It was an awkward moment, for sure. I kind of "knew" her, I see her at the gym a lot and since we're often in close proximity to each other, I overhear some of her conversations. They range the usual gamut, exercise and nutrition and work and family and kids and balancing it all, you know, the average conversation between women that age. I've heard her recount her struggles more than once.
But she's not a whiner or a complainer, more of a matter-of-facter. She seems to take it all in stride, the craziness and the chaos, she chalks it up to modern suburban life. I hear it and I'll be honest, some things just feel like a dagger in my heart, hearing phrases like "today's kids are so busy" or "kids today grow up so fast, but what are you going to do?"
These words, though seemingly on repeat from so many sources around me, don't fully resonate with me. I'm lucky that I spend most of my days with my kids, for the majority of the day. Hey, they're teenagers, so I'll be honest, we're hardly in each others' faces most of the day. After coming together to get our school day started, one kid takes to the kitchen table, another heads upstairs, and one stays for some one-on-one math work. Occasionally we'll reconvene to watch a video and we'll have a discussion and they'll write reaction essays. Some days we're off to a co-op class while some days they're in their own rooms for solitude that allows them to concentrate on their online classes.
Each day is a bit different, yet the same. We homeschool and we're mostly together. If they're out of sight, I still hear the creaks of the floor above me or the quiet clicking of the keyboard in the next room or the banging of tools at the basement workbench. Those are my comfort sounds. I know I'm lucky to have them.
But it's not exactly luck, the way I see it. I made the choice to homeschool. It was a conscious decision on my part 15 years ago. I thought it was the right decision when I had Winnie, I knew it was the right decision when I had Caty and having Aster 13 months later only sealed the deal. My kids were a three-in-three-years tribe and I wanted to keep it that way.
And I pretty much did. We've homeschooled the whole time, preschool (if you want to call it that, I call it basic living at that age, but who's quibbling over details) through present day, high school for two out of three kids. Homeschooling high school, ACK! That's the most common reaction I get even today after doing this for 16 years, "Homeschooling high school, how could you?!? I can't even imagine!"
I understand you can't imagine, I think to myself, and by that same token, you can't imagine what everyday humdrum, unexciting, quiet togetherness feels like. What the sounds of daily living are like. What eating lunch together (most days) is like, even though we're usually not even speaking to each other, we're each buried in separate sections of the newspaper or a magazine or sometimes a textbook or occasionally an electronic device. But still, we're together and keenly aware of each others' presence, even if it's silent (reveling in the silence at times, honestly).
But the awareness of silence and the togetherness it brings is rare, for sure. This I know to be true, since I hear the lamenting conversations swirling around me at the gym. I've heard it more times than I can count:
"Kids today are so busy" and "Kids today grow up so fast, but what are you going to do?" and even "There's no way to spend any more time together unless…"
So when I recently ran into her at a party, an annual holiday party for the 6am die-hard exercisers, we struck up a conversation for the first time, standing over a plate of fruit. The conversation was surface level and naturally the topic turned to kids. I don't think she knew how much I already knew.
She mentioned siblings fighting amongst themselves, and I said that it wasn't so much of an issue for us being that my kids are homeschooled and all, they've had to learn to get along day in and day out since no one is vested in the prospect of daily misery. She asked their ages and I said "16, nearly 15, and 13" and she said wondrously "And you're still homeschooling them now? Do you have any plans to put them in public school?" and I said no, I have no plans of that.
The look on her face was a mixture of shock, confusion, and a blank stare. I didn't take it personally.
And she turned away to talk to someone else.
I guess she couldn't fathom the idea of homeschooling, unless…