My son Woody turned six in November of 2011. That would have been the kindergarten year for most kids, 180 days that mark the beginning of the school career. But Woody did his learning in the big, wide, beautiful world, without school being a part of it.

I'm Teresa Honey, and I kept this blog to document this time in my son's life, to share pictures and stories with far-away friends and relatives, and to add ours to the many stories of families living rich, engaging, loving lives with learning happening all the time and in many forms, totally inseparable from every other part of being human.

Here you'll find 180 or so learning moments recorded from August, 2011 to April, 2012 in the life of a 5-turned-6-year-old radically unschooled kid.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

162


Daddy Honey and the boys experimented with maple samaras today, a term referring--I just learned--to the seed and the little wing attached to it. They made various alterations to the sail part to see how they would affect the helical motion, the graceful, twirling falls. They made splits at different points, changed the shape of the sail, removed the seed, etc. Calling this physics doesn't seem to do the experience justice, but of course it was impossible not to learn something about the ways things fall, fly, and otherwise behave with regards to weight, air, force, resistance, and planes.



I want to point out that above and in the last couple of posts, I have made reference to the boys, not only Woody. Fox is much more present with Woody these days. It's  harder to separate out their experiences to talk about them. I had forgotten this about three, that it's often an age of coming into one's own. For Fox, coming into his own means running with the bigger kids, beginning with his older brother. He refers to "Woody and me" when he wants to do things. He points out to me the things that he can do now that he couldn't a few short months or weeks ago. So, there you have it. Eighteen posts left in our 180 days of unschooling project, and we have, it seems, a shifting focus from the kindergarten-aged child to the brothers, 6 and 3. Ah, well. We're big fans of evolution and adaptation, principles of biology, those, and hard to ignore.

And if you're in the mood for more reading (I'm probably going to be taking Sunday and Monday of off posting, trying to stretch these last posts out through the month of April), there is an unschooling blog carnival which I entered this month. The new themes are posted April 1. Check it out here:

http://unschoolingblogcarnival.blogspot.com/


Friday, March 30, 2012

161

The boys have been content and busy today, filling our little house with the happy hum of self-directed learning. And the evidence of all that auto-education is currently ankle-deep in each room.

I made concerted efforts to tidy up unobtrusively behind them--quietly picking up toy cars while building the Lincoln Log jail, putting away clean dishes while listening to a play-by-play of a soccer video game victory, sweeping off the back steps as they used scissors to lower some of the weeds in the back yard. But truly, it was just one of those days that my levels of energy and diligence could not keep up with their levels of activity and inspiration.

At one point, when I was having an allergy attack just as Fox was dumping the stringing beads out onto the dog on the couch and Woody was fixing himself a glass of water but couldn't find a clean cup, I was on the verge of getting grumpy and vocal. 

But then, at that key moment, I remembered something: 

At every school I ever worked at--four total, three public and one private--there was some serious help with the tidying and cleaning. If you didn't have lunch duty, you'd have your whole 50 minutes to eat, sure, but also get your classroom back in order. When the kids were at P.E. or art or music, you might get a chance, too. And weekly, a cleaning crew came through to do the bigger jobs, the vacuuming and wiping down and dusting.

And this multi-person system is necessary because learning is messy. It takes up space and has a definite flow (sometimes a visible trail). When there's freedom for it to do so, learning can move lightning fast from one idea and attempt to another. It can be oblivious to inconveniences such as pausing to pick up.

So sure, hard to contain, but pretty terrific, these very active, very busy, very contented days of doing most of one's learning at the same place that one does most of one's living--at home.

No chatty janitor or neat co-teacher is going to come to my rescue today or tonight, but the children will fall asleep eventually. And even as I pick up the bits and pieces all around us, likely bone-tired myself, well after dark and in a retrospective mood, I will be thinking of them and their glad and satisfying work of being children. 








P.S. This was too good not to share. I just overheard this from the other room, where they are still playing Lincoln Logs. Fox is a woodsman with a hatchet and Woody is trying to start a little farm there with one cow and a pasture "just outside the window so I can keep an eye on the calves."

Woody: "Please allow me to announce to you my name; I am Jack." 

Fox: "Hi. I live in Tick Woods." 





Thursday, March 29, 2012

160


It's Daddy Honey's birthday!


