As an older, full time college student, and mother of 5, I can’t help but to compare myself to the younger, “freer” students who surround me everyday in class. I often think of the quiet, cozy apartments in which my imagination has created as their residences, and lament my 5- bedroom monster of a house that is continually abuzz with activity, noise, and chaos. I envision these young students in shabby –chic lofts with vintage furniture, Oxford- like architecture of stone masonry, and studio kitchens with appliances and hardware from the 1950’s. The lack of commitments, obligations and children must afford these students with countless hours of quiet free time to write, study, read and ponder the mysteries of the world while drinking steeped tea. While my mind knows this is nothing but a bohemian fantasy, my heart longs for at least some of it to be true.
In stark contrast to these students of my imagination, my life is busy, loud, and very fast paced. My children, ranging from ages 6-15, are involved in multiple sports that require travel, sometimes just to the other side of town and sometimes to other states. These sports, which require daily practices, are often coached by my husband, thereby removing him from the house and carpooling duties necessary to maintain the schedules of whichever children he is not coaching at the moment. In addition to the sports, there are orthodontist appointments, tutoring sessions, music lessons, doctor’s appointments and all else that goes with raising healthy, well-rounded children. Adding to the perceived chaos are home maintenance issues such as laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking and gardening. Let us also not forget the obligatory school conferences, parent volunteer “opportunities” and religious traditions. Just making this list of day- to- day activities raises my stress levels.
At times I feel my very being is the eye of a tornado and the requirements and obligations of my life are swirling around me in a vortex of force and might, together leaving a path of destruction in our wake. Finding the time and energy and creative fortitude to study, think and learn in a peaceful, Zen-inspired environment is just not possible in the eye of a tornado. And for that very reason, I have chosen to embrace the noise, pace, and activity level of my family and create within the chaos my own little slice of “Oxfordish” academia.
This weekend was one of “those” weekends in our family life that consisted of a line-up of seemingly never-ending obligations and social commitments. Upon leaving class early Friday afternoon, my schedule for the rest of the day included attending a charitable play performance with clients of my husband, and chauffeuring the kids to two different baseball practices at two different locations, while my husband coached a third child at yet another location. Saturday’s schedule was no better. Three of the children had morning swim practice; two children had double-headers (different kids-different locations) while another child had a championship baseball game at yet another location. Saturday evening brought another client obligation for my husband that socially required my smiling, happy -faced attendance. Sunday came and went in another flurry of activity of baseball games and practices, and finally ended with the annual fireworks display in my community, which has become a traditional event for our family.
When, you may ask, did this full time student have time to study, read, write or even think? This is where I have to work my magic. As a matter of fact, I even have a wand. One of my friends, who felt it would require sheer magic for me to juggle my life and going back to school full time, purchased for me a beautiful resin replica of Hermione’s wand. (Hermione of the Harry Potter series.) While I have yet to make sparks fly from the wand, and have no magical time turner, I have been able to mentally be in two places at the same time. I listen to Biology podcasts while driving the kids to and from practices. I read books and watch my children’s baseball games at the same time. I have downloaded textbooks on my kindle and read them in doctor’s offices, and I have written papers and blogs while watching swim meets.
Sunday evening, while surrounded by at least 1000 people reveling and picnicking to celebrate the community fireworks, I wrote up a psychology lab on my laptop. I enjoyed watching my kids laugh and toss a football while waiting for the fireworks to begin, and seconds later returned to the quiet ivy covered halls of my mind. I realized then that maybe I don’t have it so bad after all. I had spent the day with my kids, soaking up the late June sunshine at their ball games and later while watching them swim. I had accomplished all of my assigned reading and writing, and I even drank steeped tea from a packed thermos while doing it. Someday I do hope to get to Oxford, but for now, this is just fine.