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Entries in book tour (9)

Sunday
May012011

MONDAY MUSING -- What to Do with the Boys Part Two

This week I will continue my series from last week as we look deeper into our microcosm of the traditional vs. homeschool debate. You can find Part One here. In our attempt to find the right answer, what we keep coming to is that there is merit in both options, and my husband often reminds me, 'one year at a time'. But what about this time, this year? Ironically, academics are the least of my concerns at this point. Hayden scored in the 95th percentile on the required standardized tests this year. At six, Max can read, add, subtract, multiply and divide. Two of their learning stretches were to know multiplication tables through ten (Max) and twelve (Hayden) and be able to identify all fifty states. 

Education is about so much more than academics, and in our attempt to look at the boys as whole people, we ponder their paths for next year...

 

Hayden

Our oldest son is now nine, and his experience as well as our battles over homework, time management and the way school seemed to negatively flavor many of our interactions are a big part of why we started on this journey in the first place. The irony of telling my reader to put down his books so he could go to school was never lost on me. And school, even a school I like, was starting to feel like a bossy nanny, who tells parents how to dress the children, how to feed them, and dictates how our shrinking time together in the late afternoon and evening will be spent--on busywork. 

This year has brought few surprises where Hayden is concerned. What he loves: learning that is 'expeditionary'. Some of his favorite moments have happened out in the wilderness, where we assisted a watershed employee with her fieldwork trapping and identifying turtles and fish, complete with a downriver swim home. 

He also became a huge asset to me on my travels this past fall, using his newly acquired map and navigation skills plus an iPhone to get us from point A to B to C and more. (I can't say enough great things about the Rand McNally geography books!) A bonus: a trip for the two of us to Atlanta where he ate paleo with our hosts, stood awestruck in front of the whale shark tank for more than an hour, confidently dropped in the half-pipe at the skatepark, kept me company on my guest teaching experiences and read quietly during my book club and Borders appearances. You can read more about this here

Hayden with whale sharks, Georgia Aquarium 

What does he balk at? No surprise; busy work. Handwriting. Journaling and blogging. But the surprise was this spring--paired with an education major at the local college for a twice weekly writing class, Hayden had the good fortune to be matched with someone who believes in the value of graphic novels as the bridge to writing, and together they created an illustrated story about a snail with social challenges. His enthusiasm for a writing class thrills me, to see him watch the clock and itch to hop his bike and head over early. 

 

Social Butterfly and the Terrible Gardening Analogy

When I ask what is his favorite part of home schooling, Hayden says 'time with friends'. Hayden has a deep hunger for constant social activity. He often asks, as I am driving him home from a playdate at dinnertime, if he can have another friend over right then. The mini-session we put together this spring, three hours, three subjects, three times a week for nine kids peppered with lots of challenge course and team building activities were some of his favorite weeks of home schooling.

When I ask about next year, he says the only reason he would go back to school is for more time with friends. In explaining this to my sister, I tried to create an analogy: "That's like saying, wow, I really love corn. I'm going to toil and labor and do all the work of putting in a 4 acre garden and devote much of each day to its cultivation and care so I can have some corn. But corn, equally delicious corn, can be picked up at a roadside stand and enjoyed on your way to many other interesting, fulfilling activities."

"And yet," my sister gently, tactfully, pointed out, "there is some intrinsic value in learning how to garden."

Okay, bad analogy, considering how strongly I do feel about the value of gardening--as part of our curriculum, we do plenty of it in season--and how I am filling my soul with a slow read of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle right now. Max drying our heirloom Harry Martin lima beans for next season

 

But back to the original topic, and Hayden only considering traditional school for more 'friend time'. I recently read this article written by a rather articulate, unschooled teenager on his return to public school as a freshman in high school in a search for more social life.

 

I asked Hayden again this morning. He said he's thinking about it, but he wants to do whatever most of his friends are doing. 

 

Hmmm.

 

MAX

Max collecting Chinese chestnuts for roastingGiven Hayden's rocky transition from preschool to Kindergarten and Max's innately home-centered nature (he is only good for about six days away when we travel, and then he hungers for his constants and familiars) it seemed natural to home school him this year. At six, Max is still very connected to the rhythms of his family and though he loved preschool, he has said many times he wants to be home schooled forever. His preference to sleep with us and his main motivator (money) are documented in this blog post here.  Should we push this baby bird out of the nest? My heart says no, not yet. This is not to say he is shy or doesn't relish social life and sports--he is active on the soccer field and ice, and because the majority of kids in our home school crowd are older, Hayden's peers, I strive to find things that are just for Max. 

