farnam: (Default)
Ever read the 'spoons theory'? I know anyone looking at this has, but just in case, here it is:


It has its uses, I suppose, but in my opinion is grosly over-used. As I see it, there are separate problems with both the story itslef, and with the use that is made of it.

First and foremost, I'm a pedantic b!tch, and need to state clearly that it is not, in any way, a theory, its a frigging metaphore, for crying out loud. Not a theory. Thank you. Anyway, on to the more fundimental issues.

The metaphore itslef. As I said, its useful in many ways, but its greatest failing is in the fact that it pre-supposes a dichotomy. You are healthy, or you are sick. Most people are healthy. Most people have limitless 'spoons' (a metaphore for energy/physical strength/capacity). Any time, in any context, a dichotomy is used, failings occur. The world is NOT divided into the healthy and the sick - many, most people have health privilidge, in that thier life does not have to actively revolve around illness and/or disability, but thats not the same as saying that they will never catch a cold, and have lingering fatigue afterwards for a month or two because they couldn't aford the few days in bed to recover that they really should have taken. Or are prone to migranes that are crippling when they strike, but are fine the rest of the time, or similar. Thats my biggest gripe with the story, I don't believe that anyone has limitless 'spoons'. More about that later when I propose my alternative 'bath' metaphore. Secondly, it presupposes that all illnesses are illnesses of loss of energy. Not all are. Some are more caracterised by pain than fatigue, and some by other features - loss of capacity to breath during an asthma attack, for example, which is still a serious illness (people die of asthma attacks too), but can not fit the 'spoon' mataphore. Again, more on that in a moment.

And on to the use that is made of the metaphore - at it's simplest, it is basically a story in which the word 'spoons' is substituted for the word 'energy'. And its cool and trendy and a great way to show how with-it you are to always say 'spoons' and never energy. And this is my next big gripe - the use it is put to (not a problem inherent in the orriginal writing, but in its subsequent viral popularity). I can't get to the pub tonight, my totally-living-with-health-privilidge friend tells me, becasue I've been out every night this week so far, and I don't have the spoons. Hold on a minute, stop the clock. There is NOTHING abnormal, or beyond the standard human condition, to not be able to socialise every night of the week, and still hold down the day job. The 'spoons theory' was written by a woman with Lupus - a very, very serious illness that significantly reduces life expectancy. And in telling her story about the spoons, she was trying to explain the difference between her and you - but you have gone and colonised her words - and in doing so, not actually heard a word she has said! Read her words again, anyone who does this. noowhere does she try to claim that her 'spoons theory' (cough, cough, metaphore) is about all chronic illness, all invisible illness or any such thing. She claims its about LUPUS. So, in my opinion, the many, many people who use it to actually claim 'I'm tired' are in fact being very disrespectuf, becasue they are suggesting that the experience of a severly ill person with Lupus is nothing more than thier normal level weiriness.

It also doesn't count for all illness, chronic, hidden or otherwise. But it is widely promoted as if it did. And in doing so, it then hides, minimises or obscures the very different difficulties that different illnesses bring. Take the aforementioned asthma for example. I've had asthma all my adult life. Asthma does NOT take away my 'spoons'/ energy on a daily basis. I do not have to stop and think 'can I have a shower today'? becayuse of my asthma. I DO have to think 'can I walk down that aile of the supermarket?' becasue of my asthma, because perfumes and cleaning chemicals trigger attacks in me. I have only mild asthma, it is true - although, it always stuns me how much is in the perception of the person experiencing it. I know so many people with asthma who have never yet had to be rushed to hospital with an asthma attack, and consider myself 'mild'' because it only happens to me very rarely. My sister in law calls unnoticable bouts of shortness of breath 'asthma attacks' and from her reactions to me when I had a very mild, needing no treatment but real wheezing episode in front of her, she had never even seen that happen to anyone before. And totally paniced. And I want to go 'arrrggggg' becasue I try and tell her about the things I can't do, and she'll always go 'me too', and then try to out do me, but she has no real conception of the word 'can't'. And thats my problem with the spoons theory - everyone applies it to themsleves, often in the most utterly innapropriate ways, and so still end up with no concept whatsoever of the distinction between themsleves and the person that really really can't do stuff, that really really is very ill with reduced life expectancy.
It all comes back to privilidge denying which happens on all layers of privilidge - race, class,gender, sexuality and so forth. None of these things are dichotomies, but lots of people experience privilidge, and many deny it flat out. And so it is with the people who's lives do not have to revolve around illness (by which I do not mean don't have some health issues, but whoes lives/all daily activities/employment prospects/family formation chances etc are not dictated by them) colonising the language, metaphore and imagry of the ill saying 'me too' all the time, and thus denying the reality of those without health privilidge. But that failing was built into the orriginal 'spoons theory' by its use of dichotomies, and its failing to understand that, as conterintuitive as it sounds, the healthy are ill too. (as indeed the ill can be healthy too, in specific ways, for every illness/disability a person has, there are a gazillion they don't)