The birthday dinner was to be chicken and biscuits, so I made the chicken stew and Woody and Fox made the biscuits. I was amazed at how confident Woody's grown in the kitchen; he was tapping cupfuls of flour to flatten them out, making sure ingredients were thoroughly mixed before adding the next, sprinkling flour for a kneading surface like a pro, and washing his hands between tasks. 


He wasn't too keen on making Daddy Honey a card, but he did want to draw him a picture of something he really likes to do, climb up the slide to join Woody in the play house. He didn't ask me how to spell any of these words; that was a surprise. 

                                 

I made tissue paper flowers and hung the Happy Birthday banner that I made when Woody turned four. When Daddy Honey came home, we all ate well past elegant sufficiency. The wish-making and candle-blowing was shared among three. And the cake--my first bundt cake and my first marbled cake--turned out beautifully.


I love when holidays and birthdays are all-day affairs. I remember as a kid in school it was fun to do holidays with the other kids, but I was always disappointed that the holiday was only part of the day, not all of the day. It was a costume parade after lunch or a themed craft in art or a quick exchange of valentines just before school ended. I always wanted more, for my waking to bed time to be infused with specialness, for everything on these rare days to be experienced through the lens of celebration. 



Today, it felt like we got very close to that, most befitting to mark the anniversary of the birth of a remarkable man whose love and presence I am most grateful for. 

Happy 35th birthday, Daddy Honey.









Wednesday, March 28, 2012

159



"Mama, I just brewed a beer. It's called Red Wagon. It's tart, but sweet."

Woody looked at me searchingly with his hand held out, offering me this imaginary homebrew. It was a test, this, a do-you-approve-of-this moment, a do-you-still-love-me scenario. You may think I'm exaggerating, but I am telling you, as this child's mother, than you can see the look in  his eyes and feel the high stakes in his heart.

He has been picking up on some mixed societal messages about alcohol, and I've been more frank about excessive alcohol's potential effect on people lately when it comes up in conversation. So even though this child was helping us cap homebrew when he was three, and has never seen his parents or anyone he loves drunk, he's testing out his understanding in light of some new and probably disturbing information.

But luckily, this is not an issue from which I carry personal baggage. So I happily accepted his drink, chatted with him about his brewing process and ingredients, and sipped as I sat on the porch. Then, intrigued by the brand name he chose, I asked him if he'd want to make a label that we could affix to a real can of beer for fun.

So, we did. As he drew, I told him about medieval European small beers (very lightly fermented beer contained a far smaller percentage of alcohol) being served to children because they were safer than water. We talked a little about how fermentation works and what it does to organisms and bacteria, and I used our kombucha and water kefir as examples of lightly fermented drinks which contain small amounts of alcohol.

We looked at the real labels on cans of PBR and Blue Sky Root Beer that we had in the recycling bin to see what other information we might include on the Red Wagon label. Woody wanted to add the ounces of liquid contained inside, but not the nutrition or serving size. He liked the way PBR's have the word beer written in all caps, so he copied that beneath his more decorative font.

And his idea is to fill it with water and trick Daddy Honey into trying a sip when he gets home. Let's hope Daddy Honey's in the mood for a tarty-sweet, adorably branded 11-oz. can of childhood magic and coming-to-be...





Tuesday, March 27, 2012

158, part II

Starting the morning with architecture reminded me of something I'd been wanting to do with the boys since we moved to Northwest Arkansas: go see the Bella Vista Chapel designed by famous local architect Fay Jones. Part of the reason we hadn't done it yet, though, is that Woody wasn't all that excited about it. I can understand. It's a chapel, after all, in a garden. Doesn't exactly scream fun to a 6 year old.

When I suggested it, Woody said he'd rather race toy cars down the big slides at the park. (He'd gotten this idea from two children he met at a different park on Sunday.) Fair enough. We could do both, I said. But he thought not. It got a little tough. Still, I packed a good lunch and we headed to the park. I made a casual case for the chapel on the way, telling Woody we'd get to hike to it, something he said he'd wanted to do earlier this morning, letting him know what I'd packed for our picnic lunch, how it would be a surprise where we'd get to eat it since I'd never been there before.



Still, I was feeling a little resentful and frustrated when Woody started voicing his resistance to go to Bella Vista. I was making up all kinds of unhelpful generalizations and hypothetical future scenarios involving us never leaving the house unless Woody wanted to.