To this end, I formed the YBC (Younger Brothers Coalition). This is a weekly playgroup with five of his friends who all have dynamic older brothers. Max sometimes refers to this group as Younger Brothers Corporation, which makes me anxious to see their business plan and product. They are also sometimes the Younger Brothers Consultants. I picture a group of sage six and seven-year-olds sitting around a boardroom table, wisely offering counsel to those with older brothers who alternately guide, torment and cast long shadows over their lives. 

 

Is that enough? Is giving them separate sports and peer groups and spelling lists adequate? At six, does Max deserve a learning environment that is completely his own? The chance to become a leader among his own peers? Should he have more time away from the home and the older brother, from reading by the fire or watching an anthill or growing beans or playing typing games on the computer (as he is now?)

And then I worry about the increasing pace of school, should he ever decide to re-enter. Like me, Max prefers to do much of his reading and writing while lying on his stomach, not upright in a chair. Even in winter, he usually prefers to be shirtless. "Homework" to him means I have him dictate a blog entry to me and we work together uploading some of our photos from the day.

Specifically, is there a window for integration to school? Here, he doesn't have to raise his hand to speak, and though we frequently stand in lines at airport security or for amusement park rides at state fairs, Disney and Santa Monica Pier, he has never had to 'line up for gym class'. When he wants to go outside, he opens the door. I worry that if I wait, school will quickly have become too rigorous, too boring for him to adapt. Should a six-year-old have exposure to school so he can make an informed decision? (Can a six-year-old even make an informed decision?!) Do I send him for a year now, to first grade with a teacher I love, where he will admittedly be bored learning addition and phonics, but can also try out the social structure of classroom education and nightly busywork? 

 

The Bond Between the Boys

There has been an added bonus to all of this family time. The relationship between my boys is rock solid. Of course they are brothers. They bicker. They pick. Big Brother takes advantage of Little, and worse, makes him believe it was Little Brother's idea! Yesterday they cleared weeds for my mom--Max was more of an industrious laborer, Hayden in typical supervisory mode with frequent bathroom breaks, so my mother paid them accordingly. By the time they had walked home, Max crowed to me, "I divided the money evenly so we both got the same amount!" and Hayden was smiling like Eddie Haskell, what J and I privately call his shit-eating-grin. 

 

But their connection is undeniable. 

 

 

Though we do many things each week with our homeschooling group, the majority of our mornings when their little sister is at preschool are spent with the two boys working together on a science project or spelling words or a math bee at the whiteboard, reading on their stomachs by the fire, drawing, building Legos or making Crazybones out of clay while I read aloud Greek myths. Recess means they go outside together to sled, or bounce on the trampoline or play street hockey or skateboard together.

 

 



What would happen to their relationship if seven hours of every day were spent in separate classrooms, reinforced by the school culture that says you don't play with kids outside your grade? 

 

 

 

  


* *** *


 Stay tuned for next week, as we circle ever closer to that elusive right answer... 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday
Apr252011

Monday Musing--What To Do With the Boys? Part 1

In this three part series, I will be examining our own microcosm of the traditional vs. home school debate. Part of me can't believe I am poking this hornet's nest again in a public forum, but based on emails I still receive eight months later from my article in NYTimes Motherlode column, I believe that it's one that is humming. When I meet new people, particularly mothers of boys, and they hear what we do, they want to know more, in a let-me-take-notes-and-get-your-email-address way. 

 

There is another reason I am doing this. Readers should know this is happening in real time--which gives me a deadline of two weeks to make a decision here, since hopefully Part Three will be the conclusion. I am weary of the indecision, and much like the trick of flipping a coin and checking your gut reaction to the outcome, I am hoping putting this out there will bring me to the answer. 

 

PART ONE 

Spring is trying to poke its way out of the rain-soaked ground here in the Northeast, and the kids and I are enjoying the days that let us get out in it. We are polar-bear plunging in the pond, weeding the tufts of grass and dandelions out of the cherry tree garden, watching the ants relocate their accidentally unearthed larva, or discovering the half of a robin’s eggshell.Piper finds the first shell of a robin's egg

 

As always, it brings the smells, sounds and discoveries of new beginning, but there is also the sense of completion as we put together the boys’ portfolios to turn in to the state of Pennsylvania and our year of home schooling and expeditionary learning comes to an end.

