Thursday, 17 January 2013

Tactical Strikes

We recently went through a  kinda sorta teachers' strike last Friday. The teachers weren't allowed to strike so they called it a one day protest and everyone across the province scrambled to figure out what to do with their kids for that day. As a home-based dad, I had it covered though it meant I would get nothing done that day and planned accordingly. I have found that one of my most effective parenting strategies is low expectations. I assume I won't get anything done when my kids are around and as a result I don't try to - thus avoiding the frustration of trying and failing. I also try and raise my kids in having low expectations of me as a parent which, though socially disapproved of, means I rarely disappoint and even occasionally impress.

Then after all the brouhaha, the Labour Relations Board told the teachers that they could call what they were doing Chicken Noodle Soup if they wanted but it was clearly an illegal strike and they had to get their butts back to work. I mean, come on, this is a group of people who daily get "the dog ate my homework" stories - did they think anyone else would be fooled by their lame relabelling exercise? As well, in two weeks they had a PA day scheduled - they couldn't protest on this day? Please.

Anyway. We of course only found this out on Friday morning as my kids and I settled down for a morning of cartoons. They were devastated to find out that they'd have to go to school. Yet again I have to question the unions' strategy through this process - they are alienating their core support group (parents) and by removing their support of after school and club activities they lessen their role and importance in kids and parents' lives. I would also guess it makes their jobs less fun. It would be too much to expect kids to be happy to go to school, I suppose, but when you threaten to remove your services and most of your "clientele" is ecstatic you maybe have an image problem you need to manage.

After I thought about it for a minute, I realized that getting them all to their various schools at that point would be very difficult. I also could exploit my low-expectations strategy and cash in for some easy "Good Dad" points. Time for a Tactical Strike of my own. I told them they could stay home but at the first hint of trouble I would take them all to school. Joy. Christmas in July. Found money. Etc. My oldest even hugged me and said, "Thank you, Dad." That felt really good even though it was not clearly a good parenting moment - in fact it was arguably the rough parenting equivalent to eating an entire bag of potato chips and drinking a gallon of root beer for dinner or (in my single days) cheap and meaningless sex with a stranger. Bad for you but, not only did it feel good at the time, it left you strangely elated and feeling pleased with yourself at random moments for days after. I am, sadly, basing that more on my experiences with potato chips than with willing and wanton women. Sigh.

I know from experience that a completely unstructured day with the three of them in the house was a recipe for infanticide, fratricide or at least me standing on a window ledge being "talked down" by a crisis negotiator. So we watched cartoons together and then played a engrossing game of the Settlers of Catan (so much so that I burned the pot of Kraft Dinner - spawning "Chris' Smokey Campfire Style KD". I have to confess to that being a parenting 'fail' - ruining Kraft Dinner (who thought it possible?) - but it did help re-establish those low standards I mentioned earlier.) After lunch, we walked to the library. Moan. Groan. Outside time for boys, however, is non-negotiable. Without it, life is just not worth it.

Sadly, winter also elected to go on an unexpected strike that day, so the piles of snow I could have counted on to entertain the kids were rapidly melting into the gutters in the light rain and warm weather. We were able to however have a mother of a snowball fight on the way to the library and which we continued on the way home. A friend of mine driving by actually witnessed me being attacked by all three at once in a barrage of snowballs. He expressed concern later that it seemed unfair - though I note he simply locked the cars doors and sped off rather than offer assistance. No worries though, I schooled my boys in a variety of lessons. Ones that they certainly won't learn in school these days, which forbids such dangerous objects as snowballs. Such lessons as using street furniture as shields, always having at least one snowball in hand and of course, the importance of tactical strikes.

We came home very wet, well exercised and in extremely good moods. You hear a lot about the important work teachers do, and how it is difficult and how most people wouldn't want to be stuck with a bunch of kids all day long. This is all true and I deeply respect good teachers but something is left out of the discussion about spending the day with kids - it can be a hell of a lot of fun.

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