On my future...
I suddenly have an urge to grow up already, finish school and get a career going. I think this was all prompted by the movie I saw recently, which I wrote about here.
Before seeing the movie, I had been toying with the idea of going to art school. This year I have been focusing more and more on my own creativity, and have learned to really value this part of myself. Opening the Etsy shop has been fun and affirming. Still, I never have enough time to tackle all the projects I want to. And I suffer from a great lack of confidence in my work. Sometimes I look at other people's craft blogs and feel like such an amateur. And there is soooo much I would love to learn how to do. I thought going to school for art would help me with all these things. I saw myself learning tons of new techniques, testing my creative metal, increasing my artistic confidence, etc. I didn't have big plans for my art degree... perhaps just continue to work at the etsy shop, trying to sell my creations. Perhaps get a real job, like running programs at a museum or something. I don't know. I mostly wanted to create more, and create better.
Then I saw The Business of Being Born and decided I want to be a midwife. I think most of you know about my two births. Hell in the hospital, heaven at home, to sum them up. So I am certainly an adamant supporter of homebirth. During this movie, I cried tears of joy during each homebirth. (Watching the hospital births left me feeling numb and disbelieving, just like my own.) So, I sat there, watching these amazing women and their amazing births, thinking about how amazing it would be to participate in, or really just to witness, birth on a regular basis. The midwifery bee was in my bonnet and it would not fly out. I started to think about it constantly. I stayed up until 3 am one morning researching schools and career paths. I started to think maybe I could do this. And maybe I should. And I think I will.
Even writing about it now feels weird. I feel like a distant onlooker. It's strange that this is me writing and that I'm suddenly about to embark on such a huge change. It is scary. I am scared of midwifery to some extent. The responsibility seems a little heavy. What if something went wrong? Scary. They teach you how to deal with that in nursing school, right? I'd need a whole class in it, I think. What is most scary, though, is just the thought of changing our lives. I'm not big on stress, and me going back to school could potentially be pretty stressful. I don't want to throw our lives into chaos. I want to create a calm, warm, nurturing environment for my guys... will I be able to do that if I have tests to study for and chapters to read? Will our house be even messier than it is now? Will I ever put my hands to another crafty project again? Or am I making too much of it? Will part-time schooling allow me to get this degree without much of a strain on my family? I don't know. That is the theme of this entire encyclopedia-length post, you'll see.
I have a lot of worries and reservations, yes. But there are some up sides to this plan. If I start nursing school soon, I will be able to take advantage of our proximity to family. I'll need my mother in law's help with childcare, for one [huge] thing. And I do think practicing midwifery would be pretty awesome. Sharing that pivotal moment in people's lives. I think it would make me feel alive and connected with people in a very meaningful way. Hopefully, that passion and meaning and connectedness would rub off on my boys, even if my career meant a little added craziness in our lives.
On my children's' education...
We have been strictly public school supporters for most of our parenting careers. We always thought we'd send our kids to public school, just crossing our fingers that we'd be in a good school district (or move, if possible). This year things started to change. S is attending a nice little co-op preschool down the street. Last year I loved his teacher to death. Could not have been happier. This year... well, his teachers are both sweet. I know they love the kids. And they are doing their jobs, preparing the kids for kindergarten. But I have been disturbed by some of the trends in the classroom. There has been a huge increase in crowd-control methods. Don't talk now. Sit down. Sit still. That's enough paint. I think your picture is done now. Don't squirm. Don't fidget. Don't make a peep. I am constantly hearing these refrains as I help out in the classroom, and it makes me sad. I want my boys to be able to be kids for as long as possible. I dread sending S to a kindergarten classroom where the teacher is so outnumbered that crowd-control techniques are the law. I want his spirit and creativity to be fed, not crushed or even controlled. I want him to love to learn, and to be self-motivated in his pursuit of knowledge, not depend on a teacher to dictate when and what to learn.
