Sunday, January 1, 2012

Nothing so radical as normal

For a few months I have been ruminating on an important decision; what kind of future do I want for my kids? for my family? How can I answer my own conscience every day in a way that won’t make me feel kind of sick?

When the boys were younger, under 3, I would daydream of full nights’ sleep, time to myself to read and think, forms of freedom I used to know. I accepted the idea that one day my kids would be in school as was so often repeated to me “Oh don’t worry, soon enough they will be in school and you will be able to start your life/career/goals again.” It used to be kind of refreshing to hear. Then, when the boys were close to 4, I suddenly started having some strange anxiety about my kids growing up. What was going to happen to my role as a mother? What did our future look like? They were growing so fast, becoming so independent. Nurturing them, feeding them, keeping them safe (while still important) would no longer encompass the breadth of my priorities/responsibilities. What exactly did it mean that I could ‘start my life again’ when the kids went to school? Why wouldn’t I want to spend every day with them if I was able?

As they headed to preschool, we decided it was a good time to have another baby. The boys would love a little brother or sister, we felt we were ready and as a plus, I would get to remain the kind of mom I had become accustomed to being.

I had a miscarriage after becoming pregnant the first month of trying and it was kind of devastating. It felt like the one thing I had counted on keeping my life moving forward was not in the cards. Then I became a bit sickened when I realized how much weight I had placed on it working out - on our family growing, as planned, and what my role would be. How could I be so dependent on something that was completely out of my hands? How desperate was I feeling, WHY was I feeling desperate at all?

There were many questions bomb-shelling my brain for weeks on end, but over time, I came to see that having the miscarriage may have been a “blessing in disguise” or “serendipitous tragedy”. It threw me. It really really threw me in a way that I couldn’t have seen coming. I started to turn around and look at the children I already have and I realized that they do still need me, and will continue to, for a very long time. Then I became aware of something that truly shifted my paradigm.

I don’t have to hand my kids off to an institution for the rest of their lives.

I really don’t.

The state will not take better care of them than we will. Some private or Christian schools may do a good job, but no one will love them like I do and support them in the ways that I can.

I feel I have to note here that I imagine a virtual chorus from people reading this that sounds something like ‘but kids need so much more than that, it would be very very hard to do’. I may be a bit paranoid, but I have started a type of tally in my mind of knee jerk responses from people that are rooted in an interesting dependence on the societal status quo.

There are options. Parents have brains and choices and resources at their disposal. I believe that every parent has to make these choices for themselves, they have to work within the realm of their own conscience to decide the best thing for their family. I am truly blessed to have a partner who supports me and our children, who has a completely different skill set than I and a different approach to life (and can make enough money to pay the bills for the foreseeable future). I love work- LOVE WORK. I know, though, that to do the work you love is the most meaningful way of living. Nothing brings me more joy than my family, seeing my children happy and fulfilled and confident and hopeful. The possibilities are endless. I’m not planning on sheltering my kids in our kitchen for years on end or trying to make them see the world as I do, or even fulfilling my own dreams for what I want them to do with their lives. I know the only thing that will bring me peace in old age, if I am lucky enough to get there, is the belief that I did everything I could to help them become critical thinking, self-reflective responsible people who know how to live joyfully. Institutions aren’t teaching these things to our children.

If anyone reading this knows that feeling and has always felt like they have to accept it and live with the bit of sadness, I encourage you to listen to your intuition and read - read what’s out there. See if there is a way to make it a better life.

unschooling rules

Astra Taylor, Filmmaker


Jamie Neuroth said...

Well put, Katie. I am impressed that you take your responsibility to raise "critical thinking, self-reflective responsible people who know how to live joyfully" seriously. I think you're off to a great start. Keep it up.

Unknown said...

I love you and think you're brave. Brave not for going against the grain, but brave for following what your heart & mind believe. That, in it of itself, is a lesson that will be invaluable to your children.

Rebeca said...

Good stuff Katie...

Melissa Neacsu said...

Oh, Katie. Katie, Katie, Katie. I am right there with you. We are doing "kindergarten" at home this year. It's funny how deciding to keep your kids out of traditional school is a process starting with, "There's no way I could do that!" and ending with, "There's no way I shouldn't do that!" At least, that's how it was for me. We joined a co-op/support group this year, which supplements well what I do at home, but things are constantly changing based on what works best at the moment. My hope is to always keep "the big picture" in mind, so my children's education blends itself naturally into real life rather than learning/thinking be something they do only "at school" or in a particular setting. As for the outraged and concerned reactions you get, they used to bother me, but now I pay them no mind. Anyone who has such a reaction is either ignorant of the benefits/possibilities of homeschooling or taking your decision to homeschool as an affront to their decision not to. Of course, we all (hypothetically) do what we think is best for our own families, and those decisions can't be affected by the actions or reactions of others. Anyway, it's good to feel like you're not alone.

Melissa (Nostalgic for Eugene...)

Daniel Balter said...

I was moved by your post--thank you for keeping it real and for sharing.

Have you read the book "Kristin Lavransdatter"?
What you said reminded me of this amazing trilogy that features a woman's life set in Medieval Norway.