B. and V.'s Flat, Shoreditch, London
I want to listen to my children if I have any. And by that, I don't mean adhere to them, but rather to take them seriously, to engage them, and above all to remember what childhood was like. I want to hear their souls.
We went to see Matilda tonight and it brought me to tears. Though my childhood was of course nothing at all like that depicted on stage, the point of the play hit home. So many things about childhood are deeply painful and adults too often feel distant and terrifying. Children think that growing up will give you the strength to overcome the multitude of fears you face and the loneliness you feel. Childhood in many ways is essentially lonely, even in the very best circumstances. Children may be dear playmates, but they are never less than competitors, and adults may be deeply loving, and have no clue how to communicate with you or hear, really hear, what lies underneath the seemingly simple exterior of your childhood.
Children are never simple and what may seem petty or foolish is usually only a simple expression of a very serious and complex emotion within. I observe many parents who don't understand their children, especially if they have moody children, and it makes me sad. These kids are simply dealing with all of the things we deal with now as adults, but in childish terms. If only more adults could remember, truly remember, what their internal lives as children were like, and from that starting point try to engage their children. This won't make their children any less sinful, but I imagine it would enable those children to feel less like growing up will solve all of their problems, and in turn create less adult exasperation that all of our problems haven't yet been solved.
Families are always messed up, and they always will be. Children will always have a rough time. Growing up will always suck. There were many things I loved about homeschooling and I still want to try to do it myself; but, if there is any charge that I level against the homeschooling movement of my childhood, it was the idea that homeschooling would fix families. Yes, I know (as so many parents have told me) that our childhoods were nothing like their unhappy experiences in the school system. I do not challenge that. But just because something is better than horrible does not mean it cannot also be painful. My siblings, my friends, and I all grew up in what were, all things considered, idyllic homes. And we all have deep turmoil in our souls over many things concerning our childhoods. Does this mean that our childhoods weren't good? Of course not! But it is a fault of homeschooling to fail to understand that even in healthier contexts we could have our own issues within childhood. If we can't openly talk about the pain of our experiences, we cheapen something that was good in a broken world by turning it into a false ideal. When we argue that something was better than the alternative, we sometimes fail to recognize the traumas of our own ways. We are all broken people with very real and significant pains – every happy homeschooling family included.
And this is why I want so much to really hear my children. Whatever paths we choose for and with them, their lives will be painful. They will be broken. I will cause that brokenness. And the worse thing I could do would be to think that I can create a system that would offset the brokenness, when really the best thing I could do is just actually get to know my child's heart.
About the Project
This is a very personal project. It tracks my growth and development as I journeyed toward motherhood over the recent years. It doesn't document every experience I had, and probably neglects my more joyful and peaceful moments in the frenzy of trying to communicate my fears, anxieties, and doubts. If you are a friend or loved one, please do not let anything you read here overshadow what you know of me personally. If you are a stranger, please remember that a living and flawed person stands behind these words. To all my guests here, please understand these are not political statements and try to extend me grace, even as I share my failures and foibles - I have repented of much of what I share. I don't share this journal as an exemplar, but rather out of the desire to share my hope that entrance to motherhood does not need to be a fearful thing - despite the very real fears I have fought against. Motherhood is simply a part of life and one through which I am discovering more of myself and my God.