And so, I said I'd propose an alternative to the spoons theory, and being the saddo that I am with too much time on my hands, I've actually put a bit of thought into this over the last week or so. For me, my experience of physical strength is like a bathtub, with a dripping tap, and an outlet that allows the person to pull the water (physical strength) out on demand.
Everyone has a bath. Except its not a bath preciesely - becasue we all come in different shapes and sizes, and our baths of strength come in different shapes and sizes too. An olympic athelite may have an olympic sized swimming pool of strength to draw on, with a fast waterfall of re-flow to replace anything used up - but watch the uber-healthy marathon winner and they will still probably fall to the ground after they have won the race, becasue they have just drained thier olymic-sized-swimming-pool of strength, and need to just lie there on the ground until thier fast flowing waterfall replenishes it a bit.
A normal healthy person has a normal household sized bathtub with a normal flowing tap - so, they can't run a marathon, becasue they will not have that level of reserve, but they can run for the bus. And arrive, puffing and panting and haveing to bend over and lean thier hands on thier knees becasue the bath-tub has just been drained, but let them sit on the bus for 20 mins, and thier normal flowing tap will have replenished the bath, and they can still jump off the bus and go to do thier days work. For me, my bathtub has, slowly and insidiously over the last few years, shrunk to a little sink full. With a clogged tap that will only drip at a slow steaady pace. So I can never run for a bus, no matter what, becasue my maximum reserve will never get that full. I can manage to get to the bus stop slowly, on my crutches, but that will empty my sink. And the drip of replenishing water will not speed up in response, so that will be me for the day. My sink-sized bath-tub will stay empty until after I have had a nights sleep.

Now this is important to me to expalin it in a couple of ways. First of all, there is the dichotomy issues. Simply becasue I've explained it a little differently, and my metaphore allows for all bath-tub owners, not just the ones who have shrunk to the sink, I'd be much less offended at someone saying 'my bath-tub of strength is empty' than waffling on about spoons when they clearly have no idea what its really like to have lupus/ other serious strength draining illness.
But the reason its much more important to me to explain this in this way is becasue of the variability of my personal illness. becasue every day I get a little sink full (although some days its bigger/faster replacing than others, its always tiny compaired to pre-sick me). And I get to make hard hobsian choices about what I will use my daily sink for. a shower? That'll use up a good bit of it, so thats something else I won't be able to do. A walk to the shop to buy food? I won't cook that day. Hurry down the stairs to answer the phone? Not leave the house at all, not even to the corner shop. but it doesn't mean that I can't once hurry down the stairs or cross the road to the corner shop, it just means I have to choose between those two. And I get sooooo very tired of the 'but you could do it yesterday' attitude I encounter. And my mother is the worst culprit, but so many people do it. How come if you can do this, you can't do that. becasue doing this used up my sink-full. Thats why. How come you could do it yesterday but not today? becasue today I used my sink-full for something else. but equally, I get just as tired of people not appreciating that using my sink-full, to its limit, each and every day is important to me too. You won't be able to do that, you can't do that, are you sure you can cope. its my sink full, only I know whats there, and even if I misjudge and end up lying on the street unable to get up, I would like to be let make those mistakes/judgements for myslef. The marathon winner gets critisism from no one for falling to the ground after winning the race, but if I fall to the ground I'm not supposed to try going out again?

farnam: (Default)
This isn't going to be a science post. The science exists, its out there. Developental psycology has been working away for the last 200 years, and none of it suggests in any way that any 2 year old benefits from being taught to read. Some of it sugests that it might actually be quite harmful.

But no, this post isn't about that. Its about the idiotic  classism of the middle class parents who choose to sing the lalala song in thier heads when anyone points out the above, because they WANT to teach thier toddlers to read, and TOTALLY IGNOR ALL THE SCIENCE AND EXPERTS
who say 'please don't do it'.
Because somehow they can show that they are more intelligent, that thier progeny are more intelligent, by doing something so totally dumb? Honestly, how does that work? I can prove how intelligent I am by ignoring all given knowledge?
Its the same with maths. ALL science shows that maths learning is developmental, closely tied to a childs age. So *all* 3 year olds (short of MAJOR developmental delays) can be taught to recit times tables. NO 3 year old can possibly understand multiplication. Pure and simple. Teach your three year old to recite multiplication tables and what are you doing? YOU ARE BEING AN IDIOT! You are waisting your time and theirs on something with no poetry, no soul, no real learning potential of any sort. *At the right age* all other kids will catch up in a week what it took you a year to teach your kid. So was that really a year well spent? When you think of how many other things you could have been teaching your child? Things that ONLY a 2 year old can learn. Like the importance of a hug when your sad, and why sharing biscuits is more fun than eating them by yourslef, and how bridges are real but trolls are not, and mammy's fairy tales are more fun than the ones in books because her princesses kick ass, and after the corner past the lions in the zoo always come the llamas. Seriously, you want to spend THAT important time doing for months what a trained teacher can do in a week at the right time?

