Or he would play his drum, flute recorder, xylophone, toy piano – for hours.

Then, his toy drum broke. For several days I listened to Andrei using a toy tambourine as a drum, and that was more than I could stand. I ordered bongo drums online and paid for express shipping, hoping for a more pleasant if not less loud sound.

Read more…

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