Pretty much the first thing Girl did this morning was confess anxiously that she had put lotion in a cup last night and hidden it, and beg me not to wash it because it was an ‘experiment.’ She asked to add a little water and then put it in the freezer. Why? She is making “a model of Antarctic.”
Giving children the freedom to do largely what they want does not look like Pinterest. Be forewarned. So, let’s talk about weirdness.
In fact, let’s talk about embarrassment.
Today was rainy and in the 50s. When the kids started getting rowdy with the dog, I “asked” them to put coats and hats and rain boots over their inappropriately chosen outfits of shorts and skirts, and go outside into the wet chill and riot of starlings, gathered en masse in the trees. So loud.
Several minutes later Girl appeared at the door sort of crying/indignant (indicative of a fight with Boy), complaining that he had made her sit on the swing, so her skirt was wet, saying she needed to change. I reassure her that it is okay, that she should go out and get as wet and dirty as she likes, and when she comes in I will get her all cleaned up and warmed up, and make them hot chocolate. Her eyes get big with an I-really-like-the-sound-of-that look and she turns on her heel and disappears into the back. I take a peek at them every now and then out the window, see the dog tearing around with her Yellow Squeaky, see the kids spinning on the black rope tree swing. When Boy comes in, Girl follows but stays on the step, asking for a glass of water. “To drink?” I ask. No.
“I’m not cold yet.” Long pause.
“Are you going to…pour it on yourself?”
She looks unsure if she should answer, but I tell her it’s okay, if that’s what she wants to do. She returns for three more glasses of water, and finally just asks for a Nalgene bottle-full. Do the neighbors see my muddy bare-legged daughter pouring cups, then bottles, of water on herself in the rain? Possibly. Am I embarrassed?
Yes, I am, a little. I know I should say no. But I’m prone to embarrassment. My day generally involves an ebb and flow of the feeling. Kind of like body surfing. I can feel so embarrassed that it’s actually physically painful. There’s probably a medication for this kind of thing. But I try to live with it. And most importantly, I try not to let it keep me from doing what I want. I aspire to genuine humility. And a sense of humor. The 2 H’s. It’s not really all that catchy, but that’s the best I’ve been able to come up with.
Like the day not long ago that I cheered my son getting a soccer goal, but it didn’t count because there was a kid curled up in a fetal position right next to him. It’s mortifying that I cheered, it’s mortifyingly obvious that I don’t know anything about soccer, and even more so that I can be that oblivious. But there it is. That’s the mom and woman I am. Do I want to never cheer him, because sometimes I’m going to cheer at the wrong times? Nope. In the car ride home, Boy told me he was embarrassed about that goal, because he didn’t really understand what the rules were, but he knew in retrospect that he shouldn’t have kicked the ball and he only realized the coach was telling him to stop after he’d already done it. I told him it was okay to feel embarrassed. The only way to avoid being embarrassed is to never ever do anything you aren’t completely sure about. And not too many adventures can happen that way. Not much can happen at all. I told him that I feel embarrassed about something almost every day. I told him I had cheered the goal. Kind of loudly. I told him I didn’t actually understand much about soccer, but I would tell him everything I did know, and maybe we should talk to Papa.
My mom feels embarrassed a lot. My mom doesn’t know much about soccer. My mom cheers for me anyway, because she loves me more than anything.
Unschooling looks weird. I don’t think homeschooled kids are weird, I just think kids are weird, and so the more you let them be themselves, the more freedom you give them…the weirder it gets. When I was a kid we were pretty much out in the woods all the time, away from adult eyes. My kids are in the yard. Yes, it’s a big yard, but it isn’t that big. We don’t have like a 10 foot stone wall or anything.
So here we are, America. Labeling our light switches and closets. Freezing globs of lotion and calling it Antarctica. Pouring cups of water on our heads on cold days. Spinning so fast on our rope swing that all you can see is a blur of rain boots and bare legs and brightly colored muddy jackets. Isn’t it all kind of…glorious.