I have a confession to make. I'm a writer and live in a home filled with books, yet the Boy hates to read. I mean really hates to read. It's always been this way. His daily assigned 20 minutes of reading is only achieved through the extraction of blood, sweat, and tears. By the end, I wonder if I've really won. Is it worth it I'm starting to ask?
He never picked up reading quickly like kids are made to feel like they're supposed to. By the tender age of 2nd grade he was already being trotted off to the 'Reading Center' in school with the other 'slow' readers, where I think more of what went on was the slow inculcation of not being good enough, rather than fostering any love of reading.
If you're a parent with a kid who doesn't particularly like to read, you're probably familiar with the following oft spoken words:
It's just a matter of him finding the right book, and he'll take off!
He'll come to it in his own time.
And maybe even:
Reading is the gateway to all knowledge.
Is it really? Don't get me wrong. I'm about as voracious a reader as you'll find. I often have two or three books going at the same time, a mix of fiction and non-fiction. I've always been this way and I read from an early age. And the Boy has been read to since he was in the womb (maybe too much of a good thing?) So it is not for lack of exposure in his life, that he hasn't particularly taken to books. Of course, it is also well known that boys often don't like to read nearly as much as girls and come to an appreciation of it later – if ever.
I am happy to finally report that I just published my Down and Dirty Survival Guide for Newly Single Parents on Amazon Kindle (Kobo coming soon!). I decided to cull what I consider to be the most succinct and most needed advice into 21 easy to reference tips into a short guide.
The first phases of single parenting can be a mixture of feeling completely overwhelmed by the tasks that lie before you, and the being(s) so dependent on you. Sometimes you may actually feel relieved that you don't have to consult anyone else in your day to day decision making process as a parent. It depends on your situation of course. This guide is meant to help people - both women and men - navigate these first phases.
I entitled it the 'Down and Dirty Guide' mostly because it's short and gets to the point (sorry, fairly G-rated, except for a brief section on online dating). Who has time to read War and Peace when you just want some quick tips and inspiration for getting through the early days of flying solo in the parenting seat? I cover a range of topics from building a tribe, automating your financial life, questioning conventional wisdom, and getting a dating life, to name a few.
I'd be grateful to hear any feedback, or any topics you think I might have left out. I will upload a revised edition to incorporate future suggestions in the not too distance future. Please feel free the first few pages of it here….
Welcome back to Have Son, Will Travel – Phase 2! I guess I have some explaining to do. I still have a son and we have still been traveling. Though life has presented some unexpected detours. The past eight months have seen us in New York, Ohio, Nashville, Los Angeles, and now London. I left off with our story in Italy almost a year ago exactly.
The boy and I stayed on in Vicenza through the end of 2012, but writing about it at the time seemed like a needless bummer. I didn't really want to put anyone else through that. I'll just say it: living in Italy was hard. Really hard. I know it's not supposed to be that way. La Dolce Vita, yadda yadda. I'm here to tell you sometimes paradise has its dark side. Or if it doesn't, leave it to me to find it.
Schooling for the boy proved nearly impossible. He didn't have enough Italian under his belt, and so couldn't keep up, and felt isolated and bullied the month of middle school he endured there. Starting middle school can be tough anywhere, but in a foreign language, with no friends? It didn't seem fair to put him through that unless we were really going to be there long term. If I could have afforded a bilingual school it might have been another story.
My son, as I may have mentioned before, is I’m sure a lot like other boys his age (nearly 12) in that he likes to spend as much time as possible doing two things: playing soccer (insert sport of choice) and playing with his PS3 or computer games. Often trying to get him to do anything other than these things involves a form of very slow Chinese water torture (to be endured by me, not him). So it is with some degree of delight that this week I observed that Luc likes to get into the weightiest of topics at the strangest of times – always when we are biking in city streets, usually through challenging traffic, on the way to his soccer practice, which is at least 20 minutes each way.
On the way to practice the other day he posed the question: “Mom, what’s it like to be a woman?” which he has admittedly asked before. But after my initial glib response of “I don’t know because I’ve never been anything else,” he kept pressing for details. Now I know a window when I see one! I will certainly not ever miss the chance to help him grow into the progressive, aware, strong, and good man that I know he will become. So, this led to a discussion of what women’s place has historically been in the world and is today, in some places still.
