Monday, November 4, 2013


Tonight was one of those nights that people are talking about when they say, "I could never homeschool my kids!"

My daughter is preteen.  It's been building up for a few days, the bad mood, the surliness, the crying at the drop of a hat, the fury at anything and everything, most especially her mother.  Tonight, some of the things she said had me mentally filing them to share with my sister and another friend with a preteen daughter, for example: "Don't say 'Good'!  I can't stand it when you say that!!" and "Don't tell me to reread it!  I was going to reread it" after she deliberately mumbled a phrase and she hadn't reread the last phrase she deliberately mumbled last time without prodding.  etc etc.

The line from the Princess Bride kept going through my mind:  Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!  Hahahahahahaha.. until he keels over.
But I substituted: Never do Chumash with a preteen daughter when she is hormonal! Hahahahahahaha.. and then I keel over.

Last week I felt we were speaking too sharply to each other.  This mostly comes up during Chumash because we (thankfully) aren't in much conflict at other times during the day.  I told her on Shabbos that I felt like I wanted to try to react better.  Most of our conflicts last week ended up like this:
Me: Stop screaming.
Her: I should stop screaming?! You're the one screaming!
Me: I'm only screaming because you screamed at me first!
Her: I didn't scream first! You're the one who screamed first!

I figured that since we always end up arguing over who started screaming first, maybe I should just try to control my powerful negative reaction when I *perceive* that I'm being screamed at, and maybe if I'm nicer, we won't explode.  I shared that with her on Shabbos, and she appreciated it.

This evening, every time her tone got obnoxious, I reminded myself inside my head that I was going to be pleasant when she was obnoxious.  I think I did this 6 or 7 times.  (At one point, I said to her, "You are screaming at me."  And she said, "I'm not screaming.  I think you think screaming is louder than I think it is."  And I was thinking at the exact moment she then said: "Actually, you think my screaming is louder than I think it is, and I think your screaming is louder than you think it is.  So we actually both think screaming is exactly equal, but reversed."  Yes!!! A moment of rare accord.)

Also, I decided to do a rashi tonight.  She asked why she has to do rashi.  I asked her to tell me.  Seeing as we have this conversation every time I ask her to do rashi.  She shrieked said, "I don't know! That's why I asked the question! Why would I ask a question unless I want you to answer it!"  Then I said I want her to learn to read and understand rashi.  And she shrieked said she already knows how to read rashi.  And I said she needs to learn how to understand rashi.  (Never mind that she didn't know the samech from the mem sofis and when I mentioned that, she shrieked said, "I forgot! I'm allowed to forget!" Yes, you are allowed to forget, but not if you insist that you don't need practice because you are already great at it.)  Then she pitched a fit objected that I was asking her to translate too much.

I think she did a pretty decent job translating.  I'm still a little disturbed that we are using rashi with nekudos and I don't know how she would be at rashi without nekudos, which is really what I'd like her to be able to read.  But hopefully with more familiarity will come fluency.

I was pretty irritated by the end and, while I did manage to hold onto my Zen (mostly), I think this whole thing was a valuable experience for us.

While it's not delightful to interact with each other when she is in a bad mood, this gives us a lot of practice working on our self control and conflict resolution.  It's an opportunity for me to model kindness in the face of provocation.  It's an opportunity for her to restrain herself to snarling instead of a full-blown freak out.  We are trying to be respectful of each other while we are both extremely irritated.  It is during the crucible of these moments that I find my better self (after sometimes also finding my most hideous self) and refine my patience and my character.  It is these moments that will be some of my daughter's most valuable lessons.

It is not pleasant to homeschool through these times.  But when you ask me, how do I homeschool and teach and discipline when my children are obnoxious and difficult and horrid?  The answer is, I'm glad I do.

Luckily, I also get a lot of "do-overs" when I don't handle things as well as I'd like to.  Tomorrow will be another night.

Oh, wait.  We still have math.

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