Monday, May 18, 2009

Good weekend

Is it Monday already? How did that happen? The weekends go so fast sometimes, and those two precious days of not having to wake up at yeurgh-o'clock just aren't quite enough. We did do a lot, and a lot of fun things, this weekend though, so I can't complain.

Saturday, we got up early to go to Older Daughter's soccer game. They lost, but not badly, given that they were playing one man down (no, the other team didn't pull a player from the field), with no substitutes. I've been thinking a lot lately about teams, and kids not showing up for things like practices and games, and the reasons why that happens. I know that sometimes, something comes up -- a family trip, or an emergency, or being sick, or one time when two games get scheduled at the same time -- and that's just the way life is. But I also know (from talking to their parents) that for some of these kids, the reason that they regularly are late to games, or miss them completely, or don't come to practice, is because they're involved in so many other activities that the overlap means that they simply are not able to make it to every practice or game that their activities involve. Let me state that more simply: they are so over-committed that they inherently cannot, under any circumstances, meet all of the obligations associated with those commitments.

Now, it would be easy to say that hey, they're kids, and these are just sports (or music, or whatever), and come on, lighten up. And to a large degree that's true. But I've been thinking about what I see my college students doing, and about how often my fellow faculty members and I complain that our students are regularly late, don't come to class, miss meetings with us, fail to complete assignments, etc. Between the classes that they're taking, and work, and clubs, and teams, and family and and and, it is physically and temporally impossible for them to be able to do all of the things that they say they will do. And so they skip important classes, miss tests, don't do homework (and I can only imagine that they're doing similar things in other areas of their lives), and then are completely and utterly floored when they're told that no, special accomodations will not be made for them because they didn't meet their obligations. Or, they state baldly that they know they can't do everything, and so doing things half-assed is what they've chosen to do instead. And we wonder where they get the idea that it is OK to say they'll do more than they can, and then expect it not to matter.

I guess one interpretation could be that this teaches kids to judge what is most important at any given moment in a busy life. And that is truly an important life skill. But I also think that it is an important life skill to adequately judge what one can actually do. It also seems important to realize that letting other people count on you when you know that you're not going to be able to do the job you say you'll do is generally a bad idea. I'm not sure that this one has easy answers, but it's something I've been hashing through in my head, and you all get to share, heh.

After soccer, and our usual visit to the farmer's market, we had a quick lunch and headed out to Balboa Park to the Museum of Natural History to see the Body Worlds exhibit. We all thought it was truly amazing (this is definitely a ymmv sort of thing); the exhibit was well-arranged, and the explanatory placards included just the right amount of information. I'm pretty sure that the comparison between a healthy lung and a smoker's lung put the girls off smoking forever (and made me glad that, of all the unhealthy things I've done in my life, I somehow escaped that one!). The plastinate that included a spinal fusion like the one that I had was particularly fascinating one to me, in a sort of shuddery kind of way. Human bodies are amazing in their complexity, and this particular exhibit really conveys that viscerally (literally, haha). All in all, though, it was well worth the visit, and we were all happy we went. We also popped over to the zoo to see the new elephant exhibit, but it hadn't opened yet. Alas. So we visited the polar bears and the tree kangaroos instead, and declared ourselves satisfied. (Although I remain convinced that they put those poor kangaroos up in those trees; no way did they get up there on their own.)

After a fabulously yummy dinner at Saffron (thanks for the recommendation Kim and Anne!), we headed home, happy; we even had time for me to read a chapter from Fellowship of the Ring before bedtime.

Yesterday was a quieter day. I stayed home and admired all the flowers in the yard.
And did laundry.
Nope, no pictures of laundry. No pictures of the knitting I did, either, but I did work on the linen shell. I read, and finished an excellent book that I highly recommend: Fieldwork. Talk about a fascinating read. The author gets right into the minds of anthropologists and missionaries, and does it as if he, himself, were doing fieldwork; he does an amazing job of representing their lives, as they themselves see them, all without actually saying that he's trying to be an anthropologist himself. Extremely well-done. A friend loaned it to me, but I may have to own this one myself. I ate it up in record time, and there are parts that were well worth savoring more slowly. Luckily, books, unlike meals, can be re-experienced, and don't cause indigestion.

Neither did the lovely meal that ended the weekend: homemade fish tacos and strawberry-rhubarb crumble. Mmm...


Gwen said...

Mmmmm.... I didn't have fish tacos, but I put together tandoori chicken. Hopefully, someone will buy charcoal so we eat grilled chicken today!

And one reason we're not doing soccer so far this Spring (besides the coach not calling us to let us know it was restarting, ahem, and no doubt I'm irritated but I'm all about the denial) is that our two days are already so full of errands and visits and errands and errands and errands that it's hard to find time to be quiet at home.

AlisonH said...

Beautiful flowers!

Re the sense of entitlement, Newsweek ran a powerful op-ed piece just before the Atlanta summer olympics by a prof there who talked about the new dorm that had to be torn down and rebuilt because the engineering beforehand had been totally flubbed, about the light tower for the Olympics that collapsed, etc etc, and said, so, do we give them extra credit for trying hard? Do we... (naming various things students have whined to him over the years with.) He spelled out why it was so important for kids to be held accountable every step of the way, because they'll expect in the real world what they're getting now.

