Monday, November 15, 2010

15 Years

Fifteen years ago tonight, I became a mother.

Leading up to that life-altering moment were no less than 43 hours of drug-free labor, two weeks of prodromal labor, twelve weeks of Bradley classes, 9.5 months of eating healthy food, two months of talking about when would be the right time to start a family, several years of talking about when to get married...

Considering the effort it takes me and Savageman to agree on a sofa or carpet, I'm suddenly really impressed this child exists at all.

Raising the Teen has been the single most humbling experience of my life. Our lives, as I'm sure Savageman would agree.

We thought we knew everything. We thought we had all the answers.

We couldn't have been more wrong.

Starting with the birth itself, the most glaring of our misconceptions:

If we do everything "right" we are guaranteed the outcome we want.

That diet, the classes, the refusal of labor meds, the walking, squatting, pelvic rocking... and I still wound up having the C-section. I didn't care. All I wanted was to protect my baby, who was stuck and might have been hurt had I insisted on continuing with my perfect natural birth. I just wanted to hold him - I didn't care if it meant being cut open, as terrified as I had been by that idea earlier in the process. Cut me open - I don't care - I just want him safe.

Then came the breastfeeding, sling-wearing, co-sleeping, attachment parenting, gentle guidance, textbook La Leche League parenting. We were so proud of ourselves for doing everything right. I became a Leader and a Bradley Teacher. We went to the conferences, happy to be surrounded by other crunchy, like-minded people, and to see their sweet, calm, peaceful babies and toddlers nursing or playing quietly during the sessions. Our baby was sweet and happy too, although anything but calm and peaceful, and we adored him. It was exhausting, but we wanted to do everything right.

He was about 18 months old when we were at a LLL conference and noticed the difference. The big difference. And this time we knew it wasn't our fringe parenting style because everyone there parented the same way. Ours really was different.

Different bad? Different good? Who's to say? A little of both, maybe. But he was different. He was... MORE. More of everything. More active, more impulsive, more affectionate, more inquisitive, more talkative... just MORE. His preschool teacher nicknamed him Personality Plus. He was certainly a charmer, and he still is.

This was the child who brought me to homeschooling. Which was fine with me anyway, despite all the struggles. But after the first few years, I was starting to get the idea. Whether I did things "right" or not, there were no guarantees. He's half the equation, and he has his own mind. I'm glad we had those years together, and I know they taught us both a lot. But I'm glad he's in school now.

He brought home his report card today. 2nd Honors. He had a 99% in English - the subject we fought about most when he was home. A 93% in French - with (supposedly) the hardest teacher in the school. (Guess something about her seems familiar to him...) A 94% in History; a 94% in Religion.

And just like I can't take full responsibility for the problems we've had, I can't take the credit for this recent success either. He's got his own mind, his own ways, his own priorities, just like he always has. I can try to guide and reward and punish, but when it comes down to it, I have less power than I like to believe. Which is sometimes hard for me to admit, even to myself.

One of my reasons for homeschooling him was that I wanted him to learn to think for himself, and that's certainly what he does.

And deep down, I wouldn't have it any other way. Even when we disagree. I didn't bring him into this world to be an extension of myself. I can hope that he might absorb some of my better qualities and values, but when it comes down to it, he's his own person. Which is as it should be.

Tonight, we're celebrating a successful first quarter of High School, and tomorrow we'll be celebrating his 15th birthday.

And 15 years of parenthood.

Led off by this boy who forced us to question our own hubris right from the start.

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