Friday, August 19, 2011

The Queen of Conflictedness

This is how it goes for me:  a thought, an idea catches in my brain - the way some loose fabric does and ends up with a hole in it as one unwittingly carries on walking away - only I can't get loose.  I fiddle and fiddle with it.  Pull it this way and that.  Lose sleep over it, miss conversations and the taste of my meals because of it.  Live in a trance-like state of ponderance because if it.   This single thought gets bumped and tossed and pulled and finagled without ceasing on the crisscross lines of my thought tracks.  Until finally, I see my way around it and I make a decision.

Phew.  That feels better...

For a while... then the reality of my decision begins to take shape, moving from abstraction to tangibility, and I find myself curling my lips and recoiling from what it is becoming.  What have I done?  What, I ask myself, am I doing?

I reach for my crown and scepter and I sit gracelessly on the Throne of Ambivalence - the newly (re-) crowned Queen of Conflictedness.  I reign supreme, knowing that I am never sure or confident about the decision which is now made half-heartedly.

That is how it goes for me.  And now I give you the Case In Point.

I recently wrote a blog post about deciding to go back to my roots and homeschool my daughter, Lauryn.  Not too long after, comes this post.  This post about how I have since accepted a job as a facilitator for a nursery group at a school where my children will both be attending me feeling sad about no longer homeschooling (any of) my children.  So.  Very.  Sad.

How could this happen?  What am I doing?  I know I'm a home-schooler at heart.  Rather, I have just realized that - having finally identified what those pangs and aches I've been getting when I read homeschoolers' blogs are.

No matter how many times I explain it to myself that it's not forever, it's not going to hurt my children, we desperately need the money, think of all the bills you can pay, the kids will be fine, you're really lucky to get them into that school, you needed to change things, you need the money...  No matter how many ways or how often I tell these things to myself, it can't make this feel right.  (Okay folks, you might wanna step back a bit, The Idealist is coming...)

I swear on everything that is valuable to me, if there were any other way for me to make the income I'll be making at this job, and still homeschool my children I'd do it without a nano-second thought.  Our lives are so simple and happy that way.  Learning is so rich and real-lifey when we homeschool.  There is such a strong sense of togetherness and joy in homeschooling.  They are safer when we homeschool.  Everything is easier, more fun, better for all of us.  Life is soft focus frolicking in meadows when we homeschool.

But a woman's gotta do what a mamma's gotta do.  I know and continue to remind myself that I'm doing this for my children now, so I can do so much more for my children now and later.   This way they get to finally do some of the things we couldn't afford before, like martial arts for Ry and art mentorship for Lauryn.  And - just, so much more!

I can (and will) weigh the pros and cons unstoppably until I am too weary to keep them moving in my brain.  There is no chance that I won't.  Hopefully though, I can eventually find peace and acceptance about having to put my ideals into Self Storage until I can take them out and put them back on again.  I have to.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Life After Children.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about how very different my life is and has been, as a result of choosing to become a mother.  (<--- Thesis Statement.)

Ask any parenting parent and they'll tell you, there was life before kids and then there is life after kids.  Somehow, someday fertilization happens and a zygote turns into a blastocyst turns into an embryo turns into a fetus turns into a baby turns into a real live person and there is work to do!  Suddenly everything looks different.  Not just about you, but to you.

One Tuesday it hits you that eating out is a Really Big Deal.  As is sleeping in.  Sleeping at all, for that matter!  By Friday, you find the need to acquaint yourself with words like "developmentally appropriate" and "thimersol".

And by "you", I mean Me.

There isn't a single decision that I make that isn't cast into the mold of What is Best for My Children.  Where before I was casually coasting along taking things as they come, I am now living an outcome-driven way of life.

If there were a physical measure, a scale to weigh how much everything I am putting into my children's lives and how much hey-maybe-I-should-save-some-for-me I'm putting into my own it would never fall heavy on my side.  That's just a fact.  I know I need to look after myself too, but honestly, who has the time?!

At least I've had enough sense knocked into me to know now that I have a right to my own happiness outside of that which makes my children happy.  Until recently, I didn't know how deeply I had engrained in myself that putting my children waaaaaaaa...aaaaaaaa...aay ahead of me was the defining characteristic of A Good Mother.

And still, I have only realized my need to take care of me because it affects my ability to take care of them.  (Can I get a witness?!)  

I am fully aware (in fact I am working toward ensuring) that the minute, the second, the moment will come when they will have outgrown me - as they should; and that if I make my whole existence about them now it will mean that when The Time does come and they Go, I'll have nothing left of my self but shadows and an empty mirror.

I sway with the pendulum and the tides reaching desperately to find the point any place in the general vicinity of the middle.  A place where I am giving them my "best of" and giving me (my relationship with The Mister, with my friends with myself) my "greatest hits".

Perhaps my life after (having) children will continue this way until I find myself with a newly defined life after (raising) children.   Hopefully when I am there and looking back with through the irony we call 20/20 hindsight I will know at last that in the very act of aiming for it, I was always somewhere in the middle because it is wider than I thought.

