Tuesday, November 8, 2011

nitty gritty

if i listed all that's been going on in the last few weeks i might get a few sympathy phone calls/comments. i'm not pandering for either, just keepin' it real on the ol' blog. this afternoon was horrendous at our house - i won't go into it, but i felt like mom-scum and henry threw a fit the likes of which i have never before experienced from a child that is my own. it was especially shocking coming from him, the darling boy who has dazzled me with his calm, easy-going mellow from birth. i love him so much. so, so much. i hated seeing him so upset, knowing that i had imposed the consequence. but he had chances and choices. and as much as i wanted to go in and give hugs and renegotiate - i felt like what he really needed was to be yanked out of turd-ville and back to the reality of finishing what you start and being respectful to your mother. still, i had to separate myself from the situation, so lily and i slipped out for an evening of errands. by the time we got home, henry had calmed down and was back to his good-natured self. i'm still wondering if i handled the situation appropriately. i've been second guessing my parenting more lately than ever before. i find myself wondering whether it's six-and-a-half or the unique dynamic of homeschooling that has ushered in some new challenges between us. maybe both? in any case, we've had some rough parenting waters to navigate recently. that weighs on me. i really just prefer to be pals with my kids. i'm not very good at discipline, it's not that i'm unwilling, i honestly just feel unprepared to handle it well. it seems that when i know i should be intervening with correction, i either find myself slack-jawed and speechless, not knowing how to appropriately respond. or frustrated and irrational - the too-loud crazy lady spitting threats like sunflower seeds.
speaking of frustrated and crazy...homeschool is so hard. just terribly hard. and i feel like it's really changing the relationship between henry and me...and i loved that relationship so much, it was precious and rare and almost completely void of conflict. it's different now. he sees me in the morning and recoils because now mom=math (or spelling or reading or fill-in-the-blank hard thing that he doesn't want to do). so even though i make a mighty effort to be cheerful and diplomatic, there is just a tension that settles in as soon as i announce that it's time to get started with school. i'm constantly wrestling with whether i should just relax, let it all be fun, and give him more control, or hold the reins a little tighter, help him learn about discipline and focus and keep our school experience resembling traditional school where possible (because the plan is definitely to integrate back into public school...maybe quite soon. maybe even thursday if tomorrow is wretched (wink!)). i feel like the tiger mother in me is at war with the unicorn mother. (ha! that's funny to me) - structure vs. creativity, freedom and exploration vs. follow the curriculum. we undulate between the extremes, trying to stay somewhere near the middle.
happily, he is making huge strides with reading. big, beautiful bounds! (we've been learning about alliteration - i laugh when i hear lily teaching her dollies about "litter-nation" - she picks up so much!) it is so thrilling to listen to him read whole stories and think "we did that together!" that is happy and beautiful.
math is not. which is so strange to me because he is so good at math. his mind grasps the concepts so quickly and he lays in bed at night and thinks about how 100 is ten times bigger than 10 and six is three times as much as two. he runs out of his room, squinty eyed and thrilled, to tell me these things. but in the morning, he moans over subtraction facts, sometimes absolutely refusing to do any of it. i've never had that kind of defiance from him. ever. i know...lucky. it's so foreign to me. i think he is asserting autonomy. needing to feel powerful and separate. and i want to allow for that. but i feel completely ill-equipped (like i mentioned above). i just sit there at the school table, shocked and fumbling for the appropriate response. take away a priviledge? what do you take away from a kid who doesn't watch TV, doesn't play video games, is perfectly content to play by himself in the playroom (ie doesn't care if there's a friend or not)? these past few months have stripped away all my mother pride and left me shivering in the face of my own inadequacy. humbling, indeed. i could honestly write essays, a blog in its entirety, devoted to my feelings on homeschooling, and the tendrils of effect i see creeping into other aspects of life, but i think i've said enough for one sitting. i still think there is beautiful potential in homeschooling - and i think it is a magnificent choice. i'm just not sure it's the right choice for us. i'm glad we've been down this road, though. i needed to do it to know.
actually, let me just say a bit more - on the positive side (there is one). my kids are memorizing the articles of faith so beautifully and loving it so much. i love having time at the breakfast table to do that. they also loooovve doing art together. i'm so thankful that we have time for art projects and that they get to encourage each other's creativity. also, the good, connected moments of learning with henry are absolutely transcendent. i treasure them. they are sublime, better than i imagined. i'm just not sure they're worth the complications i addressed above. let me also say that i am sure i am doing many, many things wrong. i'm sure a lot of dysfunction in our classroom is my fault. i'm not trying to blame henry or homeschool or anything else - just confessing to the hardness of it, realizing full well that i'm probably responsible for much of that.