I have to say it all came as quite a shock to him and in his lovely innocence he couldn’t begin to understand why a woman wouldn’t always have the same rights as a man, why they might get paid less for the same job, or why I have to be more careful going home at night by myself than he will ever have to as a grown man.
On the way back from practice the question was “Mom, what happens when we die?” which sparked a discussion on religion, what some people believe happens when you die, with each of us pitching our own pet theories on what awaits us all eventually, all the while dodging Italian drivers and navigating roundabouts.
I can’t quite figure out this predilection of his for heavy-duty conversations while in motion. It has happened before, sometimes in cars too, anything involving wheels apparently. But all I know is that his curiosity is alive and well and I’ll go with the probably still contrarian theory that gaming makes you smarter!
Check out these great TED talks on gaming:
Gabe Zichermann – How Games Make Kids Smarter
Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make a Better World
My pace of progress
I realize that I subtitled this blog ‘Adventures in Parenting, Traveling & Creativity’ but I have not really even begun to touch on the creativity part. It would probably come as little surprise that between traveling, parenting, working, and homeschooling I have had little time for my own creativity. This is a problem, but one I’m used to. In my laptop I have two screenplays that need major overhauling, one chapter of a young adult novel completed, and several plays that I should be sending out to try to find production. I am lucky to get two blog posts in a week though right now.
While the limits on my time are plenty, I don’t think that is ever not the case as a writer, or just a person alive today, plain and simple. Believe me, there is always something easier to do than to sit down and write! If I were on home turf my time would be equally filled with things to do. In my ongoing battle with time and procrastination, I have become somewhat of an expert on the Creative Process and reading everything I can about it in order to inspire, understand, conquer, and of course…procrastinate.
It is the beginning of Day 4 in Berlin, and slowly a structure to our days is taking shape. We are on a later schedule here even than we were in London, having not quite adjusted to the 1-hour time difference yet. So it is a late start for us every morning. Once Lucas rises, we go through our morning routine of a touch-typing course he is doing, reading his time travel book, math practice on Kahn Academy, and then some geography or other subject from What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know.
We are trying to explore something new each afternoon, while also trying to do all the ‘normal’ things life requires. The other day Lucas came with me for a run along the beautiful canal that runs through this neighborhood. He says I run too slowly for him, which is true, so he mostly runs ahead, walks and waits for me. Not exactly my ideal running partner, but I’m grateful to be able to run at all, so I am not complaining.
We also went to the Badeschiff Berlin, an outdoor pool created in a converted barge on the River Spree. It was quite the scene. Beach party atmosphere as people lounged on the dock areas and man-made sandy beach. The nearby bar pumped house music and the unusually hot day attracted a huge crowd of loungers of all ages. The pool itself was ice cold and deep throughout, so there was no wading in and getting used to it. It was plunge, catch your breath, and swim.
Yesterday, after our study period, another run, and buying groceries, we paid a requisite visit to the Zoologischer Garten & Aquarium. It is apparently one of the world’s largest and most important zoos, home to many endangered creatures. An impressive zoo, no doubt, but our favorite part was simply watching a seal being fed by a guy in a wetsuit in the water, and their incredibly affectionate and playful relationship.
How long we will have to explore this incredible city is yet to be determined. Much depends on finding another affordable sublet, after this one finishes at the end of the month, and also on me having work coming in. This is, after all, not a vacation, but life on the road. And discerning the difference between the two is essential for both of us in this unfolding adventure.
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Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London
When you tell people you are going to take your child out of school, spend the next 6-12 months traveling around Europe, that you have transitioned your work online, have sold half your stuff, put the other half in storage, and boarded your cat with friends, you will get reactions ranging from admiration and envy to criticism and not so subtle hostility.
For many, the concept of extended or long-term travel is still the purview of the rich, idle or both. Far more so than the British or Europeans, for most Americans, travel abroad is still a relatively rare occurrence. Making long-term travel still a bit more out there. Granted, not everyone has jobs they can take a sabbatical or leave of absence from without serious impact on lifestyle and well-being. Whatever your circumstances are, for those of you determined enough to orchestrate the necessary work and family arrangements, either by taking unpaid leave, getting your employer to let you telecommute, or saving money then quitting (for more useful advice on quitting your job, check out www.i-resign.co.uk), deciding to homeschool, the following are some thoughts to keep in mind if you still find there other things holding you back:
writer-director-actress, author, improviser, mother, traveler, digital nomad