I’ve been sticking closer to home these days. One of the weird things about living on 225 acres of property you don’t own is that you never really know who’s here. You can be out for a walk, or in my case today, nervously searching for the daughter you can’t find since she went upstairs after finishing school. I thought she might have gone down to check on the baby birds that had been tipped out of their canoe during the last Outdoor Ed group. When I came upon the beach there was a black truck parked by the “Beach is Closed” garage door sign. I thought, “Oh God”, as my mind, as a woman, imagined the worst.
I either read or heard on the radio recently that anxiety has replaced depression as the leading mental illness in American women. The female wiring to nurture and care comes now with the broken ability to sense danger. It doesn’t know how to properly shut off.
It’s hard to know how much freedom to give my kids. I didn’t want to hover over them at every minute, or now, live in fear when they’re out of my sight. But I don’t want to be foolish or neglectful either. Anthony Esolen writes about the magical times of his boyhood when kids played outside from dawn til dusk. I agree children need to be playing outside, but dawn to dusk is a long time to go without attention or guidance.
I eventually found her playing with my middle son outside, but they were up by the house and not at the beach. Our afternoons at home here have always been vague. Part of me wanted to hold firm to the belief that everything necessary could be finished before lunch, allowing for the rest of the day free from school. The other part of me simply couldn’t go any longer. But I can definitely tell I’ve gained muscle and stamina. We take breaks here and there, but I’m hoping to continue daily schooling afternoons.
The kids, in four days, have yet to protest the arrangement. Where we run into kinks are the three times a day when it’s time to do the dishes. I do not by default clean up the kitchen. I still cook and clean and do laundry and change out the garbage bag when I’m miraculously the one who’s regularly no longer able to stuff any more into the bag. The kids are old enough to clean up the kitchen and they’re expected to do so, and they do.
I’m still taking pictures of dirty wash rags. I have to be very careful about what I give my mind to. I can’t mentally or physically be doing too many things at once. I don’t find the same readiness or even the ability to engage in multitasking anymore. It was truly something to get to be the wonder woman reading to the preschooler on the bathroom floor, sitting next to the potty training toddler, while breastfeeding an infant. I think I’ll always think, “Wow, I did that once”, and it wouldn’t be pride, but a reason to smile.
These days I’m trying to tune in to their questions, and wait a little longer as the little one slowly learns to write. I’m taking time to spend with one who still needs extra help with reading. There’s a second layer of a clay model tooth drying out on my table and a hammer pounding coming from the side of the house. My husband and I, last night, stayed up way past our bedtime sitting with our son and his two-page biology paper on biostatisticians. Oh for heaven’s sake, who knew the world could be so grand.