We've also started to be a bit concerned about him socially, as well. It's hard to find words for these concerns. Let me put it this way: Most boys S's age are watching Power Rangers and Transformers, while S still loves Sesame Street and Teletubbies. I don't mean to get into a whole, accusatory thing about tv. Am I amazed at some of the things parents let their kids watch? Yes. But do I necessarily think this makes them bad parents, or results in bad kids? No. I have a friend whose 5 year old son watches everything his daddy likes on Cartoon Network, including some things I would not allow S to watch at this point. And he is the sweetest, most gentle kid you could ever hope to meet. Clearly, the things he watches are not affecting him in a significant way. But some of the dudes in S's class this year are different. They are, dare I say, a little mean. They are tough and he is tender. And I am terrified that if I send him to public kindergarten in the fall, he will be crushed like a little bug. I know he won't literally be crushed. But maybe he will be forced to toughen up, to put on a hard shell and shove down his authentic feelings, his authentic self. That is a big fear I have at this point. I want S to grow and change as he needs to, at his own pace. I don't want any forced changes, brought on prematurely by peer pressure on the playground.
Let me just interject, here, that I know there are many, many public school teachers working their butts off to give kids a great educational experience, my mom and brother among them. I don't want to be down on teachers AT ALL. I do think the system is pretty flawed, though. And I guess, maybe I’m just a hippie who has completely different objectives for her boys’ education than the public school system does. They want kids to pass tests and learn facts and get jobs. I want my kids to feel free and create and love to learn. And then get jobs. Maybe I’m crazy.
So if public school is worrisome, time to look at some alternatives, right? We visited two private schools last week, and we loved them both. They are in Bloomington. There is also a Montessori school in Peoria that I have checked out online. Haven’t had a chance to visit, but feel confident that I would love it. I’m pretty smitten with Montessori philosophy. The problem with these schools is, big shocker, their price tags. Pretty darn costly, especially when compared to the virtually free public school option. Could we afford it? Perhaps, if we really buckled down on a belt-tightening budget. But do we really want to turn back the clock financially, back to before Nate scored this great new job? I am torn. The prospect of S attending one of these schools is beautiful to me. But it’s depressing to think of wringing our hands over every dollar for the next five years, wondering which of us most needs a new winter coat that season. Another financially quandary: if one boy goes to this fabulous private school, the other will need to go too, right? And then things could really get tight.
I have been toying with the idea of homeschooling as another alternative to public school. What a monumental shift in thinking. I used to have a less favorable view of any homeschoolers, let alone considering it for my own children. I think my low opinion of homeschooling was the result of a family full of public school educators and several encounters, in my youth, with some homeschooling kids who were, how shall I say? Not very bright. My view of homeschooling has changed a lot in the past few years. I started to read SouleMama blog, written by a homeschooling mother/crafter/author who I admire tremendously. From there I stumbled upon other home schooling blogs. Also one of my friends, for whom I have the utmost respect, told me she plans on homeschooling. So I’m seeing it in a very different light now. Done well, I think homeschooling is a very loving and gentle way of life. I think it allows children to be children. It gives kids freedom to explore their own interests and develop their creativity. I like all those things about homeschooling.
The thing I don’t like so much is that it’s ME that has to be at home with them. And I don’t know if I’m cut out for that. I mean, don’t these homeschooling parents ever need a break from their kids? It’s hard for me to wrap my head around five or ten more years of being at home all day with the boys… To be the kind of homeschooling mama I’d want to be would require a lot of change on my part. Like, changes in my character. You know, things like more patience, more tenderness, more flexibility, etc. I should probably be working on developing these traits just to be a better mom. But I don’t want to embark on a journey for which those traits are essential and just cross my fingers that they come. Especially when something as important as my boys’ education is at stake. The bottom line on the homeschooling is that Nate doesn't want [me to] do it, and neither does S. I’ll probably keep reading my homeschooling blogs and admiring those who are doing it well. But I guess it’s not for us.
