I haven’t mentioned it much here, but I suffered a dramatic knee injury in late January of this year, earning myself weeks of sitting on the couch, months of crutches, and more months of rehabilitation. (8 months later I can get around pretty well, for which I’m thankful, but I still have a ways to go.) Part of the fallout of all that was that homeschooling was hampered quite a bit last school year. After some negotiating, we settled on shorter days and working through the summer. By the end of July all that was left was a daily grammar lesson with the older boys. Still, it was a great relief to finish in August and have a couple of weeks of total freedom from academics.
Then the beginning of September rolled around and we started our new school year. It usually takes us a few weeks to settle in to a good rhythm with the new books and materials, and this year was no different. We’re still getting adjusted after three weeks. Some days I feel like it’s difficult to breathe, and like I’m drowning in all the work that needs to be done. The school days have been uncharacteristically long, and that doubles for me since we’ve two different grade levels. It doubles again given that I’m shepherding two different personalities through each of those two grade levels. Then there are soccer games and practices in the evening and on Saturdays. Keeping up with just the basics is overwhelming. Managing to do anything more than survive: nearly impossible.
I know the boys were feeling it too because several small things that hadn’t been problems suddenly changed and cropped up. The dog’s collar, for example. We were at nearly a 100% success rate with keeping it in the entry near the door; this made getting her outside quickly a snap. Suddenly it was turning up all over the house, several times a day. More than once I’ve had to do some serious searching to find it. That’s frustrating.
Another strange one: nearly every day I’ve walked into the bathroom the boys use and discovered that someone has taken the toilet paper roll off the hanger and left it on the floor. Why?? What on earth is the point of such an exercise? What good is there in setting the roll (of paper!!!) on the floor(!!!) in a bathroom used by boys (ewwwww!!!!)? The mind boggles. No one will admit to moving the toilet paper. It’s just crazy.
I don’t think that the dog collar or the toilet paper being in the wrong place is some kind of conspiracy to annoy. Instead I think they’re feeling stressed at the changes; probably as stressed as I have been feeling.
There have been a lot of emotional moments; at the same time we’ve not had massive blow-ups. I have had to be firm and even intense, but I have been able to emphasize that intensity does not equal anger.
I’ve relearned some lessons over the past 3 weeks. Again. Because learning them once (or several times) is apparently not enough.
- Hands Off: Sometimes it’s best to disengage. We have several new assignments with programs that have changed, plus the boys are going to a co-operative school that some other families are putting on weekly. When the art class teacher handed each boy a piece of wet fabric on which to draw with chalk, one son looked me straight in the eye and whispered, “I’m not touching that.” He wasn’t kidding. Rather than argue with him, I went on with helping the other children get their project ready. Not two minutes later, my boy had changed his mind and was drawing cheerfully.
- Basics first: It’s okay to function in survival mode short term. The boys will adjust to the changes; this is not a forever crisis or a new normal. It’s okay to set aside projects and just manage school, sports, and necessities like food and cleaning. When we’ve gotten our rhythm back, I can add other tasks back to my schedule.
- Focus (long and short term): Concentrate all attention on the task at hand and work to get it done as much as possible. Having long todo lists can weigh heavily especially late at night. Accomplishments, even small ones, are encouraging. If there’s not enough time available to complete a larger job, try to at least get it done in chunks. Prioritize that one job so that you tackle a piece as often as possible until it’s done. I’ve wanted to refinish our swing set for years, and the fading finish was making me feel guilty every time I looked out the window. By working on it over several days, an hour at a time, the job got done. Breathing is a little easier, now that such a large task is finished.
It’s no fun feeling stressed. By scaling back and trying to keep a clear head, I can get through this period and back to a comfortable normal soon.
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Photo graciously provided by Dude Crush, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved