The beginning of this new school year is having to pry each of my fingers off of my firm and phantasmal grip on summer. My baby goes back to school this week. Ok, he’s not a baby. He is starting 4th grade, but when I look into those eyes I still see that beautiful baby boy that I held and nursed and loved until I thought I would burst apart. I still love him like that.
When it comes to traditional academics, all three of our kids have been off the grid for a couple of years. My son has had important and empowering experiences at a school that allowed him to structure his own day. He has spent time playing outside, creating games and rules, navigating the nuances of social interactions, learning to be himself. It was a time in his life when it was helpful to have a place where he was able to make decisions about his own life.
He came to me at the end of the school year in the spring and told me that he wanted to go back to “real” school. It reminded me of the time when he was just about to enter kindergarten and I asked him, for what must have been the tenth time, if he wanted to be homeschooled. After several months of vague responses (in hindsight designed to avoid hurting my feelings), he finally asked me to come sit beside him on the sofa, gently placed his 4 year old hand on my shoulder, looked me square in the eyes and said, “Mommy, I need to go to the big school.”
This guy has always known what he needs. And he has trusted me to hear him.
Part of me is cringing…fluorescent lights, desks, lines, schedules, tests, the dreaded core curriculum, suppression of creativity, conformity, comparing, competing, pressure, lack of free time…less time together.
And yet, I also see potential and opportunities…being intellectually challenged, creating new friendships, navigating new social paradigms, remembering how to interact with adults, routine, structure, accountability, predictability. With these opportunities for him come changes for me too. My day now begins at 5 am which makes it difficult to stay up until 2 or 3 making jewelry, so my entire schedule will need to change. I have lists of things that need to be done for my business that I can finally face with no excuses. My daughter will still be doing the majority of her schooling at home, so we will develop a new daily routine. I like routine. I like order. But in these quiet early morning hours when I get up to write, I can tell I am going to miss the life that echoes in this house and fills my days with beautiful chaos and my heart with love. And then at 3:30, when everyone is home together again, all will be right with the loud, crazy world again.
The hardest part of being a parent is learning when to hold your child close, like holding that baby and keeping the world at bay and when to let go and let him figure it all out for himself, knowing that he is adored and loved and held in the very most sacred spot in this grateful mom’s heart.
(And I’ll try to remember to hug you before the bus is in sight so that I don’t embarass you in front of your friends.)