It dawned on me the night before the Wednesday in question. It was not going to be possible to get my daughter to her violin lesson at 5:30 a half an hour away to the east if my son was driving the car to his singing lesson at 5:pm a half an hour south. After google mapping the distance between the two destinations, I went to bed dreaming up options like insisting that my older son drive home from where he was staying with his girlfriend so we could borrow his car. Or as I relaxed and became more lucid, increasingly complex ideas occurred to me: All of us setting off together and then dropping my son off a little bit early for his lesson, then the 40 min over a different bridge than usual to drop my daughter off at her lesson and then I could drive back to pick up my son and my daughter would only have to wait an extra 40 min. I figured that the last plan only involved an extra hour and twenty minutes of driving between the two locations.
The next morning, I explained the dilemma to my kids. Before I could explain the third option I had thought of which invovled my son having to wait longer at his singing lesson after it was over, he interrupted and suggested, “Why don’t we just see if we can move the singing lesson to the Sat time slot?” It took only about a minute for me to realize that he had made a very good suggestion. So I texted with the lesson coordinator and within 5 minutes it was arranged that he could switch lessons. Problem solved.
So, my daughter and I set out on the half hour journey across the Hudson and down the other side of the river. We arrived at the music studio to find the door open as usual. We took off our shoes and I settled into the comfy sofa with my book. My daughter began tuning her violin. The teacher did not appear. After about 10 minutes, I felt the dismay and fear spreading through my body. I pulled out my ipad and went back to the teacher’s last email. Oh dear. She had written that, in general, Wednesdays were great, but not this Wednesday. Thursday at 5:30 would be perfect. And I had read her message. But my lifelong habit of skimming the time and date details had once again put a spanner in the works. Oh dear oh dear.
My daughter pointed out after I vented frustration with myself for 10 minutes solid, that the car trip had been really nice anyway. We had talked about the transitional period she finds herself in right now. I have every confidence that she will find her way out of this difficult patch. The question is whether I will continue to obfuscate my days. (I have assigned her all future communicaitons with her teacher about lesson times)
Sometimes I think of how easy it would be send my two teenagers off to school in the morning… I could have uninterrupted time to write cover letters for teaching jobs, work in my studio, revise my resume, see friends, take one friend up on a ski lesson offer, etc. Then I drive my daughter to her 10AM violin lesson where she plays Vivaldi under the tutelage of a gifted and passionate teacher. (Our school district has no strings program anyway) Next, I drop my daughter and her friend off with the friend’s mother to go to a group horse riding lesson where the two girls are going to work on jumping and then a free Latin class. (Our school district does not offer Latin) I go home, and realize that now that I do not have to pick my daughter up later thanks to the help of the other mom, I can go home, pick up my son, and head off to ski with him for a couple of warm afternoon hours. He is practicing a few things: how to do a 180 in the air off the jumps in the terrain park, and also how to teach skiing. It is a win win situation for me, as he happens to be a very good teacher and has me 100% more confident and focused on using varied pressure of my feet to steer, among lots of other things. He watches me and makes suggestions, and by the end of the afternoon, he has persuaded me to go down “Hell’s Gate”, an extremely steep icy slope named so as to dissuade middle aged novice skiers to even think of attempting it. This is what a good homeschooling day looks like. We are taking advantage of the weather, our moods, our discounted season pass, our geography, and our flexibility. We will do some math tonight in front of the fire, and go to our once a week homeschool cooperative tomorrow.
This scrawled calculation greeted me when I came down to the kitchen this morning. I could deduce that at least two children were up late discussing? arguing? proving things to each other? And it also explains, at least partially, why no children are visible this morning…..
My son and I went across the road to get maple tree branches for him to complete building an arbor for our garden gateway into our chicken yard. To get there, we had to navigate this field of pink fluff which actually cushioned our steps as we walked…expressions like “heaven on earth” and “walking in clouds” flitted into my mind as I walked softly. Imagine our happiness when we got to the top of the hill and discovered blackberry bushes laden with fruit that the deer had not yet found. We filled our pockets and my skirt folded up to be a pocket, cut some branches, and then returned back across the pink clouds to the kitchen where I baked a peach and blackberry tart.
Not all outdoor experiences are this idyllic, which makes one like this extra special. We were not swatting mosquitos, rushing, ignoring someone else’s problems, or sweating profusely.
The Stoics emphasized the appreciation of what is actually attainable, rather than the constant desiring and striving after things that come at too high of a price one way or another. Reading about the philosophy has led me to identify myself as a natural stoic…it is not anxiety that gives me pause when my three sons climb into the car to go play soccer in a neighboring town….it is a deep awareness of how tentative and fragile our experience is. They could be eradicated off the face of the earth in a second by an oncoming vehicle. It is the stoic in me who takes a minute to focus on the three of them with the thought of how much I love them before they set off, relatively immune to my call to them to “Drive safely!”