Laundry, dishes, groceries, they can wait. I am tired and frustrated. And I want to scream, “I AM a good mother!” But if I need to scream it, I probably don’t believe it. Not in this moment anyhow.
I’ve been listening to my voice. Not my words. Those I can control to some degree with careful caution. No, it’s my tone. No matter how much my words are saying “I love you,” my tone is saying “You’re an idiot.” I know it is. It is a tone so familiar it hurts. I’ve heard it in my father’s voice. I’ve heard it in my husband’s voice. I even heard it in my sister’s voices. It was the tone of my exasperated teachers, and other ‘authorities’ in my life. And while I don’t believe any of those people truly thought me an idiot, I felt it in their tones.
And yes, I’m over sensitive to that sort of thing because I’m the youngest daughter of three. I always felt that I was too short, too young looking (I know, good at 35, traumatic at age 15), my chest was too small, I was too naïve, too inexperienced, too immature. I could go on and on. I have spent too much of my life seeking validation to make up for all of it. But I really thought that, knowing how it felt to be belittled, I would never use that tone with my kids. And here I am. Tone and all.
Every night I tell myself, ‘tomorrow you’ll do better.’ Today is tomorrow. I am doing it again. And yet there are so many ‘buts.’ But he knows better! But he’s trying to piss me off! But he’s just being difficult. Again! It’s him. Him. HIM!
But it’s me, me, me. I feel insecure. I will be homeschooling all my children and I have no experience or qualifications. Right now we are doing a bit of an ‘unschooling’ thing. It’s summer, I’m still learning how to be a single mom all week long, we’re still settling into country life… Then suddenly I’ll start to feel inadequate and try to do something that I can claim outwardly is educational, so that I can feel better.
For instance, my son, like most kids nowadays, has an affinity towards technology. The more time he can spend on the computer the better, according to him. So I decide to take his love of computers and his love of learning anything new and combine them. “Let’s do something fun. Let’s a TV show! Since you love telling me all about what you learn on Wild Kratts and other PBS shows, let’s make it so you can tell everyone. We’ll pick a subject of your choice and learn all about it. Then we’ll videotape you and make our own show. What should we call it?” Excited, he answers, “Shavtiel’s Amazing Everything!”
So awesome, no? We go to the library and pick out all the books we can find on lizards, his chosen first episode subject. We go home and start right away learning about lizards. But his interest fades as soon as I suggest he writes down the points that interest him. Or even just jot down new words he learns as we read. He does not enjoy writing. His fine motor skills are a bit behind his cognitive skills and he feels frustrated by the lapse.
I don’t push. It won’t be fun if the whole thing is bullied by me. He has to want to do it. It’s been two weeks since we started and he’s pretty much totally dropped the whole idea.
Today we took out a book on CD from the library. A kid’s novel. I decided he was done with screen time for a while, so he is listening instead. But I know the difference between passive listening and active listening. While the CD’s on I give him a piece of paper with some colored pencils and ask him to draw any of the images from the story. Whatever he hears that interests him. Or, he could a write a neat sounding word, or just draw the colors he imagines while he hears the story.
Did I mention he was diagnosed with ODD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder? Well, my suggestion was stomped on with a vengeance. He was furious. How could I impose such an imposition on him?! Nay, how dare I?!
When I was a kid, I would’ve loved that sort of activity. All the freedom with just enough boundary to be safe. A project. An assignment. A chance for me to express myself. When the kids break out the water colors I can’t help but sit down and paint with them. I am no artist, but I love the chance to play creatively.
But in his mind I am the cruel taskmaster, enslaving him with torturous work.
Okay, not really. I think we just fight about so much else, that anytime I provide him the opportunity, he takes it. I show the slightest bit of interest and he knows there’s a fight somewhere in there. And I take the bait too. Because I do have insecurities. And I do have an invested interest in the outcome. I am setting myself up.
BUT IT WAS SUCH AN EASY, NICE IDEA! I want to shout. I can’t let go. And yet… We don’t have the foundation of a trusting, loving relationship. It’s not that my ideas aren’t creative and fun. It’s that our relationship doesn’t hold a safe enough space to allow relaxation and pure trust. I think we are always ready to be hurt by each other. Me, by his opposition and defiance against anything that comes from me. And him, by my constant disapproving, consequential tone. Yes, you’ve done it again. You’ve disappointed me.
Until we find our feet in these slippery waters. Until we can stand strong on our foundation of love and trust, pushing through any kind of curriculum is pointless. You can have the best, most brilliant teacher in the world. But if she doesn’t have the trust and love of her students, they are not going to learn what she has to offer.
So I will try to let go of the idea that it is a lack in me that creates this wall in our schooling. And instead I will focus on building the ‘school.’ A house of love.
One thing I still need to work out: Why do I take his disobedience so personally? He is a six year old boy. He came into this world with things to work out. So why do I see his problems as my inadequacy? If I can let go of that, perhaps I can offer something that has been lacking this whole time. Empathy.
1. This small break in the day
2. 2. A dear friend is on her way to visit me right now!
3. 3. The Amish store down the road
4. 4. Amazing, friendly, helpful, awesome neighbors