Tag Archives: parenthood

Homeschooling Is A Roller Coaster Ride

Homeschooling is a roller coaster ride. We got on the ride in November and we’ve been going full speed ahead, up and down, up and down, sideways, upside down and stop, stop, go ever since.  As a parent it is the best and the worst of times. It’s both energizing and exhausting. My only advice, If you are thinking about homeschooling, is make sure you put on your seat belt first.

Homeschooling Is A Roller Coaster Ride

There, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system I’m going to dive in with why we love it. First, field trips are fun and we can do as many as we want. We can go any where, at any time. We can turn almost anything into a learning experience!

We take as long as we need to learn something.  When my daughter is struggling with the concept of doubles plus one, we can just hang out and practice it until she’s got it down. She doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of a classroom filled with other kids ready to move on. If we don’t like the book or curriculum we are using we can change it.

We spend lots of time together (this can also be stressful at times especially when you are a die hard introvert like I am). We get to witness our daughter learning. When she grasps a concept that she has been struggling with I turn into a real-life cheerleader, pom-poms and all. It’s one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had. My daughter loves all of the undivided attention. I get to learn about how her mind works and what interests her.

A short lesson on dinosaurs can evolve into discussions about big things like space, the big bang theory, God, various religious beliefs, scientific theories, the life cycle of turtles, and evolution. We have all of the time in the world to talk, dissect, and explore.

The downside of homeschooling is pretty thrilling too. Like a psychological thriller. There are endless periods of anxiety where we question if we are teaching enough or if she is learning enough. We worry about whether we are teaching her the right things. Is she behind her peers? Is she ahead? Will she be able to make it in the adult world if I close up the books and use baking to teach her fractions instead? I can lie awake for hours pondering these questions while simultaneously googling for statistics, curriculum, and homeschool support networks.

There are also days where nobody wants to do anything at all. The baby is cranky, the six year old is determined to watch Netflix until her eyes fall out of her head and her brain turns into zombie mush. There are days so packed with social activities that we forget to do spelling, or math, or to read. It’s feast or famine around here with almost everything.

Some weeks my daughter will be obsessed with math. It’s math from morning to night.  Meanwhile I will fret over her undone phonics workbook pages and reading practice. The very next week she will hate math telling me it’s boring or too hard and she will want to read everything she can get her hands on including the small print on the dog food bag. I then, of course, fret over her unfinished math worksheets and fall into despair over whether or not this first grade math failure will prevent her from acceptance into MIT.

There are entire days devoted to art, music, and cinema. These days I will congratulate myself for exposing her to culture, imagination, and creativity. Then I will berate myself for neglecting the three r’s.

Other days will be about science and history and the all mighty playground. On these days I will fret about how messy my house is becoming and about how I have no time to myself anymore. I’ll worry that the baby is being shuffled around from place to place and doesn’t have the nap schedule she deserves or needs. I will look around and realize that the homeschool stuff is taking over every room of the house and wonder if we really need all of these items to produce a well-rounded education. In the next moment I’ll worry we don’t have enough stuff or that maybe I have invested in all of the wrong items. There is always the sense that we could do more or could do better.

Homeschooling is a roller coaster ride. I’m hoping over time the anxiety will settle and our schedule will become more consistent. I’m also hoping to learn to accept the ebb and flow and develop a stronger faith in the idea that things will turn out all right in the end. So far, none of us have wanted to get off the roller coaster, no matter how scary it gets, so I guess that speaks volumes about the experiment we are conducting. Tiny-Small said it best the other day when she was  clad in her pajamas at 1pm and eating chocolate while building a house out of gumdrops and toothpicks, “I’d never be able to do this if I was in school right now!” I picked up a chunk of her Rice Krispies earth model we had cut in half the night before, bit into it and said, “You got that right, Kid!”

