When we moved to Montana, our priorities were getting the house cleaned up, fixed up, livable, and chopping wood. We moved mid-September and in some places that gives you less than a month til the snow starts. Luckily we’d have much more time, but you never know in Montana. At any rate, the majority of my days were spent cleaning the house while my evenings were spent splitting and stacking wood. The goal was to be ready for the snow, ready for the cold, ready to be spending the majority of each day inside.
We’d been staking wood for weeks and even hired a couple teenage boys to come cut/stack wood for us. The wood in the crib was slowly growing and when we got to three chords, which ought to have been enough to make me feel relieved and close to ready, I was still anxious.
And then there was a library book sale.
Our library has a book sale roughly two to four times a year. The book sales are fabulous and you have to get there right when they start if you really want a chance at all the good stuff. When we go early I can leave with four enormous bursting bags of books, but when I go late I’m lucky to fill a single bag.
At that first book sale we were lucky. We arrived early and filled four bags to bursting. We got home and filled the one and only book shelf we had at the time. Filled it completely. And I breathed deeply. I relaxed. I was ready for winter.
There are things to worry about that are worthwhile, or perhaps not, and things that will never make sense to worry over. And yet…
I’m currently kept awake at night by the thought that I’ll never be able to do right by my children if I continue homeschooling them. My oldest is so entirely like me that we butt heads. I understand exactly where he’s coming from and haven’t yet worked a way to get around the obstacle. It ought to be easy since we think so much alike and feel things so intensely. Instead we’re both ready to cry at the end of a session that ought to have taken ten minutes but took nearly an hour. I find myself wondering if he has a learning disability, if maybe he really ought to be in school instead as maybe he’d learn better with someone else, if I can just get him to read and then the world will be his oyster and the struggle can cease.
We spent the morning going over the worksheets from his Outschool class where he learned a few sight words: I, and, the. Words that populate books so completely that just being able to spot them allows you to read nearly half the book. He was so frustrated. So I asked him to go grab a book, any book, off his bookshelf and bring it over. He chose The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen (an excellent book and writer and illustrator and we own most of his creations and love them all). Anyway, as I’m reading the book aloud I stress the words I, and, the each time they appear. It sounds something like this: “‘There’s a python in the pantry!’ It went on and on and on…”
Rather than feel excited about the fact that these three tiny words were in near constant use and that any minute he’d be able to read the book on his own, he was frustrated. “Can’t you just read it regular, mom?”
The worst part? After an hour with my child, both of us miserable, he asks for more time with me doing “something else” because I haven’t spent any time with him today and I spent “all (my) time helping (his brother).”
His brother got me for 15 minutes.
His brother takes after his father. There’s no butting of heads or overwhelming emotions causing us friction. We can smoothly and easily pick a topic, like today’s numbers one and two, and get through it efficiently…he’s also only three years old.
The struggle to get from where you are, to the place you want to be…it never goes away. It exists always. It consumes your entire day, depletes all your energy, sometimes requires outside assistance to obtain. And sometimes the struggle isn’t even about what we think it is.
Do I need five chords of wood to get through the winter or a full bookshelf of unread books?
Do I need to help my kids learn to read and write and do math or can/should I send them to school?
The struggle in these scenarios isn’t about wood, books, teaching, learning, reading, or math. The struggle is emotion. Emotion will never go away. Learning to deal with emotions, have them, ride them, move on from them, remain outside their control…that’s the struggle. It’s difficult to see my struggle reflected back to me by my child. And it’s wonderful to see the times where he doesn’t struggle with the emotions, where I can see reflected back to me the times I’ve let the struggle go, too.
This post was written as a thirty minute writing exercise, no editing, no stopping and was inspired from a writing prompt in Bryan Collins’ “Yes, You Can Write!” book available here.