Sunday, March 22, 2009

Parenting process...

I don't believe in past lives, although I feel like I haven't closed out any mysteries of life and how God works...so who knows. Maybe there IS a recycling bin of souls waiting to come back to life. But that's not on my short list of beliefs. However, I have been incredibly intrigued at Jack's forming of his Russian streak. Why has he connected so passionately with it? What purpose is that serving in his life, I wonder? Like his absolute love for that 1970's movie on Russian children. How he spent a week asking me how to say certain words in Russian, and I had to keep Googling for audio files, since I hadn't the slightest clue. He wanted to play soccer to be like the Russians. He wanted to eat sausage and rabbit for every meal.

Finally, out of desperation and to honor his window of fascination, I posted a request on Craig's List for someone to play with my child and speak Russian with him. It was a complete shot in the dark. Olga wrote back, and it seemed like divine intervention. She lives less than a mile away, she's visiting long term from Belarus, and she has years of experience teaching children English back in Minsk. She's here to help with her granddaughter, so she's home alone all day while M is in school. Even odder? She's a professional painter and loves to do art with Jack. So he goes over twice a week and she teaches him Russian: paints pictures, plays games, drinks tea. He loves it. Dresses in under a minute if I tell him he's going to Olga's that day. We hear him in the other room, practicing counting to 10 under his breath. He thanks us in Russian, and other words throughout the day.

I was telling a friend the other day that I'd been expecting more logic in my children's interests. That they'd have some resemblance to things we liked to do, or interests we have. Between Steve and me, we teach math, economics, and English. That covers a lot of ground. And then Jack has to develop a love that renders both of us completely useless.

All of this is making me feel a bit overwhelmed. I have no idea how to nurture a foreign language for which I can't even make the most basic pronunciations. Olga told us (in the most diplomatic, polite way) that perhaps we shouldn't practice with him, since he has "beautiful, perfect pronunciation" and it might be confusing to learn from a non-native speaker.

Ouch.

Kiddo, you're on your own for this one.

I keep thinking about what Steve and I call Emerson's Path...based on what Ralph Waldo said about life callings. He said that there's one path in life that is open to us, and down that path, all doors will fly open. It will be easy to go down that path, because it's created for us. If we fight that path, we'll meet obstacles along the way. I've always been struck by that, especially in light of my teaching career - which I never meant to go down. But my career has been built on getting emails out of the blue offering me jobs. Steve and I often discuss that this MUST be my Emersonian path, because it's been too fluid for me. Too many crazy, unexplainable circumstances leading me to be able to teach. That could fill another post and then some. There are some goofy circumstances leading me to this place I'm at now.

I adore teaching. When I teach in the classroom, I have such an adrenaline surge after class that I can't fall asleep for hours. I've been teaching for 8 years, and I still feel giddy that I get to do this. It seems like a miracle every time I get a new contract. My love for teaching is so removed from the paycheck, but then the paycheck seems to take care of itself...perhaps because it's my Emersonian path?

Is this how Russian might end up being for Jack? I have no idea what to think about this passion he's developed...but I'm willing to go along for the ride, even if this doorway in life just opens to a hallway leading to some other door. I do trust the process.

As a parent, it's so important to me to recognize my children's souls, instead of steering them. I can't imagine pre-determining what I want my children to become, because then it would steer them off this course that calls them. And it seems like any ill-fitting path would create frustration, anxiety, and lack of success. And yet...I'm seeing that just helping them unfold can be humbling, to say the least.

Watching Jack form himself and his interests, I realize how little is really tabula rasa. He came into our family fully formed, in terms of predispositions and wirings. The love for mechanical things...building and designing structures. How he learned to read only to master the mechanics of it ("what does this letter do?") more than any interest in the literary meaning behind a story. Fascinating to me.

I've decided it's just about being an observer for the child's unfolding and the ardent supporter (posting ads on Craig's List or getting up early on a Saturday for soccer practice), more than having any say in how the cards fall. I suspect that Russian won't be the last surprise in my parenting process with him (or Andrew or Simone).

I'm curious to see what happens with this phase of things. He told me with a sincere heart the other day: "I will never stop loving Russian." And somehow, I believe him. I sense that something in his True Self is coming alive with learning this language. How I'll help him along, especially if Olga goes back to Minsk, I have no idea. I don't think there's a surplus of Russian Mary Poppins stand-ins waiting to paint with my 4yo. But if Emerson is right about our spiritual calling, then maybe someone else will come along and fill that need?

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