5 September

I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about August, how hard it is for me, how I finally realized that I just hate it. I didn't end up posting it because I was feeling too sorry for myself about it being August in the first place. But can I just say right now, August is over! And I couldn't be happier. Just turning the page on the calendar was a relief to me. And the weather, while still hot, is not as unbearable. And we're finding our rhythm a little bit again.

I can never not live in the West.

On the subject of family rhythm, some things have changed for us there. Long ago, two houses ago, before Fiona was even a dream, I wrote about our bedtime rhythm. I believed strongly then, as I do now, that chronic sleep deprivation in children is a real problem in the world these days. At that time, when I had two small children, very few classes and activities to take them to, and a husband who worked a lot (but not as much as now), I felt like putting them to bed early was vitally important to both their health and my sanity. 

Today, things look a little different. James is now older than Elisabeth was then, and in addition to her music lessons and occasional classes, we've added year-round competitive swim team to the mix for her, as well as soccer for him. I am right there with all the parents and "experts" who bemoan the loss of childhood and the overscheduled child of today. And (even bigger for me), I am really selfish and protective of own time. I'll gladly fill up a day spontaneously but I dread having things that I "have" to do. 

But it (finally!) occurred to me that, as homeschoolers, we are not locked into any schedule in the same way that families who go to school are. I realized, in a very freeing way, that it's OK for us to have a later dinner, and a later bedtime, if my children don't have to wake up at 6:30 in order to catch a school bus. So now we are eating dinner at around 7pm and the kids are asleep at about 9:00. This would have been a blasphemy to my old way of thinking, but these days, I'm grateful to have shaken away that more dogmatic perspective. I think it's so easy as parents to perceive one "way" as being "virtuous" and anything different to be "wrong". I've certainly done that about a lot of things, and I'm sure I continue to do so in more ways than I even realize. 

I think as mothers, too often we find ourselves in the trap of comparing ourselves, our families, to others. But why do we do this to ourselves? It's true that comparison is the quickest way to fall short. We all know that, I think, but it's so easy to think that someone else must have it "right". In the end, we have to remember that we only have to do what's right for our own families, and that might be really different than what another family needs, for so many factors: time, schedules, biorhythms, temperaments. We all need to seek a place of balance, and that's hard to do, but it's freeing, too. Instead of comparing, and fretting over whether we are doing something right, we can find that place of balance for our own families. And that's where the peaceful, joyful, felicitous family moments reside, rather than a place of anxiety.

I feel like we are at the point where we can say "yes" to more afternoon activities because we aren't locked into a daytime schedule. As I type this, it's just past lunchtime, and my kids are all playing outside, enjoying unstructured, happy childhood time. Since they get that time during the day, I am branching out, in a way that feels a little bit new to me, to letting them do more things outside the home. And I'm so glad I am. They seem happy and balanced and relaxed. It's been a good thing for us.

So it begins. That's James on the far left (red t-shirt).

{Also. The pictures here (sorry, more phone pictures -- I really am hoping to get back to my "real" camera!) were taken last week at James's first-ever soccer practice. I never set out to do the whole soccer thing. But oh, man, I really like it! He is so into it, so excited, and I'm amazed by how much I enjoy sitting there at the field during his practices. So, yeah, I guess I'm a soccer mom now.}