Sunday, September 23, 2007

Music, Sticks, Cans and Kittens

I was seriously questioning my parenting skills yesterday. I was seriously questioning my decision to get cable. I thought it could be a nice little addition to our household, something to round out our busy lives in controlled doses of educational programming. But really, it's one more thing to power struggle over with my kids. I am sick of the arguing and whining, and worst of all, the glassy-eyed stares of my little media junkies. If there was a parrot in the house, this is what it would have learned to shriek by now, "Turn it OFF!!"

I had banned video games from this household, but recently let my kids buy a Wii with their own money. The Wii is pretty cool, at least it involves moving around and there are no shooting games with it. But Evan had borrowed a controller and a Mario Kart game and we've been fighting over that, too. The game is fine, but when it's time to switch it off, you'd think that I'd told Luka it was time to cut off a limb. The crying, the carrying on. The fury.

It is ridiculous.

As usual, I was trying to get some cleaning done yesterday and trying to get my kids involved with that. Evan will help, but he typically does things half-assed and has to be told each individual task. You can't just say, "clean the living room". Never mind that there is visible litter that can be thrown in the trash. Speaking of trash, it's Evan's job to take the recycling and garbage out and the empty cans back in. I typically find the garbage can and recycling bin IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR BACKYARD. Why? Why not take it all the way to the garage? He must get halfway back there, and think that it would just be too thorough to keep going.

Luka resists every little thing, and I'm constantly issuing threats. Yesterday there was packaging from a cheese snack on our coffee table and I told him to throw it away. He refused. "That's not mine, that's Solstice's". Give me a break. I have to expend way too much energy to get these kids to do stuff. That's the problem with our cushy modern American society. Natural selection would have eliminated this gene pool years ago if it were up to hunting and gathering to keep us going.

There are times I just need a break from these kids. Just get out of my way, let me clean. I fantasize about stringing them up a pole for awhile, like those bear poles that are out in the forests where people camp so that they can suspend their food out of the way of bears. I would do it humanely, of course. They would have a nice comfortable jacket that would would hold the line, and it would be worthwhile because I would give them some reading to do. Maybe some Jane Austen, and maybe they'll grow up and put a bumper sticker on their car that says "I'd rather be strung up on a bear pole, reading Jane Austen"

After the stressful morning, we had Luka's soccer game and things started looking up. The kids were excited about going out to Dexter to see a barn show featuring Chris Buhalis and the Hummingbirds. Actually, they weren't so excited about the show, but they love playing out on the wooded property of the folks that own the barn. So Shannon and I took the kids out there. I love seeing shows there, I had seen Uncle Earl play there before. The sound quality is great, and I love the down-hominess of the barn. Toddlers wandering around, each matched with a dog staring them down waiting for them to drop food. One dog would meander around on stage during the show and then plop itself down. There were lots of people I know, but don't see very often.

Chris sounded great, he played with Dave Keeny on dobro and Dave Sharp on stand up bass. I particularly liked the song Whiskey Six which apparently will be on his next CD. The Hummingbirds played with John Latini on bass, Jim Latini on drums and a pedal steel guitar player that I don't know, but Shannon was familiar with. A fiddle player was up there for a few songs but I didn't catch her name. I bought the new EP by the Hummingbirds, so now there will be some new Ypsilanti music for the IPod.

My boys occupied themselves outside for most of the night, running around with sticks, until the last hour or so when Evan cozied up with a kitten and listened to the music. Luka knew a boy from school, and they entertained themselved by kicking a can around outside under some lanterns strung around the trees.

An interesting day, starting with some high tech frustrations and ending with good relaxing times with music, sticks, cans and kittens.

I don't think cable is going to last very long around here.


Stella said...

hi, Stacey. I just discovered your blog as I was wandering from Andre's to Geo's. . . and I wanted to send some love. I question my parenting abilities every single day. Somehow, my reality never seems to live up to my ideals!

YPR said...

As a gene contributor myself, I'm not sure that the genetic line would have been eliminated by natural selection if hunting and gathering were required for our survival. It's amazing what a person can do when they truly have no other choice. I don't really think the problem is entirely a lack of motivation, but a preponderance of distractions.
Hunting and gathering societies didn't have endless options for entertainment. I'm sure they had kids no different from ours, but if you never see a TV, you never miss it. When you get sick of eating nothing but meat all winter, you're pretty damn happy to go pick berries in the spring. Today, with so many media options, it's harder for berry-picking to compete as a potential fun activity.

