April 5, 2016 – Whatever happens next year won’t be another Dear John letter from my brain

5am is so stinkin early sometimes. Especially when you stayed up later than normal the night before. Especially when the night before was a late practice for your 5 year old’s t-ball team. A practice that went until 8pm. 8PM! For t-ballers! These are 4 and 5 year olds. Their bedtime is in the 7 o’clock hour. That’s not when they start thinking I’m tired – that’s when they are done for the day, snoring in bed. Not getting ready to think about bed. Conked out asleep. In the 7 o’clock hour!! They can’t play t-ball until 8 and be conked out like they’re supposed to be. Like they *want* to be. I know because I took a poll of the other parents. “When is your kid’s bedtime? This is crazy then, right?” It was my plan to make a habit out of skipping this practice…after all there are still two others every week. (THREE practices a week!! For T-BALL!!) But we ended up skipping the Saturday practice this week, and it seemed best not to skip twice. But next week…next week I think we’ll be going to bed on time Monday night, thank you very much.

Hmmmmm. I appear to be grumpy about this.

I really don’t like when a schedule is just impossible to maintain. When the powers that be don’t seem to take into account the other factors in life. Like the fact that school starts at freaking 7:45 am. Which means the bus shows up at 7:20. (And we’re the last stop! The poor kid who’s unfortunate enough to be the first stop! I wonder when they have to wake up and be outside waiting.) Which means the kids have to wake up at 6:30. Which means they have to go to bed by 7:30 if there’s any hope of them winding down and getting a good solid night of sleep. Which means Monday T-ball practice until 8 produces a rough Tuesday.

I get that sometimes this just happens. There are so many kids signed up and there are limited practice fields. You can only start so early – parents do have to make it home from work first – and you just run out of options. I get that.

I also get that elementary school starts at 7:45 because the buses required to get everyone to school are shared by the elementary, middle & high school. And they can’t get everyone there at the same time. (Although, WTF? The bus I rode to school had elementary, middle & high schoolers on it. And managed to drop kids at three different campuses. On time, I might add.) So our district’s solution is to have the schools start at different times. Elementary gets 7:45, Middle School gets 9:30 (again, WTF?!!?!!) and High school gets 8:30. Don’t even get me started on this. I’ve heard the story about not wanting the high schoolers to get out of school at 4 (like the middle schoolers do), and have no time for homework before sports practices…I’ve heard that and I think it’s shit. Everyone else’s schedule is dictated by the high schoolers who are playing sports? There’s no way they’re the majority. Plus, high schoolers have a natural tendency to sleep late already. They should have the late start. They’re old enough to be home alone. Middle schoolers should not be home alone (after most parents go to work at 8am) every stinkin morning. AAAAND they have late start every Wednesday. On Wednesday middle schoolers are home alone until school starts at 10:30. “WTF?!?”, I say again.

This schedule crap makes me crazy. CRAZY.

That may have been obvious by this point.

Anyway, it’s one reason we’re thinking about homeschooling again next year. I hate it, and I hate enforcing it for everyone else.

There are other reasons too. Like that my 8 year old is begging to come back home. He wakes up most mornings trying to convince me he’s sick. Like that spending any amount of time with my 12 year old and her friends is a little bit terrifying. What in the world are these crazy kids into these days?? I’ve never been one to homeschool as a result of fear. For me it’s about efficiency & opportunity. But man, overall I’m not a fan of middle school culture. There are a lot of great kids and a lot of great teachers. And there’s a lot of crazy shit that goes down in the middle of all of it.

It’s a hard decision to make, to bring them home or not. Next year was going to be my first year of ‘freedom’. My first year of all the kids out of the house during the day. The year I’ve been waiting for for years. Since my brain turned back on the first time.

When I have an infant my brain turns off. Actually it probably starts in pregnancy. I think it’s survival mode. I’m not getting enough sleep and I’m needed constantly. Every minute. Especially when there’s more than one of them. I’m not sure what my brain is doing during that time, but during the first two years of my life it is just – absent. It might be hibernating, it might be on vacation, it might have gotten smart and just gotten the heck outta here. It’s not pretty to be sleep deprived and completely necessary every second of the day.

My brain doesn’t tell me where it goes. It’s just gone. And I don’t really even miss it because there’s just not time to think about it. I forget all about it. And then the youngest kid is about two, it attempts a gradual return. Kind of like a friends slowly opening the front door and gently calling, “Hello? Is anyone home? Would you maybe like to hangout?” And you say “Oh hello! It’s so good to see you. I can’t today, but please come back another time. Please try again.” And after a few months of hit and misses, you two get finally get together and remember all the good times you’ve had in the past. And you think, “Man, this is nice. I miss you. Why don’t you stay?”

My brain would stay and it would sort of turn back on and I’d start to get antsy about things we should be doing together. And then I’d get pregnant and my brain would say, “I should go. It’s for the best. I’ll be back another time”. And I’d know it was right and buckle down until we’d see each other again. This happened every time I had another kid for the last 13 years.

My last kid turned two three years ago. Since then my brain has been back and we’ve done  a lot of hanging out. But it’s still not as much as I’d like. Next year was supposed to be the year that my brain and I had six uninterrupted hours a day to finally hang out again. I’ve been looking forward to it.

Delaying that, yet again, is not an easy decision.

But. I’ve recently had another epiphany. Another clarifying moment of “Oh!!!”

I was talking to a friend about her business(es) and why she worked so stinkin’ hard. She said that she always felt she had to prove herself, to prove her value. She’d had a rough childhood and things had not gone well. She’d been left with a need to prove that she really was valuable. It superseded anything else. Any fun that she wanted to have or any ideas had to go through this “Will it make me valuable?” filter. All her decisions passed through that filter. She became a workaholic and her health & relationships suffered. She realized what was going on and began to change it.

I thought, “Huh. That’s interesting. I think I have a filter like that for parenting.” Everything I want gets passed through a filter of “Will I still be a good parent?” First and foremost is parenting. Everything else needs to fit in around that. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes it feels like I resent these little people who want from me. Some of what I’ve wanted forever seem not to fit through that parent filter. Some of the things I’ve wanted forever seem to be waiting for the parameters of the filter to change (i.e. the kids are in school 6 hours a day). Those things seem important – like they’re key parts of who I’m made to be. Like they’re things I’m meant to do in this world. It’s incredibly difficult to wait on them.

So I had this conversation, I hung up and about five seconds later I had a light bulb go off. Parenting is not actually the thing I have to do before I can do the fun stuff. It’s not me checking off my chore list before I can play. Parenting is the playing! Parenting is just as important to who I am and what I’m meant to do as my other pursuits! Oh my word. I actually broke out smiling. It’s not a filter I’m being forced through, leaving behind the parts of myself that won’t make it through…it’s actually really important to me. Parenting these munchkins is truly one of those things I’m meant to be doing in this world.

Light bulbs all over the place. There were singing rainbows and unicorns celebrating in my brain. It felt like that big of a revelation. I know to you it probably sounds cliche and silly – you enjoy parenting? You have four kids, right? Ummm…duh? Who has that many kids and doesn’t enjoy parenting?

But I’m telling you – it was a major epiphany. It was a huge boost of energy, of possibility and of whatever happens next year won’t be another Dear John letter from my brain. No part of me will have to break up with another – cause they’re not competing. They’re actually all really good friends who get along. I can parent really well and hangout with my brain too. There’s space for both.

Hooray!!

No seriously, that’s cause for a party in my head. It doesn’t mean that decisions about school next year are made – but it does mean I am totally good with which ever way it goes.    So let’s party.

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