* Belated Happy New Year

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.
Ernest Hemingway

I'm a little late to wish everyone a happy new year, since I've been spending a lot less time online lately. Pa and I were both on vacation with Hercules last week and it was glorious! I did some more painting in my house and was generally quite productive. We spent New Year's Eve with all the kids at our local First Night celebration in downtown Columbia. It was loads of fun and I would share my photos with you but I haven't uploaded them to my flickr account yet. Soon!

But Hercules went back to school yesterday and although the transition from vacation to school is usually a doozy, he had an All-5 day! You see, 5 is the highest score he can get on his P.R.I.D.E. report. He's never had an all-5 day before, not even close, so I was quite impressed. I high-fived him and praised him lots and lots. On the way to his Tae Kwon Do class we discussed some rewards. After all, an all-5 day is quite a rarity and his first ever deserves something special, right?

I offered to pick up something for him from the thrift store, where I would be headed while he went to class, but he declined. He wanted to pick out his own toy. Then I offered to bring him to Target with me later this week and he could choose anything under $10. He agreed to this and I thought it was a good plan. However, when his class was over and I had returned from the thrift store he wanted to know if I got anything for him. I reminded him of our agreement and he burst into tears. I was dumbfounded. I explained our arrangement again but he was inconsolable. He asked if I would take him out to dinner, and again I reminded him of our agreement, which did not include eating out. He cried even more. I was annoyed.

He was still crying when we pulled into the driveway. He continued crying and wailing dramatically, so I told him to stay in his room until he could stop. This made him wail even more. This made me furious.

I was incredibly exasperated with him at this point. I had wanted so badly to shower him with praise and attention, and here he was having a fit because I didn't buy something for him immediately. I felt he was being extremely greedy, and the more I tried to reason with him, the more he cried and the more aggravated I became. It was not good. I reminded him rather harshly that most kids don't get anything at all for simply behaving properly at school. I also declared loudly that I would never buy him anything ever again if he didn't learn to show some appreciation for the things he already owns.

That's when Pa stepped in and shooed me away, thank goodness. I went into the bathroom and cried my eyes out while he managed to calm Hercules down enough for him to stop crying and tend to the mess in his room.

In the end Hercules and I regained our composure and we all ate dinner together peacefully. But I couldn't shake my disappointment. Not just because Hercules' first all-5 day had been rather anti-climactic, but also because lately I've been deeply troubled by Hercules' (and my stepkids') insatiable material appetite and sense of entitlement. Which is particularly incredible considering that we're at the bottom of the income range for most families of any size, let alone a family of eight. I can't figure out how the hell they came to have such delusions of affluence, but even if I were wealthy I'm sorry but I would not shower my children with useless toys that are broken and forgotten in a week or two. Christmas, of course, brought all this to the forefront and that holiday has always irked me. A few weeks ago I disconnected the cable TV because I was tired of Hercules getting sucked into the idiot box every time I turned my back. But it seems no matter what I do, this consumer culture of ours is getting the best of our children and it horrifies me. One thing I've been trying to impress upon Hercules lately is that you will never, ever be happy if you focus on the things you don't have or the things you can't do. You will only find happiness by learning to appreciate all that you DO have. Clearly this hasn't sunk in yet.

My inability to fend off the corruption of the anti-culture that surrounds us really sets off my control issues, ironically enough. I feel like all my efforts are in vain, and in spite of all my preaching my son will grow up to shop faithfully at Wal-mart, watch prime-time TV with a religious fervor, believe everything they say on Fox News, and basically kiss The Man's ass for the rest of his miserable life. The horror!

All this makes me want to do something radical like start up an intentional community or move to Europe. When I graduated from college and I had to fill in a space for my occupation while I had none, I called myself a "Paradigm Dismantler." Lately I've begun to feel as though I have failed a promise to myself.

I know that dismantling the dominant paradigm requires considerable risk-taking, but I feel woefully ill-equipped. We're deeply in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. We're working like dogs to better our circumstances, but it will be years before we see the fruits of our labor. By then our children will be nearly all grown and any hope we ever had to assemble a new paradigm for them will be lost.

Can you tell I haven't been meditating enough lately? So much for mindful awareness and being in the present moment! I'm always coming back to that and it's not easy for me.

The Diva seems to think that if I just divorce my husband and ditch the stepkids, I'll be better off and free to chose the radical, magical life I've always wanted. She has no concept of what it means to be a single mother and no grasp of the word commitment whatsoever, so I take her advice with a grain of salt. Sure, I could find myself a wealthy sugar daddy and be a stay-home parent while we lived off the devil's money, but I did something really radical instead - I married for love. God help me.

Eh, that's enough whining for now. I'm PMSing so I should be over it in a week or so. Welcome to my monthly cycle of despair!


Anonymous Kari said...

Ugh. I am familiar with the fast-turning tide that goes from happy to sad all at once. You guys had a tough day! But congrats to Herc for the "5" (although P.R.I.D.E. reports sound so hokey, I must admit, but I realize the intent is a fine one!)

Hang in there!

1/06/2006 5:59 PM  

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