Saturday, March 7, 2009

Christmas Party Hugs and Violence

I panic when I think of having to entertain people. I am not witty. I breathe too fast at those hideous parties where you must mingle with people you don’t know. Or in the case of my husband’s company’s annual Christmas party – I only see these minglers once a year. Which is even worse, because now I must not only smile with big teeth and pretend I care where she bought her dress, but I also need to remember his name and who he's married to and if he works under my husband or at a different department.

And Paul’s boss is there. He’s so jovial it’s painful. One year I called Paul at work for some now unremembered incidental and later complained to him about the receptionist that answered.

“What’s wrong with her?” he asked me.

“She’s like a cheerleader on speed. Hello! It’s a GREAT day at Company Name I Won’t Divulge! Where can I direct your call?! You could positively hear her head tilting.”

Paul laughed, “That’s because my boss is a cheerleader on speed. He told her to say all that.”

So when I see Paul’s boss at the Christmas party I silently and simultaneously laugh and cringe to myself when he offers his hug. He’s a good man – don’t get me wrong – he’s well loved by his employees and has excellent taste in who he hires … but he’s so … hyper.

He reminds me a little of my son.

Robert’s so much better in his hyperactivity this year. And the unschooling is really helping our relationship. I’m a strong advocate for his, and all children’s, downtime. I think unscheduled free time is where creativity is birthed and in the abyss before your mind and soul create this previously unknown thing of beauty … you play Xbox 360. Or at least my son does.

Yesterday he played four hours on a new video game we rented, and another four today. I hesitate greatly at this, waffling and wobbling all over like those Weeble Wobble toys from the Seventies. Is he damaging brain cells and forever cutting off neuro-pathways that could have allowed him to memorize sonnets or play the cello? Will he ever learn a second language now? Will he become like the sociopathic killer with the air pressure canister in “No Country For Old Men” because he likes to play World of Warcraft with the sound of crunching bodies being destroyed with Fantasy Violence.

And this I don’t understand. Why is Violence rated T for Teen on these games, or even M for Mature – the equivalent to a rated R movie – but Fantasy Violence is only E or E10? Is it not supposed to be as threatening to your psyche or your child’s sensitive emotional well-being if the spear is being thrown by a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or a Death Knight? Because, you know, it’s just a cartoon really.

Unschooling gives me and my son time to explore what’s important to us. I see more and more of this interesting little person every day and I feel charmed. I’m so happy he chose me as a parent; I’m so happy we can learn with each other every day.

Today, we had a rough afternoon at the grocery store – a part I will honestly take a greater fault in than him. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the bickering with his sister over cookies that drove me to leave the store and our cart full of food in the middle of the aisle, it was most likely the damn LOST dvds we were given for our seventh anniversary gift a couple of weeks ago. Eight episodes in two nights doesn’t lend to early bedtimes or extra patience with your children.

So, in the van on the way home from the grocery store sans groceries, I address Robert:

“Close your eyes, take a deep breath and tell me what your body needs right now. What would feel good to you right now?”

My little old soul of a boy closed his eyes, inhaled and exhaled from his intestines.

“I need some alone time in your bed watching a movie. By myself.”

I rejoiced, without letting him see my smile in the rear view mirror. Robert has NEVER asked for alone time in his life. I think we may be turning a … oh no, I mustn’t say “leaf”. That’s too cliché. And Robert doesn’t like leaves nearly as much as sharks, snakes or bugs. How about we are turning over a awesomely cool rock to find equally awesomely cool bugs and worms wriggling about. How very interesting.

He could never have learned to breathe deeply nor receive the time to check inside and feel what his needs were at a traditional school. Not that I am taking all the credit here. I could never have learned to take that time with my son and to rejoice in his simple, yet astonishing all the same, accomplishments if I was not able to stay home with him. And in that I am blessed.

I swim in gratitude, and let the rightness of it squish up between my toes, knowing that Paul’s income allows me to stay home with our son. And for that, I’ll hug Paul’s boss any day.

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