Saturday, February 24, 2007

In a blue mood

It's taken me all day to figure out why. I thought PMS, grey weather, a month of black and white photos... But it finally settled in as I allowed my mind to filter the experiences of the last week.

And this is what it is:

Our 17 year old daughter is really going to graduate and leave us. Jacob (15) will attend FT high school starting next year. Noah already lives away at college and his calls home have dropped dramatically this quarter.

Yesterday I met with Johannah's counselor and the assistant principal. After all her home education, she is opting to graduate with her class at the public high school instead of walking with her homeschooled peers. She had never even considered a high school diploma or the big impersonal graduation until this year. It happened like this.

In the fall, I met with the homeschool graduation team. When the coordinator mentioned that a female leader would offer the blessing on behalf of the 2007 graduates, one of the mothers spoke up explaining that her husband would "have a hard time with that." When pressed, she shared that he didn't believe that women should pray or lead blessings from the front of the church (forget that this isn't a church service we're talking about, but a graduation). The mothers all immediately regrouped on his invisible behalf offering their own husbands as potential blessing-offerers so that this (not present at the meeting) man would be appeased and satisfied. I didn't speak up as I already know my theological bent is on shaky ground at best in this circle.

Not one mother spoke up on behalf of a woman offering a blessing at the graduation. And let's remember that the women do the lion's share of the home education, not the husbands.

When Johannah heard about the disturbing direction the graduation had taken, she became less interested in walking with homeschoolers. I understood. I didn't like it one bit, either. On the other hand, I realized today that I have always imagined that intimate homeschool graduation where we see photos of our seniors up on the big screen, where the parents get to say a few words about the achievement of graduating, where tears and hugs abound, where each of the students present are kids I've known for years, have taught or loved or had in my home... the personal side of home education and graduation. Noah didn't opt for this type of graduation either.

So not only will Johannah graduate with the high school (all 700 of the students), but now all the records I've created and kept, all the grades, etc. will be translated into Lakota West credits and then rendered valid by the state so that she will receive a diploma. She also has to pass the Ohio Graduation Tests (five of them) in March. It feels like home education is being erased or absorbed or reinterpreted. I didn't expect to have this reaction.

Then last night, we attended opening night for the spring play Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which was performed almost to a professional level. Stunning sets, a Beast who was lifted into the air on wires during his transformation, state of the art costumes, vocals and dancing that rival local companies... It was an amazing show! And I sat there on the verge of tears for most of it. I kept remembering my senior year plays, having been a theater hound all through high school, and how that all ended when I graduated. I remembered on her behalf the headiness of a truly outstanding program, the close friendships, the exhillaration of being a senior... and felt sad remembering that that season had not only ended in my life, but now was ending in my daughter's life too. Twice proud and twice sad.

I realized I was mourning what is coming to an end - this wonderful chapter of my life where I see the flowering of our kids as they still live with us. When I met with the assistant principal, he told me that Johannah is an outstanding person, someone they admire and consider a quality human being on every level, and that they want to do whatever is possible to make sure that she feels fully a part of the school without violating her sense of self that led her to be homeschooled etc.. Truly humbling to take in. I appreciated his sensitivity. He seemed to see what I could not at the time... that I might feel some kind of loss letting her graduate with the high school.

Then today I called Noah (who will come out tonight to sleep over) and he told me that he is spending the evening at his girlfriend's parents. Of course. Isn't that how it goes? He hardly calls now, which means growing up, girlfriend, ownership over his life... and a strange loss for me.

I have loved being a fulltime mother of five. The experience has been far beyond anything I ever imagined or hoped. Every walk in the hills, trip to the art museum, face paintings, reading aloud to all the kids sitting around me listening raptly, Legos strewn everywhere, a busy dinner table where everyone competes to tell jokes and stories, five kids raking leaves and jumping in them, soccer balls kicked, fireflies caught in jars, Shakespeare plays and camps, dancing and knitting and painting, and finally, my favorite memory, tucking them all into their beds, knowing that all of our children were asleep under one roof, safe and at peace in cozy blankets, sure to wake up the next morning starving and ready to begin a new day at home with me.

That family has changed and grown up; that life is gone. I finally know it. I will still have two at home, but it will even be different only having the two of them. I can feel the impact it will have on them to not have their very-much loved siblings around all the time. I guess I'm feeling sad about it today.


SusansPlace said...

Gulp Oh Julie, I do know that feeling. Hugs my friend!


Ampersand said...

..."tucking them all into their beds, knowing that all of our children were asleep under one roof, safe and at peace in cozy blankets, sure to wake up the next morning starving and ready to begin a new day at home with me."

So beautifully expressed, Julie.

You know, I only have two at home with me, but I know the feeling. My two tend to go in very separate directions these days. I miss the all for one, one for all, times.

Though, when they are not going in separate directions they are most often in conflict. That, I will not miss when they grow up!

jo(e) said...

I know that feeling well. It's a kind of grieving, really. (I've got two in college, two still at home.)

carrie said...

Grief and joy both are valid feeling right now. I guess living in a dichotomy applies to parenting as well as spiritual beliefs!

Lots of empathy from me, my dear!

Rick said...

I keep the hope that we're preparing our kids for the future, for the world ahead, and that I'll miss them deeply and look forward to missing them deeply as we would move into that next phase as well. I keep telling myself that - and know that it will flow much the same as yours now.

For the school thing - you and the kids don't need the validation, but the "real world" needs to know you've done your work and your kids have benefited. Don't hold that against them :)

Heather said...

Julie, This post has touched me more than anything else you've written in the 7+ years I've known you.



julieunplugged said...

Ah Rick, I know that. They've been amazingly kind and supportive. I don't feel like any individual is invalidating (or usurping) my work. It was more the shock of joining the system after being out of it for 15 years.

Heather, thank you. :)

Steve said...

I understand if not completely, in large part. I think its largely about having these dear, sweet, amazing, completely unique kids that you love more than you ever could have imagined - well, grow up on you.

I started having these feelings two years ago. See:

Sandie said...

I can completely identify. Bursting with pride at the amazing young adults they have become, while mourning the sepration that makes it possible.

brian said...


Wow, what a great post. Even though we're a few years from experiencing the whole empty nest thing, I already think about that day coming way too quickly.

I'm just shocked at the reaction of the people at the co-op concerning a woman leading prayer. It's really hard to even believe that in "modern" times people would still cling to such antiquated notions.