in other, happier news, i feel like nate and i are pushing the limits of bliss. i know that sounds horribly cheesy, but really, we have been so honest with each other lately and so gentle and so happy and thankful. and it is magnificent. i know i just used this word to describe the learning experiences i've shared with henry, but nate and i have had some moments together that have felt very transcendent...like we've crossed new thresholds of understanding and appreciation. it has been lovely. this deep connection and intense affinity makes me feel so thankful that we've stayed in the yoke together when the trail's been muckier and the passion's been dimmer. all the effort and compromise and service and sacrifice and difficult communication and, and, and...it is all so, so worth it.

also, i had a little surgery on my lip/gum on monday morning and good gauze balls! my mouth has been tender. all i can eat is soup and oatmeal (people keep suggesting smoothies and frosties, but i've been cold and that stuff just sounds saccharine and harsh). i figure it'll be a few more days of pain and then i'll be munching on cap'n crunch and doritos ;) the thing i'm missing most is being able to read stories to the kids - really. it's always a happy, calm part of the day. will be nice when i'm not talking like a ventriloquist anymore -- it's already getting better. we could read Quick as a Cricket tomorrow (only a couple words/page). Mike Mulligan will have to wait 'til next week :)

also, last week (while nate was out of town on a week-long business trip and i was missing him very much and having the worst homeschool week on record,) i crashed our two-week old van into my neighbor's garbage can. of course, trash spilled out everywhere and i felt awesome getting out and gathering up wheaties boxes and plastic baggies off the lawn. but it was really lame to look over at the van and see the huge dent in the fender. honestly? from hitting a rubber garbage can going 3 mph?! i must have hit it at just the right angle to pin it against the curb and cause maximum damage. here's something: when the world ends, i know exactly where i want to be - crouched inside a "rogue disposal" waste receptacle (safest place on earth), that garbage can didn't have a scratch on it. when i called to tell nate what happened he was very kind about it, his only response being, "i can't even begin to imagine how you did that much damage crashing into gloria's garbage can. Em, that sounds like something a blind 95 year old would do." i can already laugh about it - how can you not laugh about something so ridiculous?
nate's still nonplussed.

oh, life! it is insane and awesome and hard and really very great. i am learning so much, especially in the humbling hard stuff.

i listened to a bit of the messiah (here) on the treadmill this morning and joy just welled up from my bones. my toes are starting to tingle with holiday cheer. so exciting to be on the cusp of such a magical time of year.



  1. Emily, I know absolutely nothing about homeschooling, so take this with a big heaping boulder of salt. I love the idea. Love it. But I have ended up putting both of my older children in preschool (after debating the merits of teaching them preschool-type things at home) because I felt like we all needed a break from each other, and it has improved our family dynamic so, so, so much. This may just be me, but I've found that when we all have a break from each other, I value the time we do have together much more--we have exciting things to tell each other and our time together can be fun and the teaching time we do at home is different than the school time, you know? I have also been really interested as I've volunteered in my children's classes to see how the teachers go over the concepts and make them so accessible and fun. There are things that I don't love about public school--and we are incredibly lucky right now to be in a fabulous district--but there are some great things too. :-)

    Anyway, I wish you luck and guidance in your choices. Motherhood carries so much guilt and worry and stress with it; I really hope that things improve for you one way or another, and that homeschooling either begins to work as you've hoped it would, or that Henry can integrate smoothly and happily back into public school.

  2. Oh my gosh em, this sounds EXACTLY like how I'm feeling in my life right now but just with totally different challenges. I'm finding myself second guessing myself, wondering what else to try, scared to try things that I think may work.... I'm just having such a hard time lately. You know it's bad when you break down in sobs of frustration at least every two weeks convinced that it might be better if you just walk away from it all. Maybe it's all so raw because yesterday was SUCH A BAD DAY. Sobs and sobs and sobs. Thankful for a neighbor who took over when I might have injured a certain someone. It's like just when you think you're going to break the Lord sends some some relief. Like you, I feel like Mark is my bright spot in life right now. At least there's that, and that's huge.

    well we should talk soon, someday.... love you

  3. Em your garbage can comment was hilarious. Now I'll know where to take my family too, thanks for the tip! ;) Big sigh, wow, you have got some tricky stuff on your plate. I think from now until our boys turn 8 (and really maybe 18) they are going to be testing the limits. Henry has always seemed so perfectly calm and sweet, I hate to say it, but I'm glad to know he's normal! Bless you for trying the home school thing out, I know it hasn't been easy. But like you said, at least now you know.

  4. While I was homeschooled I had a math tutor because math was causing too much contention. It worked out really well to have someone else teach that one subject. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money either. We traded babysitting in exchange for the math tutoring. Just a suggestion. In the end, you will find out what works best for you and your son.

  5. Oh, Em! I just love you & love hearing your thoughts and insights. I look up to you so much - Henry & Lily are so blessed to have you!