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December 2014
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February 2015

A Proper Education

This morning it was snowing, big, fat, fluffy flakes, so instead of lining up outside, the students at Sophia's school were huddling in the cafeteria. They like to do that three times a week or so, and act surprised by the weather like we don't live in Denver or something. We get snow, is what I'm saying. Why are we even trying to line up outside in the morning after October? Why isn't there a tunnel directly from the parking lot to the cafeteria, and would it kill someone to hand out coffee to the parents? Is it just me?

Ooooookay, then.

On my way back out to the parking lot, I started chatting with another mom. Almost all the other moms, by the way, are about twelve. There is one other mom my age, and a grandmother who does dropoff and pickup that I really get along with. But most of the time I'm chatting away with some nice young woman, paying no attention to what she's saying, because I'm wistfully remembering when the skin under my eyes had that lovely satiny texture, instead of looking like soggy tissues. Ah well.

So the lovely young mom says hesitantly as we pick our way across the ice, "So, um, how are you guys doing with the homework?"

How are we doing with the homework? I've considered faking my own death to get out of helping Sophia with the reading group journal. I may or may not have written scathing letters to the inventor of Singapore Math (in my head). When I unzip Sophia's backpack and pull out the homework folder, the cat runs and hides, the lights dim, Sophia's pupils contract, and my heart rate speeds up. 

"Homework. It's...a lot. We have tears," I said mildly, because I thought a more sincere reply might get me pulled into the counsellor's office. AGAIN.

"US TOO," she answered, relieved. We exchanged coping techniques for a little, but that quickly died off, because hers were mostly things like, "I have her write her spelling words on index cards in the car," while mine were more along the lines of, "no, seriously, I think I could pull of the whole 'faking my own death' thing."

"Well," she sighed finally, "I guess it will all be worth it. Next week, when they take the standardized tests, I'm sure we'll see the results then."

I sort of froze for a moment, thinking about that. I looked back over the years at the boys' standardized tests, and I tried to imagine anything that could matter less than a kindergartener's test scores. Then I thought with horror, what if it DOES matter? What if it affects the groups she's in or the class she moves on to? What if people ACTUALLY THINK IT MEANS SOMETHING?

I muttered something that was meant to sound positive and agreeable, and staggered off to my car (WITHOUT COFFEE). I don't know much, but I'm pretty sure about one thing here: SOMEONE does not have this whole education deal figured out.

Just today

I find it hard to write these days. I even find it hard to read my old posts, which I used to love to do, odiously enough. It's not that I'm drowning in some debilitating depression, although I just barely skim that surface some days. And yes, I am too busy by far, but that's not why either.

Today we drove up into the mountains and went inner-tubing. All six of us, and it was a perfect day for it. We pulled into the parking lot and piled out to yank on snow gear. That's when I discovered that, due to an ass-expansion issue, my snow pants wouldn't fasten. I stood there in the parking lot, frantically trying to shove myself inside the pants, like trying to tuck biscuit dough back inside the ruptured can. Not doable.

For a split second I considered stripping those damnable snow pants back off and stomping away to the lounge, where I could sit by the fire and feel viciously bad about myself. But all around me my sons milled, like a flock of noisy birds, and my daughter sat on the car seat in front of me poking her sock-clad foot in my direction and holding her boot and the hope that I would fix everything. Clay stood by my side, and asked quietly if it would be okay. 

I pulled my coat down over my midsection, and tried to smooth everything as securely into place as it would go, and proceeded to wrestle with a purple boot and a foot that resisted it emphatically. 

This is where the writing falls apart for me, because I teeter on the edge of a story here, a beginning, middle, and God help us, an edifying end. This is what happened, I'm tempted to tell you, and this is what it meant.

I am no longer so sure of what any of it is supposed to mean. Life has surprised me, over and over, and I am no longer so sure where I am in the narrative. I glance back at the past and hear my own voice, telling my stories, my own sureness, and I cringe. 

My kids are at an age where their lives are more complicated, too, and I struggle with how much of their story is mine anymore.

Tre is not going back to college this semester, but taking classes online. He hopes to return in the fall. There has been no great crisis, but an unexpected bump in the road, and he is recalibrating. I am persistently not hoping for any specific outcome, while still believing he can find his way to a wonderful one. When people ask me how he's doing, I don't know how to answer, exactly, although the answer is that he's doing just fine. He's doing what he needs to be doing right now, and I love him fiercely.

Max has decided not to wear the hearing aids, after all. That story is long, and convoluted. In the end, suffice it to say he made the choice not to use them. I disagree with that, but it turns out that they're his ears, and even if I'm right, I don't get to choose what he does with them. Which sucks. I am learning a lot about where the lines of responsibility fall with this one, and it's hard. And I love him fiercely.

Raphael is in his final months of homeschooling. He's picked a high school, the only one of all my kids who will be attending school in the actual town we live in. Miraculous. The days he has left doing school at home dwindle and fall away, but he is also 13 years old. He is a good and dear boy, blue-haired and persistent in so many ways. I love him fiercely.

Sophia hated school at first, then loved it, and is now somewhat ambiguous on the subject. I don't feel like her teacher gets her (at parent teacher conferences, the only thing she had to say about her was, "Well, you know Sophia. She's no trouble at all."), but it's not an adversarial relationship either. There is too much homework, and too much getting up early in the morning, but we persist. There is enough to love about it, I think. I hope. I love her fiercely. 

Today we sailed down a hill in bright inner tubes. We gripped each other's handles so we could slide down in a group. The snow stung our faces and the sun slipped in and out from behind deep gray clouds. We laughed and screamed and retrieved lost gloves. The boys dissapeared at times, then reappeared. Every time I stood up, I yanked my unfastened pants back up, and grabbed my inner tube, and headed for the top of the hill again. Clay (whom I love fiercely, and securely, and as naturally as breath), took my picture, because he thinks I'm beautiful. 

And whatever is true, or isn't, that's what we did today, and I'm glad we did.