Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Unexpected Change of Plans

I have heard that many people feel this way when their children start kindergarten. They weep as they let go of the hand of the little one and watch him/her walk away into the big world of school. I might have shed a tear or two at the novelty of it. But I didn't feel it.

Not like this.

When my son started kindergarten, I was happy to have the time to focus on my daughter, who was a bit of a spitfire and really needed some one-on-one time. When my daughter joined the ranks of the school kids, too, I was honestly excited--for me, as much as for her. Maybe I was even more excited for me. That's hard to have to admit.

I am not as much of a baby and toddler person as many moms; that is true. I have always felt that kids are much more enjoyable once they can control their own bodily functions, can carry on two-sided conversations of substance, and can crack a joke that is actually funny. But even beyond that, I had spent my early years of mothering somehow believing that children were a bit of a hassle and should be hustled off to school as soon as possible so Mama can get some free time. I didn't see much value in the mothering process itself. Particularly in the early years, it was something to endure, hopefully with a good attitude and generous amounts of hugs and kisses on sticky little faces.

It's so sad to see these words in print now, all these years later, but it's true. I was blind. I was immature. I was a total newbie at this whole parenting gig. I guess we all start as newbies, right? I just wish I'd had a little more sense. I wish I'd known how to truly enjoy my kids, how to take my eyes off myself and my own little kingdom long enough to get know them, to treasure them, to find value and satisfaction in my role as their mother.

But I didn't.

Now I do.

I have been educating my kids at home for the past four and a half years and having them at home with me has deepened our relationships in ways I could have never imagined possible. I know them so well and I like them so much. I love to have them around me.

This school year, we took kind of a half-and-half approach for my son. He started his first year of high school by enrolling in a state-run digital academy and spending part of his afternoon, several days a week, in the local high school's computer lab, with the rest of his work done at home. The system has not worked well for us, unfortunately. It is a brand new system, full of kinks and quirks still, and he has borne the brunt of it, finishing the first semester of his freshman year with very poor grades.

He asked if he could just come back home full-time, with the exception of his online Latin class, which has been wonderful, and his online AP Biology class, which he really enjoys and is learning so much from. I agreed. I was happy to have him back under my care and direction. I was excited about discussing literature with him again and watching his face light up as we discussed world-changing events in history. I was so pleased that I was going to get my boy back.

All that was left to do was to meet with the high school's assistant principal, the one overseeing his online schooling. We would need to make sure he was enrolled in second semester Latin and AP Biology and would drop the hours he spent on the school campus, except for a rare occasion when he wanted to be there for a particular reason.

Tano and I were both relieved, really, to be done with this experimental semester, which I had made him stick out until the bitter end. We were relieved to be returning to education at home. Tano mentioned, on the way to the meeting with the assistant principal yesterday, that he was really looking forward to doing English class with me again and we thought we might invite other local home schooled kids to join us, as we had done with our public speaking class in the fall. Tano suggested that I should teach "a whole bunch of classes" for the local home school community and we discussed which subjects I was qualified to teach to others at a high school level and what those classes might look like. We talked about modifying our home education to include more of a block schedule approach, focusing on fewer classes more intensely for shorter bursts.

The meeting with the assistant principal and the school's guidance counselor went well, I guess. The two of them were very attentive to our concerns and duly disturbed by some of the things we had to report about the new digital academy. We felt listened to and supported.

And then, the unexpected happened, as it so often does. The assistant principal offered that, instead of going back home, Tano would be welcome to move to the high school campus full time if he was interested. I reminded him that we had family business travel needs, and that although most of our travels for this year had been cancelled, we still had a sizable trip in March coming up, a trip of perhaps three weeks or even a little more. Next year, we might be back to our more lengthy trips in the middle of the school year.

The assistant principal didn't even blink. He assured us that he could take care of that, at least for this semester. He would make an exception and see to it that all of Tano's teachers were able and willing to send work with him that he could accomplish under my guidance. If we wanted to make a new decision for next year, based on more intensive travel, we could make that call then. He told us we didn't need to give him a decision right then, but could go home and talk about it. However, the spring semester classes did start the very next day, so the sooner we decided, the better.

We left his office a little stunned. This was not an option we had considered, honestly, because I know that three weeks of scheduled travel is generally not allowed. I was all ready to bring my boy back home. We would discuss great literature...

I told him it was his decision. I did not want him to feel obligated to the school, just because the assistant principal was such a nice guy and was making special provisions for him. On the other hand, I also did not want him to feel that he is obligated to me, just because I was looking forward to having him fully at home under my guidance again. He needed to make this decision for himself and not for anyone else.

By the time we arrived home, Tano had decided he wanted to give the local high school a try for this semester. I felt badly that my emotions came across so strongly. I was weepy on and off for the whole evening. I couldn't imagine being without his handsome, smiling face every day for so long. I would miss his smirky smile and his constant scrounging for something to eat, his funny one-liners and his single raised eyebrow. I would even miss how he comes up behind me and gently tickles me by surprise, then wraps me up in a playfully apologetic hug. I had to keep reminding him that I was not trying to make a display; I was not trying to guilt him into changing his mind. I was just overcome at how much I would miss him. It was not a decision that I've been preparing for. It was a total surprise. I supported his decision, really, but my emotions were not cooperating.

He is such a sweet boy and kept coming to me throughout the evening and putting his arms around me, repeating how much he loved me. This, of course, only made me cry all the more, as I am doing right now just remembering it. When did my boy grow up to the point that he can comfort me, his mother, with his strong arms and kind words? That's crazy, right? But he did it nonetheless and I accepted it for what it was.

So, he's gone now. He's in his fourth period math class right now, in fact. I am praying for him frequently and trying to focus on enjoying the unexpected one-on-one time with Ellie. She and I laughed our way through her geography lesson, comparing population density to different types of chocolate cake--from light and fluffy with lots of air pockets to the super heavy flourless varieties. We laughed about rich, dense chocolate so much, in fact, that I need to go make some brownies after I type this.

I am sure Tano will do fine at school. He is adaptable and well-liked and has already been on the campus several afternoons per week since September. I'm sure I will do fine, too, after I get used to the absence of my firstborn. At least he isn't gone away to college or worse. It may be rough for a few days, though, as I make the transition.

A batch of brownies couldn't hurt.

1 comment:

Tina Hollenbeck said...

Wow. I'm sure I could never do that - give my child the option if it wasn't also something I really wanted. Of course, my girls are only 9 and 10, and maybe I'll feel the need to offer the option when they're teens, but I can't imagine doing it. (((hugs)))