 

At every gathering with our group of friends who have been on a similar journey this year, whether we are hanging around outside their Spanish, cooking, yoga or gymnastics class, or having an impromptu picnic, or fetching them from their writing seminar at the college, the conversation among the moms inevitably gravitates to the looming topic of September:

 

What are we going to do with our boys?

 

Unless I am standing befuddled in either of the two places that completely flummox me (in front of the meat counter at a grocery store or sent on a mission to purchase wine) I am not a normally indecisive person. And yet when this topic towers with importance and permanence and urgency in front of me, I am paralyzed.

 

First, I should say that our experience has been overwhelmingly positive, sometimes with the emphasis more on overwhelming, but mostly more on the positive.

(If you are interested, you can read some of the articles from the road here, here, and here.) 

Every time I think of all the adventures we had with our book tour travels in the fall and the rich experiences the boys reminisce about often, or of all the moments of quiet learning by the fireplace in the winter, or of the gift of being a part of so many of their ‘a-ha’ lightbulbs, I think what a wonderful year it has been. I wrote about some of this in an update for Lisa Belkin at the NY TIMES Motherlode column in December.  

 

And I think of all the unique learning opportunities they have had in part because of the great co-operative group that formed, where we have used resources of the parents and our community to put together a peppering of mini-courses. Some have been free, some have been paid, all have had measurable successes and provided the group (roughly 8-18 kids, mostly boys) with their favorite: time with friends.

 

But what about next year? Everyone agrees that this took a huge effort for us parents this year, and we have learned so much. Sometimes I feel like I am just really finding my home schooling style and groove. And sometimes I think as I have crushed to writing deadlines in the midst of continuing their education, how easy life could be if I just dropped them all off at 7:59 or let’s be honest, 8:03 or 8:04, every morning and settled down to write in solitude for six and a half hours?

 

I need to be clear here: I like the school where my kids could go. It’s the private school in my hometown that I attended and has a great group of families, caring teachers, good values and a medium-progressive attitude. I don’t love everything, of course. I hate the über-conservative dress-code—half the kids look like they’re off to play golf at the country club and the other half look like they’re ready to churn butter for homemade caramel corn with Mother. Per the handbook, anything of 'extreme color', including black, anything that attempts to be ‘fashionable’ or ‘stylish’ is not allowed. And yes, I’m still miffed about the way it was railroaded through two years ago. As a mom of GF kids, I’m not wild about the school’s lunch policies, and would like to see them move in an even more progressive direction in the areas of curriculum and homework. All that said, it’s an option we are lucky to have.

 

And then my mind drifts back to this 2006 article, clipped from an advice columnist in the Buffalo News and mailed to me inside a beautiful card by my late mother-in-law, in support of the fact that I was in the throes of raising two very active toddler boys. Please take a moment to read it. I'm going to give you the link again here:

BUFFALO NEWS ARTICLE ON THUMOS 

 

I immediately photocopied and sent it to all my comrades in the trenches of raising boys so they could nod along. When my friend India wrote back, “I can’t believe we’re going to chain this to a desk for the next twelve years!”, my stomach sank.

 

Hayden, our oldest, had a rocky transition from a nature-friendly, Waldorf-inspired preschool with the policy ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing’ to the elementary school’s Kindergarten. He quickly became ‘the wiggly kid’, was once referred to as ‘that Hayden’ and sometimes the teachers had him sit on a nubby rubber mat to help him control his need for constant movement. I watched as over the next two years, he continued to squirm and set himself on a fast track for the role of class clown, the boy who grinned and pantomimed nonchalance all the way to the principal’s office.

In conferences with teachers, I thought of my middle child Max, a whirling dervish at home, and kept hearing the line to the troll in the Three Billy Goat’s Gruff, “Oh, no, wait for my brother; he’s much wilder and wigglier than I am!”

 

So for this, and reasons voiced here in a controversial journal entry that was picked up by Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode, I decided to homeschool my boys last year. (Their little sister Piper bakes pies, makes organic vegetable soup and goes on nature walks at the aforementioned preschool where she has one more year.)

 

But as the spring sunshine filters in, and my kids work at the dining room table, I weigh the odds and list pros and cons to my patiently-listening husband over morning coffee. The question of next September remains:

 

What are we going to do with the boys? 

 

 

 

* *** *

 

 

 

Stay tuned for Part Two next Monday...

