Thursday, March 21, 2013

Discipline isn't always a pain in the ass.

Yesterday, a lady told me I should come to her work and teach some classes, because she overheard me lecturing Dahlia on the importance of intention vs. action. This happened because three weeks ago we vowed to stop yelling at Dahlia completely, and start talking to her (at length if necessary) until she understood the importance of being well-behaved (on a case-by-case basis). This is pretty win/win, because we have to first examine whether or not we're potentially sanctioning an ACTUALLY bad behavior, or if we're just punishing her because she's doing something "inconvenient" but not actually bad (e.g. taking too long to put on her socks, to arrest our attention) - AND she has time to consider the consequences of her actions.

It's weird to actually say to your kid "do you need some attention right now?" ...but it's eye-opening. Sometimes she'll say "yes, you haven't been talking to me very much today, other than during school" and I'll realize she's right, I've been dicking around for half an hour arguing with some dbag in a Facebook group/cleaning/reading/ignoring all humankind. A portion of the time, however, I will be knee-deep in something of actual importance, and then she gets a lesson in patience and not being the only person on Earth. I love this kid more than the universe is ever-expanding, but if I drop every single thing I'm doing to indulge her every six year old whim, she may grow up to be an entitled dbag - and I, as a result, will become a hollow shell of a woman.

Soooo... no hitting/spanking, no yelling, lots of communication, sometimes restrictions (if she thinks it's more important to scream about something than to be free to roam, she has to sit in her room until she can calm down - those are the consequences - a bad mood is not excuse to ruin everyone else's experience). It's been extremely interesting - and not being able to lean on "because I said so" is a trip! Her tantrum/screaming/fit level is at 2% rather than an average of 10%, which I consider a great success. Also, she's started taking her OWN deep breaths to calm down, rather than waiting to be prompted to do so. WOOOOOO!

Monday, March 11, 2013


When Rick and I decided to enter into the Formal State of Being Married last year, we had a few conversations.

The first, admittedly, was "should we do this?" Now, to most people, if you love each other and want to spend the proverbial "forevs" together, it stands to reason that this question would be a no-brainer. Rick has always said "from day one, the first time we dated, ten years ago if you wanted to get married, I would have married you," and I always said "I will get married when I'm stupid AND on my deathbed." I've turned down every marriage proposal I've ever gotten (either at first or later on - I've never been legally married), and I always wanted to live in a perpetual state of relational freedom. Not because I'm promiscuous (I'm very not.) or because I'm too "feminist" to "buy into the patriarchal construct of buying a woman" (because whatever, marriage is what I make of it - no patriarchal construct could topple me, ever) - but because I can't even plan ahead solidly one week into the future, so the idea that an entire DIVORCE would have to stand between me and my ability to rapidly leave any situation of my choosing... was never very appealing. To say the least.

Now, there were some political apprehensions: 1. marriage is basically "hey we're in love, let's make sure the State is okay with this!" - We're anarchists. Both of us. Not just one of us, not anarchist-leaning leftists... we're anarchists. Soooo, the idea that we have to subject ourselves to filling out paperwork to inform a government we don't believe should exist that we love each other, and hope that we're not too interracial, homosexual, diseased, pre-married, unfaithful, etc (all the things that have historically meant two people couldn't get married) - so they'll say "okay, you're legit." Because we don't need a government stamp of approval to say we love each other. We both went back and forth on the idea that we should or should not get LEGALLY wed, and in the end we decided that marriage would just make the rest of our lives a bit easier (paperwork), cheaper (taxes), and more rightfully ours, together (end-of-life rights, etc - not that either of our in-laws would do something so terrible, but still).

