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Day 13 – Tutorial Tuesday: The “Sweet Spot” and Return on Investment

It’s my one day off from homeschooling I am sitting here at my clean dining room table thinking of my girls.

When the girls were toddlers I couldn’t wait for them to start school. Our days seemed an endless blur of Dora and diapers until Josh got home to find all of us tired, hungry, and out of sorts. I couldn’t imagine self-sufficient children. I couldn’t imagine life beyond the next day…or the next 8 hours of non-sleep and nursing marathons.

We had kids early and then stopped to catch our breath. By the time we hit preschool age with Sera, a lot of our friends were just beginning to have children. Right now I am definitely enjoying what Juliana Miner recently referred to as, “The Sweet Spot,” and trying to find the words to encourage my friends with tiny children that a new day does dawn. You will sleep. Your kids will wipe their own butts and clean their own messes. You won’t have panic attacks near automatic door exits, or deathtraps playgrounds without fences that border busy streets, or the freaking grocery store line.

There will be different challenges–electronic devices (maybe), and the dreaded “Tween” metamorphasis that turns sweet little girls into Jekyll and Hyde. My husband says it is like instead of a 9 year old, our oldest is 50% 6 year old and 50% 16 year old. One minute she is in my lap practically pawing at me as we read together, and the next moment she is slamming her door and posting signage instructing us that “Sera is not available today” but that she would appreciate room service.

tween notes

This summer I noticed a marked difference in the girls’ ability to fend for themselves. They got themselves breakfast and lunch almost every day. They entertained themselves for hours. What did I do? Crazy things. Like polish the wood paneling in my kitchen or dust the wooden slats on my closet door. One day I cleaned the grout around the hexagonal tile in our 60s bathroom…on my hands and knees. Of course I worked too–I wrote articles and songs and took Biology and Speech classes to plug away at my degree. But not unlike when the girls were tiny and I was sleep deprived, I walked around the house like a zombie. Only I wasn’t sleep deprived.

I was…BORED.

I was afraid to admit this to any other mom. I also remembered enough from my own coma-like baby years to know that the last thing my friends with young children need is some crazy mom telling them how bored she is. I asked another wiser homeschool mama, “Is it normal to feel…bored when kids get older? I feel guilty.”

She said the most wise and affirming thing:

“This is the payoff for all your work. This is your ROI.”

AMEN.

That said, I don’t find life as a mom boring as a condition at all. Summer was sort of unstructured and lazy, but now that we are homeschooling we are naturally busier and interacting together more. I LOVE my girls at this stage, and there is no part of me that wants to relive the sleep deprivation, no matter how squishy and cuddly they were. I no  longer feel deprived of adult interaction because of the sweet and intelligent conversation I have with my daughters every day.

Right around the time I was thinking of these things and sort of formulating a more thorough version of this blog post, Ms. Miner’s article began to make the rounds on Facebook.

But there was also the smell of the top of their baby heads. And the pudgy, little kissable feet, that are now big and stinky. Their bodies that used to be part of me, are now entirely their own. They’re not little anymore. That part of my life is over. And I find myself here, with three medium sized kids, in the sweet spot. I’m equal parts grateful and terrified.

Yep. Pretty much.

So, back to homeschooling (sort of). When the girls were toddlers the idea of free public school and 7 uninterrupted hours of time to myself every.single.day seemed like the promised land. The irony, is that right around the time kids reached school-age, I actually started liking them. I mean, obviously I love my children. But in the early years the prospect of a girls’ night out would send me passing my fussy baby off like a football to my husband without looking back. After they started elementary school I wanted to be around them all the time. When I’d pull into the car line I would actually get butterflies in my stomach upon seeing their little faces. The seven hours I had craved so badly when they were babes took up the majority of our awake time together and I felt like I only saw them at their worst–tired, grumpy, and riddled with homework.

So when people with very little ones ask me how in the world I am able to homeschool, I think about how different our lives are now that the girls are older and about how I look forward to spending each day with them.

The girls are only at tutorial once a week. For about seven hours. And you know what? I still miss their faces. “Sweet Spot” indeed.

girlsandmama

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