Last night, as I watched my two daughters and their beloved cousins dancing around the living room to Michael Jackson, Queen, and Culture Club (our usual playlist), in amongst all the laughter and the silliness and the pure, innocent joy, I realised I felt a pang of sadness. These four beautiful beings are getting so old! Their independence grows as they move more and more into their own beings. Where will these days and nights of endless talk and ridiculous giggles go? How will things unfold for them?
Every day, in my meditation practice, I make the intention to “come back to the present moment”. I have a huge tendency to imagine the future, to lay paths out in front of me, and to see myself walking those paths to some distant, imagined, future. I am so good at this, in fact, I catch myself constantly daydreaming. Children, for me, are the very essence of living in the moment. Yes, they hold memories of sad times, hurtful words, and painful moments, and yes they, too, at times worry about the future. And yet, time and again, as a full-time parent I witness astonishing moments of acceptance, forgiveness, and letting go. It humbles me, and it is a huge gift.
In fact, when I take a step back and really see just what my children have brought to my life over the past ten years, I feel quite overwhelmed. I remember the feeling when I held our first daughter in my arms after she was born – “How am I to take responsibility for this?!” And yet, every day for the past ten years, as a full-time mum and home educator, I have had to make decisions that affect both my daughters’ lives. Not only their ‘presents’, but also, potentially, their ‘futures’. Nowadays, we lack the precious and crucial roles of elders in our society, and so many of these decisions we, as parents, make alone. And when we choose to take the less conventional roads, such as home educating, we again take on not only so much more of the decision making in our children’s lives, we also often have to forge our own ways with it too.
I feel so grateful for the path we have chosen up until this point. Although many people see it as somehow ‘less’ than a full time job (because, after all, where’s the respect if you’re not getting paid for something?), the home educating journey is by no means an easy one. I have met incredible people who walk this path. The commitment and dedication that they show to their children often blows me away. I find their deep rooted beliefs that this is the right path for them and their family humbling and, at times, awe inspiring. They know what they believe, and they walk their talk. And, for anyone that has ever stepped off the path of convention knows, this is NEVER the easy option.
In September, I will be starting full time study, and my daughters will go to school. I have a whole range of emotions about this new trajectory. Right now, what I’m sitting with is just how much I am going to miss these days I spend with my girls. The last ten years have been hard and relentless and exhausting and challenging and, and, and…. And they have been wonderful. To watch them grow, to see the developmental leaps that they take EVERY SINGLE DAY, to be such a close part of their daily experience of life – this is a precious thing. As a result of having spent so much time together in their early years, our relationships are strong. I have witnessed so much of their lives up until this point that I believe I truly know them. They, too, have watched me navigating the rollercoaster ride of life, with all its ups and downs. They have seen me giggle ridiculously and dance wildly. And they have seen me cry with uncontrollable frustration too. Many times. This is not ‘sheltering them from the world’, as some critics of home education argue – on the contrary, I believe this IS the world, and it has only served to make the bond between us and our children tighter.
I embrace the future, and I am excited beyond words about how it might unfold. And, yes, I am mourning all that needs to change too. I accept that this is a major part of parenting, this letting go. Sometimes I see the joy in it, the openness… the freedom! And sometimes I feel the loss and sadness that walks hand in hand with that joy, with a pain that is both emotional and physical.
I honour my daughters’ journeys, as I honour my own. I trust in the decisions we have made so far, and all those decisions that are yet to come. And, I see the beauty and pain that are sometimes so closely interwoven, some days it can be hard to distinguish between them.