Then, we were both talking about name changes. I am a Keorkunian, through and through. I love my roots, my family, and my name (big ups, Armenia!). I did not really WANT to give up my last name, and I think Rick understood this - even without me saying "look, pre-husband, I don't wanna change my last name, I like it. Even YOU don't like your last name, though I think it's pretty cute!" There was a point at which Rick was saying he would change HIS last name to MINE, so he'd be Richard Keorkunian - but then we both grimaced because that's my father's name. Uhm, awkward, plus he brought up how mixed up their mail could get. I don't know that the world could handle TWO Richard Keorkunians. Then, Rick volunteered to do the best thing ever: "we can both hyphenate our last names." So, on September 21, 2012 at 9am (9.21.12 at 9 - notice the palindrome, we're both kind of horribly nerdy like that) we became Kristi Keorkunian-Rivers and Richard Keorkunian-Rivers. So that was cool.

The resulting shockwaves were hilariously unexpected. My grandfather-in-law kept calling me Mrs. Rivers (now, that's my last-last name so I guess it's perfectly suitable), until he was abruptly informed by my new husband that we both hyphenated our married names. The ladies at the DMV were a bit miffed by our decision (they said in 25 years of working there, they'd seen this ONE other time) - so we doubled their workload, to their chagrin. All the paperwork we normally have to fill out (my Independent Contractor W-9s and his financial aid stuff for college) became rather intense, but it was an experience we could share together, instead of Just Me incurring this massive pain in the ass. We decided that we wanted to have a Family Family, rather than a Dad's-Head-of-Household/Mom-Just-Hangs-Out-And-Nods Family (true story, Rick once referred to me as The Alpha Spouse, if that gives you any indication as to my role in this-here-marriage). Most of my relatives figured that I would do this, so that wasn't very funny. However, my mother was shocked beyond belief that I decided to get married, at all. We've both awkwardly used the term "maiden" name with Rick's last name, even though it's SO NOT A MAIDEN NAME. If anything, it's a bachelor name, but I don't even know if that term exists. In twenty years, it'll be trendy as hell to do this - we're just ahead of the curve. Forms EVERYWHERE are too small to hold the beautiful weight of our combined married name. A quarter of the time we just say "look, just put ______" (where blank is Rivers or Keorkunian, only). We usually laugh about it.

Dahlia's still deciding on whether or not she wants another last name, which is fine by us. For now, she loves being a Keorkunian.

At any rate, I was pleased with my decision, even if Bloggers and Bureaucrats and Bitches say it's silly, rude, or annoying. People always complain about hyphenated names because the women are deciding to keep their own name tacked on rather than being swallowed by their husbands' names. It's "Too Feminist" and "uppity" and "yuppie scum" or whatever. Our marriage name situation is even WORSE by those standards, so I prefer to call it "kiss my ass if you don't like it."

But, hey, I'm the alpha spouse. It's expected of me. ;)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mommy Boredom!

It has come to my attention that there is a pervasive issue in the Mommy community. Yesterday, I saw a post on "Code Name: Mama" that read like this:
A reader asks: HELP! I am just bored being with my kids sometimes. OK, at the moment, most of the time. What is wrong with me? Keep berating myself; I "should" be happy, loving doing unschooling stuff or God knows what. But actually I secretly want to scream. All. The. Time. And yet, when I am not with them, I miss the crap out of them. I feel stuck, and like an addict without the alcohol (because I feel like I crave distraction).

What do you do, readers, to get out of a rut?

(And as always, please be gentle - it's hard to be vulnerable and put yourself out there.)
I then used The Almighty Google Machine to check out whether or not this was a common sentiment among mothers. As it turns out, it's so ultra-common that the feelings of guilt and shame echo across hundreds of blog posts. As a mother, I have never felt this situation, but that isn't because I am a Better Mother Than Thou, but because I just have never felt bored, even for a minute, in my life. Maybe it's a neurological mishap, maybe I'm too much of a daydreamer, maybe I'm a psychotic thinker, whatever the case may be, I don't get bored. Sorry, boredom, hit the next guy. But, since I am no stranger to feeling unfulfilled and physically restless, I can give some suggestions for solving this issue. (Also, if you recall, I'm a homeschooler who has never had a babysitter other than immediate family members and my daughter's never even seen a daycare from the outside. - again I'm not saying you're wrong if you do these things, I don't judge and I don't feel superior to people who make different decisions from my own - my point is... my daughter and I are together 24/7).

