Matthew’s just waking up from a short, “quiet time” nap. He’s been in his room for an hour now; drawing for 40 minutes, singing to his radio for five of them, crashed on the floor in a heap of blankets for twenty. It’s a labored start, but he’s a different boy with just a few heavy winks of REM. Without a word, he eases into my lap, nestles his head onto my chest. Tucking two knobby knees into his torso, he lets me comb through his hair with the tips of my fingers. I love his hair. I love this boy.
It’s finally quiet. At least for an hour or two, I have him to myself and I’m so glad. I’m as much a contrast to myself from earlier in the day as he is. The sink is wet with the fresh absence of dishes, laundry is folded in a basket on the bed, dinner is stewing up an aroma from the crock pot, and everything Mary needed me for this morning is finally done. Crossing chores off a list everyday does for me what accidentally falling asleep for a while does to him, and for the first time all day we’re deeply at peace. I’m happy just to lay here with my boy; I could just do it all day. But he hasn’t had preschool yet, so I pull out a book – which in our house, lay in stacks that are rarely more than an arm’s reach away – and together, we start to read.
He repositions himself in way that lets him point to the words. So much as a sigh of complaint is nowhere to be heard in any room of the house. Oh, Why, Why, Why, I ask myself, can’t it just always be this easy? Sometimes knowing them this way is the coolest thing I’ve ever been a apart of in all the days of my life.
Falling into a routine with both kids is absolutely, still the most cagey part of being new to homeschool. It’s the one part I just wish was over, already. I was sure by now we’d have found our definite rhythm, but it’s such a toss up from day to day depending on everybody’s inconstant mood. What happens is that if Mary’s actually cooperating, then Matthew isn’t; and if both of them are doing their part to help the day run smoothly, then Scarlett’s an inconsolable nightmare.
Mind you, it sounds worse than it is, really. I’m surprised that it’s so often only one of them at a time causing a ruckus, especially when none of the three of them are above it. It helps that I’m ever-conscious of the fact that it could usually be much worse. And to their credit, even if a certain child’s been a bit of hellion all morning, when they see that another one of them is giving me a problem, they’ll pitch in to help me out however they can. Even Scarlett’s learned to suck up a little when the timings right and she can see that Mommy needs a little mercy.
Every day it’s a race to put out the torch before one of them can pass it to the next in line; the torch of inconvenient, age appropriate behavior.
That’s motherhood, though, whether you homeschool or not. I try to remember that although homeschooling definitely puts my ass deeper into the trenches of motherhood than I would be otherwise, it also puts me in a better position to parent them through the difficult phases. Assuming of course that I survive the sibling rivalry of this year before Matthew goes off to kindergarten, they’ll have become mavericks in the art of conflict resolution by the end of it all – of that, I’m sure.
That isn’t to say that our days are bad – though they are usually a mess, I’ll give you that. It’s kind of like controlled chaos, but backward, I guess. The chaos is totally out of my control most of the time, but either through luck or sheer will or supernatural intervention, we end up learning a lot and having fun and reaping the rewards of our work in plentiful ways – not the least of which are pictures that prove as much to me as anyone else that, yes, we are doing a pretty bang up job if I do say so myself.
Moments like this are what it’s all about though. They’re the retribution I couldn’t trade for all the minutes to myself that life could offer, if it meant I had to miss even one like this. Even one. Next year he’ll be in full-time kindergarten, and I’m gonna miss this hair in the cradle of my neck over a soft-spoken story, like I have never missed anything, anything, anything in all of my life. People say that in my eyes, this boy can do no wrong, and I’ve made a regular habit of listing off ways that I’ve proven that not to be true, time and time again. I hold him to a pretty high standard of behavior and I don’t go easy on him when he’s crossed a line.
But there are those secret times, time just like this, that I can safely admit to myself that they’re probably right.
And I don’t even care.