Getting Dinner on the Table, Now THAT’S Hard
Just don’t take this the wrong way: you make it sound so easy. Lay the right books around the house, throw in a little yarn and cool background music, and away you go! I know it can’t be so simple all the time.
I thought about this all day, and I realized that this really is the easiest thing I do. If I am alert and open for conversation, present and mindful in the way Leonie has been describing, the connections happen like fireworks, pop pop pop pop pop all around us.
That post wasn’t meant to be a blow-by-blow account of our day. I had just finished jotting down notes about the cool things we talked about that day, as I try to do most days, for my own enjoyment really, and I thought it might be fun to flesh out the notes a little over here. But there were lots of things that happened yesterday that didn’t make it into my little connections list, and not all of them were easy. One of the kids had a particularly rough afternoon. By the end of the day I was a shriveled husk of a person, and Scott probably read desperation in my eyes when he walked through the door. His jovial hustling of the kids outside to run races is undoubtedly what saved me from blowing my calm-and-patient streak. (Owe you one, honey.)
So my goodness, please don’t read that post as an account of a perfect day. It’s the account of some awesome moments in a pretty typical day. I am suddenly reminded of a conversation I had with Alice not long after I made the cross-country drive to San Diego alone with my kids. Alice was in the planning stages for her upcoming Golden Gate adventure, and she was trying to decide whether to drive or fly to San Francisco. “Seriously,” she asked me, “how bad was it?”
I replied, “No worse than any regular day at home.”
I still remember her peal of laughter: she saw at once what I meant. Any day at home in the company of many small children is full of challenges. There are great moments, and there are moments when the sound and fury threatens to swallow your sanity. I love this life, this stay-at-home mom stuff. I’m grateful to be able to do it. But there’s no denying it’s a bumpy ride at times. My toddler has decided she is morally opposed to sitting in her carseat. She has no choice, but every journey begins with an outraged protest. My four-year-old falls apart if I put my keys on the counter instead of in my purse. My introverted nine-year-old would love nothing more than to be at home all the time, but she is sandwiched between sisters who bubble over with eagerness to Go and Do. We compromise, we bend, we go up, we go down. Every day has its moments. Gorgeous moments, and moments of the sort that make a 2500 mile road trip seem like a walk in the park.
But the connections moments? Apart from the difficulty of climbing out of my own head and being alert and present for those around me, this really is the easiest part of my life.
Susan Gaissert says:
Yes! The connections come fast and furious; you just have to be open to them and not so absorbed in sorting laundry that you miss them. It is possible to sort laundry and make connections, cook meals and make connections, etc. The “making connections” part just means being “with” the child. The longer I unschool, the more I see that the connections are really what it’s all about. And all they require are you being in the moment with your child.
On April 3, 2008 at 5:13 am
I’m glad you made this distinction Lissa and I think in the blogsphere, one tends to forget that these are just snapshots and in no way a full reality of life at home with lots of little and big people. It’s fun to record the many connections that actually DO happen throughout each day in the midst of all the craziness (and I mean that in a good way).
On April 3, 2008 at 6:10 am
Activities Coordinator says:
Getting dinner on the table seems to be the sticking point with me, too.
Why is that?
On April 3, 2008 at 6:14 am
Kristen L. says:
I love that last paragraph on family life. Beautiful.
On April 3, 2008 at 10:39 am
Kristen L. says:
OK, second to last. You know what I meant! 🙂
On April 3, 2008 at 10:40 am
It’s your last paragraph that sticks with me the most too – and I really do mean the last one. Getting out of my own head, being present, these are the difficulties I have with unschooling. I truly do wander around most days in a dream. Having sit-down lessons means I can drag myself out of the dream for a couple of hours and be completely focussed on my child and her learning.
What I have realised now though is that I have things to offer my dd by just being me. For example, she’ll be looking out the window and my dream will start spinning a story about how windows are memories of the ancient sea … Education happens, only in a rather surreal way. But that’s okay, I guess. I could say I am balancing her practical-mindedness!
When I allow myself to be my true self in connection with her, and not just Teacher for two hours and spacy mummy the rest of the time, I am giving her permission to be her true self too, and learn about the world in a true way.
Sorry for the long comment, it was great to just work this all out!
By the way, about the carseat – we had the same issue too, as I suspect all parents do. I told my dd stories about our car being a dragon and her carseat was her saddle, and made it exciting and glamorous, and she loved it. Of course, with several other children in the car *not* in carseats, this may not work so well.