But we had a great time at the park. It was terrific. I was so thankful for that. It gave me a chance to relax and get in a better heartspace. There was a little complaining when it was time to go, but no fit throwing, and once we got in the car they were almost looking forward to it. We ate our picnic lunch and hiked through the newly green woods, alongside Lake Norwood (which Woody thought was probably short for "north woods" a long time ago) and up to the chapel itself, which blends so perfectly with the bronze, brown, and sky that you don't see it until you're right on top of it.

I told Woody that a chapel was a building or part of a building where people went when they wanted to connect with each other and with something bigger than themselves--God, or love, or the Universe, or the Great Spirit. He listened to this. Then, he started playing a game where he traced the grouted paths between the flagstones on the floor with his finger, in the fourth picture below. "See, Mama? This guy's trying to connect with other people. Do this with your finger and we'll try to find each other." He said he liked how the light in the building looked like it was broken into hundreds of pieces. And he asked how the metal beams were bent to form the ceiling of the chapel. I didn't know, so we called Daddy Honey and asked him to ask his friend Cat, who is the UofA architecture librarian and whose office is right next to his, and get back to us. We stayed nearly two hours, many minutes of which were spent simply sitting in the chapel or laying on the pews looking up at the trees and sky.

On the way out, we passed the office building for the chapel and garden. Woody thought it might have been designed by Jones, too, having a similar look to it. The office was closed, so we didn't get to ask, but I was happy that he was seeing buildings in this new way. There was also a single dogwood in bloom at the front of the garden! Success! Flowering trees and architectural adventure in one field trip.


















I

158

Woody woke up early with me while Fox stayed asleep, so we had a Mama-Woody chat and oatmeal breakfast. Then, he asked if we could go for a hike today. We might see some nice flowering trees, I said. But then, maybe most of the blossoms have fallen; the trees in our yard are all leafed out now. Did our maple tree get flowers? he wanted to know. Yes, I said, but most tree flowers are inconspicuous. Shall we look up maple tree flowers to see what they look like? Naturally we started our search at Google, whose Doodle today is on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.


So after going through the maple flowers, some of which were not as retiring as I would have thought, we went back to look at the Mies buildings. Woody liked his skyscrapers best, and thought this picture was really cool:


This gives me an idea for an outing today, one that combines flowering trees and cool architecture... hmmm...



Monday, March 26, 2012

157

I have two longer, more philosophical essay posts that are not shaping up the way I'd like. I've been frustrated by this for several days. Meanwhile, I'll stick to the point of this blog and show you what my kindergarten-aged little boy is doing for his 157th recorded day of unschooling!

Twisting a caduceus out of a plastic snake.

Planting Egyptian Walking Onions in the garden.

Brodie, our old man Doberman, checking out the water kefir lemonade.

Woody's costume for playing sheriff today.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

156


This picture was from yesterday, when I woke up crazy early and couldn't fall back asleep. I spent the wee hours writing, and then the dawning hours making breakfast of honeyed oatmeal with cut up fruit and a few Sundrops on the side for extra sweetness throughout the day. (It worked, you'll recall. Yesterday was terrific.) I was happy about breakfast yesterday.

But this morning--this morning I woke up FULLY RESTED and BRIMMING with ENERGY. I'll tell you why: I slept in my own bed last night!

We have had a big-mattress-on-the-floor sleeping arrangement since Woody was born, but it was getting increasingly difficult due to our emerging individual sleep rhythms and needs.

  • I am a moderate bedtimer and waker upper who tosses and turns all night and can sleep with some, but not a whole lot, of snuggling during the night.


  • Woody is a moderate bedtimer and late waker upper who likes to be right on top of everyone he's sleeping with: an arm here, a leg tossed over there, a face breathing in a face to one side.


  • Fox is a late bedtimer and an early waker upper who may or may not shriek, punch, and kick if anyone touches him in his sleep.


  • Daddy Honey is a very, very late bedtimer and an early waker upper (for work) who is as easy-going in sleep as he is in his waking hours. But he likes to let the dogs sleep in the bed with him, and also sets an alarm to rise each morning, so has had the second bedroom to himself. 


