Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Sunrise at Châteauneuf-du-Pape

 Now how many schools do you know of that put a sunrise at Châteauneuf-du-Pape with singing, a breakfast picnic and a 4 hour hike following it on the program?

For the Saint's day (St. Michel), end of summer, beginning of fall, the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders (about 100 in all) plus many parents, all the teachers (including sports teacher and woodworking teacher) from our Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf school gathered together at 7:15 in the morning atop the hill-town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, of gorgeous wine fame, beside the ruins of the old château.

For this event many of us juggled and exchanged kids -- Jonas went to my girlfriend's house and I took her two 8th graders, plus my two (Leo and Vivien, this year's host-child). Early to bed the night before and early to rise (6AM), we were in the car at 6:30 to meet at the school and pick up 3 more (remember, I've a 9 seater vehicle) and off we went to our destination.

It was truly magical. My photos I trust capture a bit of this. Once all victuals were shared, we headed off down through the cobbled streets, to the vineyards below, following the Rhône, then the branch between Ile de l'Oiselay and the river's edge (note, the winery Mas de La Lionne run by my fellow American, mentioned in an earlier blog post is here), over hill and dale, through the village center of Sorgues, to school in time for lunch.

Along the way I made the acquaintance of two new mothers to Leo's class, chatted with his teacher about Leo and Vivien, berated and nudged and tugged at some slow-pokes pulling up the rear, threatened to remove some ipods, mp3-players, etc., (no, the Waldorf world is not perfect, we too have issues with these items), and reveled in the extraordinary Indian Summer weather we're experiencing this year in Provence.

My chat with Leo's teacher was lovely and reassuring - he finds Leo more serious and present in class this year. Truly contributing to the energy of what is now a class of 30 pre-teens, scowling when others disrupt, etc., We also discussed Leo's physical size and presence -- he is the tallest of the class, and not whippet thin, nor in any way heavy. But he has physical strength and power that is unique in his class. His best friends are often smaller, lighter kids, including Vivien who is half his size, and very much his equal as he teases, provokes, and plays with the gentle giant that Leo is becoming. I at times worry that Leo, of a very reactive and sensitive temperament, might accidentally harm one of his friends as he lashes out, chases down, man-handles to the ground, etc., In a later discussion, Vivien reassured me that he is in no way afraid of Leo's power, and feels quite confident that Leo is master of it, and would not hurt him. This from a lad that I find often beneath Leo, head held in an elbow/arm grip that has me more than a bit anxious. However, I am witness to the provocation that has brought forth this wrestling hold, and thus restrain from criticizing. Though I remind Leo to be careful, and aware of his size and force.

I am finding it both wonderful and frightening to be a sole parent to my teen son. His father is in the background, yes, but I am the educator, the disciplinarian, the one who sets the limits and exacts certain behavior. I am the one drawing him towards responsibility, self-awareness, work, pride of skill and ability. I am the one pushing and tugging and urging.

He is stronger and taller than me now. And there are moments when it is just, well, a battle of wills. For the moment, it is working (as I see it). We have our tits -- the battle of the carrots was one the other night. To a refrain of "I just don't want them" (reminiscent of "I just don't like doing dishes") I simply insisted (remembering my horse-whisperer and her instructions to just repeat, insist, and keep the tone of voice calm). Amazingly, after quite a bit of urging, and more than a smidgen of uncertainty (hidden) on my part, I won the battle. Phew! Such a minor concern, and yet, I am still Mother. I am still the one who commands.

And then we've our morning battles -- ah yes, getting up in the morning... For me it comes down to respect for the rest of the household and for me in particular (he has often told me that he gets up with alacrity and good spirits at his father's, at friends' houses...). And, nothing gets me hot and bothered and distracted more than needing to call after him every 5 minutes from 7:30 to 7:50 every darn day. I forget things, I leave the house half-dressed and in a foul humor... and then I pummel him verbally in the car as we drive to school, begging for more effort on his part, less selfishness, and to somehow get through his head that mornings are tough on all of us, and we must do our part, no matter the overwhelming desire to stay in bed under warm covers...

I've now new weapons of coercion. Be this for good or ill, I have passed to Leo my old computer and my first Iphone. His time on these is limited, as is the content he is allowed to have on them. (i.e. for the latter, just music, skype, facebook and phone numbers, no games). His computer is reserved for the weekends and Wednesday evenings (mostly). This is working, sort of. There are moments of abuse. I'm doing a lot of hiding these objects around the house when I know I'll be out for the evening and he'll be here. He's becoming (with Jonas' help) adept at finding my hiding places (as my siblings and I were adept at finding my mother's hidden stashes of cookies/brownies/ etc., in the kitchen of my childhood). But at least, I at last have something that I can clearly remove from him when things get out of hand, and give back when behavior has improved.

Oh, the complications of raising a 14 year old. He is so sweet, and so stubborn. So interested in others, and so self-involved.  More on this later.

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