The more I invest in my kids, the more disappointed I am with life and with myself when they let me down. The more aggravated I get about negative things happening or things not happening as perfectly as I wish, the more I realize I need some "me time" to balance things out. I also need to stop measuring my self-worth based on how my kids turn out or how well they perform.
Some days I think the high involvement that a homeschooling mom has in the life of their tweens and teens is unhealthy. Psychologists such as the authors of teen parenting books "Teach Your Children Well" and "Get Out of My Life", both which I read in the last few months, say parents who invest too deeply in their children set themselves up to experience negativity when their teens fail them. Neither author mentioned homeschooling, they were speaking of parents who send their kids to school, but the same thing applies, if not moreso. I shudder to think of what they'd say about homeschoolers, probably that we are unhealthily enmeshed or assume that we are all uber helicopter parents. On the contrary I think parents who let their kids go too early cling harder and longer and some raise their kids to be co-dependent, but that's another topic for another day.
It is normal for teens to make mistakes. Teens are imperfect beings, they are works in progress who live in the moment. They quickly forget things, so while I'm still hurt and reeling from something that happened in the morning my kids are already over it and forgot the whole thing; they think life is grand and have no idea I am still hurting.
I think the unhealthiest part of homeschooling in the teen years is that sometimes the parents are too close with the kids. I don't mean close in a bonding type of way, that part is good. An open line of communication is good. Liking each other and being able to be together and enjoy it is fantastic. I mean too close in that we are too heavily invested. We put in so much time and effort in planning our kid's courses and lesson plans and overseeing assignments we teach. We research outside classes, pay good money for them, and have to drive our kids to and from the classes. We may wind up teaching academic courses at the co-op as part of the co-op rules. We find academic and athletic and other types of extra-curriculars that take up more time and money but are things we feel are essential to the "homeschool" education. We often are forced to volunteer to help run some of these things too, giving us work to do, stress, and taking up our time and energy. Homeschooling and being active in the homeschooling community as well as being active in the general community takes a lot of parent's time. It's not just the mother, my husband has volunteered for Scouts and sports as well.
After investing all that energy, it is a crushing blow when our kids let us down. When they don't make their best effort, when they don't even try, when they break rules, especially rules set by an organization we volunteer with or work with, it's painful. When they lie or sneak, it feels like an affront. There is so much give and take in a homeschooling family, and our lives are built on mutual trust and respect. When the circle of trust is broken or when they disrespect us or our property or an organization's authority, we may take it personally. I think this stems from a mistake of measuring our self-worth based on our children's outcome. The problem is that even loving parents who do the right things have children who make mistakes or make bad choices sometimes, that is what all kids and teens do, it's normal to be imperfect.
Contrast this with parents whose only involvement with their children's schooling is helping with homework or just trying to make sure the homework was completed, and helping with a fundraiser, perhaps. Whatever goes wrong at school is not taken personally by the parent. If the grades are not up to par, parents blame the student, not themselves. If things are not optimal at school, they can blame the specific school, the general school system or the specific teacher, they never blame themselves.
It is important that teens continue to grow their independence and accept more responsibility. Some homeschooling parents I know are coddling their kids but they don't realize it. I myself had to intentionally step back and let my son do his own thing even when I knew poor judgements were being made and mistakes were being committed. I realized sometimes I was trying to take over and direct things too much as I knew that my way would result in success, but my son felt I was being overpowering and controlling. All kids need to experience small failures in order to learn that their choice was not the best for the desired outcome. I would rather have my kids make many small mistakes at a young age than have me control everything then have them make larger errors when the stakes are higher when they are in their young adult years. Since I am so present in my kid's lives it is hard to step back and let them sink or swim! I didn't say that not controlling everything or giving my input on every single thing is easy! My kids do not usually want sidelines input or advice, they want to be left alone to make up their own minds independently. It is so hard to let go, but I am forcing myself to.
I am trying to get my older son to take more responsibility for his path and his plans. He prefers to be passive and let me do the thinking and researching and planning for homeschooling. I don't think this is playing out well though because when things don't turn out well he just blames me. When he struggles with time management he blames me for not doling out the assignments well or claiming he never knew he had to do X, Y, and Z.
The academic year is pretty set in stone at this point, we are 2/3 finished at this point. I don't quite know what to do to get him to take ownership, other than to let him plan his own junior homeschool year out himself. I can show him college websites and let him research pre-requisites and let him pick the curriculum and decide if he's ready to enter community college yet, or what courses he'll take at the homeschool co-op.
The only remedy I have found to help me cope with what seems like perpetual disappointment and nonstop challenges is to increase "me time" and to get more active with social activities and hobbies that I do solo or with my husband. Perhaps this is how it is supposed to be? In the past my husband and I wanted to do everything all together but now that my kids are teens they want their own space and they seem to be pushing us out of the picture. I am filling the void by adding some date nights with my husband, going on errands alone with my husband on weekends, throwing small parties and cooking for our friends or attending small dinner parties with fellow foodies. I am planning a vegetable and herb garden in this new house. I am reading books that have nothing to do with parenting or homeschooling. I am meeting neighbors and joining some social organizations to meet other women in my community. I started excercising. Basically I am spending more time doing fun things for me rather than putting all my energy to mothering, homeschooling, and kid-related volunteer work.