Tucked in at night by her husband, her four kids, and the Wasatch Mountains, Emily Bailey runs A Homeschool Unscripted. Her work is to hold the space for childhood, and be the homeschool mentor she never had.

I’ve thought about writing this for months.  I hit a wall almost instantly, every time.  I banish it from my mind, but it keeps coming back.

I need to put words to this. 

What’s stopping me? 

Perhaps it’s not knowing which parts of this story are mine to tell, and which ought to be left to my son to tell someday, in the manner of his choosing. 

There are some loaded words swirling around us, and I don’t know how much power to give them.  They’re words I’ve been afraid to say out loud.  Words that jar me to see in print. 

Labels. 

Labels applied to other people and their children—never to me and mine. 

What does a label do?  How long will it stick?  And who has the right to apply it?  

It feels like drawing a box around my child—something I’ve never wanted to do.  Will it protect him or imprison him?  Will he feel freed or cornered?  The water is murky here.

Experts have flung some words our way.  They’ve changed the way I see my son.  If I tell them to others, they’ll see him differently too. 

But they already do.  So maybe it will help more than hurt.  But I expect there will be some of both.

The chalk is in my hand.  What will I draw for him?  A box?  A word?  A dream?  A path? 

He’s little now.  He cannot read.  But he has ears and eyes.  One little hashtag could connect me with other women who find themselves in this strange land.  I want to help them the only way I know how, which is to say, “I know.  Me too.”   We women are a fountain of strength for each other.  But my little boy...how will seeing that hashtag coupled with his image make him feel five, ten, twenty years from now?

I never knew a mother could feel so helpless until I was that mother.  A mother who wondered how she didn’t know what her child was saying, what he needed, who he was underneath his screams and fists and slamming doors and hurling rocks.

Where are you?

Trapped, your whole life inside your very own skin—skin you cannot feel unless you scratch until there’s blood.

We mothers want our babies’ blood to stay inside, where it belongs. 

But we all need some way to feel.  You need edges how I need softness.  You walk the line I stay away from.  You need impact the way I need solitude.

You seem safest on a rocky cliff.

You need touch like I need words. 

It’s how we know we’re alive. 

So I will fight for you, my son.  Until my last breath.  I will help you to be free, to feel right, to feel home.  I don’t care where it is or what it’s called.  We will find that place together.

Lessons my dad has taught me

Process