In our final installment, we find that life rarely has tidy endings. No surprise there, really.
Once the physical and logistical challenges of motherhood had begun to ease up (The Girl's digestive/potty training issues had been addressed and were in the process of being resolved at this point. I have to give a serious shout-out to the Pediatric Gastroenterology department at Tripler. They ROCK.), *I* relaxed. I finally - after more than a year - began to feel comfortable in my skin again. I no longer felt like I was fumbling in the dark with earmuffs on. I no longer felt like I was drowning. I began to enjoy parenting much more but still found myself very easily overwhelmed and frustrated. Part of that was due to the ages of my children and part of that were my own shortcomings. The red hair brings with it a short temper.
Many days I felt like I could barely get my feet under me. And then we faced a deployment - our first. But we were as ready as anyone was going to be and shortly after MacGyver deployed, The Girl started Kindergarten. I'm not sure who was more excited - she or I. For a few hours each day, I went from being an overwhelmed, stressed out single mother of two to a much calmer mother of one. The routine was comforting to all of us and being able to spend some solid one-on-one time with The Boy while The Girl was at school was a blessing. It allowed me to connect with him on much more solid ground than I ever had before. Instead of just gutting it out and getting through the day, I was able to truly enjoy the time I spent with him (and the fact that I didn't have to fight to get two children down for naps at the same time).
Looking back now, I don't think I really started to develop a relationship with my son until that point. I had been in survival mode.
Come to find out, he's quite the funny man. Complete with belly laughs and a smile that lights up his face. It was wonderful getting to 'know' him. And it was wonderful watching my girl blossom. She adored Kindergarten and doing all of the wonderful things that Kindergarteners got to do that her overwhelmed and under-creative mother wasn't capable of doing, like playing with glitter. Glitter is of the devil and is not allowed in my house. I'd rather let my children play with Sharpies than glitter. So she loved school.
And I loved the fact that someone ELSE had to clean up the glitter.
And she loved coming home. She was greeted by her biggest fan (The Boy) and their excitement at seeing each other for the first time in 7.5 hours gave me a few minutes of breathing room - usually just enough to find my second wind and get us through homework and dinner time. It was interesting to watch their differences develop too. She is a social butterfly - loves to be out and about, in a crowd, busy, and engaged. He is a homebody - loves to be at home, in his own domain, surrounded by familiarity. In that respect, they were as different as night and day. That has since changed a bit - her 'first born' need for solitude is becoming more developed and his inner social butterfly has started to emerge, though on a much smaller scale than his sister's.
To help draw him out a bit - and to give me time to bring in some extra money by substitute teaching - we enrolled him in preschool. I expected a struggle to get him settled in but it was the same preschool The Girl had attended so it was familiar to him and he surprised me by taking right to it.
Suddenly, I had TIME to MYSELF. A life outside of mommyhood. And I relished in it for a bit. It felt a lot like late spring in Alaska; like coming out of hibernation. And it was glorious! For a bit. But I found myself missing them and that floored me. I had spent the past 3 years yearning for freedom and yearning to return to that carefree, unencumbered life that I had known before children and yet, all I did was consider the time of the day and what they were up to and whether they missed me like I missed them.
And at that moment I finally embraced who I had become - a mother. It only took me 5 years to do so. What can I say? The learning curve was a bit steep on that one.
Fast forward to The Boy's entrance into Kindergarten. I was still subbing at the time but it was sporadic. He struggled in Kindergarten - not academically but behaviorally because he was BORED. He walked in knowing how to read, add, and subtract. He blew through all of the classroom readers and free-reading books in the first two months of school. At the parent/teacher conference, his teacher actually told us this and then said, without blinking, that she didn't know what else to do for him. I thought about explaining the fact that the first grade classrooms were in the next building and that the library was across the oval but I didn't think she'd see the humor in it. But that was the first inkling that something wasn't working. Also at that point, The Girl was starting to run in to some difficulties of her own - with a bully that the school failed to deal with adequately, with her own anxiety and perfectionism, and with multiplication.
All of this led me to consider homeschooling my children. And, if you look back at where I started in all of this, the full-circle nature of it all is both completely ludicrous and makes complete sense, all at the same time. Life is funny like that.
I've had a hard time wrapping this up because it doesn't fit into any pretty little boxes that my OCD brain prefers. There's no pretty bow with which to tie this all up. I'm still a mess at times. A hot mess, at that. There are days where I see the school bus and think, "What if..." In Hawaii, it was tough homeschooling because a lot of my friends had their kids in public school and would go and DO things during school hours - beach, lunch, shopping, etc. - things that I "couldn't" do. I did my best to steer myself away from resentment, and for the most part that worked. It's easier now that we're not in Hawaii anymore and I don't have many friends here. And the friends I do have either homeschool or work during the day so the resentment monster is locked away in a closet.
So there's no moral at the end of this story. I'm still a work in progress. I probably always will be. Just when I think I have the game down, the rules change. C'est la vie, n'est pa?
Posted by Homefront Six at 4:18 PM