Today has been one of those days when I feel like a tragic hero. Nothing I’ve laid my hands to seems to come out right. I open my mouth and the wrong words come out. I lift my hand and I break a glass. My children resist all of my suggestions; I’m at odds with everyone. I put a dishwasher tablet into my mug instead of a teabag. We’re having one of those days. And it’s not even a Monday.
Some days as a home educator are absolutely fantastic. We are going with the flow, bouncing off each other, getting our projects done, learning from one another, finding new things out together. On those days I’m striding along with confidence and feeling on top of the world. What’s more, I feel at one with my children, like we are flowing in the same direction. They’re enthusiastic and excited about what we’re doing, I can see their progress and we are all having fun. If you could make a commercial about home schooling, we’d have a starring role, but my hair would be a bit tidier and my clothes would be ironed. (You’ll have to imagine that.)
But today, like “those” days when things don’t seem to be going my way, has been hard. It started with arguments and bad feeling, moved onto irritation and resistance, and finished up with some yelling, resignation, and my head firmly resting in my hands. Ugh.
On days like this I wonder whether we are doing the right thing. Would they be better off in school? Wouldn’t my life be easier if they went off in the morning and returned in the afternoon? Then I could apply myself to pursuits where people actually value (and pay!) me.
When I feel the resentment building and I’m feeling bad more than I’m feeling good, I know I need to change something. I either need to make a change in what I’m doing or in what I am thinking. Or both. Let me explain.
At the end of the day I will sit down and evaluate how it went. I’ll write in my journal, note down what I am grateful for and consider what could have made things better for all of us. The most common causes of difficult days in my house are too little sleep, too little nourishment, too little quiet time, and too much rushing around. Oh, and I’ll be honest: one of the things that really consigns our day to the dustbin is if I get into a bad mood at the start of the day, wallow in victim thoughts and can’t snap out of it. There, I said it.
What could I be doing differently? Could I rush less and make more space in our day for connection, snuggles on the sofa, read aloud stories, art? Could I commit myself to ten minutes (or possibly—hopefully—more) of quiet time after lunch in which I could journal, read a book, sit in meditation or simply lie down? Could we all go to bed a little earlier?
How could I be thinking differently? When things aren’t going very well, it’s so easy to feel like a victim (“Why am I doing this?” “This isn’t what I expected.” “Why are they doing this to me?” “How did we end up like this?”). It’s tempting to let the grey cloud expand, to let The Nothing absorb us and give in to desolation. For me, it helps so much to step back and find my agency in each day. I remind myself that I made these choices. I recall that they are good choices and that we are just stuck in a moment, but we will find a way out, as we always do. I practice compassion and try to see life through my children’s eyes. I meditate and allow unhelpful debris in the mind to dissipate.
I remember when my children were in school several years ago. We’d start the day on the wrong foot, then I’d wave them into the school and that would be it. For the whole day. There would be no opportunity until the end of the school day to rebuild connection, to try again, to say sorry, to hug. I try to recall how bad that felt, how I couldn’t wait to see them in the afternoon and start over, how hard it was to focus on anything in the day with that pall of bad feeling hanging over me. Now I’m lucky, because when life is dishing out moldy leftovers at 7 a.m., I have a chance at 7.01 to chuck it all in the bin and start over. I can say sorry NOW. I can hug my child NOW. We can start over NOW.
Why am I doing this? I’m doing it because I love it and believe in it. And even things we love can be challenging. That’s actually part of their allure.
But take it from me, tea made with dishwasher tablets is definitely to be avoided.