Attempt #1: Browse the internet for a couple of hours when your kid's asleep (or your kids, plural, are asleep). Yes, that may mean giving your giant load of dishes the finger (or your laundry/meals/etc). Do this as a preliminary step, and the reason for this... figure out something you like. If you browse Volunteer Match, sometimes even seeing the subject matter can make you a passionate believer in the cause. Rape Crisis Center Advocate? Host an International Student? Save Journalism? - Or, if you can't leave your house for lack of babysitter: Volunteer Online! If you are too physically busy at home, read this! I'm guessing, however, that if you are too busy, boredom isn't your problem - but I digress. Give Facebook a rest for a while, and do something to help yourself (and maybe even Project Gutenburg, while you're at it).

Attempt #2: If you don't want to take your eyes off your kid for that long, talk with them about the kinds of crafts they may be interested in (if they're talking-age) - then while they're sleeping write up a proposal for a workshop/class/clinic and eventually present it to a community space owner (or someone who owns an art store/runs a YMCA/etc). Then, you can put your child in the class while you're teaching it! Or take them to the library and let them play, while you do it (or put on a movie for them and let them rot away for a little bit!). If you're not craftsy, put them in a baby swing at the park while you brainstorm ideas. If you can't do this, put the kid in a class and go hang out by yourself for a small increment of time. Like, just enough time to miss them, and have a little kid-free fun.

Attempt #3 [if you have Facebook]: Start a fan page for something you care about. I'm currently the creator of Young Thai Coconut, Even Hate Speech is Free Speech, Unconditional Parenting: Support Network, and a few others (including my jewelry Etsy page, Steel Crucible). If you're more into being a Vegan or a Crunchy Mama - join a forum! If you're a dissident (as I am), join a leafletting or protest group (either on FB or in real life) - and strap the kiddos into a stroller/leash thing if you're handing things out by a busy street.

Attempt #3 [if you DON'T have Facebook]: Make a blog. The theme of the blog could be "activities I do with my kids" and then do a bunch of quirky, creative, mind-bending activities. Others may feel bored and Google "activities for kids" or "vegetarian activities for kids" or "activities for kids with _________" see your blog and you could change their life. It's possible. You never know. If you don't have the internet at your house, take a bunch of pictures and make scrapbooks that your children can cherish later. And GET the internet! If you're resourceful enough to Homeschool or Unschool, you're resourceful enough to do something REALLY COOL that will gain recognition and be cherished by other likeminded people! ;)

Attempt #4: Start a Meetup group! If you don't have the $72 to start one on, use Craigslist! If you're a Wiccan, start a coven - If you're a Christian, start a Bible Study - If you're an atheist, start a Humanist group (or Marxist or Objectivist). - If you're anything, start anything. If you're nothing, become something! Your kids will thank you, in the long run.

Attempt #5: Find all the age-appropriate activities in the area - and DO them. Go to lectures, Q&A sessions, workshops, clinics, book signings, any event you can get your hands on. I live in a smallish town in Tennessee, and I can still fill my time with events. I grew up in Chicago so I have a good handle on how to find them, though it's not all that much of a head start if you're determined.

Attempt #6: If all of this fails, there are still hundreds of other activities you could incorporate into child-rearing. You only need a better attitude, some need for personal fulfillment (which you already have, since you're complaining of boredom), and the ability to drive a car, maybe.

Attempt #7: Read books. Lots of them. My daughter and I haunt the stacks almost every single day. We know most of the librarians, have a great rapport with several libraries, and also... we know a lot of shit. :) We both take learning and reading very seriously, and it gives me great personal fulfillment to be able to read right along with her, on subjects that are very near and dear to me.

Here are some other inspiring places you can go to get ideas:
Do one of a hundred activities!

I hope you can report that your life has become fuller as a result of this post!