It's one in the morning and Aleks has just slammed the door at me. Not on me, not in my face. Just at me. He's angry because I told him to go to bed. I was impatient because I am tired. I was folding laundry and he wanted me to find a hanger for his Darth Vader costume so he could hang it up so it would "look cool." I told him I would in a minute, but that he needed to go get in bed with Papa who was supposed to be reading stories. When he protested, I retorted with the cold, hard demand. That's when he slammed the door.
I continued folding and went back to my thinking about parenting, homeschooling, unschooling, our financial situation, Jon's job situation, whether or not I should be able to support myself, whether or not I actually could if circumstances demanded it, and ultimately whether or not I would be happy with whatever hypothetical horrible scenario I found myself in without a college degree. I imagined the worst - Jon dead or us divorced, me moving back in with my parents, dragging my two kids with me to a life where they are not allowed to do whatever they want and I have to go get some horrible corporate job to struggle at for all of eternity. It does not sound terribly happy at all. Certainly, it does not sound satisfying.
Maybe I could find some down-on-her luck fellow single anarchist mama to found Hobbiton with instead of my husband. Maybe that way I could maintain the illusion that I would be okay, that I could maintain all this ideology I walk around with through the worst of it. In all likelihood, reality would be closer to the former scenario. In any case, there's a veil here, isn't there? Some sort of tenuous grip on philosophy? Do we exalt it beyond what is reasonable? Is it all merely masturbatory? Are our children set up for failure at the hands of a culture that does not remotely resemble this world we create? I am forever defending that my children are not sheltered, goddammit. They interact with people of all walks of life and do things I would rather they not do and make choices I would rather they not make. Things that are not in line with how I feel it all should be. I defend this to some of the very same people who have argued against the things I do on both sides - that I allow them too much exposure to harmful elements and too little exposure to beneficial ones. I find more and more that I do not have hardly any of the answers.
What would I do if it all came crashing down? With my ideology on clearly shaky ground, what am I defending anymore? What am I even doing? What should I be doing? And if it doesn't work out? What will there be left to defend or do or attempt? Soldiering on through sludge that probably has no place with philosophy. That's not what anyone ever wanted for me and I know I've got to be smarter than that. Three of my four parents have master's degrees and I dropped out of college three times. My husband and I go to these departmental shindigs where the new grad students and post-docs ask me questions like, "Are you in academia also?" I pretty much always scoff at them. Right in their faces. "Ha! No, I dropped out of college three times." It doesn't sound very smart.
I think back to why I dropped out of college all those times in the first place. It just wasn't ever a good fit. As I say, "Me and school don't mix." It's not like I went to the same kind of school over and over again at all. My university experience ran the gamut - a small liberal arts college, community college, and a major state university. What would have been a good fit? Was there ever a time where I could really have just plowed through and become what I wanted to be? The last several years, I thought I'd been figuring it out, that there was still plenty of time to change my mind, to become what I am. Mainly to write. I've been busy raising these kids though. I thought that was good too. I thought we were here building a life, or trying to reach the point where we could. Jon's finally finishing his degree, but that's putting us in a transitional space that is rather unpleasant and more unbalanced, it would seem, than anywhere we've been before, at least in some aspects. Which is what's making these questions feel ever more immediate. What can I do to keep us from slipping into abject poverty? And why didn't I do anything the last ten years to secure my own position? What should I have done? What could I have done differently?
I was busy raising these kids. That was the life I was trying for. That is the life I am trying to do. When Aleks slams the door at me though, I think that maybe I don't want to be here, doing this, trying to build this life. I remember when we first moved here I was so excited about trying to conceive Bastian. I sat on a bench at the park and told Heather all about how much I loved being a mother - that it was like I had finally found my calling, what I wanted to be when I grew up, my career. These days I can only remember saying it. I have no recollection of that feeling. It's gotten too confusing. I've gotten too lazy. Their energy is too much. The stakes have suddenly changed. Now that they are three and six, it's as though suddenly I have to be doing things to make them grow up. They should be better behaved. Aleks should be reading. Bastian should be speaking better. They should not be playing video games as much as they do. They should not be up at one in the morning.
There is so much pressure from so many places for them to be something we just aren't. I wonder a lot lately if I just don't have it in me. Maybe I can't muster the energy to do the things I'm supposed to be doing with them. Whatever those things are. The baking, the art, the nature walks - none of it's enough. Nothing is ever enough. Maybe I'm just not one of those women who can feel satisfied by mothering. I don't even know what that means.
The philosophy in me says that all of those expectations are ridiculous. All children need is free time to figure things out. All they need is time with me and my husband and eventually more with others. The philosophy says that the expectation to socialize early and often is too much of an expectation - it becomes uncomfortable and contrived and lacks the freedom of empty space and time. The notion that anyone has anything figured out at all is ludicrous. No one knows what they're doing. Most of the people my age are still figuring out their lives. My parents are still making it up as they go along. I am no different. I am merely trying things out and praying for them to work and that's likely the best I can do. That, and apologize for the demand made that caused the door to slam at me.