The last thing I want to say about deciding where to send the boys for school is that I know it is a problem of privilege. That I can even think about alternatives to public school means I am extremely fortunate. If we do end up choosing public school, I know the boys will be okay. They will survive. Surely they will find other little boys who are tenderhearted there, and maybe they can stick together. Public school is not the end of the world. I know that, and I don’t want to come across as a stuck-up brat. I went through public school and was not traumatized. What I’m talking about here is not protecting my sons from some kind of danger. I’m merely thinking about the very best option for us. It’s not a choice between bad and good, it’s a choice between good and better. Like I said, I have always believed that public school would be good enough for my kids. Now, as the first day of kindergarten approaches, I am wishing my kid could have the very best. I guess it’s only natural. I wish I knew what to do.
On the possibility of moving...
After we left Chicago, I thought I might die from a broken heart. I missed the city so much, so viscerally, so intensely. I catapulted down, down, down into a postpartum, postChicago depression that lasted three long months. After I resurfaced from those dark days, I still really loved and missed the big city. Nate and I both did, and we talked about moving back, maybe in 3 years or so.
Then, once again the internet made me question all of my plans. I read several blogs by women who live in the country, whose children have oodles of space on which to run around, whose families are at one with nature and the seasons, etc. I started making offhand comments to Nate about how we should move to the country so the boys could breathe. He dismissed me as completely nutty. Then, one beautiful autumn afternoon, Nate and S had a grand time running around in Nate's parents yard (they live in town, by the way). They came inside, smiling and rosy-cheeked, and Nate said, "Maybe you're right about moving to the country." I laughed and thought he was kidding. He was not kidding. Then I thought, "oh my gosh, we could really move to the country. But should we move to the country? SHOULD WE???" I have not been able to stop thinking about it since then. And now I am writing a book about it, which you are currently reading.
The way this country move works into our overall plans is this: If I decide to go to school for nursing/midwifery, we would like to be closer to Peoria. There are a couple of nursing schools there, and it would be closer to my mother-in-law than we are now. She is an integral part of the plan, as I must feel that T is getting the very best childcare available while I am in school. And is there any better childcare than a grandmother's childcare? No, there is not. She'll probably love that little monkey better than I could. But I digress. After I finish nursing school, we could stay in the Peoria-area, or (my preference as of this moment) we could move back to Chicago.
I like the idea of my boys getting tons of fresh air every day, of running until their legs give out, of splashing in puddles, of studying tree bark, etc, etc. But what if my country itch is just a misguided romantic illusion? What if we get a country house and my boys don't want to explore the great outdoors? Also, if it snows will our roads ever get ploughed? Will there be scary, wild, rabid animals? Will we be able to find a house that isn't falling apart? Are houses in the country all old and drafty? I don't want to be freezing cold all winter.
I am in love with the idea of more space for the boys, especially when they are young. But, as you can see above, I have a lot of reservations. Another big concern is whether Nate and I could find time/energy to take care of our outside spaces properly. Nate says he isn't worried, but I can't understand how we'll find time for it, when we can barely find time to keep the inside of our home tidy and in working order.
Here is the final question I'm going to allow myself to ponder in this post: If we spend some time in the country now, would the boys hate us for moving to Chicago later? Would they feel terribly claustrophobic in the city? If they don't want to leave central Illinois, will we stay? And will I hate myself for giving up my dream of getting back to the windy city? Ack! I just don't know.
For the past few weeks I have been going out of my head with the prospect of all these decisions. They feel huge and life-altering. And why are there so darn many at one time??? I don't know how we're possibly going to decide all of these things without the aid of a crystal ball. Writing them all down is a start, though. So that' s done.
If you've made it this far, I commend you. Or I pity you. I'm not sure which.
Also, this is my last post for the month of November! Posting every day was not that hard. It was even a little fun.