2005 has been a year of milestones, as outlined in our Christmas newsletter. A good year, on the whole. 2006 is going to be much more of a challenge: primarily because Daniel is going to be leaving home in ten days' time, to join the Doulos. He's feeling the mixed anticipation of looking forward, yet hating the thought of goodbyes and of actually leaving.
I'm feeling something of the sort too, but without looking forward to his being away. I'm thrilled that he's strong and healthy, that he wants to be more independent, that he has so many talents. I'm even more pleased that he's never given up on God, and that he's embarking on two years of missionary life and travel. And I'm thankful that he's been happy to stay at home until he's past 19, and even more that we've home educated for the past eight years.
I remember, when Dan was small, I was already aware of the rapid passing of the days. My baby had become a toddler, my toddler was fast turning into a small child. Tim, my second baby, wanted to grow up even faster. I found myself wishing children didn't change so fast, that I could somehow freeze time. Then we met a family with a child who would never grow up. He had multiple serious health and mental problems, meaning he would never walk, or eat independently, or stop wearing nappies. He couldn't talk, and had to be taken everywhere in a custom-designed wheelchair. He had to have medication injected each day, and was going to be entirely dependent on his family for the rest of his life, however long that was.
I was humbled, and saddened. I also realised that it's right and good for children to grow up, to develop new skills, and eventually to become independent. I started to give thanks for the contented passing of the days, and my children's growing skills, rather than regretting the swift passage of time.
In retrospect, nineteen years seem to have whizzed by. They've been the most fulfilling of my life, and I don't feel ready for the 'empty nest' just yet. I'm glad Tim will still be here for at least another year or two, although I'm sure he'll want to be independent before long.
This week, there's a lot to do. Dan's been working on de-cluttering his room, and the last couple of workbooks from his home education coursework. He's worked out what he wants to take with him (maximum 20kg, plus hand luggage) and done an initial packing. He has one more drum lesson, and perhaps one more clarinet lesson. He's teaching himself German. He's practising his juggling and working out how to make more clubs when he's on the ship:
He also wants to learn to cook. Tim started cooking about nine years ago and is now competent at almost any meal. Dan hasn't been interested in any cooking other than making salads and herbal teas (from dried herbs). But on the Doulos there aren't many options for vegetarians, and in the two months he was there in the summer, he got very bored of white rice and vegetables. Apparently there are extra little kitchens where people can make their own meals if they want to - on occasion - so he wants to know how to cook a few favourites.
I learned to cook by following recipes, and Tim seemed to pick it up by osmosis (and reading), as happens in home education. But Dan hasn't, and I don't really know how to teach him. But we've decided that for the next week he'll choose the menus for our evening meals, and cook them too, with me directing. Tonight we started with basic spaghetti and an onion/garlic/tomato sauce. One of Dan's favourites, and pretty simple. He also cooked frozen peas in the microwave, and stir-fried courgette slices in oil:
It turned out fine, and I'm sure he'll turn into a competent cook once he's more confident. So long as he doesn't get distracted...
Oh, and there's one more thing I've agreed to do. Something I never expected to have to do when we decided to continue with home education after our initial trial. Indeed it's a bit of a standing joke in some British home ed circles, due to something written in the book Free Range Education. One of the mothers who contributed ended her piece by saying that an added benefit of home education was that she would never again have to sew on name-tapes.
But guess what Dan needs for his time on the Doulos? Name-tapes! All the laundry is done centrally, and although small items go in a mesh bag, all the trousers and shirts and so on need to be labelled clearly. We still have plenty from his time in school in the UK, so this is going to be a big task for me this coming week.
I usually prick my finger several times when sewing, so if there are a few tears in my eyes I can always explain them away...