I’ve always loved labyrinths, ever since I was little.
It was only as I grew older that I learned more about them, that I was able to ascribe deeper meaning to my own truth. I remember a number of years ago reading that they can be symbolic of a journey inward, for deeper understanding of self, before using that knowledge to then return outward again. I have the feeling I’ve written before about how I think this relates to motherhood.
It does. Generic parenting, home educating, all of it. When a baby is born, everything turns inward. Your only focus is keeping this little being alive. Changing shitty nappies, feeding, feeding, always feeding, cuddling and marvelling and sleeping. That’s it.
When that baby is a toddler, it becomes so much more intense – or it did for me. Two babies running in opposite directions, one falling on a plant pot and the other eating cat poop. There was a lot of frantic blood wiping, comforting, but also a lot of getting out paints only to clean up and put them away ten minutes later.
And so it carried on. But now, my babies are somehow nine years old. And only now do I really feel the possibility of coming away from the centre of that labyrinth. This blog doesn’t need to detail my children – while they don’t mind being online presences, I am starting to mind on their behalf. But you know, I’m learning that so much of unschooling and parenting is actually about the parent, not the child. We are a part of the equation.
We have all the worries and wobbles. In what specific and glorious ways am I messing my children up? Should we be doing more math and less mess? What life do I see for my children, am I doing enough to help that become reality? We have the anger, the assumptions, the awful second guessing and doubt.
But also, just lately, just now, I have something other than all those things. Oh, they are still there, but my capacity to hold them seems to have widened and I’m left with the most precious gift of all: space.
I’ve done something right, I’ve made some good choices along the way. My children know what to pack for each day and just get ready for that adventure without prompting or needing me to double check (though I still do). The house is a hideous mess of Lego and playmobil and endless things I don’t understand – bits of wire, rocks shoved under the couch, papers full of drawings and plans and sharks about to eat unsuspecting surfers. But when I can’t take it, when I ask, they’ll tidy.
I’ve been brave and made friends. A really good circle of friends who are also trying to create space or forgetting that they ever had space or are pretending they don’t need that space. We’re in the same boat, even if we educate differently, even if we parent differently, even if we are just so exhausted it’s hard to see where we overlap or miss the boat entirely.
I’ve made a lot of bad decisions, too, but the good ones, the ones that are buying me this bit of safe space, means that I’m no longer in the middle of that labyrinth, stupidly hopeful but drowning in despair. I’m actually, sort of, kind of, thinking it’s time to start facing outward again. Maybe taking a step or two in that direction.
There’s a lot I want for my children. But you know what? There’s a lot I want for myself, too. And that’s okay, even if it’s hard to imagine just what ‘myself’ might look like these days.