Saturday
Jan082011

Favorites on Friday-ish: fans

There are two reasons that I am coming in on Saturday with my Favorites on Friday, one that I love and one that is not-so-great. 

 

Number one (this is the good one) I am on island time. Friday, in the land of 'soon-come' means that my Friday post shows up midday Saturday, just like the Kittiwake wreck that was to be sunk at 10 am Tuesday actually went down at 2:35 pm on Wednesday. It was a treat to watch and we had a spectacular view of this. Waiting around for it to happen meant more lollygagging on the beach, meant rescheduling such imperatives as Uncle Nick's day to Breakers to teach the boys about catching and cleaning conch, replacing it with more snorkeling and shell collecting instead. I'm okay with island time.

But the second reason is less magical than a relaxed island attitude: this week I lost my trusty little-laptop-that-could. Kids were belly-up to her watching a YouTube, like three little piglets on the electronic teat, a glass of water was on the scene... you can imagine the rest. Everyone: go back up your work now. 

 

Luckily, my work and photos were backed up at home and J has his laptop here, so I am still on schedule with my last round of revisions for my upcoming manuscript. But without old faithful, I am not so ONE with the computer and checking and answering emails and working in the way I was. In essence, I am getting a tiny bit of a vacation, you know, here on vacation. 

 

Still... I wanted to take a minute to catch up on the final few days, the tail end of my hardcover tour here in Grand Cayman. I had a really nice interview (thanks Joe!) in the Cayman Compass, all to create awareness about my final bookstore appearance at Books and Books January 7. The night before yesterday's interview on Daybreak 27, Cayman's local channel, I woke up in a cold sweat to realize that I was going to be appearing at 7 am in an interview about my book, and I didn't have a copy of "Chosen" in my possession. (Long story, but it's all part of this private little game I am playing with the airlines where I try to travel without paying any luggage fees, even when all 5 of us are going away for fifteen days, so things like hardcover books that I have read 2,780 times don't make the baggage cut.) Luckily, Holly Smith of Books & Books, who was appearing with me, is not only a competent bookstore manager, but she is also prepared and had a copy tucked in her bag. The show went on.

 

The interview was brief and smooth--they all shared a little laugh when, right before we went live, I gasped, "I'm not going to have to talk the whole hour, am I?" Between this and not using my hands so much when I speak, I realize I have a bit to learn about television. 

 

Okay, but the meat of this post, the real thing that was my Favorite Thing on Friday this week, were the readers and organizers, all the dear people who showed up at the bookstore event itself. I know I have talked a lot about how much I love the book clubs, with their casual atmosphere, their different styles, and the ability to reveal all in conversation, not to mention the food. And there have been bookstore events that were sparsely attended, like the one where the only person in the "audience" was a woman sleeping in the area where I was meant to be presenting.

But last night's event at Books and Books was exactly what I imagined when I thought of touring: a curious, intelligent crowd filled with faces that were familiar and many that were new, those who had read and those who were just picking it up, and as usual, as always, my kids milling about trying to con people into buying them things from the children's section. My thanks to everyone who came last night and asked questions, who shared their stories with me afterwards, who came out for drinks and more conversation, who emailed me today even. What a fabulous way to end the hardcover bookstore tour and to put "Chosen" to bed for a bit, though I'm still doing book clubs this spring and paperback will release in August. Thank you all for riding this ride with me... 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday
Nov012010

Word from the road... 

Atlanta Oct 26-29

 

I'm worried that this whole book tour thing is starting to seem a little silly. My bookstore event was spottily attended and it’s been awhile since there was someone in the crowd that I didn’t know was coming and almost every time there are people who I think are coming that don’t show. I am starting to wonder if touring means anything… if I get any exposure just by being on their calendars or having my books and poster up in the entry as a coming event, even when it’s the wrong photo. (Happened again—another Borders, another photo of an older blonde who looks angrier, drinks harder and is more beaten down by life than I have ever felt.)

 

But then there are the book clubs; they make it all worth my while. These are by far my favorite part of touring and I have to believe that this is they way a writer builds her career, a handful of dedicated readers at a time. They run late, the conversation is always interesting and I am fascinated by the different perspectives readers bring to the story. 

 

This time I also had the special treat of being a guest lecturer at Woodward Academy and I just have to say, if this is an example of teens today, then the kids are all right. What a courteous, interested, bright group of individuals!

