Thursday, May 2, 2013
From Womb to Waves Goodbye
The school year is drawing to a close. I can't think of a single year when I have learned so much about what education is and isn't and how parenting fits in, and doesn't, as I have this year. I am in no way done learning. I started my homeschool year with my son attempting to replicate school at home—only better, I thought, and more tailored to his needs—and I have learned that homeschooling generally doesn't work that way for a reason. Seeing what and how things can be learned by doing less has been eye-opening, but more than anything, if I'm honest, it has been terrifying. When my kid learns without my overtly planning everything, I feel moorless and I come right up against the deep and paralyzing dread that I am ruining him, setting him up to fail, leaving him behind, not doing my job. These moments of doing nothing are scary. All evidence to the contrary, doing what is closest to what everyone else is doing just seems the safest thing. I have learned that I will just keep on doing this act of imitation until I realize that I am sacrificing my son's happiness on the altar of my fears. So, now I'm looking again and asking myself how much of what I ask of him is what he needs and how much of it is like a little comforting rhyme that I repeat to myself in the dark so the closet zombies will not come.
Parenting my older kids has also been an opportunity for growth. With one child suffering from chronic health issues and the other peaking at perfect grades before suffering apathy and depressed disinterest in school, this year, I have learned that I care more about my kids' well-being than their grades. I didn't used to know that they were necessarily separate things or could be in conflict occasionally. I used to feel like if I just kept baking special cookies and serving healthy salads with dinner and giving hugs and attention and guidance, then the grades would obviously come. It turns out life is more complex than this.
At the very core, I've learned that my worst fear—that my kids will turn out like me—says something about the gratitude and joy for my life that I'm clutching to myself and hiding from my kids, lest they also wish to become teenage alcoholics who don't complete college. It's time to give that up.
The ultimate task of parenting, from womb to waves goodbye, seems to have something to do with first connecting with this other human so that you do not know where they end and you begin and then learning to understand that you are ultimately not in control and not responsible for how their lives shape themselves. To the extent that I can do this well—that is when I love. As long as I am attempting to control the experience and trajectory of a person who isn't me, the two of us will suffer, because I cannot make them grow up to whole and happy, I cannot make them find their way to spirituality, and I cannot even make them clean their rooms, no matter how much love I mean. I have power to influence and love, but none to control.
I am profoundly grateful to these children of mine for letting me test-drive my infant soul with their very lives. They are quite forgiving, quite patient with the efforts of all these silly adults to control their hearts with our tiny dams. They roll over us—sometimes smiling, sometimes yelling—like the swelling ocean breaking over our walls. They ebb back, patiently cooperating, and then surge forward, to finally grasp the adulthood that was always theirs.
Faith in Ambiguity by Tara Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License