Sunday, May 27, 2007

Firsts

I've been reflecting all week on how utterly unprepared I feel to be standing at the threshold upon which I've suddenly found myself. It seems, though, that a whole new chapter of my life is unfolding before me, one in which the plot, I hope, will only get better. But I had become so accustomed to the rhythm of life as it was, its ebbs and flows, its ups and downs, its predictability, that finding myself faced all at once with such a diverse collection of "firsts" has been a bit overwhelming.

First and foremost, I've been struck recently with the realization that my babies are growing up. It sounds so trite, but it is so true. How did I not recognize it sooner? One day I'm feeling overwhelmed with caring for and nurturing three very small children, and the next I'm gaping in amazement at those same small people (well, two of them, anyway) who are now able to set and clear the table, dress and undress themselves, find matching socks and shoes and put them onto their own feet, wash their faces, brush their teeth, and, most amazingly, take themselves to the potty and finish the job without any help from Mommy.

I think I'm struggling the most to accept this of Dylan. For five and a half years he has been my baby boy, my firstborn, older than his sisters but still, and always, my "baby". I know that, together with Darren, it is our primary responsibility to raise our children into happy, well adjusted, independent, responsible adults. The problem, however, is that I am having a really difficult time with the letting go, and I'm wondering and worrying if that might not be, on some level, one of my main motivations for wanting to homeschool. If I allow for even an instant that it might be, I feel so terribly guilty and selfish. I do want to homeschool, and for so many reasons: because I believe that parents are called to be the primary educators of their children; because I want to ensure proper faith formation; because I know my children far better that even the best teacher could ever hope to know them in such a short amount of time; because the possibilities of learning and exploring together as a family are virtually limitless; because I grow more, and learn more, every day as a person and as a mother by being with and teaching my children at home.

And yet...I still can't shake the nagging sensation that by choosing to homeschool I am depriving my children of a fundamental right of childhood: that of making friends. I pray that my children will always be each others best friends, as they are now. But I also want them to experience the pleasure of having true friends outside of our family, and being only somewhat acquainted with one other homeschooling family, and with no homeschooling groups to be found in our area, I predict a bleak future so far as friendships go. So (and here's where I'm finally getting around to one of those "firsts" I mentioned at the beginning of this post) I've decided to be a little more proactive: I've enrolled Dylan, who has never spent any length of time away from at least one family member, in Vacation Bible School at our parish, to be held in late June. And can I just say how completely freaked out I feel about this? ("Ohmygosh. You mean I have to just leave him there? At the church? For three hours a day?") I know it's highly irrational of me. That's one reason I'm so glad to be married to Darren. He, at least, can see past his anxiety to how fun the whole experience will be for Dylan. And Dylan himself is really excited! Apparently it's just me who has the problem. But I am bound and determined to beat it!

I am also looking into what sounds like a wonderful music program for children that my brother first told me about years ago, when Dylan was still just a baby. I thought it sounded fun, but didn't really give it a second thought at the time and had actually forgotten all about it until a few nights ago, when I asked him if he had any recommendations for good music classes for small children. He immediately suggested that I get in touch with his friend ("Melissa! I told you about her a long time ago...don't you remember?!"). Oops. Anyway, I really like the sound of the Family Time class, in which I and all of my children could participate together. It may not seem like much, but anyone who knows me in real life knows that I am the quintessential wallflower, so to me this is a Really Big Deal. I know, I know. Sometimes I'm just so pathetic it's embarrassing.

And, about those other "firsts"? Well, let's see...

For the first time in a very long time, Darren is completely happy with his job. He comes home in the evening (late afternoon, actually) smiling and full of stories about how great his day was. It is as though a weight has been lifted from him, and the dark cloud that permeated our home during the last months at his former job has completely evaporated. It is wonderful...our entire family has felt the positive effects from this career change, and I am so very thankful. But the transition from dismal to delightful was so abrupt that my head is still spinning!

My mom is getting married on June 9th and two days later will be moving out of state. My mom. This will be the very first time we have ever lived more than ten minutes apart. She is one of my best friends, and I rely on her for so much. I think some part of me must be in denial, because, when considering plans I have already made for later in the summer, they seem to somehow include my mom. June 11th is going to be a sad, sad day.