Mistakes Are How We Learn

I’m rushing around the house trying to serve breakfast, dress everyone, and get out the door. Things keep going wrong because I haven’t slept well in weeks. New baby on board. New lifestyle. Two kids are better than one. Two kids are more work than one. Two kids are crying at the same time. Two kids are happy. Two kids need something right now. Two kids! Two Kids! TWO KIDS! Oh, and the dog won’t stop barking. I fantasize about sending him to live on an imaginary farm and there goes two more minutes of time I do not have to spare on this fine, windy morning.

My husband is gone all week working out of town. Another adjustment to grapple with as I lose an extra set of hands to help carry the load. An extra set of eyes to keep everyone alive. An extra set of relief in the night when the baby is hungry and needs a diaper change. I’m missing an extra set of hands to fasten car seats and locate lost shoes before the school bell rings. I don’t want to be late again. Late, late, late.

I’m constantly late, behind, unorganized, confused, wondering where I put my coffee. I can’t remember if I brushed my teeth. Am I still in the clothes I wore yesterday? Why yes, yes I am. Everything inside of me is whirling. Everything keeps going wrong. I drop things. I lose things. I’m too slow and we have to get to school.

I’m making mistakes left and right. The voice in my head is beating me up. It’s relentless: Why aren’t I better at managing all of this? When am I going to adjust? When am I going to be a good mother, good wife, good home maker? I trip over toys, laundry, books, boxes of diapers…I’m so disappointed in myself. My sink is full of dirty dishes. Everything is a mess and I am so tired. I want to be like Donna Reed with a perfect, shiny home, but I also want to sit in the rocking chair and rock the baby because she’ll only be tiny for such a short time. It doesn’t matter anyway because I am tired and picking up only happens when both the baby sleeps and the kindergartner is occupied – which never happens at the same time. All morning I dream of a nap that never comes. I rock and rock and fight to keep my eyes open. I’m happy and irritated at the same time.

My mind is on all of these things as I start my day.

Mistakes Are How We Learn

Then I hear my daughter’s small voice as she whispers to herself, “It’s OK, mistakes are how we learn.” I peek around the corner and see her erasing her backward letter “B” and writing it correctly. Mistakes are how we learn. I’ve  been telling her that for weeks as we do homework in the evenings. I tell her the same thing when she pours too much water into the house plants. I remind her when she puts her shoes on the wrong feet. I sing it to her in a loud, silly voice when she reads the latest sight word incorrectly. It’s become a mantra in our house. Mistakes are how we learn. Perfection be damned. We won’t let our mistakes stop us from diving in.

Fail.

Fail again. Dust yourself off and fail some more. Just keep trying and keep going. It’s all we can do anyway. Mistakes are how we learn, my darling, mistakes are how we learn. Keep failing. Have faith. Be proud of yourself for showing up and trying. This is life. It’s messy and hard and beautiful and glorious all at the same time. Don’t let the weight of living get you down.

Hearing her gently remind herself about making mistakes calms me and slows me down. I’m learning to be a mom all over again. To two kids. To two people who need love and attention, to two people creating dirty dishes and dirty laundry (feels more like four). I’m learning to live without as much sleep. I’m learning how to delegate more efficiently. I’m learning how to fail and prioritize and be OK with mess and uncertainty. I’m learning how to sleep when the baby sleeps. Sleep anytime I can sleep.  Sleep, sleep, sleep.

It’s going to take a while to find my way. Parenthood is a long ride and I’m just getting strapped in.

 

How About A Mom Friendly Hospital Initiative?

I recently gave birth in a “baby friendly” hospital. My newborn was with me through out my entire hospital stay, except for a few minutes when they gave her a bath and a few more minutes when our pediatrician took her to another room to suction mucus out of her throat. There was no mention of formula and lots of breastfeeding support. From what I have read, having babies room-in with mothers (infant and mother bonding) and encouraging breastfeeding (classified as the optimal way to feed an infant) seem to be the corner stones of the baby friendly initiative. Sounds good, right? For the most part I am sure it is, but I think we can do even better by working towards a mom friendly hospital experience too.

