Lessons in Learning
In what has felt like the longest month of the year, January is finally coming to a close this weekend. I have been homeschooling my son for three weeks now and I think I'm getting the hang of it. The interesting thing is I'm learning just as much as he is. I'm learning to redefine perfection, progress, and patience.
I often look at my kid in awe; how this little being, from day one, has been amazing me with his growth and tenacity. But when it comes to his schooling, I have been tough. I'm not a "tiger mom" by any stretch but I am a mother who believes in the power of words-- being transformed by them whether they're words I'm reading or the ones I'm writing, and wanting him to have that same sense of wonder too. That's the impatience in me.
At the start of homeschooling, as we entered into the world of cursive writing and basic arithmetic, I had a vision of how it would be. I would teach him and he would pick it up with no problems and we would smile happily. I know, it's as if my mind was stuck in some warped fairy tale. Imagine my rude awakening when homeschooling was anything but. There were tears--his and mine. There were meltdowns--his and mine. There were the "I hate yous" (him to me) and the "you're a terrible teacher" (him to me and me to me). I know why it was that way. I was expecting my son, my five year old son who is funny and smart and imaginative, to be, well, perfect. I mean, he is perfect in my eyes but I expected him to be perfect at school.
A week ago, a feeling washed over me when I looked over my son's shoulder to check on his writing. It was that amazement again. It was as if those unrealistic expectations drained away and were replaced with immense admiration for what this little person was working so hard to achieve. When I watched his little hands hold that pencil and his determined eyebrows furrowing in concentration, I saw my new definition of perfection. It didn't matter to me that he wasn't writing in a straight line or that his letters were wonkier than mine. Instead, what I saw was the beauty of his progress. I know this may all sound very elementary but to me, as someone who is often quite tightly wound at the best of times and who often feels she has had to be perfect in every way so as not to be judged, the wave of relief in recognising my child's abilities to show up, do, and be proud of his work was revolutionary.
See, I grew up with parents who expected their children to do more than their best. They believed in order for us to truly compete in this world, we had to do better, be better. We couldn't just be average. We had to be exemplary. It must have come as quite a shock for my parents when both my brother and I weren't exemplary students academically, rather we found our place in the world our own way. Not by being exemplary by some arbitrary standard, but by finding fulfilment in being ourselves. Granted, the educational foundation my mother gave us has been invaluable. But our true learning came from discovering ourselves.
In that moment last week, I relaxed into our new relationship as teacher and student and saw it not as yet another chore on my list of things to do each day, not as a time to be Catholic school strict (as was a school experience of mine). Rather, I began to see it as a precious time to truly see my son and recognise that how I see him will have a profound impact on how he sees himself. By showing him that his effort matters, that his progress each day matters, that it takes time to master any task. This will be something he carries with him forever.
Don't get me wrong, I still get frustrated. I mean, who wouldn't? We're all dealing with cabin fever mixed in with a little boy who just wants to see his buddies and run around in the playground. We have meltdowns but each day I'm gaining more perspective and patience. What I keep learning through my son is that there is no perfect way to parent. There is no standard we have to be following. He will find his way in the world, his way. My job is to show him that what he does matters, how he does it matters. He may not always get it right but if he keeps at it he may find his own perfect path.
Homeschooling has been educational for both of us. So much so that we even take a few afternoons off here and there to enjoy learning about life in other ways. It wasn't what I thought I would ever see us doing because I am a product of the old school way of learning. But the impact has been incredible, for both of us. At the end of each day I get the super precious "I love you" and even the "you're a great teacher!" Funnily enough, the latter comes when I tell him he can play on his iPad.
It's that kind of learning through perspective that you'll find in this week's #Repost selection. From having the strength to see a life beyond living on the streets, or London Mayor Sadiq Khan being honest about his own experiences and the still apparent stigma of mental illness on men; to imagining how a trillion dollars could wipe out viruses and diseases around the world (trillion isn't that much in relation to what governments spend on defence each year and how much the world's top 1% earn); or redirecting resources, especially natural ones, to architecturally enhance our health and wellbeing. These are stories that really help us see ourselves and others in a different way. And that, according to National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones is the point----changing focus, choosing to see where the light is can give us a whole new picture, a whole new perspective on life. After all, as Alua Arthur, a death doula tells us, at the end of the day, at the end of our life that's what we will always remember--the goodness, the light. And we know despite the dark grey days of winter, the light will return.