On Turning 37

I was born roughly 1,924 weeks ago. That number is only slightly more arbitrary than the corresponding number of years: thirty seven.

Age is strange. On the inside, I feel about twenty one. From the outside, it might seem like I am eightysomething, based on my much-cherished, early-to-bed, early-to-rise lifestyle. Nonetheless, I am barreling towards forty. How can this be possible? Am I middle aged?

I clearly remember my dad’s 39th birthday, September 30, 1991. Our family gathered in the kitchen to sing to him and eat the German chocolate cake my mom had made. I was eleven years old and suddenly overcome with nostalgia and concern for my dad’s advancing age. I was jolted by the revelation that my dad would one day die, and so would I, and so would we all. According to my childish logic, age 39 sounded alarmingly close to “old.”

On Tuesday, I turn 37. My parents are 64. Dude, it’s 2017. In the future, it will be the year 2049. What do any of these digits mean? What’s in a year? Isn’t time ultimately this moment, whatever is happening in the stream of consciousness of the present moment? Time marches on, yet life feels timeless, at times.

My husband teases that I’m a child of the eighties, while he belongs to the far-superior decade of the seventies. (Mind you, he was born in the summer of ’79.) I appreciate that the eighties were low-tech. I am grateful that social media did not exist until I was in college. I reminisce about the time before selfie sticks, smartphones and multitasking reigned all over the land. I am appalled to think about how much TV I watched as a kid and teen. I haven’t had a television since circa 2006.

I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past few years about learning and unlearning. The lesson I am currently unlearning, which I thought I had already but am realizing through my own experience as a mother to my daughter, is that “You have to be nice.” Be a good girl, try a little harder, and all that. Study hard. Work hard. Play hard.
Nowadays, I am more into softness.

I catch myself telling my girl, “Be nice.” Or urging her to hug someone or give a high-five or say something for goodness sakes’. She is currently speaking nonstop, all day every day at home, and when we go out of the house, she’s virtually silent around anyone she doesn’t know well. And that’s okay. I am practicing letting her be. Letting her do as she will, as she wishes, as long as it’s with kindness, respect and lovingness. Being softer and gentler with her, reasoning with her in a calm way, when she is not being so kind, loving or respectful.

So I’m unlearning “be nice” as a social construct, while ever reminding myself: be nice, as in: practice kindness, to all beings without exception.

Another day older, another day of precious life, another day closer to cheerful death.

I am thirtysomething. I’ve learned a lot since I was twentysomething. Have I grown, evolved, matured, become more grounded and well balanced, in general, a little bit? Have I gained wisdom? Maybe. Experience? Definitely. Most of all: self-knowledge. Understanding of my own mind, body and heart—as well as recalling, always, the essence of being and intending to flow with the energy of life.

Viva la vida!

Integrating Learning, Living & Loving

Home is Where the School is: The Logic of Homeschooling and the Emotional Labor of Mothering got me thinking about how I might integrate learning, living and loving within my own home as a mother and educator.

Jennifer Lois, Associate Professor of Sociology, interviewed a group of homeschooling mothers from conservative Christians to new age liberals, tracking the highlights and lowlights of their experiences over a span of 10 years. As I was reading, I made note of the parents’ growth, the author’s realizations, as well as my own learnings, which are applicable to anyone who has his or her hand and heart in the education of a child:

  1. “You can have it all, but not all at once.” Your life isn’t on hold because you are a parent or have chosen – or have no other choice but – to homeschool. Develop a broader perspective; there is time for all of it to happen: the career, travel, housework, etc. but don’t miss out on what is happening. Childhood is a time sensitive matter.
  2. Be available for the “teachable moments.” The more engaged you are, the more engaged your child will be (which will save you time and energy in the long run). Besides, desirable emotions are enhanced in the present moment, so be in the here and now to increase your own level of satisfaction.
  3. The more you base your sense of self on your child’s achievements, the more likely it is you will burnout. Relax. Highly structured activities will not decrease your anxiety… but they will decrease your child’s motivation, and, therefore, performance. Your child is a unique individual. So are you.
  4. Homeschooling – or even parenting – maybe not have been a choice, yet you can make the choice at any moment. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are making a sacrifice for a child or you will overlook the amazing position you are in.
  5. Learning is a part of life, not separate from it. Make the curriculum or even extra-curricular activities work for you and your family, so learning doesn’t become a burden. Follow your instincts. Learn through play whenever possible. Even incorporate household chores and healthy habits. And unstructured family time – without stress – is essential.
  6. Your partner is not another person to meet your standards. Looking for a particular type of involvment may cause you to overlook the ways in which he is. Try to notice and be grateful for the ways he is already influencing your child’s development and invite him to come up with his own ideas for meaningful interactions.
  7. See what happens without the “teacher” and “parent” labels. You are a learner, learning alongside another learner. Explore your personal passions along the way; you may even discover overlap with your child’s interests.
  8. Give yourself a break. Just because you aren’t instructing all the time, doesn’t mean your child isn’t learning. Learning is like breathing and space is essential for growth.
  9. Socialization is more than identifying with a group of children who are the same age and like the same things. Look for opportunities for you and your child to engage with several, multi-aged networks. And you don’t have to do it all alone: find online resources, take part in community projects, hire a mentor or tutor for particular subjects.
  10. Know your child’s biorhythms and work with them, rather than forcing him or her into a desk or schedule. Your child will be the first to let you know what works and doesn’t work. Observe. Listen. Forcing your child to conform will only cause him or her to fight back, or worse, you will succeed in crushing your child’s curious and creative spirit.

Essentially, integrating learning, living and loving can be efficient, effective and enjoyable for all those involved. Challenging, yes, I’m sure, but it is a challenge I welcome.

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