When carrying the worry-bundles in my "parent" backpack, I often forget that a teacher-mom must equally be a learner-mom. Every single day, I must remain wide open to the lessons my children offer.
First: go outside and swing. Swing with abandon, with the wind in your face. Defy gravity. Swing up to the sky, touch your toes to the edge of the moon.
Then, take time to learn how to sing.
For a week or so, I really thought I was getting better at this teaching journey. I had a big plan for a month long project called Moon Journals, in which we would practice nightly observation, then create nature/art journals to record the process. I checked out lots of books, spent a day with Elliot making home-made musical instruments to score poems, brought out the art supplies and planned. It was a properly fleshed out unit study. And it was working beautifully for the first week and a half. But just now, as the moon is full, I am ready to let go of this plan. Or at least relax my expectations. It's difficult to maintain interest in any one thing for 28 straight days.
We've just said goodbye to my mom, who drove over 700 miles and through mountains for her annual visit. We enjoyed every single day she was here, brightening up our lives with her love. She was there with us when we said goodbye to our library friends. She joined in our moon journal project, sitting in the dark with us on lovely warm evenings surrounded by Elliot, Ozzie, Annie, Richard and I. We plugged in the strings of lights on the back porch and wrote creative thoughts about the moon together. Together we shared what we had written, which infused the writing process with a warm, accepting, supportive feeling. This is what I hope Elliot will experience more as he develops his writing skills. I hope to teach that we write not to produce standard, acceptable sentences with proper punctuation, but to connect with others in a way that is different and somehow deeper than spoken conversation.
After a weekend of swinging emotions, I woke up to Monday. I had just said goodbye to my mom, which is always difficult and sad. I was full of worry as she was driving through a winter storm on the western edge of Hurricane Sandy. I was also feeling a little lost because there seemed to be so many goodbyes last week.
My mom's visit began the day after my best friend's mother passed away unexpectedly. So there was this hyper-awareness in my heart about us being temporal and how I've lived too far away for so long. I've missed a lot of my mom's life.
Then there was also a little loss because the busy work season is over. I closed up shop because there's no more time for last minute shipments to make it by Halloween, but anxious customers will still make demanding requests. So there's a suspension of daily routine. Surrounding this vertigo, the news reports of the hurricane seemed to squash my usual drive to move through the day with purpose and activity. It was like I was in a holding pattern, caught in a mix of goodbyes and what-ifs and wondering if New York would be as devastated as New Orleans.
But for a child, ordinary life is still happening. The child is still engaged in activity and needs to have structure and a reliable routine even when things feel out of whack.
Sometimes it happens that Elliot is interested in learning something that I did not plan. When I am open to letting go of work and school and just "being" who I am, Elliot steps up and leads the day. After lunch, while he played with Lego clone troopers, I turned on some music. When he called me from the next room, I tuned off the speakers. Then he said, "why did you turn the music off? I like that song."
It was Heart of Gold by Neil Young. I had it on my playlist on Spotify, so I played it again. Elliot started singing along, so I printed out the lyrics. I grabbed the harmonica, and soon we were deeply involved in listening and learning the notes and words. When Richard came home, he brought down his guitar and for the rest of the evening we worked on learning the song together. While the wind howled outside and the screen door slammed, while the Hunter's Moon was obscured by Sandy, we jammed.
I've been holding on to life as I know it with white knuckles; that's why change becomes such rough emotional territory. Today I'm breathing out, looking forward to joining together with the family band. In all the changes, I'm getting on the swing, raising my feet to the sky while singing. Maybe my feet will touch the moon.