Homeschooling and a Parallel Path (Part 2)
There are a lot of reasons we decided to home school L. and there were many compelling arguments for it when I put in the time to research it as a method. I will dedicate posts to it as part of my notes because it truly is a remarkable journey. However, for now it serves as the back drop to this summer day incident. So let’s go back to the car with the very silent L. in the back.
When we pulled up to the camp’s base location, just 12 mins from where I live, L. looked around and said, “How come the train isn’t here?”.
“You mean the bus?” I asked. She had to think about it for a second but then nodded her head. It occurred to me that perhaps someone who didn’t know the difference between a train and a bus may not be qualified to be on a trip on their own.
I would have never done this with my firstborn F., but I think the second child seems to get treated like they are older more often than not. We walked together to the building’s entrance, with L2 once again on my arm, in a clean diaper this time, but with pajamas still on and messed up hair.
I explained to the camp counselor that L. was a little nervous, I told him she should have her life jacket on at all times because she was not that confident of a swimmer. I told him everything she needed was inside her lunch box and NOT her backpack (only the towel and life jacket were in there), her food, her sunscreen and even her money was in the lunchbox.
I kneeled down next to her and gave her a kiss and hug and asked, “Do you need anything before I go?”.
“Did you put my water bottle in?” she asked, and I remembered that I didn’t.
“Oh no honey I forgot!” and immediately she looked crushed. The camp counselor comforted her and explained that there would be water fountains everywhere, but I could tell that I had just added something to her worry list.
The walk back to the car was a little lonely with just me and L2. on my arm. I saw two large buses pull up to the camp with somber/serious looking drivers, and I thought to myself, “Those train drivers don’t look too friendly”.
When I got home I had some stuff to do and after I hung out at home for about 40 minutes I walked into the kitchen and found L.’s water bottle on the kitchen counter but more importantly, right next to it, sitting there like a ticking time bomb, was her lunch box, the one with EVERYTHING in it.
The next few minutes were a blur. I ran upstairs, gave the baby to my mother-in- law who was visiting, tried to call the camp but got their voicemail, googled the address to the aquatic park and then decided to head straight there and not attempt to stop by camp head office as it was already 10:00 O’clock.
The 30 minute ride was torturous…all I could think of was L. frantically looking through her bag for her lunch box and not finding it, all the other kids unwrapping their meals and snacks and deciding what they were going to buy as a treat and L. feeling bewildered and lost and going through her bag over and over again.
I told myself that this was just a day like any other day and that I would probably get to her before it was too bad and this would just be a funny story that I would later tell.
But the past school year with all its blows made this situation hard to swallow. To make things just a touch more scary, on her summer “Well Check” at the doctor’s they had discovered that she developed a benign heart arrhythmia that sent us on an investigative clinical journey that was a nail biter. The specialist’s diagnosis was; “she is fine despite some abnormalities that currently don’t affect her heart function, let’s keep an eye on her for future chest pain.” Yeah, that made things easier for me as a mother.
I was really feeling that I set her up for another day of stress as opposed to “fun in the sun” which was what I was shooting for.
When I got there, there were no buses in the parking lot. I parked hastily and ran inside past all the people having fun. I must have looked crazy running into a place like that with no kids in tow, straight to the info booth. I could have yelled, “I have a lunch box emergency!” but that wouldn’t help my image.
I explained my situation to the water park staff and they told me that the buses were probably still en route as the park didn’t accept groups till 11:00. They tried to call the camp’s main office like I did and they got through to someone who said they would try to get through to a camp counselor on the bus who could tell L. that her mom was waiting for her.
When I went out to the parking lot again I wasn’t sure if they had actually gotten through to a counselor or not. It only took a few minutes till I saw those two large buses pull in straight past me and sure enough, by the window I saw L.’s little face light up with the surprise at seeing me standing on the sidewalk.
I could see her mouth say “Mommy!” as she put both hands on the glass. A few windows after her, I saw the face of the camp counselor looking extremely puzzled, It dawned on me that they hadn’t reached him and that he probably thought I drove 18 miles to give my child a water bottle.
When the bus stopped, the counselor ran out of the bus and came towards me…I pulled the lunch box out as he was saying, “Maam we wouldn’t let her go thirsty or anything like that…” but then he saw the lunch box and I started explaining and he chuckled.
L. was super excited to see me and we laughed about me finding the lunch box on the counter. She had never noticed that she didn’t have it. The plan was, the counselor explained, for them to camp out in front of the park and eat till it was 11:00 and time for them to get in.
When I drove home I had the radio blasting and I was super happy. It was actually kind of cool that I got to surprise her on the other side despite the extra hour driving round trip.
It had definitely turned into a happy memory for her and none of the sad scenarios I had imagined ever took place. I realized the powerful range of emotions I had just experienced. I had gone from intensely stressed, guilty and just genuinely sad, to euphorically happy and singing all the way home.
What seemed to have moved me and torment me the most was the possibility that I may have dropped the ball when she needed me to be competent.
Her Dad and I will make decisions that impact three little people’s lives and we fret about this along with every parent out there, every day of our lives. We have chosen the country they live and learn in. We have chosen the method in which they will be schooled and the sports that they will play. We have chosen to listen to what they want if they express logic in their intent and we have decided to do all this together as a team.
L. has decided based on her little experiences, and hinging on the cards she was dealt in her little world so far, that she will move in a direction that may be far from what people are used to. It doesn’t matter how hard I tried to prepare her for it over the summer and or whether or not all my choices were spot on. My willingness to chase down her bus, at any point in time, to get her what she needs appears to be what will give her the best chances.
I pray to God that every time she ventures out, she has a lunch box prepared for this life and that she knows that she has a mother that will do anything to make sure she has full access to it.
Read also: Homeschooling and a Parallel Path (Part 1)
Hoda Rashad is an author and educator who earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Middle Eastern Studies and her MA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from the American University in Cairo. Rashad wrote “Rising from Tahrir” in 2012, a Creative Non-Fiction collection of ten individuals’ stories from the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Rashad pursued a career in teaching for more than 12 years and worked as an educational consultant for over 7 years before moving to the US in 2005, where she continued to work as an educational consultant in private schools and corporate projects, until founding and running her own preschool project and teacher-based homeschooling program in the Bay Area. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her blog!