Auntie Anxiety and her two am homeschool doubts

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I wake up abruptly in the middle of the night. Snap, wide awake. Pulled from an unremembered dream.

Damien had just turned off the fan we run through the night for white noise.

He had woken up a little earlier, a ringing in one of his ears. Did a little two am googling to discover white noise may be a cause for this discomfort. So he turned off the fan.

And just like that I was jolted awake from my late fall nest of flannel sheets, down duvet, and whirring fan cocooning me to sleep.

Damn. I do hate being awoken in the middle of the night.

I turn to the white noise app on my phone. Literally, it's called White Noise. The one I use when I'm traveling or as a background buzz when working in a distracting environment.

We don't discuss it, the clock is already creeping towards three. I'm pretty sure I've just ruined the experiment controls. But I need to get back to sleep. Damien pops in earplugs and I think, "wouldn't that have been a better option from the very beginning? Instead of turning off the fan and waking me from my slumber."

But as I lay in bed, awake and agitated, it's not my annoyance at Damien's sleed-addled noctural experiment that keeps me attentive, though I am a little pissed off at first for the abrupt waking. It's my old nemesis anxiety.

I don't even know if nemesis is the right word. My anxiety, these days, feels more like a familial relationship with an poorly communicating, busybody auntie who is honestly trying her best to help. (I don't have any of these, in real life, by the way - busybody aunties.) Maybe she would be more helpful if she wasn't so misdirected and misinformed.

She pays too much attention to insignificant parts of the story. She's a gossip and has a tendency to blow minutiae way out of proportion. And perhaps more maliciously, she knows the most tender spot and sometimes gives it a poke. She seems to do this when she's feeling neglected and forgotten.

Let's call her Auntie Anxiety. And I've come to see that her intentions are good, even if I have to squint real hard to see it.

She is older than me, she seems ancient in fact, but that doesn't mean she's wise. She likes to say, "I'm just thinking of you dear and what's best for you". And the crazy thing is, it's true! She does think her advice is best for me. But I've learned better and so I pat her hand kindly and try not to be patronizing when you say "thanks, but no thanks".

Anxiety came calling when the fan was turned off and I woken from that cozy slumber.

And she brought one of her favorite cronies, Regret, along with her. They almost always visit me in a pair these days.

There are seasons of life with more anxiety than others. My level of anxiety seems linked to my sense of security. And right now I feel pretty secure in some core areas of life which lessens my anxious episodes. Yay!

But in areas of uncertainty or set-backs or struggles, anxiety likes to show up. "Hey there, did you miss me?" "Have you thought of this?" "Perhaps you should have done this differently."

Never does anxiety show up with creative, helpful, or useful ideas. Always doubts. Always worst-case scenarios.

I feel like wringing her little neck sometimes while screaming, "Of course I thought of that! I've thought, and thought, and thought about that! You should know me by now. Maybe you could offer something a little more helpful here!!"

The kids are launching, gaining new measures of independence, looking for jobs, going to school, trying to figure out which school to go to. And I'm pretty much doing the same.

We're all at a threshold. And it feels like working and waiting, waiting and working for that next thing.

My life is going to change rather significantly in 2020 when Brienne finishes homeschooling. We are hoping and planning for her homeschool high school education to end at the end of grade 11 with an acceptance to a local college. (The Quebec system ends high school at grade 11. Students then go on to technical training, career programs, or pre-university schooling at colleges all over the province.)

There is good reason to believe Brienne will be successful in this endeavor. We're following the steps of homeschoolers who have successfully navigated this road ahead us. But it's still "not the way everybody else does it" and this adds a certain wild card to our hand.

Truthfully, the amount of hard work and self-determination it takes navigate a homeschooler into the Quebec college system, which is not the same as university (the path Céline took), should alone qualify one for college studies. But I digress.

I will just feel very relieved when it's all settled. She's worked so hard. She is more than academically, socially, and emotionally ready and qualified for college studies. The girl is a born achiever and has been chomping at the bit for this next stage.

She works and she waits. Hoping to reach her goal.

Laurent is considering all his post-secondary schooling options to pursue a career in art. It's overwhelming and the path is not clear, in a way that is true of life in general but probably especially true of establishing a career in the arts.

Staying local for schooling is desirable, for cost and familial support. But the program most suited to his goals might not be available here so there are many things to consider. The considering, weighing, and figuring feel heavy for him these days.

He waits and he works. Hoping to find an answer.

I have settled on a course of action for myself post-homeschooling. I'm going back to school.

Education and learning, and education about learning is in my blood. (More about that in a future post.) For now, it's sufficient to say my schooling plan is contingent upon part-time work to pay for my tuition, and upon successfully completing the high school years with my younger two. All three of our journeys, my schooling and theirs, require a lot of paperwork and documentation, which is one of my main homeschooling tasks these days.

I work and wait, wait and work. For myself, for my kids, for my family. Knowing things will be different in a year. And wondering what all of this will yield.

There are days when all this is very exciting to me. These launching years are the culmination of years of work, years of investing in relationship with my kids, years of raising and providing an education for them. And with one already in university having an excellent (and very independent) first year experience, I have some measure of validation it will all work out ok.

My relief at Celine's successful integration into university-level studies and collegiate experience has been visceral. A relaxing in my body. It wasn't that I didn't think she couldn't adjust, I knew she could do it.

