We had a terrible morning. Miriam was up a lot last night and Thomas decided dinner and breakfast were both yucky, so by the time we headed out this morning Mommy was tired and cranky, Miriam was tired and cranky, and Thomas was on the verge of starvation meltdown. When things go wrong for Nat he gets really mad and aggressive. When things go wrong for Thomas he melts into a pile of whiny, leg-clinging goo plus tantrums.So that's about the state we were in when we got to the drop-in. Thomas spent the first part of the time clinging and begging to go home, trying to escape out the door, and whining. I tried to get all the kids inside and keep them there while holding Thomas (forty pounds approximate) and Miriam (eighteen pounds approximate). While trying to appear reasonably cheerful and collected. I suspect I didn't.
There were endless snack requests once Thomas settled a bit, and me running back and forth from kids to kitchen to kids, occasionally chatting with other adults there, and generally trying to keep an eye on everyone. It's generally pretty nice there, but the more stressed I start out the harder it is for me to cheerfully wrangle all four kids in an environment full of other small kids. Plus, and maybe this is just me, but when I'm in a place with lots of other parents of small children, especially parents of one or two small children, I inevitably feel like the failing poster child for Mothers of Large Families. Like a Warning! Don't Be Like This Failing Mother! sign.
During Thomas's final meltdown, which precipitated us leaving, one of the nannies I've known for about four years came over to where I was wrestling with him (not a metaphor) and said, "You should put him in school."
I said, "He's three. He isn't old enough", or something similar.
"You should put him in when he's old enough. And you should put your older one in, too. He would learn some discipline and you would get a break.".
I guess I looked more than usually overwhelmed, but even so that struck me as rude, and since it happened I've gone through various states of rage and defensiveness and the general feeling that she's right, all my children are monsters, therefore I should give up. I wonder about boarding schools for toddlers? None of these are helpful thoughts. I think I'm working around to actually pondering the reasons we are continuing to keep the kids home, and that is helpful. Geoff, now behind me at the computer, says, "We are homeschooling because of our oldest children's medical and social needs." Basically, Nat is not good at sitting still aside from in front of the computer. He really, really is twitchy, energy-intensive, and incredibly social and a bit of a social misfit. He concentrates really well on what interests him, is very physical, and has a deep anarchic and boundary-testing streak. Huge, really. Even though I feel defeated by the horrible week last week and the general relentless stress I know that he's doing well. I don't see him doing as well in school. Not yet, at least.
We also are generally proponents of a sort of classical unschooling Charlotte Mason-y educational philosophy: we want our children to learn to read, write and do math. We want them to love books. We want them to be curious and learn to do things even if they don't want to, for the good of themselves and others. We want them to really like learning things.To that end today, on a horrible, cranky, sleepless day, I looked at the sunshine through the leaves with Nat, read a couple of excellent picture books with Thomas, and asked both boys to try to dress themselves, to fetch things for me, to do reading aloud (Nat), and to play gently with their sisters. I've watched them play superheros and build robots out of Lego. I've heard them both declare their undying love for cheese fondue. I've told them I felt awful and asked them to forgive me for being cranky, and we've all apologized to each other.
I think we're doing a pretty good job.