Saturday, August 20, 2016

On bending

In my last post, I wrote that one of my hopes and prayers as we returned to PNG this spring was that our roots would be put down deeply enough that in times of difficulty or stress, we would be able to bend and flex without breaking.  Well, this last week sure tested that idea!!

Like most of America's kids, ours recently started their first week back at school.  Aren't they just adorbs :D

 Actually, we began with a gentle half-week two weeks ago, and this last week was the real deal.  I knew in the weeks leading up to our first day, as I prepped our material, that this year would be different than last.  We are doing second grade and kindergarten this year, and while Levi's days are still short, they are definitely more structured and involved than during Pre-K.  I estimated that Anna would still be able to get all her material covered by lunch time, but assumed that second grade would also require more of us than first.  In preparation, I made a list of all the classes each child would be taking, figured out which would involve hands-on help from me and which could be done independently, and which classes could be shared.  Based on that, I then created a daily schedule in which I planned for one child's independent work to be completed while I worked one-on-one with the other, and vice versa.  Interspersed were times of shared learning (like Bible, History and read-aloud time), and recess at their usual snack time.  I rearranged furniture in our house to create an individual space for each of the kids to have a desk area, with bookshelf space nearby for their books, rather than doing everything at the kitchen table and having a massive clean-up mission before lunch every day, like we did last year.

It was a well-thought-out, logical plan, and we were ready!!

The Plan. You can tell it's going to work because it's colour-coded.

 Hard at work on her first day!

Except for one thing.

In all my planning, ignoring the nagging voice in my subconscious, I just assumed Lucy would be cool with this new routine.  Like Levi was when I started homeschooling Anna. (I mean, seriously. The kid would just sit with us at the table when he was two years old and listen or colour until he got bored, and then hop down and play by himself until we were done.  Apparently this is not typical toddler behaviour that you should count on being repeated by successive siblings???)

Lucy, unlike either of her big sibs, is not a laid-back child.  I hesitate to use the words strong and willed, mostly out of blind panic, but that is definitely the personality type she leans towards! (She is also pee-your-pants hilarious, approaches life with bright eyes and excited curiosity, showers me with spontaneous affection, and has enough personality to totally fill our very high-ceilinged home; her little package definitely includes a lot of perks too!)

She never leaves you in the dark regarding her opinion. Like if she hates the song you're whistling? You won't be whistling for long.

But even as a baby, for a long time she resisted a day-time routine in a way neither Anna nor Levi did, was fussy with pretty much anyone who wasn't me from the time she could distinguish different faces (ask anyone who lives with us at Kudjip whether I am exaggerating!), and just required more of me than the other two ever did.  I'm regularly grateful that I've had a couple run-throughs of this parenting thing already and have some perspective I definitely did not possess as a first time parent ... but still, she's stretched and challenged me (*usually* with good outcomes!) much more than I ever have been before as a mom.  God is certainly teaching me that it's possible and necessary to deeply love one's child even while their actions are making you feel like a crazy person!
(As a side note, I recently read an account of one mom's discovery, on pausing homeschooling to search for her quiet toddler, that the kid had methodically covered themselves, the carpet and the oversized rocking horse with Desitin and then a generous sprinkling of baby powder.  To which her optimist friend commented, "Well, at least it wasn't poop!!" -- I can now recount a similar quiet-toddler story, without that final repartee. Please be truly horrified for me and pray earnestly on my behalf that it never, NEVER happens again. And maybe be glad not to have a photo at this point.) 

So, to return to our first week of school, Friday turned out to be the day none of the stars in my life aligned. I don't think any of them were even in the same hemisphere of sky.  My amazing friend Lena who comes on Friday mornings to help me clean the house was unable to this week (which she did, in fairness, warn me may be the case).  I was still physically tired from doing a heavy town trip/ grocery shop the previous day, after which I hadn't slept well at all.  Lucy was in fine toddler form and got sent to her room to throw a blood-boiling fit in solitude at least half a dozen times between 8:30 and 11:30, causing significant interruptions to the flow of our school day each time.  And it turns out this mama is just unable to be a kindergarten teacher, second grade teacher, daycare provider/ toddler disciplinarian, cook/cleaner/laundromat staff-person, and mother all at the same time on a poor night of sleep.  You are as shocked as I was on discovering this, I'm pretty sure.

I told Mark at the end of the day that there was just no way I was going to be able to do this for an entire year, and he had some super helpful ideas that I am planning to implement over the next couple of weeks.  Like getting the bulk of Anna's school done during Lucy's naptime, when I normally have the big kids just rest and/or read in their room.  (I'll be honest -- giving up my sanity-recovering alone time after lunch was a hard sell. But after our day on Friday was absolutely the perfect time to pitch it to me!)  I did an hour or two of homeschool-mom-blog research (HOW do moms who homeschool more kids than I even HAVE, and also have toddlers and babies hanging out in the background, have time to write these articles that the rest of us find so helpful??) and pooled some ideas.  I'm now armed with a good page and a half of things Anna or Levi can do to help keep Lucy busy while I'm working with the other child, a basket of 'Lucy school' baggies that she can choose from to play with by herself, a more realistic timetable for the day, and the paradigm shift that school can no longer simply happen without taking the toddler into account!

I'm praying it's enough ... but if not, we will just keep bending until we find something that works.


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