Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Wednesday 17 June

It's taken a while, but after almost a lifetime of supporting our daughter through her experience of compulsory education, it has finally sunk in that it's over. And more amazing, she is choosing to return to education but this time on her own terms.

By way of explanation, I have to go back to the beginning. When Keziah was less than a year old, my husband and I launched a new ministry, together with another friend. It meant a fair amount of travel throughout the African continent, and often Keziah came with us. Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia … these were all places she visited with us before she was old enough to go to school.

In Uganda in 2009

When we were not travelling, we initially used our house for office space. Keziah would sit at the desk alongside us, content to be wherever we were. And then we took an office away from home, and our small team began to grow. Tim and I had to figure out how to put our value for co-parenting into action, and began a tag-teaming partnership that would become pretty slick over the years. When people asked us how Keziah - and later Manu - coped with parents who both worked and travelled for ministry, we would point out that our kids actually had way more parental contact than the kid whose dad commutes to the city, works long hours and travels for business. Our flexible situation has meant that there’s always one of us available for school events, homework help, evening meals, sick days and holidays. I’m grateful for that.

Anyway, when Keziah was about 3 we thought it would be a good idea to have two mornings each week when we could both work, undistracted, at the office. We found a small, family-feeling creche where we thought she’d be happy. She wasn’t. After a couple of weeks, the staff let us know that it would be better if we waited a while, she didn’t seem ready to be separated from us. And although we waited, I’m not sure she was ever ready. As it turns out, this bright, creative child simply never found her groove when it came to attending school.

Keziah and her friend, with their head-teacher

I have many memories of leaving her crying at school. Teachers told me it was better to leave quickly, that she would recover more easily if our goodbyes weren’t long and drawn out, but rather snappy, even perfunctory. I would get to the car and either cry myself, or put music on so loudly it would drown out my feeling of letting her down. What can you do, as a parent, when your kid hates school? I never wanted to home-school, although we did end up trying it for a year out of desperation. Let’s just say, it wasn’t really the nirvana we all wanted it to be.

It’s true that Keziah had her fair share of challenges when it came to schooling. There was the time she went into Spanish school for a year, to learn the language. Which was her choice and really great for about 6 weeks, until she started feeling pressured to be more capable in Spanish than she actually felt. Then there was the time she refused to date a guy who had, up until that point, been a good friend to her. Suddenly, a few kids labelled her because, at the age of fourteen, she wasn’t ready for a romantic relationship. Some kids can shrug their shoulders and find a way to cope, and some just can’t. Somewhere along the line, while I vacillated between coaching, cajoling and being mad, either with her or with the system, I think Keziah decided she hated school. She saw it as an unjust system imposed on her against her will, and from then on it was pretty hard to stay the course.

Over the last couple of years, it seems school-related stress became worse, if that were possible. Tears, rants, running away, and worse: we had it all. I did my best to reach out for some support locally, but we were pretty much navigating it on our own. We had a few friends living in different parts of the world, not all of whom even knew one another, who became our lifeline for prayer. We could at least let a few people know when we had really awful days, and it meant a lot to hear some sane words of support spoken when feelings of despair were running high.

Even though at times I have doubted whether we would get Keziah through her final exams, at times I have still found myself suggesting paths forward that are at odds with this performance anxiety. I don’t know, call it parental denial I guess. Otherwise known as my need for her to achieve success in some conventional way (Enneagram 3 all the way). She’s always been so good at music, so I thought perhaps she could pursue that. Can you imagine the extent to which that would have set her up for stress?

As it turns out, with support and room for manoeuvre a kid can find her way. Keziah has come to a level of self-awareness that is rare in most adults. Sure, there have been many times in the recent season of decision-making when she hasn’t known what she wants for her life - who knows that at 18? - but she has known what she doesn’t want. As it turns out, she's pretty well-practiced at that side of things. She knew she didn’t want to be put in a box, and she has been looking for ways to pursue the things she loves without sacrificing her sense of who she is.

We’re at a good point in the story now: during lockdown Keziah has secured a place to study medical herbalism in Devon. She can live with family which, since she has lived outside the UK for all but 2 of her years, feels important and grounding. It all seems to sync with her interests in Veganism and sustainable health, the crunchy alternative side to who she is. Who knows how it will work out and whether she’ll love the course as much as she hopes, but this mother’s heart is breathing a little easier these days. 

You know, we can feel so responsible, as though we have to make the good stuff happen in the lives of our kids. Truly though, with room to discover their own sense of becoming, they can find the ability within themselves to say 'yes' and 'no' in the best kind of way. That, after all, is one mark of a good life - knowing to say 'yes' and 'no' to the right things. Somehow Keziah learned to speak loudly enough that even this hard-of-hearing mother could hear.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Miranda! Kez is a beautiful girl and you and Tim are amazing, loving parents!