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The Madrid Chick

Musings from a Canadian living in Madrid

In defense of men

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I hate male bashing. A friend of mine posted this on her Facebook and asked me why I did not like it. She said, ¨Oh come on! Lighten up! It is meant to be funny! Men are annoying!¨ I told her that women are just as annoying as men can be and that posts like these are unfair. She said that although my point was true, the truth is that men are not as sensitive and caring as women are. That is when I immediately came to the defense of men.

I should backtrack a little bit and explain a little bit of my background. I have endometriosis. What is that? Well, without going into too much detail, it involves difficult periods and can cause difficulty in conceiving. I discovered that I had endometriosis about three years ago. After experiencing severe pains, I learned that I had a cyst the size of an orange in my body (not cancerous) three years ago. That cyst had grown over a long period of time and had destroyed about 60 percent of one of my ovaries. I had a successful surgery and as of now, I no longer have any cysts that are growing. I have two tiny ones that are quite inactive. I have written a very brief account of the matter, but it was, and continues to be, a difficult situation for me. I would sincerely love to have children but there is the possibility that I will not. 

I got married three years ago and I am 40 years old.  I live in Spain and work as an English teacher in a religious school. What does that mean? I get the comments (primarily from women) saying, ¨So, when is the baby coming?¨  or if my tummy is sticking out more than usual, I get, ¨When is the baby due?”  Then I just have to put on my best smile, even though I want to seriously slap somebody, give a brief reply and walk away. There is this idea that as soon as one gets married, one should get pregnant. I honestly find that an archaic and often impractical thing. What if we could not afford to have a child right now? What if soon after being married, we just wanted to enjoy being just a couple? No couple should feel the need to explain their private life.I also want to remind people that women´s bodies are not vending machines where you throw in your change and get your desired product. Not long ago, a woman slapped my husband on the arm and told him¨, ¨How about that baby eh? You two are running out of time!¨  That hurt like hell. So much for sensitive and caring.

Another moment that comes to mind is when I was not getting pregnant and a family member (a female of course) said to my husband and I, ¨Well, are you two doing it right?¨  I kid you not. I was too polite to sarcastically ask, ¨Are you planning to give us a demonstration?¨

I was visiting my mother not long ago and we went into a flower shop that she and I use to to go to a lot. A Young woman working there said, ¨Oh! Are you pregnant?¨I shook my head and said ¨no¨putting on my best possible grin that said ¨No, now kindly please shut up¨, but she continued by saying, ¨I just figured you were since you are fatter than the last time I saw you.¨ What a generous use of words to use the comparative of the word, ¨fat¨. I stopped grinning and told my mom that we were leaving. I confess had a good cry after that. I returned home and told my husband about it. He told me not to worry, that I am  beautiful and perfect the way I am. Not fat. Not fatter. Not defected.

I remember when I was single, I would often get the question, ¨How come you don´t have a boyfriend? or ¨Why are you not married yet?¨  Men never asked me that, of course. Women did. I am not referring to older women, I am referring to women my age or younger. I simply said that I had not yet met him and that I would prefer to be single and happy than to be with someone just to say I had someone. I don´t believe in wasting my time and my worth does not come from being associated with a man. I lived for several years on my own with no boyfriend. It was a wonderful time.

There are other examples but I do not need to detail them. When I explained these examples to my friend she I understood my point of view better and was quite shocked.  Men, in my experiences these days, never make me feel like there is something wrong with me. It is generally women. This is not to say that there are not great female friends in my life. Fortunately, there are a few. I think the important thing to know here is that everyone can cause hurt and be insensitive, It is also important not to let other people´s insensitivity affect you too much. That is not easy.

If there are any gentleman reading this, I am sorry that you guys are stereotyped. The stereotypes that you are all insensitive or ignorant fools are completely unfair. Human beings can be insensitive or unkind, not just men. I know that there are plenty of good men out there who have women in their lives that would be the first to praise  the kind of people they are. I am referring to husbands, fathers, brothers, boyfriends, uncles, sons, grandfathers and friends. All men. And these men do not cause problems in women’s lives. They just make life sweeter.

