Sometimes I see my kids’ lives as these orderly timelines, where say, potty training is a neat little check mark somewhere between ages 2 and 3. But really it’s more like climbing a mountain called Potty Peak. There you are, your backpack full of extra clothes and plastic bags. You’ve finally reached the alpine zone, that breathtaking treeless expanse from where you can look back on your trail, which includes 2,867 or so diaper changes. You’re so close you can touch the peak, except—whoops!—as a customer at a local cafe announced, loudly, 4 years ago: “soggy bottomed boy in the train room.” Yes, that would be my soggy bottomed boy.
And you know we’re golden with potty training now, but the mountains of childhood keep rising up. And I’m realizing that what looks like a mountain to be climbed is more like a labyrinth to be walked. Labyrinths, unlike mazes, have no dead ends, just a single path leading to the center.
Which is to say that while many things come easily to Col (building traps and drawing sea serpents and caring for his avocado plant), reading and writing do not, which is okay, this is our labyrinth.
Last week the kids were making valentines for their cousin Peter, and Col said, “I’m just going to draw a little picture before I write some words,” which is like cuing the scary music that foreshadows the ream of crayoned-on paper enveloping the house, smothering the mother who is wondering aloud, from underneath an tsunami of paper, “are you ready to write some words now, honey?”
And really what happened is Col made this amazing dragon with 3 sheets of paper that he cut and taped and colored, scissoring a spiky little tail and a mouth full of sharp teeth, and then requested that we hang it from the ceiling.
And part of me is like, “you go on with your artistic self, little guy.” And another part is like, “wow, that was an elaborate undertaking to get out of writing a few sentences.”
And this is how it is right now. Col finds it incredibly frustrating that the double o’s in book are pronounced one way, whereas the double o’s in hoop are pronounced entirely differently. He gets sort of narcoleptic when you put a book to read in front of him, rubbing his eyes and careening into my lap. But, he can build a perfectly accurate and symmetrical lego helicopter without ever referencing a picture. If you gave him 5 random objects from your junk drawer, chances are he could fabricate 10 different things, half of which could be useful, at least to him and his sister. I can’t recall him ever being bored.
I think sometimes homeschooling, or perhaps “unschooling,” is depicted in this way where kids are given complete free reign on their education and thus learn everything they need to know. I pictured Col delving into geometry at 14 while I hung another batch of curds in a cheesecloth and the orchestra played: if it’s not fun, why do it?
But you know, sometimes the orchestra plays: language arts are stepping stones to entire worlds of learning. Other times the tune is: children bloom in their own time. And both are true. Childhood is not something to rush through, and the joy of discovering new skills has an equally sweet taste as the joy of mastery.
And so, Col works on reading and writing in some form everyday, while I work on relaxing and trusting; and there’s always plenty of time for legos and art.