 

Then there was the travel itself. This morning I got up at 3:40 am to leave my wonderful host’s house to drive to Atlanta and return the rental car, take the sky train and airport shuttle train, hustle through security, chew on a breakfast biscuit that was likely prepared two weeks ago and board a plane in hopes of being home with the rest of my family before they’d even rolled out of bed. It’s not glamorous or fun anymore, air travel. Hayden told me there was a man in the restroom with his pants around his ankles washing his man parts in the airport men's room sink, and added,  “I so did not need to see that at five o’ clock in the morning!”

 

But this, sharing a horrified laugh as we jog to security, him still in his pajama bottoms and hooded sweatshirt looking every bit like a sweet, sleepy-eyed forest creature from Star Wars is what makes this trip and all of the others worth my while, beyond the book clubs and the classes. Experiencing moments with my kids, and in this case, just the one, has been pretty magical.

 

I have enjoyed just being able to focus on my oldest these past three days, to be able to really listen to him when he tells me about the intricate plot twists of the cat clan book series he is reading these days, to watch with pride as he carries his rental skateboard out to the ramps and pipes at the indoor skatepark where he knows nobody, and sets up to drop in with the big boys. Nothing beats standing in front of that huge glass window at the aquarium for an hour as he pressed up against it and let the whale sharks--WHALE SHARKS!—and manta rays brush by him.

 

We will laugh over the memory of us casually strolling around checking out the Civil War monuments, the cannon and statues on the strangely empty campus of Woodward Academy, because unbeknownst to us, there was a tornado in the area and the whole school was in lock down. I loved walking through Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta with a son who is not yet too old or too cool to hold my hand. I loved being able to run with him down the ramp at the Aquarium because he had spotted, from the Beluga viewing deck, that in the tank below the Pacific octopus we had seen in her cave was surprisingly out and about. “This is really rare, Mom! She’s nocturnal!”

 

 

Traveling with Hayden is now easier than going alone. He has become an excellent navigator, unruffled so long as I stay on the blue line, able to switch easily between written and visual maps on my iPhone and tell me what to do next with more reliability than my Garmin.

 

I was proud to have him at my events, sitting through the classes as I talked and doing the creative writing exercises alongside the students, making easy conversation with adults and teenagers we met throughout the week. It touched my heart when we were at a bookstore in Lawrenceville and he found gifts to bring home to his little brother and sister, that he spent his own money at the Lego store to get something for Max.

 

Did we do all the busywork in his folder for the week? Not all, not yet. Did we stay on the gluten-free straight and narrow? Not even close. (0ur first-ever Cinnabon; utterly disappointing!) But we’re flying north and the sun is rising outside the airplane. We have the day ahead of us at home, and good memories tucked away in our hip pockets with our boarding passes, experienced travelers that we are. And I'm thinking, maybe this whole book tour is more than just the sum of the events...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Oct132010

NO LIFEGUARD ON DUTY

I am coming to the end of my two week tour of the West Coast, consisting of book clubs where I have enjoyed being the guest author, an appearance at Powells and more notably now, thirteen straight days of single parenting and taking our homeschooling show on the road. 

 

Today we arrived at the beach in Oxnard as the marine layer burned off over the Channel Islands. A pod of porpoises came in to the final breakpoint and cut through huge breaking waves right in front of us and a sea lion cruised by, his eyes on ours, not ten feet away. Amazing.  I was content to stand and take in the vastness of the ocean, the clear canvas of cool grays and blues, sea and sky with my pantlegs rolled up so the saltwater and sand could exfoliate three-days-of-flip-flops-at-Disneyland grime off my feet. But serenity was short-lived as I became locked in a struggle to inspire healthy respect for the ocean in my fearless just-turned-nine-year-old who is starting to think he might know better than me in most areas, including water safety.

 

The surf at Hueneme was breaking loud and variable, huge cross currents converging in front of us and surfers, grown-ups in wetsuits, were being ripped off their boards. One came at us, unleashed in the shallow whitewater like a broad javelin. I watched as a stand-up paddler had a wave double his height swell and break over him. I looked around the beach for other swimmers, families, kids, and found nobody but the most die-hard surfers, a few dog walkers and fishermen. This was not Cayman with its mellow aqua water or the Jersey Shore with its ubiquitous lifeguards and their whistles.

Below: my kids run to the surf at Hueneme Beach 

But Hayden, who couldn't get enough of the Disney rollercoasters and thrill rides from his newly acquired height of 48 inches screamed an enthusiastic "YEAH!" and ripped his shirt off, throwing it back towards the beach in preparation.

