Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘parent’

Barren

InconceivableI knew I was a Cystic Fibrosis carrier. I’d known since I was 6. I knew what it meant, and what my life would be like if I had a CF child. I knew my spouse would need to be tested before we had kids. I knew hard choices would need to be made.

I didn’t expect that my husband would be a carrier too. He was, and in retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised. We were counselled not to have children. We were counselled to abort if we did “have an accident” (never an option for us). For months, my pain flooded down my cheeks in unguarded moments. My every hope of being a mother was dashed, and all I knew was endless emptiness. No one could understand. Those who knew our situation felt we’d made the right choice. We were brave, noble. Wise. It was best.

I was alone.

My friends – one single and one in an unhappy relationship doomed to fail – didn’t even pretend to understand. In my haze of misery it was clear they felt nothing, cared nothing.

I was alone.

We agonised for months, weighing our options, certain that children would never feature in our lives – at least, not biological children. We decided to adopt. We’d always wanted to (we still do), and we believed this was what needed to be for our family.

One day the adoption papers arrived in the mail. It was time to start becoming parents. We agreed. We felt, in every part of our beings, that it was indeed time to start becoming parents. We just couldn’t shake the desperate craving, deep within us, to become REAL parents. It was foolish and rash. We had no idea, in those halcyon days, what it meant to love a child. We could imagine it, but we could never comprehend the depth of that love, the pain of it. We could never grasp, then, the ever-present fear of loss.

Like Thelma and Louise, we gripped each other’s hands and drove off the cliff and into the unknown. We decided to have children “of our own”. We started “trying”, as it was euphemistically called.

Trying. How very accurate that term turned out to be.

We tried. And tried. And tried. We read books. We took vitamins. We did exercises. We visited doctors. We attended workshops. We measured temperature and painted nurseries. And we cried.

Well, I cried. In those days Papa Bear was even more circumspect about his feelings than he is now. And he was always very zen about the process. Without a womb of his own, lying barren and fallow month after month, he couldn’t fully engage in my pain. He reminded me that adoption would always be on the cards (and it always is). But in the end, whether the baby he held in his arms one day grew in my tummy or someone else’s made little difference.

I imagine it was a foolish and whimsical thing to mind. But I did mind. I wanted to be a mama. I couldn’t be a mama.

Each month, the dreaded cycle would repeat. Each month, the proud badge of womanhood would taunt me more fiercely than the month before, mocking my efforts and showing me up for the worthless human being I clearly was. Every month I’d be reminded that I’d failed. I couldn’t even do this one thing properly – this one thing that illiterate peasants could do without a moment’s conscious thought. I couldn’t even be a woman. Simple. Natural.

Impossible.

I failed and I failed and I failed. The more my husband loved me, the worse it was. I was failing him. I was failing me. I was failing our parents and my own empty arms. No amount of logic could assuage the guilt. The doctors had warned me (ever so gently) of the damage I may have done to my body. I’d read the books. Now I’d married the perfect Daddy (carefully selected for that very trait), and I couldn’t give him the missing ingredient of his fatherhood: a child.

At length, after many months of debilitating periods and blank pregnancy tests, we gave up. Our doctor advised a course of fertility treatment, and we decided to consider that in a year’s time, when we’d both settled into the jobs we’d just started. I had surgery for endometriosis, and we dusted off our adoption papers. We started a work out regime and got serious about our eating plan.

It was after an early morning cycle ride that I came home and went straight to bed, too sick to go to work. My mom called and told me I was pregnant. And she was right. The year of agony was over as we stared a terrifying, wonderful new adventure. While the threat of Cystic Fibrosis loomed over us for many months, the hole in our family would soon be filled.

While our story had a happy ending, I know many that haven’t. We are blessed beyond the words we have to explain our happiness. But we knew that pain – I felt that searing agony – of not knowing for sure if parenthood would ever be an option for us. Those empty years were by far the longest of my life. If you’re facing that now, or have ever faced it, I can’t really offer anything except my compassion, my love and my prayers. There is peace to be found in the pain, and healing in the heart ache. There are over 2 million children in South Africa right now, waiting to be adopted. I am going to be part of the solution for at least one of those children, and I hope you’ll join me in that adventure. If that’s not your path, just know that you’re not alone. There are many of us here, willing and ready to listen, wanting to care for you. You are so deeply loved.

