One of my favorite bloggers is someone who frequently cusses about mothering. This doesn’t fit in with the tone of most unschooling blogs I read, about finding peace and meditating to deal with triggers and finding joy everyday with your kids. I love those things. But I also think cussing–and writing–about mothering is a lifesaver.
I generally cope just fine with the physical and mental demands of being with two little kids for 97% of my waking hours. Instead of my own time in the evening, I use the time after baby goes to bed to do one-on-one play with my daughter because it’s so important to her. She cannot fully be herself with me until it’s just us, something I can relate to more and more as I learn about how autism affects how we process social input. Even now, while I try to write coherent sentences, I’m shouting letters over my shoulder to help her type words in her online game. Then I’m interrupted again and again, baby wakes up, everyone needs food, she bonked her knee.
For good reason, I often have low points, and sometimes I just scream. I don’t yell at my kids, but sometimes my brain hurts from the conflicting crashing symbols of small children demanding immediate attention, and I just scream. Then I help them, and remind them it’s not their fault I screamed.
So even though I don’t work, and I don’t wish my kids were away from me in school, I can relate to the gray Janelle Hanchett voices:
For me, it’s all gray. (Maybe it’s gray for all of us, deep down.) I work because I have to and mostly want to, but I also know if we seriously down-sized I wouldn’t “have to” anymore. But I don’t want that either. I’m never “sure.” I’m never not regretting, sometimes. I’m never just right.
Giving voice to that feeling can save us as mothers, it can keep us sane and alive.
I felt this a couple days this week. First, when getting the kids in an out the door and to the swimming pool and safely home just wiped me out. Then the next day it wiped me out staying home and having these constant crashing symbols of demands interrupting my thoughts all day. I ended up around 4pm burned out and just sitting on the couch while everyone watched videos. After a couple hours of that, the kids decided to go outside as the day cooled down. Usually I’d try to hang laundry, fold laundry, garden, be productive. But being this burned out I just sat on the grass and watched them.
I noticed that they play together, that they find joy and fun and life in each other. That they run and climb and try and try and imagine. These things pulled me a bit out of the gray, together with the grass underneath me and the cooling breeze.
Then, sitting in my backyard looking up at the tree in the back corner, I saw this:
I’ve been here for nine months, I didn’t know I had grapes in my tree. People say you should just sit in nature and observe. Like meditation, I so often have little patience for this seeming idleness. But you can’t know what you don’t know. When you only try to be productive you run right over the miracles. Like concord grapes that are ripe RIGHT NOW. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Now. Right when I found them.
I like staying home not just for the kids. But for the purple. For the now. For making jam right now. For what I learn. I didn’t know that the “grape candy” flavor actually was a flavor in nature. I guess I’ve never had a fresh picked concord grape. I thought candy companies made that up. I didn’t know that flavor sits right in the juice between the skin and the fleshy pulp and seeds inside. I didn’t know that flavor blossoms on your tongue when you squeeze the skin off and in the air when you boil and pour off the juice.
I didn’t know concord grape juice will crystalize. I didn’t know it was such a beautiful color.
At first I thought I just had a snack, but when I traced the vine it went into the yard of a friend who’d passed away and her house was for sale. And I had taken care of her trash cans last year when she was injured, so I had access to the backyard. And there were bunches and bunches of grapes in the backyard. Enough for this.
I’ll give the neighbors a jar whenever someone moves in. And hope that they keep those old, thick, delicious vines growing across their back fence. I’ve already witnessed property owners take out a sweet, vibrant, productive lemon tree to install landscaping with a cleaner look. But even if they do take out the vines, the fact that I made jam with this season’s grapes brings me great joy.
You don’t know what you don’t know. As a kid, I used to dismiss friends who said we’d never use what we learned in school. “Of course it’s all important, the teachers told us so!” I’d silently fume. Now, I know I had headaches because I was missing something. I was missing huge parts of myself. I literally didn’t know what fun meant to me I was so busy doing what other people told me. “Fun” meant reading, which in reality was an adult-approved escape from the bombardment of adult anger and fear and stress.
I didn’t know that my personal values, my joy and my fun, my sensory delight, would come from old grape vines and the blackish, reddish purple and that blossoming flavor and the secrets of an old neighborhood and that scent filling my kitchen.
I unschool, I stay home through the crashing symbols of demands, because I don’t know. And then I learn.