 

I wished for J to be there, more experienced with the ocean when it was dark and ominous, a veteran surfer, windsurfer and kiteboarder, someone who had stared down waves bigger than these in Baja and out at the main channel. I wanted another grown up, my coparent, to assess the situation, to help me guide our son. I even thought briefly of taking a video clip and emailing it to him, then calling him for a bi-coastal parental consultation, because this is what being the giddy owner of a fancy new iPhone does to you...

"Just up to your knees, then," I said lamely, feeling every bit like the nervous nelly dad Marlin in Finding Nemo with his suggestions that his son play on the spongebeds with the toddler fish. 

And still Hayden jerked his bare shoulder out from under my restricting hand and plowed out into the foaming water.

"Haybes, wait," I faltered.

I looked to the only other adult nearby, a surfer surveying the waves, a guy about my age. I was preparing to ask if he knew the currents here well, and would he let his kid in the water, but he was already jogging toward Hayden, yelling over the roar of the water for him to stop, and for this guy, Haybes did. He listened as this stranger told him that this area was too dangerous for swimming, that there were still decent waves but less current a few hundred yards off, down by the jetty.

Blushing from being spoken to by a stranger, Hayden sulked back to me and his younger siblings whose arms snaked around my thighs. He gave me a grouchy thump with his shoulder as he passed. I stood there equally chagrinned--why hadn't I stood my ground earlier when everything in me was saying this was more surf than he could handle? The thing is, I want my kids to have fun--my backpack is crammed with a testimony of receipts to waterparks, themeparks, carnivals, zoos, helitours, museums and science centers all to this end. And here we are at the largest ocean in the world! What could be more fun than the ocean?! Except, of course, when it looks and sounds like a hungry, roaring predator, anxious to swallow up my kids forever like Pinnochio's Monstro. (Sorry for the second Disney reference in one post--I was just 'experiencing the magic' for the last three days. Might need a brain scrub.)

So I thanked the surfer and shepherded my kids down the beach to the suggested place where the waves looked more like Cayman when a Northwester blows in, decent surf, but predictable, waves that come in straight, break and go out. I let the boys wade in and get tumbled in the chilly water. Max took a few spins in the break, got some sandburn on his shoulders and abandoned body surfing for beachcombing but Hayden stayed in until he was blue-lipped, shrieking with joy and taunting, waggling his surf-shorted bum at the waves that summarily took him down. 

 

I stayed crouched at the edge of the water, half my attention on Piper as she doodled in the sand behind me, eyes darting to Max sifting through seaweed a the water's edge, but ready to rush for Hayden should he not surface quickly enough. Letting him bodysurf in the Pacific, build memories and feel that exhilarating pull of the water's power, trying not to think about all of J's aunt's stories about people who have drowned here at this very beach, experienced swimmers, kayakers, surfers, adults, children... Keeping these stories to myself because I don't want him to grow up afraid, but I also can't let him set all the boundaries.


As my kids get older, I struggle between hovering and hands off, between choosing for them, and letting go. Last week on our Santa Monica beach ride, Max insisted on leaving the hotel room wearing flip flops instead of the shoes I suggested for bike riding. Surprise; as we pedaled along the waterfront he had to stop, exasperated, several times to retrieve a lost flip. I managed to keep the 'I told you' to a mere two times. (Okay, three.) But flip flops vs. sneakers was a choice I was okay with letting him make. In Disneyland, Hayden informed me that my insistence that WOMEN on the restroom door meant "Moms and Kids" didn't fly, and he would be using the MENS room from now on. Okay with that one too... Sort of. Yes. Okay. He's nine. I'm right outside. It's freaking Disneyland.

 

But today, the height of the surf, the force of the water, that audible clap as waves broke--today I made the unpopular choice, and we found something that reeked of compromise. I never fully relaxed on the beach and Hayden's eyes kept drifting longingly down to the surfers and their rides on waves triple the height of his, you know, over here on the spongebeds...with his mom watching him. If you know Hayden, then you understand that the idea that other people are having fun, more fun than him, it's torture. 

 

Today I think I made the right choice. Anyway, we're here in our cute Mexican-themed motel room, Hayden snoring safely away beside me, his resentment receding like the tides. But I also know we will meet this situation with increasing frequency. Just me and Hayden, facing off in front of the dangerous bass thump and allure of something so much bigger than us both, no lifeguard on duty.