life according to me

life according to me

Hoop Jumping and Birch Swinging

Hoop Jumping and Birch Swinging


My head and heart are full.

It isn’t that on most days they aren’t, but the sense of fullness is different today. The difference is the result of something I’ve grappled with for many years — a by product of raising my sons. The result of years of observation, interaction, angst, and tribulation coming to a conclusion milestone by sometimes painful milestone.

My youngest finished his first year of high school today, and in a few weeks, will be 15. But he did not beat The Geometry Teacher. He received a “D” for his hoop-jumping efforts in her class. In this newly completed step toward the rest of his education, I’m left wondering so many things about what I have strongly held on to about learning and raising humans:

 Some humans are better at being trained to jump through hoops than others. In fact, some are so good at it—it’s the point of their existence. Their day revolves around how many hoops are lined up, how far apart they are, and whether each successive hoop is positioned higher than the last. Whether the person jumping next to them is quicker, or more graceful in their quest to finish first. It isn’t about what is at the end of the hoops they crave. It’s the hoops.

Some humans are more easily missed than others. Or skipped over—like one skips a step when jogging up a flight of stairs to get to the next floor more quickly. Their non-hoop jumping idiosyncrasies are not easily understood by others, and often difficult to tolerate. They are more than capable of jumping through the hoops than many others. Many. But they don’t seem interested. What they see in the world and think about from one day to the next is difficult to know. They are quiet about much that matters, and talk about things that don’t. Hoops are not one of the things they think or talk about.

They even bruise differently than most. They haven’t figured out how caught up in the hoop game most people are. So when a zealot moves a hoop at the last minute to trick them, it takes them a while to start the game again. They are only just beginning to understand, or,  if they do understand, have a tendency to forget that there are people on this earth who live to have power any way they can get it. It’s probably another reason that hoops don’t interest them. It’s all so petty.

I am not a mother of hoop jumpers. And I am routinely reminded of this fact.

I have diligently tried to raise my offspring to understand the construct of the world. But they are very content to think about, getting around to, considering, being involved, possibly participating, in life’s basic rules of engagement at their own pace. They construct their own hoops. Unfortunately, when you’re their mother, the hoops resemble hurdles. Large ones.

It’s not supposed to matter to me that so-and-so’s daughter is in “advanced this” or AP that. Or that this person’s son was recommended for such and such. That this acquaintance has a daughter that crosses all her T’s and dots all her I’s all the time. Sometimes those same people don’t understand how hard it is has been to let my children be who they are instead of what I want them to be. What I believe they can become. It’s not supposed to matter. But it does. It always has.

I’ve tried many years to act like not having a hoop circus at home doesn’t matter. I believe strongly that many have been duped about the educational system so many of us willingly send our children to each year. “All children can learn,” is what that system blithely professes. We have so willingly trusted that it will meet their every need beyond what we have worked to meet ourselves at home. But not every child fits into that system. It’s not supposed to matter. But it does. It always has.

I cringe every time I realize that my nobly held philosophy could be a sham by wanting more for my boys than they seem to want for themselves. I argue with myself that I don’t really want them to care. I swear I’m not interested in wanting them to want what society expects them to want. The way society expects it. The way the system acts like it’s structured to prepare them for.

How sad to have to admit that I want for my sons something I say I don’t believe in. I would never tell them because I have acted like a hoop jumper most of my life. And they probably figured that out a very long time ago.

One could do worse than be a mother of non-hoop jumpers. Perhaps my boys were born knowing that life is a birch and that their job on this earth is to teach me so that I will know, too.