Video, as television, movies or games, is particularly insidious because it engages the brain in such a way so that it feels like you're doing something when you're not. I know you have the ability to watch television without getting glassy-eyed. I generally avoid television because of the way it supplants my thought processes and turns me into a zombie. I try to avoid becoming a media junkie by staying away from junk. Some days are better than others in that regard.

Richard and Amie like to have the TV on, and they'll tune in to some cable channel that plays episodes of "Law and Order" back-to-back for what seems like hours. It must be the Law And Order Network.

Anyway, there was this episode recently where Martin Short played a serial killer. I found myself so engrossed I felt compelled to watch to the end, and I'm sorry I did. Later that evening, I seriously thought I was going to have nightmares. The story was so gruesome and disturbing, it's haunted me for days. I hate what television does to me, but once the music starts and the bright, flickering images begin to draw me in, I'm along for the ride, no matter what creepy, disgusting, emotionally manipulative place it leads to. And like you said in a previous post, the truly disturbing thing is how much of a demand there is for the endless hours of garbage there is on television, and on cable in particular. There must be plenty of people watching, or the media powers-at-be wouldn't keep churning it out. Sometimes the content doesn't even matter, though. Amie likes having the TV on when she's cooking. I think it's just background noise for her. A parrot living here would probably learn to say, "N.Y.P.D. We'd like to ask you a few questions," and "Overruled."

Good to hear you liked the Hummingbirds and Chris Buhalis, and that the you and the kids ended up having a good day after all. Man invents technologies in his effort to subdue Nature, and Nature ends up soothing the anxious spirit that's been troubled by technology. I can get behind certain technologies, though. Like bear poles.

Ypsipearl said...

Yay! I love comments.

Well, I was joking of course about the hunting and gathering. I was deliberately pointing out the contrast between the morning technology struggles and the soothing evening with sticks and kittens. I am not personally looking to subdue nature, but I was up for the challenge of trying to strike a balance. After all, media and technology are such a huge part of our culture. The kids don't get it though, they just fight and fight for more to the point where I could easily throw out the whole thing.

Speaking of what a person can do when they truly have no other choice...I'm curious to see how your genes rise to the occasion in San Francisco. Since you brought it up.

Zoe the Wonder Dog said...

My tactic at the moment is to find peace with the chaos. The kids have taken to removing a billion toys from the house and garage and setting up elaborate sets for their play in the yard. It is a pain to clean up (translation: get them to clean up) every night... It makes it difficult to enter and leave the house... they don't want to come in to eat or bathe... they don't care that we are 20 minutes late for whatever we are supposed to be doing... but they are engaged and not the video zombies they become when given the chance. So it is good. Or so I tell myself when I see the most recent item left out in the driveway and then squashed by a car.

Andre said...

I'm sorry Solstice left a wrapper out. I thought she took care of it.

Ypsipearl said...

We didn't exactly dust for prints on the wrappers. My guess is that it WAS Luka's or Evan's since they're the most slovenly children of all, but the point is that Luka was told to clean it up, no matter whose it was.

YPR said...

My genes are doing their best to rise to the occasion, thanks.

I knew you were joking about natural selection, but I understand how it feels to witness Luka's thrashing around just because you told him to turn off some stupid game. Or the way he argues like a lawyer over throwing away a cheese wrapper. I'd describe the feeling as a combination of frustration and dismay. Enough to make you think that after decades of cushy, modern American living, the survival instinct may begin to atrophy over successive generations. It seems sometimes that despite our best efforts, we realize we may be raising future plaintiffs. They're good kids, though. They probably just need a little time on a bear pole.

Well, back to rallying my genes to succeed. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tierra the earth mama said...

I love the bear pole idea! ha ha! Oh, and that was Drew Howard on pedal steel...he also plays with Daisy May, and goes by "Captain Midnight" on myspace.

reticulatedmama said...

i am so with you on the natural selection thing.
i saw john latini on friday night at theh tap room annex. very enjoyable.
do you think we would get CPS called on us if we did the bear pole thing. really i think it is a great idea.