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The power of partnership

Papa Bear and I have a relationship that makes me feel blessed on a regular basis. It’s true that we have our differences – some serious. There are times when we’ve had enough of each other and times when we can’t recall how we came together in the first place. Some days I’m sure each of us wonders if we’ll be able to last through the tough times, or if walking away from it all is the better part of valour.

But we never do walk away. Our partnership is based on our faith, first and foremost, and that is what makes it strong. It really isn’t about us, at all. I know that I am very lucky to have a man who loves to read, who gets my jokes (and makes his own), who laughs at life’s trials with me, and who adores our children. He is supportive and involved. I am very lucky indeed, but even without all of those things, I believe God hates divorce, and that keeps me with my man in the tough times.

More than that, we can parent as a team, and that is also based on our shared faith. We’re pulling together. Ultimately, our goals for parenting and educating our children have very little to do with how much Shakespeare they can recite, or how fast their mental arithmetic is. For us, what matters most is raising children who are firmly rooted and grounded in the Word of God, saved and able to make wise choices. We care about their discernment, their understanding of biblical precepts, and their unwavering faith. Everything else comes second and so, no matter what route we take in any area of their lives or our own, we pull together, because we share our faith.

Unschooling questions (and some answers)

As we expand our unschool experiment, we find that there are more questions than answers. And that’s okay: that’s how we learn. Unschooling really doesn’t come with any kind of hand book, and every family does what is right for their situation, interests, personalities, and a thousand other variables, unique to each situation.

Unschooling is not unparenting

We have not abdicated our roles in any way. Quite the contrary, unschooling actually forces us to be more involved than ever. We have to be aware of everything, sensitive to everything, to make sure that we never miss an opportunity to educate. Every moment is a learning moment – and that takes initiative, insight, imagination, involvement and energy.  We have to be aware and connected for as much of the day as possible.

Unschooling makes you honest

Because we learn every second that we breathe, we need to be very real, very transparent, and very honest. Learning happens by seeing, experiencing, “percolating” and discussing. It does not happen in a vacuum. We need to share what we learn, and let our children share what they’ve learned. This implies that we need to be learning, all the time. If something troubles us, we need to be honest about that. We also need to examine that. Why does a messy space trouble me? Am I being reasonable? Is the mess a logical and even necessary part of development? Is leaving the mess harmful in any way, or is that in itself a valuable education? These questions surround thousands of decisions every day, with the net result being that we are more connected, more “ourselves”, and more relaxed. I’m not really sure I can articulate why that is true, yet. But it is true, nonetheless.

Unschooling challenges beliefs

There are some unschoolers who don’t set limits on their children. Everything in life becomes a collaborative learning journey, with children setting their own limits as they work out what works for them. For instance, if the child prefers to stay up late, that is the child’s choice. She must then deal with the consequences of loneliness, being up when everyone else is asleep, and grumpiness the next day when she’s over tired, or ever oversleeps and misses an outing with the rest of the family. This way, she learns that an earlier bed time has its benefits. Well, fair enough. But not for us. In my opinion that’s a form of child abuse, frankly. I believe that children lack the ability to make certain decisions and cognitive leaps, and that’s why they have parents. Otherwise we’d all just grow up together in something like a giant, collaborative orphanage with common sense and consensus determining the way we live. I’ve read Lord of the Flies. I don’t think we’d do well left to our own devices.

Here are some of the beliefs I’m examining at the moment, as we delve deeper into this adventure:

  • Children need boundaries. They need to know when an action is acceptable and when it isn’t. And sometimes words are not adequate to convey this.
  • Children need direction. They may well be curious beasts with a passion for knowledge. But they also need a little guidance. If Papa Bear had never introduced me to the internet, I may never have developed an interest in it, and then I’d be doing something else for a living now. If we don’t know there are things out there to be discovered, we won’t discover them. We need to allow our children the opportunity to develop an interest in what’s out there by letting them know what’s out there.
  • Not everything is fun and interesting, but that doesn’t make it irrelevant or superfluous. Just because I don’t enjoy doing a thing, or don’t feel like doing a thing, doesn’t mean I don’t need to do it. Yes, I prefer dancing to running, and running to soccer. So perhaps I’ll dance more often than I’ll chase a ball. But I need to exercise, and if the only option I have is a game of soccer, I need to accept that and get on with it. I may even find it fun. Possibly. Few people fascinatedly pursue a regimen of dental hygiene, but that doesn’t mean we can just get away with not cleaning our teeth two or three times a day. And so on. So while I am letting the girls not clean their room for a while, I am probably, at some stage, going to insist that it gets done, and that beds get made religiously. Because some things just need to be done.
  • We all need to do our share. So maybe we don’t say the word “chores” anymore, and maybe (just maybe), pocket money and housework are no longer linked. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all pitch in with dishes, dog food and domestic goddessery in general.
  • Work has worth, and earning a living is a life skill. I haven’t made up my mind about pocket money. I believe it is necessary, and very educational. The girls have learnt maths, the value of money, and the value of things, all through pocket money. They’ve also learned that if you don’t work, you don’t eat. So to speak. (Of course they eat, but a messy room means no pocket money, and that means no buying toys at the market – their lifeblood, you’d think!). So while I am experimenting with not insisting on a tidy room (for now), I don’t think they’ll start getting money for nothing. That can simply be a consequence of not cleaning up.
  • There’s nothing wrong with being organised. Being spontaneous does not exclude being organised, and vice versa. If I work better in a structure, that could be a good thing.
  • Sometimes, children need chastening. It may take various forms, but a polite and respectful “No, darling. That’s not how we behave.” simply doesn’t cut it sometimes. In those cases we need a clear, communicated and consistent way of communicating unacceptable behaviour.