And, though this sounds terribly self absorbed, I'm having a bit of a hard time with the reality that in just a few short weeks, I will be thirty years old. "Thirty" seems to somehow convey a level of maturity that I still don't think I've reached, and that scares me. What business do I have being thirty? Thirty is for grownups. Sometimes I think I'm still seventeen.

So, now you know. I'm a silly, insecure mama's girl trapped inside an adults body. But, honestly? This life I'm living right now is so much better than I ever could have imagined when I really was that seventeen year old girl. I have been so very blessed.

4 comments:

Michelle said...

Just a few thoughts to a soon to be "old" woman (I'm 6 years older):

Many of my children's friends attend the public school.

Although I have some lingering friendships from my childhood, the vast bulk of my friends, certainly all of my really good friends, are all women I have known since becoming a mother, with the notable exception of my sister. Having friends as a child is good and important, but having the same good set of friends for all of your childhood is not necessary to be a functional adult. My husband actually has buddies he has known since preschool, but even he admits that he probably would not be friends with them had he met them as adults.

I've done VBS for many many years, and every program I have ever known has deperately needed volunteers...and younger siblings were either welcome to tag along with mom or they had babysitting for volunteers. And they all had a preschool program too. Maybe you don't have to leave him for 3 hours?

It's ok to be 17 at heart. I keep asking myself what I want to be when I grow up, since I don't think I've done that yet.

We all worry that we're making mistakes, potentially screwing up our kids for life, etc. As long as we make our decisions prayerfully and out of love, it will be fine. It's ok to re-evaluate your decision to homeschool (or not) every year in light of changing circumstances too. I am not committed to homeschool "forever". I am committed to doing what is best for my kids and my family "forever".

Mom to Four said...

First of all, before I forget, go to this link and see if any of these homeschool groups apply to you in your area.

http://www.abqhomeschool.com/suppgrps.html#snm

Your post really touched me, dear friend. You have so many great reasons for homeschooling. Like Michelle said, it's ok to try it and see how it goes. It's only Kindergarten and a good time to test it out. Don't feel guilty about wanting to have your children home with you. Despite all the difficulties being with all of them 24/7 brings along with it, I would miss them horribly if they were gone to school every day. I love having them with me. I want them all to be best friends first, but I also want them to have other friends. It is possible we have more homeschooling opportunities in Houston, but we don't take advantage of much at this stage. We have a few close families that give the children friends. We belong to a weekly co-op and a local Catholic group. Sometimes it seems almost too much. But the kids enjoy it. I think VBS is a good step. There is always weekly CCE. You might even consider enrolling them in activities that are more small group with the same kids consistently. For instance, Jacob will begin Cub Scouts at church in the fall.

Life will always be full of firsts. Rejoice in them. It is an amazing wonderful journey to watch these firsts unfold and develop.

As for turning thirty. I still don't feel thirty and I'm going to be 32. I still feel so young. A friend of mine who is the same age but just had her first baby told me what a wonderful experienced mother I am. I had to turn around to look behind me and see who she was talking about. I'm not one of those moms. That's all those other moms out there! Not me! After having Mikey, I remember looking at a photo of all four of them and thinking, "Those are mine?" I don't feel my age. I don't feel experienced. I don't act my age - he he he. I am horribly childish at times, selfish and self-centered. But I know my children are helping me mature and grow wise.

Enjoy your little family and what each day brings. Give homeschooling a try and I believe if God really means for it to happen/continue, then he will make it apparent to you. I firmly believe that if we pray to know God's will, then we will. He won't let us down. It may not come with thunder and flashing lights, but he will let us know it.

You are a dear, sweet mom to those precious kids. You pray for me. I pray for you.

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

i didn't mind 30! It was 39 that got me! lol...now i'm 44 i'm fine..

God bless

(mine have all done well in school)

He who wears the most black wins. said...

My mom has this saying, "Life's about change". I'd say, Melissa, you're in the throes of LIFE right now. :) It is all SO good. God has done some pretty amazing work in your lives as of late. Hold on, he's not done with you yet!

Darren loving his job, your family life really feeling dynamic, Dylan growing in readiness in leaps and bounds and you exploring all the options for your family's education. All such wonderful, wonderful change. God bless you, friend, as you keep praying and searching for God's will in your life.

For the record, Kindermusik rocks! ;)