Monday, November 14, 2005

Do It Yourself = Therapy for Stubborn People

Hi, my name is Christy, and I am a Do-It-Yourself-er. I'll admit it-- few things give me more pleasure than knowing that I have created something with little or no assistance. I once changed all the pipework under the sink in our old house. Sure, I had no idea what I was doing and asked the Home Depot salesperson to assemble all the parts for me before going to the checkout to pay. Sure, I then walked out of the store brandishing a fairly large and unwieldy work of pipes and washers. BUT, nothing compares to knowing that after a week of cursing and mopping failed to fix the kitchen leak, my industriousness (aided by a Home Depot associate who went above and beyond) did.

I think my anti-establishment roots are showing. My inner rebel, stifled too long, is starting to come out in whatever ways it can. I might not quite feel compelled to get multiple body piercings, quit shaving my underarms, or join the next World Naked Bike Ride, but I can find ways, however subtle or small, to buck the system, whatever that system may be.

Exhibit A: I homeschooled my children for the past 6 years. I have no anger against public schools, and will likely be enrolling my three children (who are currently in private school) in the public school system sometime in the next few years. But for a time, and I'd like to think it was during the most important time in their lives, they learned at home and in the community, in a completely contextual and integrated manner. Books about history were joined with field trips, documentaries, and historical fiction books and films. Books about science were paired with science experiments, nature walks, films, and discussions with real scientists. We read tall tales, folk tales, classics, and fantastic fantasies for literature, and learned grammar through the experience of writing our own stories, and telling our own tales. We not only learned about beliefs, society, and God, we learned in a way that more fully demonstrated how our beliefs and society provide the context and method for our learning, and how God is ever present and awesome. It was a wonderful experience, and one, I hope, that my children will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Exhibit B: I have tried, as much as possible and increasing over time, to raise my children in a fairly natural and wholesome way. Beginning with the birth of my second child, without an epidural, I have worked to avoid succumbing to pressure that parents are stupid and always require a doctor/ author/ professional/ psychiatrist/ large corporation/ commercial announcer to tell us how to raise our children. I trust, as much as possible, in the natural processes of becoming and being a parent, and preserve for my children, as much as possible, the natural experience of being a child. I've done midwife care; prepared for a homebirth (that didn't get to happen because my midwife recognized her limitations in an emergency situation); breastfed all my children; ground my own baby food once they were old enough to eat; used natural remedies for situations that didn't require a doctor; avoided junky or overly processed foods for the most part; and taught my children about the intent and underlying messages of commercialism, so that they will hopefully grow into savvy consumers. I'm not a perfect parent, and as much I fantasize about being a granola-crunching, co-housing, organic-gardening hippie, my ideals often tower high above my capabilities and practice. But all in all, my husband and I have done an okay job of raising our children ourselves, and without excessive outside influence.

Exhibit C: I keep trying to sew things, even though I can't read a pattern to save my life. Squares, corners, angles-- these I can do. I have made curtains, pillows, and blankets. I once tried to make pajamas for my son. They were, I regret to admit, pretty pathetic, and would not conform to the body of a child... a human child, anyway. This goes right along with Exhibit D: I wish I were a gardener, and every few years I decide to pretend to be one. About five years ago, I decided we were going to grow a lot of our own food, and ended up at harvest time with 3 jalapeno peppers and a bug-infested tomato. Not pretty. I think that was the same year as Exhibit E: The summer I tried to bake all my family's bread. My oldest son, then 4, finally begged me to buy some honey wheat at Wal-Mart-- anything to stop the flour-dusted madness.

And yet, here I am, still obsessing with the notion that I, the 30 year old daughter raised by a singer/ dancer/ dance studio owner and magician/balloon guy/stunt artist, can build entertainment centers out of scrap wood, and still believing, against all odds, that I will one day learn to change my own oil without the use of any mechanics, auto shops, or tricky camera angles. It will happen. It will.

And web sites-- don't get me started. I'm far too stubborn to enlist intelligent and experienced help before a crisis occurs, which might explain why my sidebar has often appeared somewhere below the footer and I have to reinstall my template every time I try to fix it. I would rather, for some inexplicable and masochistic reason, make things more complicated if it means that, in the end, I can say I did it myself.

So honey, if you're reading, call the auto shop and cancel that brake job we were planning for next week. It's been a tough week, and I think I'm going to need a little more therapy than usual.

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