Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Because I fail to reconcile the idealist with reality


I have conflict. I am a conflicted personality. I am an idealist living in a flawed reality, interacting with really flawed individuals. Usually this stays hidden, revealed only to my closest confidants - a list of people I can count on one hand; not because I am ashamed of my conflict but because I don't think it's interesting to anyone else. However, I then went and chose to be a parent. A parent that homeschools. A homeschooling parent that practices emergency medicine in the inner-city of Richmond. None of these professions have anything to do with a smooth, conflict-free existence. I have managed to stay out of politics, but I don't think I could have chosen many more discordant things to occupy my time. 

Notice, though, that I didn't state these are incompatible with inner peace. Peace and conflict are often juxtaposed as "Good" and "Evil". Or, they are formed into philosophy that peace is happiness and "Happiness" is derived from the absence of conflict. Perhaps it is my piscean nature or my inner revolutionary but rather than seeing these two things as opposites, I think its more useful to see them as one integral whole. Like the James and Chickahominy rivers; once they flow into the bay they cannot be separated out again. 



Conflict is a puzzle I allow myself to solve. And the things that I value: freedom, creativity, critical thinking and patience are the tools. Being able to use them gives me peace. These tools are also messy. They are very hard to control. Therefore they are infrequently taught. 

Many of you have had experiences as individuals or through your children where this higher-order processing was squashed. Or, at best, not rewarded. I remember going over a homework assignment Jake was asked to rework. He was in 1st grade -- and why children have homework in 1st grade I have yet to understand. (That's another rant.) He was supposed to fill a page with patterns of his own sequencing given variable shapes. This is the early math they teach now. It went something like this:

1. X O X O X O

2. XX O XX O XX O

3. O X OO X O X OO X 

4. O X O O X X O X X X X O X X O O X O

5.  X X O X O O X X X X O X O O X O X X X X O O X O X X

I read the teacher's note that Jake had to "fix" the solutions that were not patterns. Ha! I quickly smiled and ran to show Michael out of sheer pride -- and admittedly, a healthy dose of cynicism-laced judgment. Jake had developed mirror-image patterns. His brain was bored and boredom is conflict. So he instinctively began to solve his conflict by developing these new patterns. He was experimenting with parity. He created 2-D enantiomorphs. Oh, the budding organic chemist! 

Given that inner revolutionary I mentioned earlier, I didn't ask him correct his work. I wrote a note to the teacher explaining that indeed he had created patterns, they just weren't linear, superimposable ones. Soooo....that went over like a load of bricks. Which of course just fueled the conflict that was already brewing with where, how and why Jake would be educated. 

Now, in a homeschool environment, Jake is free to solve problems the way he sees fit. And I see the daily conflagrations -- or as the education-establishment would label them: "behavioral problems" -- cease. 

We even had the rare affirmation from the psychiatrist that we made the right move to homeschool. I'm not saying there aren't those days. It's just not that day EVERYDAY, as it had been in the past. There are still leftovers that Jake is working to resolve. Asperger's is like that. Life is like that. But the conflicts he's developing now are his conflicts. They are not superimposed on him by a system. The really cool thing is, he's starting to recognize them as his. Everyday he is able to voice them a little more. This gives me hope. This gives him confidence. He will never be a consequence of mass-production. This is unfortunate for those who don't get to be his mom. 

We are happy. We have conflict. But we have the freedom to solve our conflict with creativity, critical thinking and calm, patient endurance. Homeschooling is worth the conflict. Parenting is worth the conflict. 

Not sure about the ER thing yet. 


1 comment:

jim and bea said...

I wish I'd had your wisdom when my kids were young. Yes, we too often think that conflict is a punishment. I prefer your perspective, that conflict is an opportunity to practice. And the ER thing will work itself out, eventually!