Monday, March 12, 2007

The Gargoyle of Grump

There's a gargoyle in my house.

He sits perched atop the secretary desk in the living room/schoolroom, surveying the activity below him with unhappy eyes. His stone wings, which look as if they ought to have crumbled away long ago, are folded beneath him in an attitude of gloom. His curved, predatory beak, streaked with the moss of long-forgotten churchyards, snaps open every now and then, as if he's failing to feast on non-existent insects.

And whenever I notice him, he spreads those impossible wings, flaps them for a moment, and then soars just awkwardly enough to avoid being graceful downward, landing on my shoulder and perching there, gripping me with granite talons and tucking his heavy wings away.

As soon as he alights, I realize with a heaviness not unlike his rock-like form just how far away we are from the freedom of summer vacation.

Eleven. Long. Weeks.

Twelve, if you count the time we'll be taking off at Easter. (But who ever counts vacation time?)

This realization spawns a whole host of grumpy thoughts. I notice that the room needs vacuuming, that the laundry isn't done yet, that the child who has been putting off all day a subject with which she needs Mom's help is still putting it off. I'm aware of deficiencies in handwriting and the shorter and shorter answers written in the religion workbooks. I'm uneasily cognizant of the fact that I haven't a clue what dinner will be, or when I will be free to go start cooking it. I realize that some of the 'help' my children are seeking with their schoolwork isn't really 'help;' it's, "Can you do this for me, please, so I can put this book away for the day?" which makes me grumpier than anything else.

Unlike the Siren of Self-Doubt, the Gargoyle of Grump tends to telegraph his arrival. I saw his shadow not long ago, when The Math Lesson that Would Not Die was succeeded by a sequel, The Math Lesson that Would Not Die II: Revenge of the Decimal. I heard his cry soon after that, when I realized just how many pages of history my oldest daughter would need to do per day if we're going to finish school on schedule. And I saw him for certain today, when owing to the ridiculously early time change, all of my children were still doing homework at six p.m.

Unfortunately, the Gargoyle is more difficult to banish then the Siren. He comes for a reason; he won't go till things get better. Luckily, my children don't have to acquire a magical understanding of math or pick up Palmer method handwriting for the Gargoyle to give up, flap ponderously away, and find somebody else to haunt for a while. The only thing that really has to improve is my attitude, my mood.

I can take a few deep breaths. I can find reserves of patience. I can ignore the house cleaning for a bit, to focus on the finish line, only eleven weeks away (with a break in between!). I can plan some easy meals on purpose, taking advantage of the lovely spring weather to serve some picnic fare on occasion. I can enjoy the extra daylight in the evenings. I can plan a special school day as I've sometimes done in the past, a day when our 'regular' subjects are put aside so we can enjoy learning about something else, something like outer space or dinosaurs. Most of all, I can set an example of cheerful perseverance for my children, which they may not copy now but will remember later.

I can feel the Gargoyle's talons loosening as I write.

No comments: