Sunday, February 28, 2016

Commitment Issues...

When our girls started to get involved in activities, we set a pretty strict one-activity-at-a-time rule. That meant that sometimes activities that went year round were put on hold for a couple of months to allow for another seasonal activity to take center stage. We partially put this rule into place to help balance our family schedule. We also feel it's important for kids to have unscheduled, unstructured time to just be, and to figure out how to self entertain should they find themselves "bored." As our girls get older, and the list of activities available to them expands, it has been harder to stick to our self imposed restriction. Ultimately we knew that was bound to happen given how busy our own schedules once looked as middle school/high school/college students. But during their earliest years, we hope we were able to to help our girls maintain healthy schedules that helped them both enjoy a variety of activities and allowed them to just be kids during their short childhoods

As our girls get more involved, it seems we do as well. Coaching. Chaperoning. Organizing. The more involved we become, as I observe the craziness of so many family schedules, the more I think about how our society's tendency to have kids on the go, go, go affects them long term. As so many of us who have benefited from being involved in a variety of activities during our youth know, those activities help us to learn and grow into strong, confident, resilient adults who are well equipped to deal with all that life throws at you through the years. But I also wonder, is it possible that the current trend of committing youth to so many different simultaneous activities is preventing kids from learning the value of being committed?

I am a firm believer that there is a difference between making a commitment, and being committed. I, for one, am committed to my commitments. (Sometimes, my husband might argue, to the point of me needing to be committed!) I realize it is partially a simple reflection of my personality. I simply do not find value in doing something half-assed. I'm sure it's the part of my being that thrives on passion. But I also believe it is, at least in part, due to the fact that while growing up, I was expected to be fully committed to whatever "in season" activity I was involved. Whether I was part of a team, or a cast, or a performance group, my commitment, mentally and physically, contributed to the great success many of those teams/casts/groups in which I was involved experienced. Yes, I benefited as an individual from my involvement, but none of those teams/casts/groups would have been as successful as we were without the individual commitments of each member. Commitments of time. Commitments of mental focus. Commitments that asked us to stay committed not only when things were easy, running smoothly, comfortable, but also when we faced times that required us to learn to be resilient in the face of struggle and discomfort. No only has being one who commits fully to the activities in which I chose to be involved helped me grow as a person, but it also has helped me to learn the value in saying NO when I'm approached about being involved in an activity to which I do not feel I can be fully committed. In addition to helping me be a stronger, more confident individual, it has helped me learn the value in maintaining a balance between being involved and just being.

This week we attended an orientation night to prepare for Lexi's move from middle school to high school next year. As part of the evening, a variety of activities and groups were present to hand out information to next year's freshmen class members. "Looks good on your college application," was a common theme on many of the handouts and signs that we saw throughout the night. I totally understand the importance of showing one's future educational institution or employer one's diverse interests and skills through the activities in which one is involved in high school. And as I talked with Lexi today as we were finalizing her class selections for next year, high school is really one of the only times in life when she'll have the freedom to explore a wide variety of activities and interests without also having to juggle financial and/or family responsibilities. I encouraged her to explore, explore, EXPLORE. But I also encouraged her to think about how, while she is exploring her diverse interests and talents, she will balance her time so that she can not only commit to teams/casts/groups, but that she can be committed to the activities in which she chooses to get involved.

I'm sure it will be a balance we will continually have to help her, and her sister, find as they continue to learn the great value of being committed to their variety of commitments.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Who are you voting for?

We have a running joke in our house that should a certain potential presidential candidate manage to somehow become our next president, the Mavin family is going to become Canadian.

I'm pretty sure some of us are joking less than others of us.

(I for one am voting for a warmer C word choice. Costa Rico starts with C. Just sayin'.)

Last week I had one of my young students ask me who I was voting for for president. I, as I always do, simply said "I'm not sure yet," to which he then replied with who he and his mom are supporting. Internally cringing, but externally smiling, I simply said "Oh," and moved on to help another student. The very next day, in passing in the hallway, I had a second, slightly older student ask me the exact same question, after which he tried to guess who I would support. He got the same none answer I offered up student #1. Obviously even though the Iowa caucuses are several weeks in the past, political discussions are still very alive and kicking here in good ol' Iowa.

I, generally speaking, try to avoid discussions about politics like the plague. (Which I've established here several times before while talking about politics. Eh.) Partially I really, honestly have very little to ZERO interest in politics. (Which I know some people find appalling. I won't hold that against you.) Partially because more times than not my opinions and the opinions of those around me, be it family or friends, are rarely the same and I don't see any point in participating in argumentative conversations for the simple sake of arguing one's point.

Going through my second presidential election cycle since becoming an elementary school employee, I've learned it's best, at least at the elementary school level, simply not to engage with students in politically based discussions. While I am happy our young students are at some level aware of current affairs, I have sadly heard the nasty, hurtful comments they are so quick to fling at each other when opinions differ. I am sure those comments are simply reflections of conversations they have heard at home, but I still find it disheartening that we as a society are simply ensuring that using hurtful, hateful language in political discussions will continue to be the norm when we engage in those type of conversations with the spongy little absorbent brains of our kiddos hovering around ready to soak it all in for eventual regurgitation. 

I for one choose not to bring that type of language into our home or my learning spaces. I'm still going to believe that it IS possible to have differing opinions and still be kind and respectful to one another. That someday we as a human race will be able to check our egos at the door and recognize the many more ways that we are connected to each other and to the world around us, rather than focus on the very few differences that we currently allow to stand in the spotlight to justify our hurtful, harmful words and actions towards others. That by practicing compassion and respectfully agreeing to disagree, sensible compromises can be made that benefit our society, and our planet, as a whole.

Who knows, come this time next year, depending on what happens in November's election, I might find my  home and learning spaces have moved to Canada and/or that my opinion of "local" politics will have changed. I guess we will just have to see how this politically based American comedy of an election year plays out.

(I highly doubt my opinions about politics have much of a chance of shifting anytime soon. Though I'm not giving up hope on talking others into that other, more southerly located,  C location option if we have to find a new country of residence!)


Tuesday, February 2, 2016


The call came in this morning at 6:00.

Snow day.

Sadly the weather in our part of the state did not live up to the hype, which has left our snow day feeling a little wasted. The chance to sleep in, catch up on Downton Abby episodes, and start the process of filing our taxes was much appreciated. Two cups of coffee were enjoyed. Cinnamon rolls (originally frozen) we baked. Sidewalks were shoveled.

I really don't mind shoveling the snow on snow days. (Well, most snow days.) Today was a warm, windless shoveling experience. The snow was wet and heavy and it didn't take long for the sidewalk and drive to melt down once I removed the layer of wet. What makes shoveling our sidewalks the most sucky is the long stretch, living on the corner, and the uneven state of our many years old walkways. But as a walker of dogs, even in winter, and a mother of kids who walk to and from school every day, shovel I will because I know what a pain in the ass those stretches are to walk that do not regularly get cleared after winter weather.  

Tomorrow I'm guessing life will return to it's normal hectic pace. But for the remainder of today I'm going to look at other people's amazing snow pictures on social media, dig through my yarn stash in search of my next knitting project, and sip another warm beverage or 2.

Stay warm friends!