Everyone knows it’s nearly impossible to get any sleep in the hospital, but I don’t think it has to be that way. For new mothers, sleeping, while in the hospital, should be more of a priority. If you’ve been in labor for hours, given birth, and then spent 48 hours not sleeping because hospital staff kept interrupting, you’re going to be a hot mess by the time you get home. I calculated that I got exactly 20 minutes of sleep during my most recent hospital stay. I’m pretty sure this lack of sleep, after the tiring exercise of pushing a tiny human out of your body,  doesn’t help in the prevention of postpartum depression. Exhausted isn’t exactly a baby friendly or mom friendly way to begin parenthood.

How About A Mom Friendly Hospital Initiative?
Sisters

After giving birth people were coming in and out of my room day and night. At one point during my stay the nurse was hooking me up to receive some antibiotics while the pharmacist, the phlebotomist, and the hospital ombudsmen were all waiting in my room to speak to me. Through out the day the medical records clerk stopped by twice, the lactation specialist came by three times, and someone stopped to offer a prayer.  These visits all happened in between the nurses, the medical technicians (blood draw every four hours, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and temperature check every two – for both me and baby) and the doctors visiting. Basically we got 5-8 minutes of quiet and privacy at a time. The second night, when it finally seemed like we might get a reprieve, we turned off the lights and tried to get some sleep. Just as we started to doze-off a nurse came into our dark room to ask us if we needed anything. In a polite, clench teethed sort of way, I said, “Some sleep would be nice.” She laughed. Of course she did because everyone knows there is no sleeping in the hospital.

In a mom friendly hospital there would be a coordination of medical visits so moms would have uninterrupted stretches of time to sleep or bond with baby. There would also be a checklist provided early on so mom could choose who they wanted visiting. Don’t want to be visited by the hospital pastor or lactation consultant? Don’t check them off. Prefer to have your medications explained on paper instead of a visit from the pharmacist? Don’t check off the pharmacist. You see where I am going with this.

I don’t want to get into a debate about breastfeeding versus formula feeding (but you can find my thoughts on it here), but I wonder, why do we have to go to such extremes? I’ve read some baby friendly hospitals keep formula under lock and key and that a doctor has to write a prescription for it. Formula is not a controlled substance. This doesn’t make any sense to me. We were told if we wanted to give our baby formula we’d have to bring it into the hospital ourselves. So we did just in case we needed it. I have a history of low milk production and we didn’t want to starve our second child like we did the first one. On the other hand, hospitals used to push formula on people who didn’t want it. Wouldn’t it be more baby and mom friendly to find a balance here? Mothers want to do the best they can for their child. They don’t need to feel guilty on the first day they become a parent. In a mom friendly hospital, both feeding options would be equally available and supported without judgement. I think this is baby friendly too.

Another confusing thing baby friendly hospitals are doing is getting rid of the nursery. I get it. The baby rooms with mom so there is no need for a nursery, except sometimes there is. When I had my first child I spent a little over 24 hours in the ICU after giving birth. I couldn’t stand or get up on my own so I wasn’t allowed to have my baby with me unless someone else (like my mom or husband) was in the room with me. I wonder, what happens now under similar circumstances? Where will the baby go? Does mom take care of the baby anyway even though it may not be safe for her to do so?

How about we keep the nursery just in case so mom doesn’t have one more thing to worry about after giving birth? Can we be a little more mom friendly and provide space and time for mom to heal when she needs it? Again, we are going from one extreme to another. Mom’s couldn’t room with their baby before and now they have to no matter what the circumstances are. Where is the balance and sensible decision making?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro baby friendly. It’s a terrific idea to push hospitals to do better. I’d just like to see some effort in making hospitals a little more mom friendly too. And a little more balanced. Hospitals don’t have to be friendly to one group and not to the other. We can be kind and supportive to both mom and baby…at the same time.