I get lots of comments every week, usually from strangers, about the fact that my kids are with me wherever I go, rather than engaged with the public school system. Most of the comments are either neutral or critical in tone; and a few are delightful and supportive or insightful.
On Wednesday, I received an encouraging word. I was in line at our local grocery store. The man at the checkout, Ken, had rung up my groceries dozens of times and he's generally friendly. This time, he mentioned that he always sees me in the store with my kids in tow and he wondered out loud why they weren't in school.
"We school at home," I said, giving him my usual answer. "So the kids are always with me."
"Wow," he said, putting down the bunch of bananas he was holding and looking me right in the eye. "That's awesome. What a gift to your family to be able to do that. I bet you know your kids really, really well." He then went on to introduce himself to my kids and told them how fortunate they were that they could be with their mom all the time and how he wished he'd had that opportunity to be known so well. It felt surprisingly good, almost a relief, to receive a comment that was the antithesis of the ones I am more accustomed to receiving.
In all of my (4-5) years of schooling at home, it's the first time someone has ever commented on what I believe secretly to be true: That as a result of being with my kids all of the time, I know them very, very well.
Although I'm often tired, occasionally panicky about whether we're doing the right thing, and sometimes fed up with having so little space and time to myself, there is no doubting the fact that I know my children...even the ones I've been parenting for 'only' 2.5 years. Although they all still surprise me at times, I understand the direction of their thoughts and know where they come from because I was there yesterday, too, and last week, when they were working those thoughts out in their day-to-reality; I know their tendencies and how they will respond to people who talk with them; I know when and why they have that fleeting panicky look in their eye that no one else will notice and because I do I can jump to their aid without a word being shared; I know their fears as well as their hopes; I know not to touch one child at a certain moment even though another needs a touch at precisely that instant; I know (even when I can't stop myself) the impact that my words are having on my children because I've seen the fallout before; I know that talking in a moment of sadness or frustration will work with one child more than the other two and I know when to sit down a foot or two away instead of pulling a child up into a hug; I get to spend eons of quality and quantity time with my kids because I'm always there; I know which child will look away from the tv if a scantily-dressed woman appears on the screen, and which child will take a closer look; I know because I've seen their tears before how they will deal with a moment of hurt from a friend; I know based on the mood of the day whose book to start with during our reading times even if that child's book was the one we started with yesterday; I know which child needs to see piles of candies in order to learn how to add things together and which will learn it better if I write it down and say it out loud with them; I know that when one child blows up and slugs a sibling it's out of frustration and unmet expectations rather than intent, and that that same child will shed tears of remorse in moments; I know which tone of voice will work for one child and how that same voice doesn't work for another; I know when to let a child learn about the unfairness of life and when to bring about justice in the situation; I know who likes which teaspoon the best and when to bring out a cup of tea or hot chocolate just to calm everything down; I know from a glance at my kids' faces what kind of day we're in for and what to do about it; I know which likes to have a hand on his back to help calm him, which likes my left and not my right hand to hold when crossing a parking lot, and which likes his ears rubbed while he's leaning on me just because it feels good.
In the rush of day-to-day life, in the testiness of mood swings, in the times I'm fearful about what the future holds, one thing is a real gift and blessing: I'm a mama who has been given the opportunity to know her children. How blessed am I?