Conor at three could sort of read - some words - but mostly that came from knowing that story time was his favourite time of day. He also knew the order of every animal in the zoo, and had memorised the entire compound so he could always shout out the name of what was coming next. A few silly people had weak-kneed moments thinking they had encountered a genuinly psycic child when I had to stop and explain that the maternal relative had purchased a season ticket for us as a chirstmas present and we came every week. The child wasn't a genius (sorry, Conor). He just had a deep and abiding love of all things four legged and furry.
In addition, something he discovered totally on his own was the range of colours that existed. A social worker tested and recorded him on one rather strange occasion. She was mesmerised, I'd taken it for granted. Because it had just seemed like a normal part of my child, (of every child?) - the fact that at 2 years and 9 months he could name 30 colours accurately. The poor old SW had made the mistake of calling 'peach' orange, and Conor was quick to put her right. He went to his toy box, got a colour wheel he had made me read to him so many times, and correctly named 30 shades from it. She got her recording equipment out and made him do it again.
But the thing is, Conor as a baby loved colour, he found it on his own, he played with it on his own. he refused to paint or colour in - getting endlessly frustrated at his inability to make things life-like, but would mix colours from his paint pots, giggling away and crowing loudly at every succesful mix. I used to call him my little mad alchemist. This wasn't something I showed him, this wasn't something anyone showed him, it was HIM, aserting his own artistisc self, as he had every right in the world to do.

Now my wonderful, stupendous baby boy is finishing his BTEC, (in art and design, of course) and already has three uni offers (in animation, his life long dream) from, he tells me, the top 3 unis in the UK for that  subject. I watch him with our new born kittens, who are all on antibiotics as a precaution although only one was sick. He has taken over caring for them and is swift in giving the drops, and calm, and competent and caring as anyone could guess he would grow up to be, even seeing his little 2 year old self strapped in the buggy learning to love every single animal in the zoo.
I look at him now, at 18, getting ready for university, and I know all the more that letting him learn what he wanted to learn, when he was ready to learn it, was so seriously the right decision. We were trying to fill in Student Finance England Forms together yesterday, and took the decision that he needed to bring it in to college and ge the career guidance person to fill it in for him. Because we just couldn't. We kept arguing about the precise meaning of every question, where his very dyslexic mind was clashing with my very dyslexic mind, until we conceeded that this was written by muggles, for muggles, and needed to be filled in by muggles. He will always be dyslexic, and will probably always need help with forms. its not that he has any trouble reading - he doesn't - he was after all the best reader in his class at 4, and only today all household activity had to stop because he lost his Necronomicon ( which turned out to be a book. How was I to know? Geesh!) He just can't do forms.
He will still read himself to sleep with his necronomicon every night, but in part (in major part) because it gives him vivid dreams, vivid images, to animate in his waking hours. He will never do forms, he will never do phonics. End of story. If he had been forced into those things too early, too exclusivly, I dread to think how that could have stilted, stimied, totally stopped my artistic, creative, beautiful baby, who dreams in technicolour and gives off a magnetic attraction that makes the grumpiest cat or dog instantly compliant and affectionate.

Anyway- what am I actually saying? If any of my few friends on here suddenly found thesleves carers of a 2 year old, what I'm really saying is that - TRUST YOUR CHILDS TEACHER! They were selected from interview for sutability out of many, trained for betweeen 3 and 5 years, and KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. Its thier job and they are paid for it. Its your job to be a parent - to love - to take your little one out into that glorious technicolour world we live in, and start pointing out the joy. Which will never be achieved in stuffy rooms with flash cards.

todays post has been brought to you by one LJ post on the importance of books to babies (which I never actually answered- like so many things they are useful BUT REPLACEABLE because they don't suit all families, and no one should be guilt triped for not using them)
One gingerbeer thread on 'teaching my toddler to read' where every single teacher has pleaded with the mother to stop, but she and her cronies have ignored those posts because it suits thier particular middle-class snobbishness to keep going
and a bottle of echo falls white zinfandel. That was the yummiest part - but is sadly now empty.


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