Always at your back, mouths full of something, usually fingers. Theirs or someone else's.
And what are their fingers full of?
Is it something intentional like snot or peanut butter?
Or is it an unplanned menagerie of dirt and sweat and hand sanitizer?
It's really impossible to say, isn't it? And which is better? Fingers slurped free of snot are better than fingers full of snot, right? At least marginally? Maybe?
No. I know. None are better.
There are a great many people who think the answer to Global Everything is negative population growth. Me, with my three children, I've had the word "Breeder" snarled about me by people with far too many pets.
I try to get angry about it, like David, but I can't really.
Some of us are meant to raise impossibly small dogs that run counter to any evolutionary imperative and some of us are meant to raise children (who, funnily enough, will grow up to comfort those who spent their lives raising anything small enough to fit in a teacup and also walked on a leash by running geriatric facilities with names like Papillion Acres and slogans like "You're Shit-zu can't wipe your ass, but we can!").
Maybe this isn't an appropriate topic for Father's Day. Maybe it's the most appropriate topic. Parenting is the devil's business, even God left it to someone else when it came to his own Son. So, for someone like me, who is spending the greater part of her life doing nothing other than parenting, sometimes, I get a little punchy.
Sometimes, I refuse to help my son get his arms out of his sweater. Even though he's all sweaty and as close to swearing as is possible for an eight-year-old who knows all the words, but has sense enough not to say them. Sometimes , I make him go in the grocery store with one arm going this-away and the other going that-away with a sweater holding him hostage because, well, an eight-year-old should not be befuddled by a sweater at all, should he?
And despite the looks I get from other, kinder parents, yes I do insist he help get the groceries, even if he is mostly strait-jacketed and ends up trying to kick a box of Ritz crackers into the cart because he can't use his hands.
I parent with ginger and lemon zest. Don't get caught by me doing something stupid. I will cancel a birthday party. But that's not as bad as David who threatened to cancel Christmas one year. Not the Jesus part, just the presents. I would never do that. That'd be like punishing myself.
At school once, in the lunch-line when Schuyler was in Kindergarten, I politely reminded one of her classmates not to spit on another person - me. He didn't listen and proceeded to do it again and again. Now, I am good humored and understand that children are, in fact, children and don't expect more of them than they can deliver, but only up to a point. Just as I was about to get pretty stern with the child, Schuyler popped in with, "You better listen to my mama. She won't hit you, but she will talk you down to the ground!" Never a truer thing spoken of me and how I raise my children.
I love them dearly, but daggone, it's a lot of work. A lot of thankless, repetitive, mind-numbing work. Perhaps not as much as raising show dogs, but I don't get a clicker or the benefit of hiding an old piece of chicken between my teeth for coercion. And I can't tuck my kids into a crate at night or lock them up in one in an outbuilding when I need to accomplish something or get some sleep. This now, is being written with a one-year-old playing base jumper from my shoulder over and over.
So, why now am I contemplating homeschooling the same child who can't escape a sweater instead of sending him off to fifth grade?
I love him?
I think he's neat?
I see him growing up into this young man and I want him to have the kind of childhood that launches one into greatness?
Even in a life free from the wardrobe-wonders that are the pull-over sweater and vest?
He's really a wonder, my Eli. He's so much like my husband and myself. And not in all the good ways, either. Even though he's still so young, I see emerging some of the same self-limiting idiosyncrasies I see in myself. I didn't realize, when he was younger, how important it was to my children to always try to be better than myself. And Eli's got a lot of self-doubt and also has my nasty habit of finding the coldest corner in the room and sitting there, so no one else has to. Like he doesn't deserve better.
I'm not really sure how homeschooling will help with that. And I'm not sure I'm not being selfish and just trying to grab at the trailing remains of his childhood and keep them for myself.
I love school. I think it's important. But frequently, with Eli, I wonder why he's having to jump through so many hoops he clearly doesn't need to. When you are spelling "Anachronistic" in 4th grade without having to look, you already know how to spell. Why spend more time on spelling? Why not do something else with that time?
Eli aced his 4th grade SOL tests, two with an emerging abcessed teeth requiring emergency surgery, and one the day after that surgery. If you can manage that, how truly challenged have you been?
But the school is still a school and has to function for the greater good of everybody. That isn't a bad thing, but for Eli, I want to try something different. Instead of always reigning him in, I want to let his throttle run wide open and see what happens.
How many people who have truly changed the world trace their different points of view back to time spent doing something different than their peers? I mean, there's Einstein and Twain and Roosevelt and Kahlo....and hundreds upon hundreds of others. It could be that their stories just haven't been written, but I've yet to hear story upon story about inmates who attributed their lives of crime to a year spent being home schooled or bedridden.
I want Eli to have the kind of break you can only get when you're a kid. I want him to dawdle and stare. I want to allow him to have the mind space to think and learn and create without limits or interruptions. I want to help him wrestle with and pin down those dogging demons I unwittingly sat on his shoulder now before they're dug in tight.
I want to give him the world. But I can't. I can only give him the opportunity to reach out and take it for himself; show him that he's worth it and worthy of it. And I'm just the person for that job, I think.