Things have been getting tense, and I've been gently suggesting an alternative for a few months now. But last night, finally, the perfect solution arrived all on its own!


Fox asked to sleep on the bottom bunk. Unexpected from the three year old who has only just, in the last couple of weeks, mostly weaned himself and started sleeping in underwear instead of diapers, but sure.

So, I asked Woody if he'd like to sleep on the top bunk. He would. Would I be in there with them, he wanted to know? YES. The single bed in that room has my favorite mattress on it. Everybody got the covers they requested and the stuffed animal they were fond of. While the settling in was long coming, and after a few ups and downs each, everybody fell asleep! And Daddy Honey and the dogs (aged and with stiff joints) were equally comfortable on the big mattress on the floor in the other bedroom.

We are ever hopeful for a repeat of last night's success, but not expecting too much, as sometimes changes take a while to feel just right.

But today just kept getting better. The picture above was taken this afternoon, after Woody had helped me to re-envision the space and move the furniture to accommodate the three of us sharing the room. We moved furniture and found long-lost toys and unpacked closets and repacked dressers and washed bedding and dusted blinds. It was a day of happy productivity.

Then! (This is so exciting.)

Then, our neighbor Gabrielle shared some of the big bunch of morels she found in her backyard!


Morels were one of the reasons I agreed to move to Arkansas. They don't grow in Florida. I had never seen one in real life nor tasted one, yet I was tantalized by their woodsy mystery. I used to draw them in my sketch book and dream about walking through the woods with a basket to hunt and gather them. Turns out, no woods needed; Gabrielle found them right there on the edge of the gravel driveway we share! They are far firmer than I expected, nothing like portabellas or criminis. They feel almost like plastic. Naturally, we looked them up and found out that mushrooming season is just beginning, and now, just after a good soak, is a good time to go looking. 

We start tomorrow in the backyard...





Wednesday, March 21, 2012

155

I had a post written this morning about money, how our household spending breaks down, what percentage of our income we spend on food compared to the average American household of four, traveling and doing things versus buying things, how we make room for "educational" expenses, etc.

But then!


Then we had an unschooling day too terrific not to share. (And it didn't cost a dime, 'less you count the Internet connection for $24.99 a month...)


First, the inspiration: Fox spent most of the morning dressed in the skeleton costume that was Woody's when he was three. At some point in the early afternoon, Fox asked to read our Dem Bones book. I couldn't find it, but looking on YouTube for the song, came across our very same book animated. Then when that video was over, we clicked on a YouTube-suggested video, Disney's Silly Symphony's "Dancing Skeletons" from 1929.


That led to a discussion of how long ago 1929 was, and animation in that time, all done by hand, and how people didn't have TV's but rather watched cartoons in the movie theaters. From there we clicked on another Silly Symphony cartoon, "Lullaby Land" from '33.


This video inspired a discussion of the artifacts of the 1930s: straight clothes pins, square folding diapers, long underwear, chamber pots, fountain pens and ink wells, straight razors, and straight can openers. Also, boogie men and the sand man make appearances, two folk figures we hadn't previously encountered.


Silly Symphony "Flowers and Trees" was next, with a brief commentary from me on the historic depiction of gender dynamics.

And finally, "Music Land," which Woody liked a lot because the instrument castles transformed into cannons in the Symphony Island vs. Jazz Island battle. He thought it was funny that the instruments communicated in music rather than speaking, and they wrote lines of musical notes instead of letters and words.



We watched a couple of others, too, but these four cartoons were the catalysts for an hour and a half worth of learning about the 1930's. It was fast learning, rapid-fire questions and answers short enough not to get in the way of the watching. I had to catch my breath when the boys finally moved on to something else.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

154



Today is the first day of spring, and we woke up to rain. I had wanted to do a play day at the park bringing sketch books and colored pencils for whomever wanted to draw, but it looked like that was an activity for another day. So with Raffi on Pandora, we sang and ate breakfast of sausage and oranges, then the boys played Star Wars action figures and Fire Boy and Water Girl while I cleaned up and thought about what we might do. Washing out a jelly jar, I had a memory of my friend and former co-teacher, Sharon, who used to make collages of seed catalog images on whatever saved containers we had around the classroom in the spring. There was a small, flower-picture covered terra cotta pot on the window sill in the kitchen of the middle school the whole time we taught there together. 