Am I too ¨hard¨on my students?

 

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This is my last week of work before my summer holidays. Thank God. As a teacher, I am just emotionally and physically exhausted. Those of you who are parents or spend time with children know what I mean. You love them but do they ever drive you up the wall sometimes.  I need the holidays because I need distance from them and they need distance from me too.  I was having a chat today with an Irish guy who has been working with teenagers in England for quite some time. He is visiting the school where I work and getting to know the students.  We were talking about discipline and he asked me, ¨Seriously, Natascha…do all the kids here have so many behavioural problems? I said, ¨Well, unfortunately, you got the bad luck of being in the class where the a good majority of the students do not behave well.. It is an extreme situation but I imagine that it is quite different where you are working in England.¨He agreed. He told me that if any of his students spoke to a teacher the way  he saw some students speaking to the teacher that day, they would be sent out of the room  or even supended for a day. That does not really happen where I work. The idea is, ¨Let´s talk to the children and let them know what they are doing is wrong.¨ Right. Well, I agree that words ARE important but words are not the remedy to everything. So is action. Hey, adults are the same. For example, we can be told a million times not to drive over the speed limit because it is dangerous and so forth but it does not keep everyone from doing it. But oncve we are caught and it is on our driving record, we are usually more careful.

Today, while looking after some children in the cafeteria, I discovered that a 4 year old had (on purpose)poured all of his drink on the floor. He found this amusing and I told him, ¨Let´s see how funny it is when you clean it up.” I handed him some paper towels and he was shocked. He began cleaning it and one of the people I work with was shocked that I did that. After about a minute, I told him to get up and I asked him, ¨Was that fun’¨ He answered that it wasn´t and I told him, ¨Well it is not fun for others to clean up your mess either. Next time, think twice before throwing anything on the floor¨. My colleague was still surprised and I said, ¨How will he learn if he does not realise that there is a consequence to his actions?¨ Was I being ¨hard¨on the boy? Maybe, but in my experience,  gently saying, ¨Please don´t do that again¨is not quite effective. And I get pretty annoyed when I see children throwing food and drink on the floor. It is such a lack of respect, on top of being a waste.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, a 5 year old student came up to me, crying because his friend had broken his toy. The conversation went something like this:

Boy: He broke my toy! (Accomapanied by theatrical sobs)

Me: I see. And didn´t I ask you to put away the toy because you are not allowed to bring toys to school?

Boy: Yes, but he broke it.

Me: So, first you brought the toy to school knowing you shouldn´t. Then you did the contrary of what I asked and took the toy out again after I asked you to put it away.

This comment of mine was met with no verbal response, but the theatrics disappeared.

Me: How do you think I feel when you ignore me? I feel sad. I am sorry your toy is broken but I am not surprised. That is one of the reasons why you should not bring toys to school.¨

I asked his friend to apologise and they both walked away, but not before telling them that I expected better from them BOTH. Luckily for me, the mother of the boy with the broken toy was fully supportive of my actions when I later explained what happened. Some parents would have been pretty annoyed with me for being too ¨hard¨ and not punishing the other boy more.

Bad choices have consequences. Those consequences are there to teach us. If you tell people you expect great things from them because you know they are capable of doing them, they strive to achieve them.  I know some people think I am being hard on my students but the pride they feel when I tell them they made the RIGHT choice tells me I am on the right path.

Some thoughts upon celebrating nearly 3 years married.

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The time has passed quickly.  August 4th is our 3 year anniversary and I have been thinking about some of the things I have learned and continue to learn as a married woman.

I remember watching an interview with a couple that was celebrating 50 years married (can´t imagine that either!) and the interviewer asked the husband, ¨What is the secret to a happy marriage?¨ The answer stunned me. He said, ¨Know when to be quiet¨.  Somehow, I think this is true with any relationship, not just marriage.  I know it is advice that I have found useful.  When I am annoyed or have had an excetionally tough day, I can easily say things which I later regret. Even in the worst moments, I need to choose my words carefully, and other times, it is best to say nothing. Sometimes, it requires a lot of self control but  it is worth it not to hurt a person´s feelings. You can´t take words back.