Whatever happens to me, I am placing all my bets that it will have a lot to do with what happens to them.    (And not the other way around.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Biology, It's All Around Us

We are a family that thrives on our marvel for nature.  We love all (the non-gross*) living things around us.  We trap and release things like frogs and wasps.  Which is to say, we mean them no harm.  Right now, in and around our house there are spiders, lizards, tadpoles, a green heron, frogs and, of course, the unmentionables*.

The piece de resistance, however, is our newest acquisition - two dragonfly nymphs!  Dragonfly "NYMPHS"? - you say.  What on earth is that?
It's this guy!  Times two!

The best part of the story is that sweet animal whisperer Lauryn found them in our cousin's pool.  And she knew what it was, without a doubt.

They are now living in a specially designed Dragonfly Nymph Containment Unit (aka a Hellman's mayonnaise jar).  They've already eaten two tadpoles and some mosquito larvae we just happened to have lying around.

Speaking of which, we really do have tadpoles up the ying yang around here.  Just yesterday I noticed a fresh set of eggs on the surface of one of our big water catchers outside.  They have since hatched and are being deployed to the home of a fellow unschooler in the specially re-adapted Tadpole Containment Unit.

I feel a teensy bit bad about feeding our darling 'poles to these carnivorous nymphs, but it's no different than the beautiful Green Heron who has been feasting on them in the bottom of our defunct above ground pool for the past couple of weeks.  He has essentially moved in, as the pickin's are, well, not-so-slim.

In our mosquito infested laundry room, several small spiders have set up shop.   We've been observing them and the neat little packages we assumed were egg sacks on their webs.  And we were right!  Having noticed the frogs eggs on my way to the laundry yesterday, I was on alert for all reproductive activity in the vicinity.  Naturally, I checked the web of my favorite spider and - gasp! - she was not there.  And, what's this?  Tiny black spots on her web?

*Leans in closer (but not too close) squinting*

Oh my gosh, those are her BABIES!  30, maybe 40 spider hatchlings, who have presumably eaten their mother, just sitting there in her web.

Right there.  Inches away from where we go to use a machine to wash our clothes, biology is happening before our very eyes.


*Roaches, Mosquitos, Centipedes, Rats, Fleas, and/or Ticks

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Re-Deciding To Homeschool

The first time I decided to homeschool my children, I didn't really make the decision at all.  Sort of like how when you get pregnant, you don't make a conscious decision to wait 40 weeks and then start labour.  It just follows (usually).

There my children were, there I was, there were my ideals and there was homeschool.  Bada-bing, bada-boom.

In hindsight I see that I might have even resisted the idea by trying to enroll my firstborn into various and sundry schools only to discover some huge unforgivable flaw and then pull her.

Just over seven years into it, some big life thing happened and I felt like I had no other choice - given the circumstances - but to make the excruciatingly painful (this is not hyperbole, it really was that painful) decision to put them in school.

Fast forward six months: it's the end of the year and plans must be made for the the next one (apparently these things just keeping coming at you whether you're ready or not).

And just when I'd accepted my new life as a mother of two children in school, homeschooling landed squarely in the crosshairs as a viable option as a way forward in september.

The irony of the difficulty of this decision cannot be overstated.  It's still me.  Me who six months ago felt like I had swords and chainsaws in my - well, my softest most sensitive inner bits - as I concluded that, no, I cannot continue to give this Thing to my children.  I twisted keen edge of that decision round and round and wondered if there was ever to be a reprieve from the pain of letting this go, this Big Important Value of mine.  I searched scoured my husband's face for signs of his disappointment.  And I fought like hell to believe that I was still - at least - a decent human being.

It's still me.  Only now (a scant half a year after the unforgivable) I find myself struggling to wrap my head around doing it all again.  Terrified of being too much not-enough, among other things.

I spent hours and hours, days and days, tick after piercing middle-of-the-night tick with the thoughts rolling around like marbles in a tin can.  Can I do it?  Should I do it?  Do I want to do it?

Can I really do this... again?  (What I have just written so easily, like a singular query is really 10 thousand what-ifs, doubts and fears coalescing into the form 'can i?')

I followed some of my own advice and broached it with the other individuals whose immediate concern it would be - my children.  Ryan glibly - if not blithely - declared that he wanted to go back to school (a genuine surprise and not-surprise all at the same time) and Lauryn, after a characteristic pause said that, yes, she would like to homeschool.  (Not long after this conversation I was told that Lauryn was later overheard telling her best friend "When I start homeschooling I can go the Humane Society anytime I want.")  (Note to self: find resources that talk about why gloating is maybe not the best form of communication.)

And so it came to pass that after re-thinking, re-hashing, re-evaluating and re-everythinging, I re-decided to homeschool my daughter.  (Full disclosure: knowing it would only be Lauryn definitely sweetened the deal for me.)  (Hey, at least I'm honest!)

This time, it's not just the natural next step, which was fine and good before.  No. This time is consciously boarding the plane already wearing a parachute because I know I'm gonna skydive.  (I know the metaphors couldn't be any further apart if I tried, but this one felt good for the ending.)

I am really looking forward to taking the leap with Lauryn.  I have really good feelings about September.  Now, if I could just settle on some sort of curriculum...  (I've learned that I need to keep her at grade level incase the "market" crashes again.)

*Dons amalgam of skydiving gear, heads for the plane and turns back to give a thumbs up*