I intentionally didn't send off for seed catalogs this year since I have seeds aplenty to fill our three 4 x 4 raised beds, but I did still have lots of colored tissue paper from our window star craft back in December. So, I quietly went about gathering the materials for our Sharon-inspired craft on this day of close-to-equal day and night, "stained glass" candle holders. 

Woody says his--in the middle of the trio--is meant to be "an evil lord laughing on a moonlit night." The grape hyacinths are blooming, the baby birds are hatching, the creeks are swelled with spring rain, the wild garlic in the backyard is knee-high, and the evil lord is laughing. 

Welcome, spring. 




Monday, March 19, 2012

153

Yesterday Woody asked Daddy Honey to do a science experiment with him while I was at church.


When he was three and he was going to school with me when I was teaching, Bridgette, my friend who watched him while I taught in the mornings made a paper mache volcano with him and added an old film canister at the top to make it "erupt" with baking soda and vinegar. This came to represent "science experiments" in Woody's mind, and though we've checked out many books with many other varieties of trials and demonstrations in them, and explained to Woody that many different types of structured investigations could be called "science experiments," he still comes back to this concept as a favorite.

So, Daddy Honey and Woody set out to see which acid that we had around the house was the most acidic. Woody thought they might be able to tell this by seeing which acid acted the most spectacularly with that ubiquitous and useful household base, baking soda.

They tried lemon juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, and white vinegar. Woody guessed lemon juice would be the most acidic because it tasted the most sour. He was encouraged in this theory by the fact that lemon juice made the biggest bubbles in the baking soda and reacted the fastest.

On the Internet, on a site explaining about pH levels, they found the following data:

pH levels of liquids in our test

lemon juice                  2.0 -- 2.6

lime juice                     2.0 -- 2.35

apple cider vinegar        3.1

white vinegar                2.4 -- 3.4

So while it's possible that our particular lemon juice was indeed the most acidic, there's really no way to tell without a litmus test. So, this week I'll be looking for one of those.

Also, we read a new book today called Catch Picasso's Rooster and were introduced to Franz Marc. We Googled his name and learned about expressionism at the turn of the 20th century.

My favorite painting of Marc's was Large Blue Horses.


Fox's was Foxes.


And Woody's was Fighting Forms (even before I told him the title).




Saturday, March 17, 2012

Different Interests

This isn't a numbered Woody-learning moment because it's not his. It's mine! Actually, most of the previous posts were about my learning too, especially since I've never done unschooling before, but this one is about me learning what I set out to learn while Woody did his own thing, not bothering much with my activity.

I started a couple of worm bins back in August, using this video. I thought the boys would be interested in making the worm bins with me, what with the drilling and ripping up of cardboard and all, but they passed. When the worms arrived, they wanted to look at them squirming around in the peet moss in their bags, but that was about it. So, I chatted about worm biology as I poured the red worms into the bins I'd prepared. Woody and Fox remained passive. Did they want to feed veggie scraps to the worms with me every couple of days? No takers. Today's project was harvesting the first batch of worm castings to add to the spring garden. Again, I found myself alone.

So, the worms are my thing, not really theirs. I'm totally OK with that. Whether or not the boys participate, the vermicomposting is something cool going on in the background of their lives, and they're watching their mom learn as she goes, experimenting and researching and assessing results, clearly getting a lot out of trying something new and different.

I think sometimes about the accusation that some parents are "living through their children." People often say this as an insult, but I think to a great extent, many of us try to make our children's childhoods more like the ones we would have liked to live; we build in the parts of our childhoods that helped us to feel good about the world, or that we thought would have, and we leave behind that which contributed to our hurts and sorrows. Sometimes, we guess right and something that we found really fun or nurturing, our kids do, too. But not always.

Our children count on us to help build their childhoods out of engagements with new or favorite activities, ideas, and people, every day creating opportunities for them to fall a little bit more in love with the world. It's their childhood, and they have the right to build their own preferences into their experiences when it's possible.

But that doesn't mean we, as parents, have to forego the activities, ideas, and people that enrich us. We can help create the childhood we see that our children really want, meanwhile going back to pick up the pieces we wish we'd had as young people, maybe even some extras we didn't know we wanted until we were grown ups. This isn't living through our children, it's living with our children, and I think it helps them to know that curiosity and exploration can be a terrific part of one's whole life.



