Saturday, May 28, 2011


Last night I spend an hour pouring over my old journals.  I read those that covered the year Lilah was born (2002) and the year Grace began Kindergarten (2005).  I have wanted to do this for a long time, to just get lost in what were my thoughts and hopes and dreams for my young family.
Two things resonated with me after I read these two journals.  The first was that writing is clearly my therapy.  I wrote about all kind of things that were important to me then.  I wrote about my weekly visits with my Grandmother and the resentment I felt that school would curtail these.  I wrote about my frustrations with Greg’s work schedule and the amount of time I spent alone with two babies.  I wrote about my desire to find something for me like teaching a summer class about poetry, volunteering at the homeless shelter and substituting for GED night classes.  I was desperate to reclaim a part of myself I thought I lost by becoming a full time stay at home Mom.  
The second thought I had was how profoundly unhappy I was.  I was struggling to accept that my relationship with my sister had been redefined as a result of motherhood and I was longing for close connections with friends that at the time I did not have.  I found motherhood lonely and isolating.
My heart ached for my former self.  I barely recognized myself in my own words and handwriting.  Once upon a time I did not believe that people could change, at least not deep down to the heart of one’s soul.  Clearly I was wrong, as I am not the same person I was five or ten years ago.  I wish I could take my philosophies, views, and teachings that I have acquired in my thirties and  guide the twenty-something woman that I was towards a happier, more peaceful parenting style.  
I am fully aware that some people close to me do not understand the evolution of my life.  They do not understand the choices I have made and the reasons for them.  I try to step back from my life and imagine what it would be like if my best friend, sister, or daughter took such seemingly radical steps away from who she once was.  Would I think she was okay?  Would I be concerned?  Would I ask about her choices, inquire about her decisions and be non-judgmental, or would I assume that she is “going through something” and pass it off as a mid-life crisis?  I know how people judge.  I know that I have been judged.  I am 100% okay with that.
The changes I have made have helped me become someone I like very much.  I like and love my children.  Sadly, I know people who do not like their children no matter how much they may love them.  I like and love my spouse.  More and more, in fact, as we age together in this life.  I like and love my family.  We are stronger now than we ever have been in the 14+ years since its creation.  We are moving towards a place of respect and understanding.  We try our best to meet one another’s needs while recognizing that our needs are very different.
I try now to parent from a place of mutual love and respect.  I have been the authoritarian parent who read  John Rosemond’s books and told her children “because I said so” without questioning what they were thinking as I said it.  I have been the parent who used time out, withheld items as punishment, and took away tv time as a consequence.  I learned that none of these work other than to build anger and resentment.  I am far from the place I wish to be but I  move closer to it every single day.  

There are times now when I  tell my girls that I need to think it over and decide upon a consequence that is logical.  If they hurt each other’s feelings, then they need to do something nice to make up for it.  If they are disrespectful to me, then I ask them to help me around the house in some way to make amends.  Most of the time consequences are logical anyway and they are old enough to learn from them positively or negatively.  
I can see where people might think I now “spoil” my children.  Don’t they realize that the verb spoil means to diminish the value of something?  Unfortunately they may see my girls sleeping in late, going to bed late, swimming when every other child in the neighborhood is confined to the school building, not having homework, tests or CMTs, and assume that I hold them to a lower set of standards than the rigorous ones that school imposes just through their schedule alone.  I get that on some level... I guess.  
I want people to understand that homeschooling is not like being with your children on the weekends (if they attend public school).  The family dynamics are fundamentally different.  My children and I would be miserable if I tried homeschooling five years ago.  I could not say, sit down and write what happened the day the bus did not show up.  When they ask why, reply “because I said so”.  I could not threaten to withhold computer time because they did not finish the assigned thirty math problems.  In school, the threats/punishments were: trips to the Principal’s office, loss of recess, and worst of all -- humiliation by standing at the fence while other have recess. I cannot educate and parent under this paradigm.  For me, it simply would not work.
I am reminded of the bumper sticker “coexist” featuring symbols from the world’s religions.  We need to coexist peacefully in our home for homeschooling to be both a pleasure and a success for all involved.  I hope when my girls are becoming parents, they shrug off the advice of mainstream society, never watch SuperNanny, and always trust their instincts.  “Professionals” do not know best.  Jesus and before him Confucius said, “Do onto others as we want done onto us”.  Have you noticed that this seems to apply to everyone else but our children?  If we encompass our children into this golden rule, the rest comes easily.
Last night as I put down the journal from 2005 I wanted to go back as my almost 40 year self and give my 33 year old self a big hug and tell her not to worry that things are going to turn out better than she could even imagine in her wildest dreams.   


