Granite Tablet — Quitters

A big part of what I love about homeschooling is the freedom. As a homeschooling parent I get to choose how we spend our days, the co-ops we join, the routine we live our lives by, what books to read, the pajamas I get to wear three days in a row. I love the freedom to follow the interests of my kids as deep as they want to go for as long as they have them. Actually no, that right there is where I’m going to stop myself. While yes, I love books and pajamas on repeat, I’m having a really hard time with my kids’ dropping their interests like a hot potato. First, it was Thomas the Train. Man, I should’ve asked for stock in Mattel instead of onesies or diapers for my baby shower. I alone have outfitted some Mattel CEO’s kids with a college fund from all the Thomas the Train swag my family bought over the years of three toddler boys. The train table, tracks, trains, lunch box (why did he need a lunch box at age two?), blanket, DVDs, underwear, you get the idea. And then one day… poof! No more Thomas! No more bridges to fix, no more magnets to worry about swallowing, no more “toot, toot” coming from the living room, no more rolling over on Gordon; because yes, he slept with his trains. Done, without warning. And I was heartbroken. I wasn’t ready. Granted, each older brother had a brief resurgence of interest as each little brother discovered the wonders of Sodor Valley, but it was mostly to placate the little ones. The trains remain, as lonely as Woody and Buzz in the attic, sitting in a box in the living room. But I. Can’t. Let. Go.

This scenario repeats itself.

I have a box of costumes. For months or even years each kid had his favorite costume he lived in. My eldest was Wolverine for three months, then Spiderman for another three. My middle son lived in a pair of flowered pants that I had to wash every night because they were white! My young one, he’s got longevity. Over a year-and-a-half he rocked his plush dino costume. In all weather, in family photos, on holidays, as pajamas and snowsuit alike, even when it was uncomfortably wedgie-inducing. He only gave it up when we found a larger size, and then somehow the magic wasn’t the same. I have them ALL.

Again we repeat the pattern with music lessons. We have a fabulous music school run by homeschool parents in my town. My kiddos started with drums and piano. Every day they practiced for 20 minutes or more. Scales, drumming, simple songs, banging, more complex songs, more banging. Then they entered a competition and both won trophies. My piano player switched to drums and it was all banging all the time. We bought a drum set. (I bet you can already see where this is going). Again the competition rolled around, again they both earned awards. Rinse and repeat for a third year of music, and awards, second year of all drumming all the time for those of you keeping track. And then they quit! Hours and hours of practice, miles on my ears, miles on those drums. The drum set joins the stuff I have yet to let go of.

And now it’s Scouts. While I have my own moral issues with the organization that do not serve the purposes of this article, I have enjoyed watching my boys grow and advance. They’re proud of the belt loops, pins, and patches they’ve earned. The older two both experienced their first weeks away from home through overnight Scout Camp. My youngest is finally old enough to join, and my middle is a scant five months from crossing over into Boy Scouts. He has wanted to walk across the rope bridge ever since he saw his first crossing over ceremony. My eldest had his eyes on the prize; Eagle Scout just like his grandpa. Just a few days before our first pack meeting I was informed that they were all “done.”

“Done? What do you mean done.” And while their various reasons sounded good to them, and logically made sense, my heart was not ready to give this up. This has been years of our lives, hours of commitment, so many connections, experiences, and memories we wouldn’t have made without the organization. We slept on the USS Constitution for heaven’s sake!

“Yeah. We know,” was the reply. They are at peace with it. I am not. “But what if…” keeps running through my head. They might miss out. They might regret it. Their friends. My volunteer position. I need to be firm and force…no, that’s not gonna happen. But still, I’m not ready.

Is this what homeschooling is? Is this what parenting is? Letting them make the decisions that will affect their lives? Letting them deal with the effects of their choices? Letting them go before we are even remotely ready? I remember the days where they wanted one more book and song at bedtime. Now they just wait for the last lullaby to finish before I hear; “It’s okay Mom, you can go. We want to talk to each other.” I want to stay and snuggle. I want to eavesdrop on their plans to fortify their Lego bases (Lord help me when they give those up). But I go downstairs and wonder when I became the one who wasn’t ready to let go yet.

This year they want to try swimming and French. Luckily the little guy is still going strong with dinos, so the library and toys we’ve amassed are still loved daily. My swimmer is planning to attend three practices a week and meets on weekends twice a month. My French learner enrolled in VLACS, uses Mango through our library, and opted for a French class at our weekly co-op. They have new interests that are going to make them new connections, new friends, give them new experiences and open different doors. They’ll be different than the ones they would’ve acquired had they stayed in Scouts, that’s for sure. Not better or worse, just different. Me? I’m going to trade one volunteer hat for another, tune my ears to be ready for new sounds, keep towels in my car, and layer my clothes to be ready to spend hours in pool-side humidity.

A million years ago, when I was deciding where to go to college, my father said to me; “There are no right or wrong decisions in life. There are just the decisions you make, and those are the ones you live with.” Those words, so comforting in their simplicity have helped me move across the country four times, live in five states, travel to seven countries, become a firefighter, take a job as a farmer, marry my best friend, become an activist, just be myself. I’ve always known I could live with my decisions because I was the one who made them. Huh, I guess I know where my kids get it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some toys to pass on.

by Kitty Michelotti