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Friday, April 21, 2006

I'll never leave your pizza burning

My high school boyfriend once confessed to me that the first time he heard the song Beast of Burden he though Mick was singing "I'll never leave your pizza burning." As you can see, this is a promise I can't make. The crust directions said to bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, but since it was an especially thick pizza I left it in for 20. But it's aaaaallllll riiiiiiiight. The stuff under the cheese crisp was molten and the stuff on the top, pine nuts and chopped sage, was toasted. Just what I wanted.

It has been decreed that Friday night dinners shall be 1) easy and 2) fun. Thus pizza. The Coop just started carrying some great sourdough pizza crusts. In fact, I even bought pre-made pizza sauce (organic, by Muir Glen and no added sugar). There was a layer of chopped cremini mushrooms, a layer of chopped Greek green olives stuffed with garlic, and chunks of a Spanish blue cheese made with cow and goat milk. But wow, that browned sage really made the whole thing sing.

What a nice way to celebrate Jasper's first day at school! Not only did he stay asleep last night, he woke at 7:45, making almost 13 hours of sleep and a very cheerful young student. I read about Waldorf schools in the extra-crunchy Mothering Magazine about a year ago and was intrigued, so when I heard that a Waldorf school was opening in Brooklyn I had to apply for Jasper. Full preschool starts at age three, but for younger kids there's an hour and 15 minute parent/child class once a week.

The class is led by the two sweetest women in all of Brooklyn and held in a softly-lit room filled with hand-made toys made from natural materials. The first part of class was freeplay, and Jasper jumped from station to station, making me soup and discovering a quarry of black stones. He was clearly the most verbal of the four children. Near the end one of the teachers helped me create a bird and nest out of wool, inviting Jasper to participate if he was interested (alas, no). But then there was a puppet show and he could not pay attention for more than 30 seconds at a time. He just wanted to demolish the stage. I kept pulling him back to watch with me, desperately trying to interest him in the little hand-knit animals who wanted to share a little basket home.

Following that was snack time, during which sliced apples and homemade wheat rolls with honey butter were served. Parents are asked to supply the apples, and when I read this I panicked. Jasper turns into Mr. Peeps whenever he eats an apple, and I imagined myself following him around picking up pieces of masticated apple. What a relief to find that not only do the teachers slice the apples, they also serve the snacks on plates so all of Jasper's apple droppings ended up in one tidy place.

The class ends with circle time, and again Jasper was not having it. No singing or finger play for him, not when he was mere feet away from the most exciting wooden truck in all of preschool history. At the end of class I approached one of the teachers and said, "As you probably noticed, my son is a bit of a yahoo. What would you prefer we do when he doesn't feel like participating in circle time or listening during the puppet show?" The teacher assured me that the other three kids (so civilized!) had been in the class for six weeks before and were more familiar with the class rhythms. I would need to help Jasper to be less disruptive, but he would eventually tune into the class rhythms as well. This is a key concept in Waldorf education: rhythms. While it refers to a child's own, individual rhythms, there is also an imperative on parents and educators to help children discipline themselves to the rhythms of their families and school.

I still left class feeling like Jasper and I were the Maria Von Trap of the Abbey: so earnest and willing, yet so rough and unruly, especially among the serene teachers and students. Will the day come when one of the teachers will pull us aside and tell us we are not an asset to the abbey? I have a lot of work to do with Jasper. He's old enough now for me to start teaching him to be a social being. True, he is only two and will be wiggly for a long time. But I do think he's ready for a little bit of structure.

With the week starting with Dave's cooking koan, Memoirs of a Geisha (ridiculous movie that ends like a Scooby Doo episode, actually), Japanese super housewives, our first official class, and the bonsai trees we saw at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens today, I've been thinking about discipline as a meditation. An article I read today about creating a family culture put it this way -- to be a disciple (a practitioner of discipline) is to follow with love.

I've always had a little trouble with this word, discipline. It has negative connotations for me: self denial, hard work, punishment, rigidity. And I've skated through life over-relying on my natural talents and then moving on to a new purist as soon as I reached the limits of that talent, before I actually had to exert some serious effort and discipline. Or that's how I've seen my history. Sometimes I forget that I also used to practice the cello for three hours a day when I was in high school.

So with parenting comes a new opportunity to practice discipline, both for me and for Jasper. I am to provide him with both boundaries and freedom. Somehow I have to figure out the best balance for him and it's a balance I'll have to continually adjust throughout our lives. I'm not going to rise at dawn to make my husband a complete breakfast, construct perfect bento box lunches, iron the linens, and pickle my own ginger. But I do want to help Jasper learn to move about in the social sphere with confidence and sensitivity. It will take active focus. Here goes nothing.


liz said...

i loved this post! i can so relate. glad to not be alone in the process!

shaunamama said...

I LOVE the Mick thing. "I'll never leave your pizza burning..." I need to compile those misheard lyrics and submit them to the people who write those books.."Scuse me while I kiss this guy..." I love it. My hubby has confessed a few really funny ones to me over the years.

He used to think the Simple Mind's song.."Alive & Kicking" Was a nonsensical phrase,"Allah- a -giggie" Just typing this makes me laugh my a$$ off.