Andrea said...

Such a lovely and honest post. I agree with you on just about every level. Our paths have been very similar. I really loved reading this this morning, as I have been going through another time of change and all of your reminders are relevant. The change in the family dynamic happened slowly, and hardly anyone can understand, except someone who has gone through the same experience, so thank you. Spoiled? No way. Wonderous young beings? Absolutely!

Theresa said...

What a great, personal post. I find myself wanting to write a post in response to this as opposed to just a comment! There is so much here.

I can't wait for our new venture to begin!

I just wrote a three paragraph comment and was not even done! lol. I will just have to save it for a post.

Karen said...

I read every word of this nodding my head Jess. I love this, "I am far from the place I wish to be but I move closer to it every single day.". I feel like that too. I told a friend of mine yesterday, "Sometimes when I still feel like I haven't got a clue, like I am still waiting to 'grow up', I realize that I HAVE gotten more wisdom. I have learned a few things along the way".

I so agree on the comment about homeschooling not being like being with your kids on the weekend. I know when I had Kei in PS, I was one of the only people I knew who dreaded school starting back after summer. I loved having Kei home with me.

Can't wait to walk side by side, albeit from a distance, with you on this continuing journey. :)

Donna said...

I soooo agree with you! I too wish I could go back and talk to myself & make a couple of changes. : )
My MidLife "Green" Crisis

musicalmary said...

I can relate to you on so many levels, Jess. You are gifted with a voice that speaks so eloquently! I loved this post!

Monica said...

I am so happy for you, and sorry about the people in your life that don't understand. I can see the changes in both girls in this year and a half. They are, and have been, wonderful, sweet girls, but they are more calm, full of empathy: one would think they are quieter inside, they have the time to be. I am thankful that you and the girls have allowed us to join you on your journey.

Theresa said...

I linked to you in my post.

I love the concept of Coexist. I had a t-shirt in college.

It's sad when people don't understand our choices. I realized at Easter that my brother has some serious problems with our decision to homeschool. it's odd because he was always such a non-conformist, punk rocker and I was the preppy good student. But now he is a public school teacher and his wife is very much into conformity.

karisma said...

Brilliant piece of writing my dear. I very much enjoyed reading this. I guess at times we would all like to go back in time with the knowledge we have now but really if we did that we would not be who we are now would we?

I just love the big happy smiles I see on your beautiful girls faces and know you are doing a fantastic job!

Big hugs xoxoxox

Jessica said...

I have loved reading your comments. I was not sure how this post would be received I just knew that I had to write it. Then I wondered if it should stay locked away in my journal or if I should put it out there... I believe that if I am going to be honest about this experience I should share who I am becoming as a result of it!

Thank you. I am so blessed that you take the time to share this journey with me!

Anonymous said...

I can relate also! Thank you for this post, it's ones like these that make me realize "I can do this!"

Missy said...

What a fantastic post. I totally understand where you're coming from in your choice to make choices that go against the grain of society's "normal." We don't homeschool, but we do make many choices that are different from the mainstream. It's hard, but hopefully the rewards of better adjusted childen will make it worth it in the long run.

Leo Soderman said...

I have often considered home schooling my daughter, but being a single dad, it isn't an option right now. And yet, I see exactly what you mean about how it would change your parenting, and how I think it would benefit my daughter.

I also relate to how others, especially well-meaning family members don't seem to "get it". Too often, they seem to base things on snapshots they see, moments in time, and figure that is how the child is every minute. But they don't see that the behavior may be a reaction to them, not a typical behavior. I have one family member who chooses to try insult or humiliation to change behavior - "you go ahead and eat that if you want to be fat" - rather than positive communication, and then doesn't realize that my child's reactions may be due to those statements.

Good for you for figuring out the best for your kids and sticking to it!

Joyful Learner said...

I wonder how much of what we've learned comes with age. In my 20's and 30's, I used to think Supernanny was a role model. Of course, at 40, I would never recommend Supernanny's approach to anyone. It's amazing how a decade changes one's viewpoint. At 40, I'm much more myself and worry less of what others think. Perhaps, this is wisdom?

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