Friday, March 16, 2012

152



Woody has a theory about the dandelions here in Northwest Arkansas. They are most abundant and more likely to be in the wishable stage in sunny areas, he has noticed. In the shade, there may be a few yellow flower heads, but very few that have already gone to seed. Therefore, he concludes, dandelions must prefer full sun.

The other thing I wanted to tell you today is about noticing, too.

While traveling last month, Woody and I started playing "Punch Buggy." Man, old-style VW bugs, the ones made from 1938 to 2003,  are not nearly as common as they were when I was growing up! I wonder where they all are? There were more than 21 million made! We spotted maybe two in the many hundreds of miles we traveled.

So, we modified the game a little bit. (But the official rules are here, in case you were curious.) We allowed Punch Buggies to be new (1998 on) or old-style VW bugs. Old styles, because of their rarity, are worth two punches. Newer ones, one punch. VW vans are to be worth a whopping three punches if we ever see one.

And because we used to own a Jeep, we already had an eye trained for spotting them, so we added them to our game. We yell "Punch Buggy (color), no punch back!" for VW bugs. For Jeeps, we yell, "Beep! Beep! (Color) Jeep!" Jeeps are also worth one point. If we get the color wrong (which only happens to me, never Woody) then the other person has a chance to correct you and gets the point or points.

I love playing these kinds of games with kids. When I was a teacher in an after-school program, I often initiated them--Twenty Questions, I-Spy, and Hot-and-Cold were favorites. It's fun, but also, you get to work on all kinds of social stuff while the stakes are low. Fox, at 3 years, randomly calls out cars he doesn't actually see on the road. Woody, at first, did not want to let this behavior stand. But, coming to understand how age and developmental difference comes into play, he's now mostly happy to just count those as Fox's points in a game that he thinks of as somewhat separate from the one he and I play. He gets a little upset when I get more than a point or two ahead of him. So we talk a little about what makes games fun, what to do when they start to feel less fun, and we share good techniques (such as scanning parking lots quickly, focusing on oncoming cars and cars stopped at the cross streets of intersections we're approaching, etc.).

Working on sportsmanship and competition is pretty gentle this way, even fun. Woody likes being ahead and winning, sure, but he doesn't have much identity built into it. He doesn't see himself as unobservant if he "loses" our Punch Buggy game the way sometimes kids may see themselves as slow if they come in last in P.E. or as dumb if they can't recite the multiplication tables as fast as the other 8 year olds. Not all kids do this, but many do. And it makes me sad.

Meanwhile, Punch Buggy has convinced me of my pressing need for vision correction, so look for a post soon on Mama-goes-to-the-optometrist.

Edited to Add:

Today, Monday, March 19, I came across a picture of our beloved food co-op in Tallahassee, New Leaf Market, back when it was the Leon County Food Co-op on Gaines Street. And check out the cars out front! Five punches, this picture.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

151


I don't know that I have much to say yet after yesterday except that I get a little impatient with myself in the wallowing-in-self-pity place, and that I tend to mentally shut down when I experience shame. Neither of these qualities is enjoyable or helpful.

So, I am doing what we do when the understanding and acceptance is long coming: we keep on. Chastened; resolved and rededicated; earnest in the search for wisdom; yes. And keep on.

This morning, Fox woke up at 4 a.m. and was disinclined to go back to bed. We played on uptoten.com together. We did a dinosaur floor puzzle. And we made cookie balls for when we go to our friends Liz and Cadence's place to play later today. Woody is going to love the cookie balls. Waking up to sweet surprises is one of life's great sources of joy, and this is exactly the kind of treat he likes.

Here's the recipe:

(If you have a food processor, this probably goes much faster. I don't.)

1 cup dates, pitted and chopped finely
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped finely
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, chopped finely
1 tablespoon almond butter

Moosh all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl with the back of a fork, then with wet hands as the mixture becomes more combined. Form into balls. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator. Room-temperature balls are good for 48 hours. This recipe makes about ten inch-wide balls. The picture taken moments after the preparation was complete shows seven, I realize. Let that be a testament to how good these are.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

150

If I had a white flag, I'd be waving it high and frantic over my head. Only, my boys and I are on the same team, so there is no one to accept my surrender, and no one to take over for me when I give in. 

