Homeschooling, as everything else towards the end of a pregnancy, is taking on an extremely disjointed, crazed, bipolar-esque quality. One day will be incredibly productive and leave me feeling on top of the world and the next will find the house a mess, the kids out of sorts, and myself siphoned off to ridiculously specific tasks such as scrubbing all of the floor tiles with a tooth brush. This is the beginning of the mental fraying that marks the near end of gestation. I try to keep my perspective and also to be kind to myself, reminding myself that things are just going to be crazy for a while (even more than the usual craziness, which already feels like the max limit most of the time) and to try and enjoy this phase of our lives, intense though it may be.
Yesterday was a more productive day. The morning was marked by the usual whirlwind of cleaning and “catching up” from the day before, along with breakfast preparations that can sometimes take on outlandish specificity in everyone’s preferences and choice combinations (what is this? Big Boy’s Sunday all you can eat buffet?!)
After that we finished up watching “Hello Dolly”, a cheesy musical from the 70’s starring Barbara Streisand and Walter Matthau that is my absolute favorite musical and that I’ve been determined to show to the kids for some time now. Until this year, though, we’ve never made it through the entire thing as my kids, especially Ruth, being of a sensitive nature, could not cope with the exuberant dancing and top-of-the-voice singing. There is one scene that was especially troubling to the kids when Barnaby and Cornelius couldn’t afford to pay for their dinner at the “Harmonia Gardens” restaurant in New York and were trying to flee before they were caught and put in jail. Ruth kept on asking, “How are they going to pay for their dinner?” in an extremely concerned and worried tone. (Ah, my little sensitive intuit totally grounded in the literal. How I recognize the struggles that you go through in this life as so close to my heart and poignant. I wish I had better advice and guidance for you.)
Just the other evening I found myself sitting outside of gymnastics at the local YMCA waiting for the class to begin as Ruth explained to me, as though I didn’t already know this, as though we haven’t been through these situations a thousand times before, that she wanted to wait outside and observe the students and coach for a while before going in because she was worried that the coach would “make a big deal” about her skill level. Starting new things takes an incredible amount of bravery and gumption for her. This is often the role I have in Ruth’s life: holding the space while she waffles back and forth and rages internally, sitting beside her as she struggles with emotions that are too large to be contained in her tiny frame of bone and skin. It’s not easy and i often fail to be the parent I want to be but I do my best.
Finally making it to the end of the movie, I felt triumphant and happy and decided to take the kids to one of the local libraries for “art Thursdays”. At this particular branch, every Thursday, they have an art project from 3-5 slated for kids to come after school and work side by side. It’s actually a really good excuse to give me some serious zone out time to just sit and think or, as in yesterday’s case, to read. The kids can partake in the project or just play in the children’s area while I sit on a nearby bench and then my mind is free to wander. When you homeschool, you learn all these nice little tricks and tips that help you to keep your life somewhat balanced and harmonious and to give your mind and spirit little breaks here and there.
I really like this library because it has a comfy relaxed feel that other libraries in the area seem to lack and because there is always a raucous group of kids that seem to all know each other that Ruth especially enjoys watching and taking notes on. While she was busy absorbing their language and play habits, Joel and Miles went immediately to the Ipad they have with kids games on it. Why they keep these in the children’s section of the library I’ll never understand. Sigh. Oh well. After a little while they moved to the train table and then proceeded to play in an incredibly enthusiastic and loud way, chasing each others’ train cars around the table and making loud crashing noises.
At one point a couple other mothers came in and sat with their one or two littler kids as they played and I could see them looking at me out of the corner of my eye. Or maybe I could just feel it. Another sigh. I’ve reached that part of the pregnancy that it’s really hard to go out in public during. Everywhere I go, people are sizing up my situation, looking at my other three kids and my big belly and just thinking thoughts that I can almost hear (Ruth is not the only oversensitive intuit in the family). The truth is, I am extremely proud of our family and very happy to have such a full life and home, but I kind of hate public attention and so would rather avoid people in general during late pregnancy. These mothers saw me talking with Joel and Miles and my big belly and assumed I was on our third when suddenly Ruth came over and started calling me “mom” (the jig is up). I saw eyebrows raise as they realized that I was indeed the mother of all these people and seemed to wonder if any more were about to crawl out of the woodwork.
“You don’t understand,” I said to Greg, “You go to work all day. When you go places with the kids it’s usually only one or two of them. You’re not out and about town during school hours with all three and a big belly. People have strong reactions to us.” Not that I can blame them. I think I’ve often reacted in similar ways to large families before I was pregnant with our fourth. I would often take count of kids in a family and feel pangs of jealousy and longing for my own large family and also marvel at how these mothers could do it all when I seemed to struggle so much with just one or two or three, depending on the timing of these encounters. I wonder at the spectacle that my grandparents must have made with ten kids! Times have changed a bit though, and especially in the suburbs, people are stopping at one or two mostly.
We went home and had leftovers for dinner and then after Greg came home, I took a walk, which is another way I keep myself at least reasonably sane. The light is changing, the earth is coming back to life in our part of the globe, the robins were making their telltale spring sounds, winter is officially over. After I got back, Ruth and I made a cake together and I was able to convince the kids to speed clean the house while the cake was baking. They even went out for a short stint of bike-riding before bed.
It was a good day homeschooling, the kind that leaves me excited about the possibilities open to us as homeschoolers, and though I also feel a bit daunted at this stage in the pregnancy, adding birth and baby preparations to my already overbrimming life, I still love our life and try to appreciate our unique situation, taking the bad days in as much stride as I can and reveling in the good ones.