Fall is to us, Houstonians, our true summer. We simply have a few cold days in the winter (and cold for a person in this realm means weather that merits a good jacket and your frail chance to wear any knitted apparel). For the most part, winter comes with sun and a nice breeze, and rain, but many times rain you can go out and play with/in/by (choose the correct proposition, I give up!). Or is this my Pollyanna version of the winter? No, it must be true, for I remember last year when my father in law was here from November till January, he’d be working outside, in the backyard and garage, and we were outside enjoying sun and nice weather.
The reason for this post is that since Willa once mentioned this, I’ve sometimes been thinking about my childhood, and I see that those things I’ve loved or the negative experiences, are what today mark me as a mother, and in conjunction with my husband, we both intensify the lovely memories and actions associated with them from our upbringing, while fighting to avoid the black holes in it as we raise our two girls.
I have two books I’ve started and never finished, or not yet. One is a novel about my life. The other about homeschooling. Very presumptuous idea. I decided that though I can write some about it, it simply is a joke to write a book on something I have done for so little, even if I am living this with an intensity that comes from it being so foreign to me that I have made it into this crusade that has no battle to fight. Jokingly I tell my friends who face critics to bring in the opposition to me, I’m so ready to debate or go to trial with this, and I have no audience. I’m blessed, though. I always think about my friends in Spain, some families who have been called to the judge, and even charged with possible jail time. And even in the event that jail does not happen, theirs is a years long fight with authorities because judges have no legislation to rule in favor of them, so all they do is to pass the ball, and politicians, the ones who could make those laws, do not want to do that either. Some families decided to enroll their children in schools under this pressure, and I don’t blame them. I speculate if we had to homeschool in Spain, I don’t know if we would do it, certainly I wouldn’t be such a big mouth as I am, and that’s why now my husband says we are not leaving Texas! Even more than that, I don’t know how my christianity would fair in a place where there is tangible hostility toward christians.This reminds me of the fable of the pig and the sheep, it’s easy for the sheep to mock the pig that squeals and resists the master, but they are not being drawn to death like the pig.
I write journals for the girls, but this year, until yesterday, I did not crack them open any single day. I write here, in my Spanish blog, and a personal family one, so I tried and succeeded copying all my posts on the three blogs from google reader. First you go to show all items, then you do click left and hold it with your mouse, keep it pressed with your finger to gather all that keeps showing blue as marked, scroll down with the left hand using the down arrow, it will get a bit stuck at moments, but it will keep going down and selecting. My finger got numbed, and I lost my pick a couple of times, but finally I got it all blue and selected, and carefully I did right click and hit copy. In an empty word document, I did paste, and I thought nothing was going to happen, but it did. It took several minutes to load all the information. Once it did, I had the hundreds of posts I’ve been pouring in this blogger thing for a few years. Now if I do this more often it won’t be so painful.
So these days we are out in the park more than in the summer. We hold the classic Charlotte Mason six hours of time outdoors as our ideal, not as a rope around my head (as I have sometimes), but time at the park and outside is my goal, even if we fall short. And this is not only an idea that came to me by reading her, but one that I root in my childhood. The loveliest times where when my mother took me and later my brother too to the park after school.We would spend endless hours playing, running, pretending, acting our own plays, jumping rope, singing, learning to crochet or knit a bit from our moms, at times drawing at the picnic table where they sat, enjoying our lunch and sharing it too. Fast forward to my time as a mother, and I definitely wanted my girls to experience that joy of being at the park for hours. I don’t think they have the same luxury we did. We could get out of our mothers sight, and get lost between the trees for hours, I couldn’t do the same with my girls, but I try to leave as much space and distance as I can, and they appreciate it. I wish I could let my girls bike around the neighborhood by themselves, but our street is always desolate, only cars, or people when we call our neighbors to come out and play.
