September 3, 2019
It's raining this morning, a deep soaking, grey-sky downpour. It feels so good.
It's been a dry summer but gorgeous, as far as I'm concerned. At the beginning of the season we bought a large portable air conditioner and so even on the really hot and humid days, of which there seemed to be quite a few, we stayed comfortable. Not cool, per se, but comfortable which is all we needed for working, living, and sleeping.
I felt really great this summer. I got a break from parenting and driving. I did regular physiotherapy to take care of some nagging pain from a spring ski injury, I finally found a family doctor who has room for me in her practice, I trained regularly with Damien for fall backpacking and got a knee brace to hopefully ameliorate the underlying issue that causes pain flare ups when I hike a lot of miles.
I studied French on my weeknights and noticed a big improvement in my comprehension. I stayed on top of weeding the flower bed and the vegetable garden and thoroughly enjoyed eating the fruits of my labor. I worked at my job, got up-to-date with Brienne's homeschool high school record keeping, and did a bunch of interviews with wonderful women for a Patreon project I'm releasing this October.
We traveled on some weekends, hosted family, ate meals outdoors, went to festivals and the city beach, and managed to squeeze in a 2 night family vacation in the Adirondacks after both kids were home from camp. It was an all together great summer, not just for me but for all of us. The kids loved their time at camp and Céline enjoyed the chill pace of her summer and city happenings before the start of university.
I keep reminding myself of this goodness in the waves of melancholy, regret, and nostalgia I've been having this last week of August. It seems so early for these feelings to hit.
These sad reflective feelings are nothing new for me in late summer. I've come to expect them, along with chrysanthemums beings sold at every grocery and garden store.
It's just that season for me, but it's a bit early this year. Maybe it's because Céline is starting school this week for the very first time in her 20 years.
I don't usually get so honest and specific about my regrets in my writing, doesn't seem helpful and it also seems deeply personal in a way that even I'm not totally comfortable with. But with Céline starting school I regret that my children have never had a back-to-school experience.
Of course going back to school means you actually have to go to school, every weekday, all day, for the next ten months. Attendance is compulsory, kids are age-segregated and graded, and the schedule and curriculum limits family and individual freedom. School really loses its shine for me on those measures.
As Céline starts university, while the other two are still at home finishing high school and making the transition to young adulthood, I feel especially out of step with most of society in how we've raised and educated our children.
A displacement that I don't usually mind since I don't agree with a lot of what I see in the wider world.
But my kids might grow up to think, feel, and believe differently. I've raised them to think for themselves and maybe what they'll think is "I sure wish I'd gone to school".
And there it is folks. When we get right down to it, it's my fear that I will have failed my kids and they will wish they had been raised differently.
Brienne has been interested in school for the last year or so, and we explored the idea of making that transition but the timing wasn't right and she felt attached to her homeschool community. The window of opportunity for that change closed and so she's finishing with homeschooling and aiming to start college (different from university) next year.
We're doing the best we can within our context. Which I think is what most parents do when raising kids.
Sometimes the people who read this blog and who have become online friends and acquaintances over the years will write me about the parenting doubts and anxieties they feel. I've had to visit my own responses to those heartfelt emails, and have a few bedtime conversations with Damien, to speak some perspective into my own situation.
Yes, maybe my kids will and do wish for something different in their lives. Don't we all!
I can't craft, create, or control all the factors to give my children the best experience possible. They will experience disappointment, pain, loneliness, discouragement, the-grass-is-greener syndrome, FOMO, in short, physical, emotional, and mental discomfort, regardless of how they were schooled.
As much as I have wanted to minimize these negative experiences in their lives (I can't help it, I want to make things right for them) I can't take away the angst of being human.
I can't. I won't. I shouldn't. Maybe homeschool moms come to this realization a little later in parenting because homeschooling does cushion our kids from a lot, for which I make no apologies. I think children should be protected and nurtured.
Maybe my kids will wish they had a different experience growing up but I have no control over that. And it's not my parenting aim to begin with - to provide a critique-free childhood, as if that's even possible.
We've made parenting mistakes. But more than that, we have personality quirks and a certain way of looking at the world that our kids will one day sit around and process, if not with a therapist, then with each other and their close friends. Truthfully, nothing would make me happier than my adult children sitting around and talking and reminiscing about their childhoods, the good and the bad.
We all do it. Talk about our childhoods. What we loved, what we didn't, what we vowed to do differently with our own kids.
My job in parenting was, and is, to do the best I can with what I have and to parent my kids according to what we felt was best for our overall family life and for their individual growth and development. They'll choose, and are choosing, their own path as adults. But we chose their childhoods, in the same way every parent does.
And if they are like me, they'll grow up appreciating their childhood; treasuring its gifts, opportunities, and the relationships that formed them. They'll talk with friends and siblings about the good and bad parts of their upbringing, the crazy stuff their parents did and made them do. And they'll walk their own unique adult path, informed by and connected to their past, but courageously and actively choosing their own future.
It's what we've raised them to do.
As our kids settle into their new fall routines of university classes, part-time work, on-line classes, co-op classes, community classes - the work of the late teen and young adult years - these feelings I have will mostly pass. It's the transition times that are acutely melancholic and regret-inducing for me.
It will be a good year. One to treasure. The last year of the youngest's childhood. The first university year for the oldest. A year that will added to the annals of our child-raising journey as one of the golden years, for sure.
I listened to a fascinating TED Talk the other day on The History of Human Emotions. This talk mentions nostalgia specifically and addresses the power of language to give expression to our emotions and the way that culture shapes and influences our emotions. Fascinating. A recommended listen.
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