“I give you a lot of credit. I could never do it. If I homeschooled, we would all kill each other.”
I hear some version of this nearly every week. The implication is that somehow I am different from those other mothers, the mothers who breathe a sigh of relief when they drop their kids off in the morning, the mothers who start getting a knot in their stomach the first week of June, wondering how they will make it through the summer with three bored kids who find a way to fight because, “He got in the car first last time!”
But I’m not so different from those mothers. Some days I pretend to be sick so that I can go upstairs and have two hours to myself. Some days I can’t stand my kids, and I think really awful things about them, things I can’t write about in a blog because one day they will read it. Some days, I love dropping them off to take a class with someone other than me so that I can spend two hours at a coffee shop and pretend to be like the other grown ups, the ones who didn’t decide to spend nearly all day, every day with their children.
The difference between me and those mothers is not that I don’t have a hard time being with my kids; it’s that I don’t let myself be fooled that there is nothing more to the story than that. I know that there is more because I stuck with this homeschooling project when the majority of our days were pretty awful.
Intimacy is hard work, and that’s not just true between spouses. Learning to be present with anyone, and especially with those with whom your sense of worth is too closely aligned, is hard work. But it’s good work. I know that because I’m not dreading the summer. I couldn’t have always said that, but I say it now with a grateful heart. All of the failure and fighting and crying has carved away at something ugly in me, something that wants to be left alone. The carving is not complete, but I know that homeschooling is responsible for my growing ability to appreciate and enjoy my children.
If that’s not you, no judgments from me. And certainly no implication that everyone needs to homeschool. But I wonder if this isn’t an invitation, to all of us, to lean in this summer. To cancel a week of camp. To take an extra week of vacation. To simply be at home without an agenda and see what happens. To be a little more present with our kids. To go at their pace and discover what makes them tick.
It’s okay if they drive us crazy this summer, or if they are bored, or if they are ungrateful for our efforts to be with them. All of those things will happen, and more. But over time, we might discover that we won’t kill them, that we even enjoy being with them. When we are not driving them at a hectic pace, and running from them when that pace makes them awful to be around, they can actually be interesting, generous people to be around. When September rolls around, we might even be sad to see the summer go.