I also cherish the memory of the play dates at my best friends homes, where my mom would talk with my friend’s mom, and we’d play, and play, and play. This is why we constantly have friends over, or go to see them at their homes. I only took formal classes when I was older, at 12 or 14 I believe, before high school. During the elementary years, though, in second grade, we could do guitar after classes with the nuns, and I did. We did plays as part of our school activities, and included in our education were needle work, drawing, art… oh, I remember I took English classes after school, but I did not learn anything at the time, only that there is a mysterious tint that makes your teeth dark blue and gives you a very weird and cool look at the same time, I even forgot why the girl had it applied to her teeth.
My parents always signed me up for things I asked them for (except that English class), first because they had the means, and as years passed borrowing money from others to be able to have me do what others around did. I enjoyed doing what I did, to some extent, since my father would rarely be present in any of the events, but I hated that they asked for money to send me to Ireland, for example, even though they returned the loan. And I despised this because money was a constant source of misery at home, and we had things, what my parents lacked at the time was the stability to balance their budget, sacrifice, or spend sensibly. I enjoyed my visit to Dublin with friends but I felt I was never in the popular group that could wear the brand clothes, etc. It was impossible to catch up with that life. My group was the destitute, the poor, the ugly. And after that I joined the messed up people, only to complain they were horrible, as if I was being at the time any better. But before I was old enough to make my own crooked choices, while I was still a vulnerable child whose self esteem is very tied to her parents way of life, I don’t think it was just the financial problems my parents had what made me feel so desperate and lonely, it was more that those problems were a consequence of their bad choices in life. If your parents have faith, I believe they can infuse and exude that same faith and with it confidence. I believe adolescence can be more bearable, at least you won’t hurt in your social life and in your family life, if your parents have a healthy marriage. As for when my girls hit adolescence, I hope not to be legalistic but lawful, and to have healthy boundaries that provide them with safety, in the same line of the ones we have now. So I promised myself not to have a marriage plagued with constant quarrels, as if you can promise that to yourself alone. But so far there is love and harmony, but it is when we allow God to be in the equation, and the more we lean on Him the more manifest this truth becomes.
Something else I valued as a child were the times when my parents played cards or games with us (rarely), or cooked together, or shopped together…or when they were simply happy together (not often either, despite the fact that now they seem to have found a balance and love each other somehow, with many wounds and distance in between, but they have loyalty and sense of duty to each other). Ironically my parents, from thirteen years to now, have not been in that troublesome situation anymore. While they made bad choices that affected all of us in the family adversely, they managed to retain a sense of right and wrong, and we three understand this morality, while I’m the only one who acknowledges it as coming from Christ. Attending public school and having a dysfunctional family are not always then factors that will lead to a person’s moral bankruptcy and ignorance. Postmodern thinkers are wrong. Environment and genes do not determine who you are or will be as a person. That being said, I entertain the comforting (not complacent) thought that my daughters’ lives could and would be hopefully clearer and happier, always understanding that there is no recipe for guaranteed success.
Since I was never read to and I would have loved my parents to be present and involved in what I was reading and learning, I also do differently and read aloud to my daughters. Maybe even our idea to homeschool comes from our longing to have had a parent present after school and in life. I was an avid, but solitary reader, and now we eagerly discuss ideas together with the girls. I also remember that I went camping a few times with my friend and her parents, and how I would have loved that it were my parents the ones who took us camping. So last Sunday, after thinking about all this, we decided it was time for us to order a tent, and we did. It just arrived! We will be a family who CAMPS. Camping will hopefully allow for improvised sports, more bikes, some soccer if we want, jump rope, hiking, etc. Even if my husband never thought of it as very comfortable, we can turn this and believe and work for it to be great. Ah, and we will take pictures and some video, because that is another thing that is missing to some extent in our childhoods. I have some pictures, my husband even less, but after a time, when things deteriorated rapidly at home, there is no more records of us as a family. From some years to now we are mending this and you can once more see the pictures, the videos, the moments shared and lived together.
I should write another post about how we pick a husband in relation to what our father was or wasn’t, and also how we emulate or try to escape what our mothers were to us, but I’d like to ask you how much you believe your own childhood helps to understand and explain how you raise your children.