There is a common saying that goes, ¨Love means never having to say you are sorry¨. That, in my opinion, is one of the most erroneous commentaries about love.  Admitting you are wrong is never easy but to put pride aside and admit that you made a mistake is a sign of loving a person. Again, this is true for any relationship. I am a teacher and the other day, I reprimanded a student for doing something and later found out he didn´t do anything. I immediately took him aside and apologised for making the mistake. I felt really bad but I knew that he was going to respect me more for admitting my error than if I acted like nothing happened.

Give a person the benefit of the doubt.  Ok, one of the things that drives me completely insane is being late. My husband has a tendency to be late. So, for example, if we are leaving for a road trip and we are supposed to leave at 11, it is likely we will leave at 3.  Why? Well, because he needs time to pack, (he has a method) and he needs to iron and so forth.  It really drove me bananas when we were first married and I began to wonder why his timing was so..off. I realised that one of the reasons why I fell in love with him, his unfaliling optimism, made him overestimate the time he had to get things done.  I am more pessimistic and always think that things will take more time than you expect. (Is that pessimistic or realistic? :)) He always presumes he has lot more time than he actually has. Does his timing still drive me a bit nuts? Yes, but I would not change him.  He is wonderful just how he is.

I am very lucky because I really did marry my best friend who loves me and loves my family. He makes me feel like I am the most wonderful person in the world in spite of the fact that I have more faults than I would care to admit.  Did I have to kiss a few frogs before I finally met my prince? Well yes, but that makes finding my Mr. Right all that much sweeter. I have learned from my mistakes and am still learning.  I was told that the first few years of marriage would be hard and all I can say to that now is, thatv they have been great. We are on an adventure and although life is certainly not an endless amount of rainbows and butterflies, but we are not alone.

Can good manners ¨run out of style”?

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As a native English speaker and teacher living in Spain I am often told that we English speakers say ¨please¨ and ¨thank you¨ too much. I answer by saying that it is better to say these things too much than not at all. I often point out that I find it so disappointing and frankly,maddening, when I hear how children usually make requests here in Spain.  The ¨requests¨ can often begin with an ¨Oye¨ ,which means ¨hey¨.  This ¨hey¨is normally accompanied by a very loud or even screechy voice. This alone instantaneously makes my skin crawl because my name is not ¨hey¨and I hate shouting. (If you don´t respond immediately, the voice just gets louder) .The ¨hey¨is usually followed by the phrase ¨I want ……¨  And that is that.  The other way children make known that they want something is by making statements. For example, Paco does not have a pencil so he comes up to me and says, ¨I don´t have a pencil¨and he will expect me to give it to him.  Conversation over. When I give people these examples of what I can only call blatant rudeness, I am often told that these are cultural differences. That is where I draw the line. No!!  That is not possible because I married a Spanish man and he does not speak this way nor does his family or do his friends.  It seems to me that the generation of adults having children today have lost sight of the importance of good manners. I am not saying all of them, but yes, many. I work in a school that is focused on the children learning English as well as Spanish. Parents have this dream of their children becoming bilingual (though most don´t know much English or have any real desire to learn it themselves) and spend a good amount of money for this to be achieved. They want their children to be well rounded and ready for the future that awaits them. But unfortunately, good manners seem to be disregarded as a means of educating a person fully. I do what I can to teach the children that politeness and kindness is fundamental in my classroom. One day I asked my students, who are only 6 and 7, ¨Which is more important, learning English or learning how to be a good and kind person?¨The students answered that English is more important. I told them that although English is important, being a good and kind person is more important because no matter what language you speak, if you are cruel, rude or unkind, nobody will want to be your friend. The students were shocked that I told them that but it made a difference in their attitude towards each other. The trend is for children to learn so much and yes, their opportunities have increased in many ways, but since when did good manners become unnecessary?

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