At the end of the day, these children will one day be adults, and they need to be ready for that. That goes a lot further than simple fact knowledge. It’s about being equipped to deal with other people well, and being practised in making smart choices. Schools don’t teach that, families do. And must.

Feeling somewhat Stepford.

Another Circle of Moms article got me thinking. The article is about the different parenting styles and strengths of fathers and mothers. Basically, the author is annoyed with people who claim that mothers are better than parents than fathers, or try to compare them at all. I agree wholeheartedly. The simple fact is that neither gender, if each person is a focused and dedicated parent, makes a better parent than the other. They are simply different *.

I have often fallen into the trap of comparing Papa Bear’s style of parenting to mine, and finding his grossly lacking. It is true that he is easily distracted and sometimes, despite being in a room with us, not actually present. But he’s working on that, and it makes him uniquely able to parent Goldilocks through some challenges I to which I simply cannot relate. When I get together with my girlfriends this syndrome is stronger than ever, and we find ourselves spiralling into a tightly wound mesh of frustration and impotence at their “otherness“.

Since we’ve been home educating, and because we work so much and spend so much non-work time at Church, we’ve spent a lot more time together as a family, and far less time with our friends. This has pros and cons, of course. But at a recent gathering of friends, we were struck by this “moms vs dads” tendency more than ever. To my suprise Papa Bear was most gentle and solicitious of me, fetching me glass after glass of tonic water and not joining in with a lot of the regular “guy talk” centered around spousal deficiencies. For my part, I stuck up for his new face fuzz!

I was so proud of him and felt so loved. It took all I had not to go all Stepford on everyone: hair in a bun, long skirt, prim smile and glowing, overflowing praise for My Man. Not to mention casserole in one hand, perfect pie in the other! (Ironically, I normally do pretty much look like that, and he certainly deserves a lot of glowing praise. And don’t all Baptists carry casseroles in their apron pockets?)

Such a reaction would not have been appropriate, necessary or helpful. But after reading today’s article, I thought the differences between Papa Bear and I, and how well we complement each other.

I am good at admin and order. He is good at strategy. I am good at basic needs (making sure everyone is clean and fed regularly and often). He is good at fun. (I am no good at all at fun). I am good at Bible Study, he is good at the application to daily situations, not to mention a simple, unwavering faith, which I often battle to maintain. I am good at the rudiments of school, he is good at the exciting parts: science, maths and engineering come naturally to him and he makes them fun. (That word again!)

We really are a good team and I am blessed by his presence in my life every day. As much as he drives me crazy sometimes, he is a levelling force, bringing me back to earth and keeping me from spinning out of control. I drive him crazy too, always pushing him forward, but he needs that as much as I need to be held back, an together we are much stronger than apart.

So, dear and wonderful friends, I’m sorry if I am so Stepford that I’m irritating, but Papa Bear is a wonderful part of my life, a blessing to me, my very best friend and staunchest supporter. What seem like shortfalls sometimes are little more than wondrous varieties, and make our lives fuller, richer and more interesting. I can’t be dishonest and say that he’s not all that. I can’t not say how wonderful he is.

*Found this this week on “African Queen”:

There is nothing wrong with something different.
It is just DIFFERENT.
The Bible says that we are to be different from the world:
Hebrews 11:13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises,
but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them,
and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
1 Peter 2:11 “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims,
abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;”
We are all supposed to be different from this world and its lusts of the flesh.

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