Well, lookee here, it’s halfway through January and I just cleaned the menorahs.
I count this is as healthy, as I tend to be rather OCD about undone chores (El Yenta Man calls it “naggy freak syndrome.”) So far in 2012, I have been experimenting with defying my natural neuroses in order to live a more relaxed, enjoyable life. So if you happen to stop by, please know that it is this honorable attempt at self-improvement and not laziness as to why there is a pile of dirty towels threatening to sprout mushrooms in the hallway.
But I’ve got another source of hyperventilation for a Jewish mother: Since winter break, Yenta Boy has found himself completely without any extracurricular activities.
Soccer season ended in November, and Wednesday Hebrew group lessons disbanded before Chanukah as the pre-bar mitzvah kids study their Torah portions with private tutors. We’re even between piano teachers at the moment, which is somewhat shocking since the kid was practically on his way to the “X Factor” this time last year.
Of course, this is unacceptable. As every Jewish mother knows, a child cannot possibly succeed in life without weekly formal training in a sport, multiple instruments, a foreign language and possibly chess. As I understand it, large amounts of unstructured time after school cause brain rot and may possibly lead to fast-food jobs and meth problems.
Since I became a mother, I have been quite zealous in the educational enrichment department. Starting with phenomenally expensive KinderMusik classes where toddlers gleaned the basics of musical theory by bashing each other over the head with frog-shaped tambourines, and moving on to gymnastics lessons, composed of toddlers bashing into each other on room-sized trampolines, my children were enriched to the gills during the all-important 0-5 developmental stage.
Team sports and music and dance lessons came once they hit school, along with mid-week Hebrew for the big one. At one point last year, both of them had an activity every single day, resulting in a logistical conundrum that had me driving all over town and having nightmares about forgetting someone at ballet. In a weak moment, I was tempted to post a dorky “Mom’s taxi” stickers on the back of the Absurdivan.
Make no mistake, I’m no Tiger Mother. Each kid asked, nay, begged, to participate in everything that piqued their interest (such as the year my little yiddishe sweetheart was swept away by the Riverdance) Thanks to the Bubbie Scholarship Fund, they were able, and I, wanting them to follow their idiosyncratic hearts, chauffeured.
Now that they’re eight and almost 12, and I’m a working-outside-the-house mama again, we’ve lost momentum. Gone are the fanatic hopes that we have birthed genius prodigies or and Olympic ice skater. Little Yenta Girl takes violin on her brother’s hand-me-down fiddle on Thursdays, only because lessons are in the band room right after school. She’s also a Girl Scout because the leaders are rockin’ post-feminist moms friends of mine who let her tag along to their house after school. Slso, we’re in it for the cookies.
The boy, for now, has yawning chasms of afternoons to do his sixth grade homework, fold towels at his dad’s gym or plunk around on the piano when he feels like it instead of throwing artistic tantrums over the evil syncopation of “Maple Leaf Rag.”
Even though there’s been far less stress in the house since we’re not rushing all over town and being subjected to the same Handel arpeggios for hours, it’s hard for me to let him have this downtime. I’m worried that he’s falling behind, or worse, that this ridiculously articulate and talented ‘tween will end up selling 8-balls out the back door of Taco Bell.
And yet like the stinky pile of towels in the hallway, maybe this free time is the lesson in itself. Yesterday, we walked dog aimlessly for an hour, pointing out strange-shaped leaves and chatting about whether humans will make it Mars in his lifetime. After we shook the mud from our shoes, I noticed his foot is almost as big as mine. Later, after he’d putted around on Facebook and read a couple of chapters of the new Christopher Paolini novel, he wandered over to the piano and began sightreading “Stand By Me,” which I’d placed there hoping he would do exactly that.
Of course, the minute I suggested he add the left hand, he fled for the bathroom to fix his hair. For an hour.
Still, I’m going to ignore the neurosis and relax, because I know it will end soon: Middle school track season starts in March, as does his nose-to-parchment bar mitzvah training. And if anyone knows a Savannah piano teacher who can inspire a kid to love Chopin as much as he does Lady Gaga, let me know.