On April 3, 2008 at 11:41 am
Your title made me laugh — often dinner is my favorite part of the day! It’s also the bar by which I judge a day that I might otherwise think was less than perfect: did I get a respectably healthful meal on the table? Then the day was just fine, no matter what else I might have screwed up.
Reflecting on all the parenting posts of late has made me realize (today) that I am just too hard on myself. Even when it’s bad, it’s pretty darn good around here. I forget that just as I read about other families and think, “how did they do that?” I frequently have friends (especially non-homeschooling friends) ask me the same thing. When they say, “I could never do that,” I think, “You have no idea how much easier this is than our former public school life.” (I used to say that, but I think it comes across as somehow insulting.)
On April 3, 2008 at 2:53 pm
michelle waters says:
That was a beautiful response! I’ve met my husband at the door with many such looks of desperation myself. And yet I find myself drawn to blogs that uplift and encourage, rather than gripe and “bare it all.” Yours is full of inspiration, with some funny kid stories to boot.
Here’s a question my girls CANNOT leave alone though. I promised them I’d at least ask you. They want the Martha and Lewis Tucker wedding story!!! We just finished the 2nd Charlotte book, and they still ask – every night – “do you think this will be the flashback of the wedding chapter?” Help!! Make one up now if you have to! Seriously, though, we’re loving the books…
On April 3, 2008 at 5:57 pm
Being open and mindful. Of course I know that. But what a nice reminder as my busy life around here often becomes a check list. When our life is slower and we have time to really get into things and be together and make connections are the best days. And dinner- that’s a whole ‘nother post!
On April 4, 2008 at 4:04 am
Sarah N. says:
Shaun, I really like what you said about being too hard on yourself. I have several friends that I look at and wonder how they do all they do and then when someone asks me that question I’m startled that they think I’m capable of something amazing. I think we all wonder how different families manage what they do since we all have different skills and resources but in some way we are all amazing.
On April 4, 2008 at 5:31 am
Sandra Dodd says:
We did a lot of car trips where we listened to Raffi and Disney stuff and sang and sang. We stopped frequently to explore a big (stretch our legs, but any rest stop is a big explore for little kids).
I’m glad I read this and the comments. I’ve had a little trepidation about a drive to Austin later this month, with Keith and Holly and possibly Marty (though he’s about to start a new job), and being here reminds me to buck up and not even THINK about sighing or whining. Holly’s 16 years old and can drive! No carseats. We only need to listen to Raffi if we WANT TO. And we might. Or at least Jim Henson as Ernie and Kermit.
On April 4, 2008 at 9:02 am
Melissa Wiley says:
The most popular CDs by far on our cross-country were two Tom Chapin albums, Moonboat and Family Tree, going-away presents from a sweet friend. We’d never listened to Tom before and it was love at first listen! Those are still frequently requested. I keep meaning to check more of his CDs.
Jim Henson! Someone gave us a Sesame Street video when Jane was in the hospital (age 2). I bet we watched it 500 times. Put Down the Duckie was on it, and the dreamy fairy alphabet song–that was her favorite. Scott found that clip on YouTube last year and we were all goosebumpy.
On April 4, 2008 at 10:12 am
For some reason I thought of this discussion while we were all driving home this evening after a homeschool group meeting. My teenager started quizzing the 5 year old on Star Wars trivia and tickling him every time he said a wrong answer. Then they switched to Pokemon trivia and my two little ones were impressing the elders by how much they remembered. They were all having such a good time — ages from 5 to 18. It made me feel happy that we have time as a family to just enjoy the journey.
On April 4, 2008 at 6:31 pm
Melissa Wiley says:
“Here’s a question my girls CANNOT leave alone though. I promised them I’d at least ask you. They want the Martha and Lewis Tucker wedding story!!! We just finished the 2nd Charlotte book, and they still ask – every night – “do you think this will be the flashback of the wedding chapter?” Help!! Make one up now if you have to!”
Oh, your sweet girls! I know exactly how the scene would have been written, but alas, I never wrote that book. I plotted it out and planted seeds for it in each of the Charlotte and Martha books (and indeed, one important detail was to be a reference all the way back to Little House in the Big Woods). I’m sorry to disappoint your girls. I can tell them this much: the historical record shows that the wedding took place in Boston, on Martha’s birthday. More than that exists only in my imagination!
On April 5, 2008 at 3:09 pm
michelle waters says:
Thank you! The girls were delighted to hear right from the author. Just knowing Martha got married on her birthday was a big hit. I really appreciate your response!
On April 7, 2008 at 9:34 am