We missed a lunch connection with Daddy Honey at the university today, and sat for 20 minutes in the car waiting. The boys were hungry and impatient. Woody was rude. We left, frustrated, to grab a few groceries, something from which to make lunch at home. At the co-op, we realized Woody's shoes were back home, not in the car as we'd thought. His rain boots were in there, but he refused to wear them to go into the store. He refused sitting in the cart and letting me push him around. He wanted to go home, straight away. I didn't. Fox, keyed up by the tension, jumped into the back seat with Woody in a show of solidarity. They howled and spouted angry and ugly words at me. Woody was inciting Fox to kick the back of my seat. They--and soon, I--were deep in the survival brain, the fight-or-flight place, and there was no gray matter available for reaching a compromise or a solution together.

I was furious, and when that passed, exasperated. I was mad at Daddy Honey for forgetting about us. I was mad at my children for being so utterly irrational and unhelpful. I was mad at myself for what I was about to do.

I rolled the windows down half-way, locked the doors, and left them in the car to go get the groceries. 

Even as I walked in the store, I had visions of them getting out and trying to follow me, dashing between cars to get to the storefront--or not. I thought of strangers approaching the car and trying to convince them to unlock the doors. I thought of the heat; it's a warm day. But mostly, I thought about them getting out. Things were left so raw and angry.

I ran through the store, got the few items I needed (scooping up a tub of chocolate puddling as I grabbed the eggs, so we'd have a treat to talk over at home), managed to choose the longest line possible and then held my terrible visions at a distance until I grabbed my receipt and dashed back out to the car.

They were both crying, red cheeks hot with tears and sweat.

Fox had gotten out. He had tried to follow me. Someone had tried to pull into the empty spot beside us, and almost hit him. Someone else yelled for the car to stop, and asked Fox where was his mother? Fox yelled at him that he was stupid. Woody was scared to get out of the car, but stood in the open door yelling for Fox to get back in. Someone else stopped to ask if they were OK.

No, no they were not OK. They were raw and angry and also terrified and bereft. 

Hearing this, my fears confirmed in snatches of facts and repeated dialog and confused phrases, I wanted to run away, to give these damaged, hurt children to someone more qualified, less impetuous, with better sense, more patience, and a steadier sight on the long-term goal of getting them to adulthood in one piece. 

I did not unstrap them and hold them to me so we could sob and support one another. I did not offer the good words to help the processing begin. I got in the car and drove off in near silence, too stunned, too shocked at my own stupidity, to speak to them.

As we drove, I got a little more clear. I wasn't wise, by any means, or even very coherent. But, I did have some words that weren't blaming or angry. I talked about danger, and what we could have done differently, starting with my own choices. Woody offered, first, that yes, we could have just gone home, like he suggested. But then, "I could have gotten in the cart with no shoes on. I usually like that, but I was too angry to say yes." He told me he tried hard to get Fox to come back, but that Fox kept going around to the back of the car. 

I left my kids in the car, against my instincts. My youngest son tried to come after me, and almost got hit by a car. My older son was thrust into the very difficult role of being responsible for his brother but powerless to stop him. 

That's what happened. I may have more insights about this later, but right now, I am licking my wounds, looking out at my decisions and their consequences from the dark safety of my own mental cave. I dare not approach them just yet, but I don't deny that they are there and have a right to be acknowledged.

I am doing now what I could have done two hours ago. I am sitting still, and breathing. When I feel my breath getting fast and shallow, I try to slow it down. I am looking out the window and seeing the big picture of what it means to be alive on a sunny spring day. I am playing with letters and pictures with Fox. I am confirming for Woody that robot is spelled r-o-b-o-t for him to type in to find a video game he likes. 

I will get through the next little while, and then the rest of the afternoon, this evening, tonight, and tomorrow. That's all I can tell you right now. Also, that learning from mistakes doesn't stop at childhood.

Monday, March 12, 2012

149

Daddy Honey took a day off of work today, his first one yet, to stretch out the weekend that was our coming home. We drove out to the Buffalo National River and hiked in the Lost Valley. A month is a long time to be without a daddy, and the park was an all together wonderful place to get reacquainted and fall back into a rhythm of togetherness. Also, it is early spring in the mountains, something warm and bright and new for all of us.