It's that homeschooling doesn't feel validated unless it produces at least as good of results as the alternative. Damien and I don't expect our kids to go to university. We do expect them to become contributing members of society and their families and pursue post-secondary training and work experiences that will prepare and enable them to do that. It might be university, it might be something else.

For one of our kids to arrive there, at that something else, and be doing ok in that environment feels like we did something right, at least for one of them!

It's not always clear to me that homeschooling our kids through high school was the best path. And this is what comes calling at two am, when the fan gets turned off. The questions and the doubts.

The unfair advantage for parents of traditionally-educated kids is that they stand on the side of tradition. They're just doing what everyone else is doing. If it doesn't turn out as they hoped, parents are less likely blame themselves. (In my fantasies at least.) It wasn't their job to educate their kids! It was the school's. When something goes wrong you have more people you can share the blame with.

A homeschool parent has no such luxury. Not a lot of other responsible parties with whom you can shoulder and share that burden.

(I actually believe it's a parent's responsibility to provide for their children's education. Choosing traditional options is a valid choice, but it's ultimately the parents, not the state or the system, that guides the education of children.)

The truth is, there is no best. You know that. I know that. But the audience for which I'm writing, and the people I connect with are all trying to raise kids consciously. The stakes feel really high sometimes. Throw in homeschooling and yessh... It's a lot.

It's not always like this for me. All this doubt and uncertainty. I know the reasons for our choices. We made them consciously, over many years, in daylight hours, and from a place of deep connection with, and respect for, our children.

Respect for their interests and values. Respect for their individual autonomy. Respect for who they are and who they are becoming. We made this choice because we have certain values for our family life and education.

Quite simply, we wanted to give our children freedom and we wanted live this way, minus the doubt and uncertainty. So we did.

We chose what we chose, we've lived what we've lived. And our kids have missed out on things and they have certain disadvantages because of that. We chose what we chose, we've lived what we've lived. And our kids have gained things and they have certain advantages because of that.

That is true for all of us.

But the uncertainty and decision making of the next ten months is making me a little anxious.

The uncertainty that maybe we'll need a type of documentation we don't have, like a Quebec diploma. Or that I've missed an important detail. And the biggest uncertainty of all, that we took the wrong path all together and have made things unnecessarily complicated, difficult, and disadvantageous for our kids by homeschooling them. In my heart of hearts I don't believe that, but sometimes I feel disconnected from this truth.

It's hard to talk about these things publicly while your kids are still working it out. Part of me wants to wait a couple years and write this as a reflective piece. "Yeah, back a couple years ago I was experiencing the normal parental doubts as kids finish high school and forge a path for their future..."

But I can't write about anything else, in this moment, with any heart, honesty, or even interest. This is what comes when I sit down to write. So this is what it is.

I vacillate.

There are feelings of assurance and accomplishment. We did it! It worked. Our kids are so amazing! And there is the self-doubt. Why did we do it this way? Why didn't we just follow the standard path? Did we mess it up?

I look at who we've raised - resourceful, self-determined, hard working, creative, intelligent, kind, and engaged with the world people.

So what's the issue here? Who freakin' knows!

It's the two am visit from Auntie Anxiety and her sister Regret and they don't let you think rationally, creatively, or compassionately.

I'm going to hazard an educated guess here that launching young adults is a fraught business regardless of how they were educated.

I loved how Wanda Vanderveen assured me of this in our Second Bloom interview. Wanda is a pyschotherapist with a masters of counselling and has successfully raised four kids, who are currently in the boomerang phase, she calls it, of leaving and coming back to the nest, but most mostly leaving. In other words, she's knows some stuff and has lived some stuff.

Below is a short audio clip of our talk about what it's like to launch kids into adulthood. (Just hit play on video to listen. And if you're reading this in email. Click to the blog.)

Did you catch that? Where Wanda says about launching young adults, "I would question the honesty of any parent who said 'let's do this again!'"

It's just going to be like this, regardless. The self-doubt, especially if you're prone that way like I am. The uncertainty. The nocturnal hand wringing.

It's called raising kids.

Later in the week I wake up on another night. Damien's using earplugs for the time being, the fan is running just as it was when I turned it on before bed.

Whatever was plaguing me a few days ago lays dormant. Having talked myself down from that ledge, yet again.

We didn't fail our children in any way that is more significant than the normal, run-of-the-mill parenting fails. The future is uncertain, as it is for all us. Which also makes it full of possibility, hope, and potential.

Sure, not everything is possible for my kids because of their context and experience, temperament and interests; but a heck ton of options remain open to them because of their context and experience, temperament and interests.

Tonight it's not anxiety that comes calling, it's the comfort of the simple fact that the three people I love most and care for most deeply, the babies I would give my life for and have given my life to, are sleeping under this roof. They are all of sound mind, body, and spirit. I breathe deep of this knowledge. I let that gratitude settle over my body, better than a down duvet.

Right now, here, it's all good.

It's not about finding the easiest path, though seriously I'm always looking for it. And it seems somewhere to the left, or just to the right, or maybe up ahead, or the road that someone else is walking.

My kids face obstacles that stand in their way, potholes and pitfalls and detours. And they have already walked through some really painful and difficult stuff, to be quite frank. But that's life. The point is not taking that away (as if we could!) but walking with and walking through.

And on this night I remember all that. And I remind myself, this is the time you will look back upon and miss. Your people all under one roof, tucked in bed, safe for the night.

« I have a dream (maybe, kinda, sorta?)
Losing faith to find Love »

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