Monday, March 8, 2010

Pondering Motherhood and Grad School

Here is a post I started yesterday but finished tonight...

I am sitting on the deck at the home of my mother and father "in law."  My kids are playing in the sun, and we are all soaking up some much-needed vitamin D.  Even as I write this, my daughter has climbed on my lap and is taking in the moment with me.  It's a beautiful day!

My daughter K's birthday was on Thursday, and now I have two four-year-olds in the house.  I think back to last February, and remember that we had just found out for certain that she would be with us forever.  When K's birthday arrived, we were still insecure in our reality, emerging from nearly three years of regularly having our life turned on its head while we road the roller coaster of K's case.  And yet here we are, a year later, with a solid place to stand.  K is here for good, and is now a happy, healthy, active, bright, and precocious little girl.  She makes up complex imaginary games.  She reads at a young first grade level...heck, she read her own birthday cards this year.  She says things like, "that is not an option" and "I think that would be appropriate."  She ice skates, and I am pretty sure she is about an inch away from learning to swim.  

As M and K approach kindergarten, and I work on these grad school applications, school is a big topic around our house.  Today we were taking a walk, and as we went by the school where M used to attend his therapies (he now attends elsewhere due to problems there with the school therapists), he said "Mama, that's my old school!  I am going to go kiss it," and he ran up to the building and kissed the front doors.  The kids still love school, and M is proud to attend several (church school, Montessori school, and his therapy schools).  K calls the ice skating rink her "skating school."  But it goes beyond an enthusiasm for school, as those positive associations with school are in fact positive associations with learning.  They have a voracious appetite for information and for skills. I hope they never lose it.

I remember my father going to school when I was a kid.  I have a vague memory of going to a class (?) with him when I was about K's age.  I remember the look of the lecture hall, though I don't remember going in.  I remember sitting outside the room with at least one of my siblings.  I don't have a context for the memory, so it is probably inaccurate in numerous ways, but accurate or inaccurate, it is nonetheless something I have carried with me now for many years.  It has undoubtedly become a part of the stories that shape me.

I have been thinking about this lately, about how formative it was that my father went to school during my early childhood.  I don't know the details, nor how he did it with a family: four kids, a wife, a dog (at least at one point), and a job.  Maybe because he finished school while I was still quite young, I remember him as having been fully present in my childhood.  I remember a lot of family time with both my parents around...probably even more than my own kids get now.  So my memories of my dad going to school are very positive, and I have no doubt that these memories have influenced my drive. 

I also have memories of my mom returning to school for a period of time.  When I saw my mom do it, the work looked fun.  She was motivated.  I remember in particular a class she took, and a study-buddy friend she made in the class who she would invite over to the house.  I think I might actually have my mom's textbook from that class. 

When I start to worry about how I will juggle it all, I think of my parents and the gift that I can give my own children just as they gave me.  By watching my dad complete his schooling, I saw that possibility in myself, and I saw a reason to do so.  By attending school now, I have the potential to do the same for my kids.  I have thus involved my children in my decision to go back to school from the very start.  They were involved in the conversations between me and my wife about which schools were a "good fit."  They have celebrated each of my visits to schools and looked at the schools online with me.  They have been there through readings of my application essays, as I tried to help myself edit by reading outloud.   They quizzed me with my flashcards when I was studying for the GRE, and they cheered me on through testing.  They have been forbidden from entering my bedroom for a couple hours at a time while I have sequestered myself for "application duty." 

I know this is going to be a busy few years to come.  It is going to involve a lot of work and surely some heartache.  I also know that as I do this, my children are watching.  They are discerning in their own minds what work is worthy, and how much effort it deserves.  They are gathering information about our family's values, our approach to life, our optimism.  They are gathering information about differences between my wife and myself, and how we support and question one another in pursuing wildly different paths in life.  My children each have unique, individual challenges, but I can control the example I set.  It is a privilege and a potent power I have to be able to influence my children through my own action as they grow.  May I be worthy.


  1. Beautiful! I just enrolled my 4yo in pre-K for next year and she is so excited. My SN son is struggling in school and he and I talk about college and me going back to school. We discussed how one day, all 3 of us will be sitting around the table doing homework together. He got very excited at the idea. I hope my experiences going back to school can be an inspiration to him!