This morning at work, I caught a flash of judgment about my parenting. It's possible that I'm blowing it out of proportion because obviously, I'm touchy about anything that relates to the kids. These three humans I adore are the best thing I will ever do with my life. They are the chance for me to ensure that my bloodline carries on in this world long after I've shuffled off this mortal coil.
Papa is out of town this weekend at a reading for his latest poetry book. When it was arranged, I was originally scheduled to be off, but life happens, as it all too frequently does, and now I had to work. We then had to turn to the 19 year old to watch the younger two until I got home. This meant getting up wicked early for her when she normally stays up late writing. She did it, but it made her really anxious and upset just before I left. Her father was calming her down, as I walked out the door. She was going to have to be up and alone for a several hours before her siblings woke up and that added to the stress. She watches the other two when my husband and I go out for a couple hours, like to get the groceries or go to a local reading, so being in charge isn't a problem normally, but this felt different to her.
Obviously, every child is unique and capable of different things. What you or I did at 14, 15 or 16 may or not be what another child then or now could or even should do. My husband and I have always believed that the kids should be young for as long as possible, because once you 'grow-up" there's no going back and being an adult often sucks, if we're all being honest with each other. When I was younger than 13, I was watching my siblings when we got home from school. My mother's expectations were that I do my homework, keep them alive, read her mind about whatever cleaning was necessary and start dinner. She got home late from work and that was life. Was it fair to me? Probably not, but I was the eldest and it was deemed my responsibility. As I got older, I had all sorts of activities after school (sports, theater, etc.), so I had to get myself home and then get done whatever I could before she got home.
We were poor. She was a single parent. I was forced to grow-up faster then a lot of kids my age. I don't think it was a blessing or that it gave me some magical gift of strength. It taught me from a young age that life is work and that there's always more work. It taught me that you have to put up with shitty bosses so you don't get fired, since your kids like to eat and have electricity. I learned how to figure out how expensive something was in relation to gallons of milk or a loaf of bread; i.e. that shirt costs 6 gallons of milk, do you really need it? I learned that your chores have to get done before you're allowed to eat, that a meal is your reward for washing dishes and vacuuming the house. These aren't new ideas for some of you either. Unfortunately, I never forgot any of these lessons, but I didn't want my kids to feel the same way. Don't get me wrong, they have chores. In fact, they have a lot of chores, but their #1 responsibility is learning. Since we home school, that varies from day to day, but after chores, it's learning, writing, reading, music, language, the news, video games and a host of other interests.
Getting back to this morning, when I got to work I told my team briefly what happened and said that if she called me, I'd have to leave. When I mentioned she was anxious, that seemed to make sense to everyone, but then someone said, but isn't your son 16, and I could swear I saw a flash of raised eyebrow. I deflected, talked about how the other two weren't even up yet, etc, but that moment stuck in my head and I've been ruminating on it all day. Intellectually, my kids are well beyond their age group, but emotionally they're a bit younger. By allowing them to have a longer childhood, I began to wonder if I've done them a disservice. My son is plenty cynical, and the eldest isn't far behind, so it's not as though they don't know about how hard life can be and often is. They have lost people they love. They are very politically minded and aware of current events, concerned how this administration will effect their future and their family. We challenge them to think critically, but we haven't challenged them to pick up the pace to grow-up.
I've always felt that if you're questioning your parenting choices and decisions, you're probably on the right track. If you get too comfortable in your certainty on any topic, then you stop challenging yourself to do better and you stop growing as a human. I can be a better mother, a better friend, a better sibling - I'm an almost perfect wife, so not much room there for growth (haha) - but I know I can do better by them. The goal of every generation is we're supposed to screw them up less than we were screwed up by our own parents. It's going to be a long night of ruminating on my choices. I should probably find something to clean.