Last night Sophie and I stayed up until about 2 AM laying in bed together, holding hands and talking long after everyone else had gone to sleep. My daughter is so incredibly funny if you take the time to have a conversation with her – she had me laughing a lot. But what she didn’t know was that bearing down on me – despite the joy and intimacy I felt being beside her – was the fact she’s leaving me in three fscking days, she’ll be flying on a plane* and staying with my extended family – my grandfather, my aunts and uncles and cousins – and my mother, then driving back up the coast and stopping at all sorts of cool stuff. I won’t see her for two weeks. It hurts so badly to think about it. And although I feel a bit of panic when I think of the clock ticking away our time together, I know I should enjoy her for the now, for the moment I have her. I even recognize the reminder that really, all we have is the now, and who we love, who is still with us. I also know this trip is a Good Thing, and in fact an awesome possibility made available by our lifestyle – specifically, homeschooling. And I know that Nels will enjoy having his parents to himself for two weeks – and that Sophie will really love her time in California with a large, doting family.
I don’t know how parenting is supposed to feel. Sometimes it feels awful, and right now it’s feeling kind of awful because I’m doing it right. I do a pretty good job of balancing the family’s needs – yes, even mine. But when it comes down to it, I’m in this for the kids. Yesterday afternoon Sophie and Nels took a total of two buses to get to their father’s place of work for a lunch date. Thus we have the Hogachildren’s latest feat, accomplishment, and adventure: the public transit system. And of course, they had a wonderful time. Not only that, but right up to the trip you’ve never seen kids more readily helpful at washing dishes and doing laundry and packing a lunch – they were so looking forward to their travels. And when I picked them up later that afternoon, they had puffed up a few extra inches, delighted with themselves and their adventure and dare I say, time away from any Mommy or Daddy or grownup telling them what to do.
Sophie simply twittered later that night, “I rode the bus today with Nels. I felt brave.”
When I think about my children’s future I feel amazed at their potential, and excited for their lives ahead of them. I know I’m preparing them better than I was prepared, and I’m probably loving them a little fiercer and more explicitly too. I give them more independence and autonomy than most kids I’ve met – but definitely not more than they can handle. Which by the way, if you dare to live this way you will be considered negligent or lazy or all of the above and worse by a whole heck of a lot of people. Sometimes I wish I could just be left alone, entirely, to do things the way I know works, the way that my family thrives on.
At 2 AM last night, just before sleep, I’m telling Sophie about the cats we’ve owned in this house I grew up in. From our first little castaway manx, a handsome devil named Shere Khan, whom I found just under the window of this very bedroom we’re now sleeping in when I was just about Sophie’s age, to his friend Jimmers and Raksha and her two kittens Puma (who lived to nineteen) and Rocket, and then Maui, a pathetic little black snippet with crossed eyes. And just as I’m listing them all of my daughter reads my mind: because despite being there for Puma’s death, and knowing my mother snuck off and euthanized Shere Khan (feline leukemia), there are some holes in my family cat history:
“What happened to those other cats?” Sophie asks.
And you know, I’m stumped. I mean in the period of about ten years we had four cats that have gone missing or just sort of “vanished”? I don’t think so. I’m starting to think my parents tried to “save” my brother and me from some unpleasantness. Which is a nice word for “lying”.
“I don’t know,” I tell Sophie. “I mean, a few of them just disappeared, and I never knew…”
“Which makes Grandma…” Sophie trails off –
“A murderer!” I say, suddenly inspired and awake for a moment although I’d nearly fallen asleep.
“I was just about to say that!” Sophie collapses into giggles, and swipes me with the pillow. A beat later and she says, “Well, I was going to say killer.”
* Friends have asked, “Are you worried about her travelling on a plane?” No. I mean, I could worry – but I choose not to. But hey, P.S. and more to the point, this means I won’t get to hear her voice and tickle her and swim with her and smell her hair at night and see all the amazing pictures she draws and listen to her reading to her brother or see her face all flushed after riding the bike or wrap a towel around her after bath and “worried” is not the word I’d think of, it’s more like agony at missing her so!
I am not a parent. And I probably never will be. Which slays me to my soul, but I can’t go there most days. However, kids are my life. I worked with kids for 10 years and I wait for the day I get to do it again. They are their own person. And you, giving your kids the time and space to be real people? Is awesome. It may be terrifying to let her go, but it’s also amazing for her. And her growth. This thing you have going here is pretty amazing.
I was reading this book “in defense of childhood” and thought of you. It was pretty good, though written in that I-am-trying-too-hard-to-sound-like-an-expert tone. But basically, his whole deal is suggesting that we let kids remain wild and it will help them be whole, and grow up into great adults who are useful, awesome and know themselves. He was at the Albany Free School for a long ass time.
I can pass it on to you (at some point) if you haven’t read it, but want to, and don’t just feel like librarying it.
K8 – Thank you for the kind words. I have to say, some of my best allies in raising my kids according to my nature & theirs, are the childfree, free-thinking, amazing adults I have had the fortune to know and hear from. I appreciate your insights and your support.
“[snip] … suggesting that we let kids remain wild and it will help them be whole, and grow up into great adults who are useful, awesome and know themselves.”
“remain wild” – I completely agree with this! I’ve started letting my kids be “wild” and it has benefited us in so many ways. I mean my kids aren’t unrecognizable as humans, or lack in manners or social abilities – in fact, far from it. They are always impressing me.
For instance, today Sophie thought to buy a bouquet of flowers, and make a card, for her soccer coaches. Upon leaving the florist’s Nels said, “It was nice to meet you,” to the proprietress. So when I say “wild” I’m thinking it’s about letting them be who they are and not sacrificing who they are to mores, or outside social pressure. Most children will adopt the ability to be in the world as surely as they learn to walk unassisted in their first eighteen months. I wish I would have come to this realization earlier; but here it is, I know it now, and I’m so glad I do.
yes- he didn’t mean they should grunt and scratch their crotches exclusively, just that always telling them what to do and how to do it and where and when and why doesn’t leave room for them to their own thing.
Not that you can’t tell them what to do (etc) some of the time. Just that institutionalizing them in a rigid school-followed-by-activity-followed-by-homework life may not work out well if you want the end result to be someone who knows what they like to do, is responsible, self-directed and ready for adulthood when they reach it.
I agree with you that they learn this stuff pretty much on their own. Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but it seems true to me so far.
Kiss your little bus riders for me and for Boots.
I added In Defense Of Childhood to my library queue. Thanks!
Right now I have a huge pile of nonfiction kid / homeschool / unschool books by my bedside. I think I need a break from this topic but am not sure what next to get from the library!