Sunday, October 28, 2012

Out of Place

This post will be a bit different, since usually on this blog I stick to cute pictures of kids and leave my rants and navel gazing to my other blog 

But Iʻm not sure that what I need to say fits here or there or anywhere... so may as well plunk it down here.

If you held a taser to my kidney and said, "biography of the last year, 30 seconds or less!" it would go something like this:

-Last year crisis of life purpose as parent and adult member of society, began effort to resurrect teaching license, torn between the dichotomous life choices of homeschooling my kids vs. going back to work, then escaping to a semester abroad in Utah to shrink down my life to the size of one dude and our two girls. Then some miserable PRAXIS tests, then a job offer and back to Kauaʻi (home?) I suddenly find myself going from staying home full time with two little kids and a big garden and a bread-baking habit and 30 books out from the library at a time to working full time at the Hawaiian immersion school where Rosie starts Kindergarten, with Maile with a babysitter.

Iʻm both the tortoise and the hare: I'm not sure how I got here from there but it happened so quickly I haven't quite caught up with myself.

I get up at five am every day and put on eye makeup and a teacher uniform and close-toed shoes and try and plan things in advance and drink hot caffeine and pack lunches with too much plastic wrapping and packaged foods and simple carbohydrates and fill my water bottle and coerce RJ into her school t-shirt (BROWN) and kiss Maile goodbye and try to act casual and calm even if she presses her tummy against the window and wails, and then drive through traffic down the hill, across the bridge, through the town flipping radio channels with RJ and sneaking in my homeschooling curriculum (what are the horse colors again? The planets? blue plus yellow makes? What does TH and CH and SH say? If you eat two cookies and I eat one, how many did we start with? Can you match that note? Ask me tricky questions. What rhymes with tickle? etc. etc. like a crazy person but it's fun mommy-kid bonding time and Mattʻs truck radio works even up to 11 and we sometimes dance all the way to school and try and get people in other cars to stare at us and sometimes I just scowl and simmer the whole way and fret about my life choices) then we get to school (down the dirt road, past the taro loʻi and the ʻulu tree) and carry too much stuff into my "classroom" which is just a giant tent with a conference table and two giant whiteboards and a desk and a spongy damp carpet and four bookshelves I filled up from raiding the termite-eaten books at Salvation Army) and I say, "Hello my Lovelies!" to my homeroom kids who are the 8th graders and they are so young and dumb and brilliant and gorgeous and ridiculous and endearing and idiotic, I absolutely adore them.

I walk Rosie to her Kindergarten classroom and we say, "Aloha Kakahiaka!" to everyone we see, and she takes off her shoes and hangs up her paiki (backpack) on the hook with her name on it outside the classroom and hands her homework folder to her young and stern teacher. And then I scramble to pass out fliers, take roll and lunch count, and introduce brainteasers and word games, and then at 8 am I wrangle the kids outside where they are transformed from eye-rolling internet-based lifeforms to Hawaiian Immersion Students. They stand in lines by age and gender and we teachers stand facing them ranked by the date we committed ourselves to Hawaiian language education (which makes my eyes cross) and the elementary teachers scowl and shake their heads at the squirrelly little ones (like the Kindergarteners who like to suck on each others' sleeves and try to surreptitiously take their slippers off) till they stand stiff and then we all turn to face the east and we chant to greet the dawn, and then sing "Hawaiʻi Pōnoʻi" to promising to take up spears for Kamehameha, and then chant about the Waters of Kāne the Hawaiian god of water, and then sing to the father, son and holy ghost. Then the children stand stiffly while all the teachers go down the line and greet and hug and kiss each other-- even the teachers who give each other stink eye, bump jaws together and look into the distance and say "aloha." Some teachers bump foreheads and breathe nose to nose which is intimate and disorienting and very grounding and lovely.

Then itʻs the day and I put my students through their paces, sometimes baffled by what they donʻt know and stumped how to give it to them, sometimes knocked down by their creativity and insight. And I make nice with my bosses and co-workers and try to think about John Gottman and bids and Jay Heinrich and rhetorical goals and not take any of it personally and Rosie waves at me every time she passes my tent to go for recess or lunch and the students eat in my classroom and everybody has the giggles by the end of the day and weʻre all dusty and sweaty and hair is frizzy and makeup is racooned and the chickens come into the tent and knock over the rubbish bins to peck at the banana peels and then Rosie pounds play dough in the after school program and I sit through staff meetings in Hawaiian and bash my brain against the language and try to stay afloat of the eddies and swirls of conversation with my online Hawaiian dictionary open on my laptop.

Then finally I get RJ from after school and carry 15 bags and packages under elbows, hung on pinkies, slung over shoulders, and then get Maile from the babysitter where she has been playing peekaboo with the baby and napping sweatily on the couch, and she leaps into my arms and I want to tie her to myself and just osmose her delicious solid toddler-ness and I can finally relax after all day but then we have to drive home and it always takes an hour, and the girls wail for snacks and I feel like a cat pet backwards and sparking and I guiltily feed the girls insta-food off of guilty paper plates and guiltily let them watch shows on the tiny DVD player and we grind through dinner and bath and stories and bedtime and then it's 4:30 am again and I'm awake and putting the kettle on and fishing my brown t-shirt out of the basket in the living room.

As a stay-at-home mom, I never felt involved in the "Mommy Wars" debates about the relative merits or risks of staying home or working. I wanted to be able to wear my babies and be all attachy with them so I stayed home and worked on the side by tutoring and volunteering at playgroups and setting up summer camps and babysitting but every now I then I was paralyzed with needing responsibility and professional growth and something --ANYTHING-- for my brain to sharpen itself against. And somehow that coalesced into a full-time gig and everything is reshaped because of it.

The tortoise has made it to the finish line-- I am where I am, this is what we are doing-- but the hare is still napping under the tree. My usually lightning judgement hasn't had time to catch up yet.


Kourtney said...

So great. Love this, love your girls, love you, love your life.

I feel like this will happen to me soon. Right now I am in the attachy-bread-making stage of motherhood and enjoying it. On the horizon though, I can feel that someday soon I will be on that other side, that side I remember from our Manhattan days where Ben and I would kiss in the doorway as we shifted roles each day and hardly see each other the rest of the time. Those were good times. So are these.

Love you guys to bits.

Marsha Paulsen Peters said...

Bekrbek -- You are an amazing woman and I am so impressed with this gutsy choice of life field trip. I'm delighted for ALL kids involved [incl. you] that you are present and nurturing their growth habitat.

Becca said...

aw, thank mapp and kllp. love you ladies, wish we were neighbors.