I wish I'd saved it. It really stuck with me.


Haven't they heard that 95% of life is just showing up? And nowadays, what with cellphones and email, let people know that you will be late or a no-show, as soon as possible.

I would have no sympathy. Whatsoever.

Or one could end up like Jim, who forever lived in Jim Time. He was always late. In order for him to arrive anywhere the actual time for any event, one had to tell him it started two hours earlier.

Willow said...

I shall look up Fieldwork. And I'm sure that my anthro kids will be interested.

I was thinking all along that the problem starts with the parents who overcommit the kids.

KnitNana said...

What weekend? Where? I didn't see a weekend? Where'd it go?
I agree with you completely about overcommitted kids. It's a shame. How do they ever become proficient at anything? I realize that, at least in some cases, they're trying to impress so they can "get into good schools" but the entire point of doing a "half-a$$ed" job once they get there, just plain blows me away.
You state your case beautifully (much better than I am here).

But on point - being good at anything requires commitment, devotion, and discipline - these kids don't have it when they're running to a million commitments and focusing on none of them well...

In my family we were each required to take 4 years of piano (my mom was a piano teacher, she didn't teach us, but she knew we needed that musical background - I can still read music). Then?

My sister studied the violin. Period.
I studied ballet.

We were both really good at our loves (and she still teaches violin)...and we were "A" students to boot. (Of course, our parents could only afford the one kind of lesson at a time, too, and at times, that was a real struggle.)

I don't get it. But then, there's a lot I don't get about the present.
(And that just makes me feel old)

LOVE the flowers!

Miss 376 said...

I think, sometimes the hardest thing to learn to do is say no.
The museum trip sounds one that my youngest would have loved

EGunn said...

Sounds like a good weekend! I was also a little disgruntled to find that it was Monday already...weekends go so fast!

I've been struggling with the "overcommitted" thing a lot this quarter. I am teaching freshmen (third quarter'd think they'd have caught on by now...), and I have 4 or 5 that are likely to fail simply because they didn't turn things in. Not that they did poorly. Not that they were sick and dying. Just that they decided not to turn in a few assignments worth 20 points. I even had one proposition me with a "deal" that he'd get his assignment in a couple of days late because he was busy and needed to get some sleep that week. I don't know if it's soccer or what, but boy we need to work on teaching kids to be responsible! (I'll stop now...)

We skipped Bodies when it was in Seattle. Or rather, we never got around to going. I'm kinda sorry I missed it, but only kinda. =)

Lynne said...

Hmmm! I think I'm over committed on mum's sweater; since she doesn't know about it can I be let off? Or perhaps I should stop blog-reading and get on to knitting!
That heavy sweater on the needles, and the repeated patterning is starting to be not so appealing after all! And I've only knit about 300g of approx. 700g! Hope mum loves it!!

Mary Lou said...

I don't have children, but I am involved with some and so I see the issue. I know that my friends want their kids to keep their commitments, but it is frustrating to me to plan something with them, then find out we only have a short time because of soccer practice etc. They make the kids keep the commitments (good) but they are still over committed (bad) in my opinion. One of these kids likes spending time with us because 'we can just hang out with you' I guess it will be something to be remembered as the adult pals who let you just hang out and poke sticks in the fire!

Bea said...

I'm with you on the over-commitedness. I keep hearing about what friends kids are doing and wondering where in the world the KID finds the time.

Fish tacos sounds yummy. I may have to make a trip to the market and get some stuff for that...

Wanderingcatstudio said...

Beautiful flowers. I absolutley agree with you about the students. I finished college just a few years ago. Many of my peers were astounded by the fact that they were required to write 2 stories a month for the school newspaper (it was a journalism program) on top of regular school work. I was working part-time at a local newspaper at the time and was required to write 2 stories a DAY. The problem was none of them wanted to give up their recreational pursuits.

twinsetellen said...

I loved the finger capillaries in the Body Worlds exhibit. And the chickens. The horse kind of gave me the creeps, though.

As for overcommitment - it is easy to blame the parent, but I hope we have some compassion as well for parents in a world where there are not only so many shiny opportunities but also the pressure to make sure your child has all the advantages to get into the right elementary school, high school, college, and professional school. It is so hard to swim upstream against that. We need to be building communities that support the idea of unstructured time as equally important as team sports or music lessons.

I'm afraid I'm not a great example, but I'm aware that I'm not and hoping to change.

Anonymous said...

Body Worlds is awesome! I wish it would come back here to Chicago. I took my advanced biology students to look at organs etc at the local medical school and they were fascinated (even the ones who were also grossed out). I can only imagine how Body Worlds would melt their teenage brains.

As for the overcommitted thing, it's all over. Kids won't pick a few things, but join everything, and then do nothing well. It makes me crazy, and it's something encouraged by the college application worries. "But I have to have sports, and volunteer work, and theater, and have a part time job or I won't get into college . . ." I don't know the solution, but it does need to be addressed.

Take care.

Carrie K said...

First off, Ondule looks fabulous! I know about those many sides of our brain re: body image. I blame CA. :)

The overcommitted thing is harder. I think part of it is that we no longer admire excellence and perserverance but reward as a basis for "self esteem", something that can't be conferred by someone else by definition.

Fieldwork sounds fascinating.