maybe it would feel easier if more would follow suit

Our life seems backwards. Or at least different. Sometimes I feel odd that I don’t see our choices echoed in other friends’. Then I think: that’s right – it is nobody’s business how we run our lives!

We all sleep upstairs in this one huge room. My kids don’t have toys and toys and toys or their own separate rooms. I do not feel guilty about toys I don’t buy. They are expected to help clean house. They dress themselves (today this included, for Nels, silvery sparkly Mary Janes).

They are given a great deal of free reign with regard to things I’ve decided make sense. I let them argue or backtalk me. I do not prompt their manners in deference to others’ value systems. They are adroit at climbing things, and computers, and friends, and reading and spelling, I notice. They take care of the chickens, although Nels is no longer allowed out there by himself because he was chasing them too much.

Instead of a bedroom per child, I have a sewing room of my own. We don’t own a television. My kids are always underfoot. Instead of babysitting via public school, they hang out with me all day, just about every day. They mostly draw, read, play with obnoxious intensity, write music, and help me cook. Or at least eat the things I cook (today: pizza, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and chocolate tapioca pudding – all homemade). They tell me I’m “the best cooker ever”. Ralph invites their friends over often. These winter months, with the poor weather, it’s draining we don’t get out and exercise more often. I remind myself of this when I feel pent up and angsty.

My husband and I share a small closet and less than one dresser for our clothes. I hang our laundry – especially the woolens, jeans, and coats – up in the house to dry. I am obsessed with keeping my house clean and I succeed at this (with Ralph’s help, lots). The other day at preschool my children showed a thoroughness at cleanup which first made me proud, then, as Nels’ tidying extended minutes past the other children’s (the teacher politely saying, “OK little guy, that’s good enough”, repeatedly), quickly made me feel uncertain shame (am I too obsessed with neatness?).

I work, but not primarily for money. I now take my kids to the diner with me. If my boss starts to resent this, I will have to quit my job. I tried a paid daycare thing, for a few hours one day. Nels hated it. He’s a pretty tough little dude but seemed terrified. So we promised him we wouldn’t go back.

Ralph prioritizes family over work, to the extent he can. He has encountered snide remarks for this. He puts the Parent Helper days of preschool on his work calendar so he can attend. I feel a great deal of empathy for him on this. Whereas with my professional career I was expected to “let down” my employer by giving a damn about my family, as a male he has been occasionally treated to an incredulous sneer.

Today we had our friends’ children over for a few hours; going on a walk along the highway, pulling a wagon while my daughter pushed my friends’ toddler in a stroller. The highway is not friendly. People do not run us over but they often don’t stop and, when they do, they seem to glare. I wave and them some of the glares turn to smiles. Last week while biking I was yelled at by a man in a big truck, who then blasted off. I couldn’t hear what he said but I’m sure he was telling this devoted bicycling mama to GET OFF THE ROAD WHERE SHE DOESN’T BELONG. Incidents like this really hurt my feelings and make me feel small.

I get bored or lonely sometimes with the children. Other times it is brilliant. Maybe one of the reasons I keep them around, and let them be (to the extent it is safe) their own creatures is because it seems healthiest for all of us. At some point I stopped needing them to be “well-behaved” because I need stimulation – the stimuli of their own true selves. I am not, as my mother has my entire life called women content and successful at housewifery, “a cow”. I am a living, intelligent, driven person who loves my children deeper than anything. They drive me totally crazy sometimes. A day where I don’t speak harshly to them, is a success.

It’s rare.

I’m working on it.

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