Thursday, June 22, 2006

Waking up from a long sleep

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about this journey of parenthood and the choices we make and the extreme reality of it all. Each child is this little record keeper of the journey, absorbing the world as we present it to them and forming it into something that works for them, like a bit of clay that changes in the hands of each child. The constant pull between all powerful and completely powerless coming together to form our kids and the next generation.

It can be overwhelming, yet we so often do it on autopilot. We flow with the "times" we bring into our family recipe the things that "everyone is doing" and use that as the measure of what we find acceptable within our own children. However who are "everyone" are they what we see and recognize as desirable, do we look at this "everyone" and think "yeah, that is what I want for my kids" or do we just sort of do it because noone seems to question it and the flow of the river is just too strong to bother paddling in a different direction? Certainly I am not saying that all the things that "everyone" is doing are wrong or incorrect on some basis of the hard way being the righteous way, I am just wondering about how much, or rather, how little, thought goes into the choices we make for our families. The foods we feed them, the way we educate them, the way we discipline them, or how we set up and create our homes. I remember walking around college campus, doing research on the effects of contemporary and historical advertising on the confidence of a Mother's instincts recognizing the effort the students took to get to college and how hard they work to impress a Professor for that grade and to further their ability in their careers, yet we barely take the time to research the choices we make for our families. It is interesting.

What I have been thinking about lately isnt so much just that, I have been thinking about how now that I have almost 10 years of parenting (including pregnancy) under my belt, have I myself risen to that ideal I had set in my mind? Am I making choices that I am proud of for my family? Am I white water rafting down the river or am I struggling to paddle us into what is truly right for our family? I dont know!

In hindsight I can see where I veared off the path. Where I allowed my subconscious to come in and steer the boat for a while. When GM began showing so many symptoms of Autism, and my boat began to rock. I was never upset about it as much as concerned. I wanted information and a plan for how to assist him in the best ways I could, without medication if at all possible. So I lost some vision for where the boat was going because I was so focussed on one of the passengers. I think this is when I allowed my subconcious to come in and take over the "vision" for our family.

So what is up with this subconcious anyway? A few years ago I woke up and realized that I had placed us inside of a picture that was the basic opposite of who I am and how I was raised. I woke up one day and found myself living in a big house in a terrific neighborhood surronded my stay-at-home Moms who all drove minivans and belonged to clubs and scouts and so on. They were the picture of the perfect family. I loved these families and their children, they have terrific lives that are filled with depth and wonder, but I wasnt in the right place. I wasnt raising MY kids, I was playing a part, I was trying to be something that was completely unnatural to me. What on earth was I thinking that I would even consider raising my kids away from their large family, the one thing I always yearned for as a kid? How is it possible for us to achieve our vision for our family with my husband working until 8:30pm each night, unless that vision was for the house, the car and the perfect lawn. Which it wasnt. It was like I woke up in some sort of painting that I had never seen, yet I was the one who had painted it. I put together all the outer ingredients for what I thougth it took to raise happy children, but what I forgot was that unless the environment is true, and real, as it was for my neighbors, it was nothing but an empty shell. The environment I created actually undermined the very things I swore too while walking around on campus and creating my vision in my mind. WOW, talk about a subconcious ride. I had flown down river for years, and never realized that I was going the wrong direction.

What woke me up? The very thing that had knocked me out, GM. I always wanted to homeschool my kids when I was in college. I had visions of teaching them from my garden and traveling the world to experience life and cultures, yet once we detoured in one area of our life with Autism, I accidentally allowed everything to shift. I forgot, yes, forgot about my vision and became focussed on trying to figure out how to help GM. It was as though I was standing on a mountain that was built of years of thoughts and dreams and it suddenly all fell away, leaving the two of us up high on top of the peak with no way down accept to figure it out step by uneasy step. At the time I was oblivious to this happening, I was so focussed on my research and on his therapies I didnt even notice the mountain had disappeared. It wasnt until he started a kindergarten program that wasnt going to work for him, and I went to a conference on RDI and the Dr said, HOMESCHOOL them, that I woke up. Oh yeah, what am I doing, why am I trying to fit my organic shaped child into this rigid mold? I am failing him by trying to make the picture come together for him. He doesnt need to fit into any picture, we need to paint one that is all about him, that uses his shapes and colors and which comes from my heart, not my subconcious. Hurray! I was free again. I took him out of school and set back on the journey to finding our way back to the path that was always right for us, before we even got started.

My husband and I began the three year journey of trying to find a way to return to the southwest, to get back on track and to have our lives reflect our hearts. It took a long time, but finally we are here, and living without a set framework for how to build a "happy family" we are building "OUR family". It may look funny from the outside, and there may be many things that someone on the outside might not recognize as the patented signs of the happy family, but we are doing great! It feels raw and sometimes scary, but not like before, before I felt hollow and uneasy about things, now I feel fulfilled and that even though I may be making mistakes left and right, they are the right mistakes, they are mistakes that are made while seeking out what is right for us, so in the end they still help us get to our vision. We got here last May and bought the house my husband grew up in. It isnt a beautiful home on a lovely corner lot, with a manicured yard and surrounded by egually lovely homes, in fact it is old, in a so-so neighborhood and it needs a lot of work, but I LOVE it! Not because of how it looks, but because of what it means to us. The boys now sleep where their father slept as a boy, and that broken door jam is a memory of that big fight my husband and his brother had 20 years ago. It has meaning to us and so it enriches our lives in ways the other home simply couldnt do; it just didnt have the history. It also sets up an example for the kids that we want to honor our family history and that we will make this house into our dream home, but starting from this foundation, the same foundation that supported Daddy all those years.

I have to wonder how I will look back at this ten years from now, will I feel we missed a turn here and there, or will I think it was one of the most defining times in our lives? I dont know, but I can say that I feel very awake right now. I feel very in touch with myself and my own past. Im not standing in a crowd, enjoying the view, Im riding right up front, the wind in my face and the sensation of being alive is constant.

As the mother in this family I have to stay true to who I am, and where I come from. If I am not true to that, then everything else I try to teach them will be built on a false foundation and simply wont hold. I cant get back those eight years, and as much as I regret that we didnt stay on this path throughout, I have to hope that the kids will learn that you can wake up one day and recognize that you are heading the wrong direction, and you CAN make changes in your life. You will have to paddle against the stream for a bit, but you can and should do it if it is what your heart knows to be right.

So are we back on track? Not completely, I guess that is why this is in my mind lately. I do feel incredibly close though. I joke about being dangerously close to "on track" but I really do feel that way. I feel like Im in that crazy mode when your cleaning out a closet and all the crap is all over the floor and makes no sense but it is sorted and ready for that final hour of just getting it into place. It looks like an incredible mess on the outside, almost like you made it worse, but soon, BAM it will be amazing!

Lets hope!


kate said...

this posting is great! This very week, our family is finally making the break from the suburbs - and rebuilding our life how we've been planning & imagining it since we had jack. Of course, I worry that my end result real life may not match the fantasy and intentions I have. But I have to imagine we'll be closer on track.

Sara said...

Wow. How cool is that to raise your family in their dad's childhood home! Is that serendipity or what?!

We seem to be on such a transient path over here-- hoping to get back to the west, but totally open to the whims of fate. And you're carrying on something of a legacy there... I can't even imagine roots that deep. It strikes me as such a powerfully grounding thing. What a wonderful gift to give your children.

tracy said...

I love this post Kari!

APKimberMama said...

Kari, your post is so detailed, so thoughtful, so full of hope and emotion...I can't begin to formulate a comment right now.

I will say that it is always great to recognize when we stray from the path, so that we can find it again. I often find that I am right next to the path, but trailblazing instead of walking the worn steps that those before me have created with their experience. I sometimes make it too hard for myself, too exhausting, when the guidance of those who think and dream like I do could help make the way easier. Not that I want it to be too easy....

Christi said...

Thanks for sharing your story. We are finding our way on the path too. Waking up so to speak. Cool about the house too. We live in the house my grandparents bought when my mom was pregnant with me. I spent my summers here as a child. A very neat place to me.

maya said...

What a beautiful post! I can relate to so much of it, having finally just move back to the same area we moved away from when my 1st child was a baby. A matter of searching everywhere for the right thing and coming back to discover it was right here all along. The wonderful thing is you knew yourself and your ideals so early in life, and here you are living them!