Mom guilt. We've all felt it. Sometimes it comes in the form of an indulgence like eating the last piece of cake you know your children would love or spending an obscene amount of money on a pair of shoes instead of on the cool new toy your kid has been begging for or skipping out on Family Night in favor of Mommies Night Out. Sometimes it's something a little more heavy like wondering if you're spending enough time with your kids or feeling regret for losing your temper. For me, mom guilt reared it's ugly head rather unexpectedly when I was selected to participate in a NASA Social.
NASA Social is a program that allows everyday folks with an active social media presence to learn and share information about NASA's missions, people, and programs. Simply put, you get to go behind the scenes at a NASA launch. Hello space nerd radar! With our names engraved on a microchip onboard the Mars InSight Lander, we’d already been tossing around the idea of traveling to view the launch. When the announcement to apply to NASA Social-Mars InSight came though my Facebook Newsfeed, I KNEW this was something I had to apply for. The What We Learned Today community was small but growing and if the selection committee wanted to see I could reach a unique audience, well... we all know homeschooling mamas are a unique species!*
I really hoped that I would be able to take the boys with me to some of the behind the scenes activities but NASA made it clear that the application was for one person only and that one person had to be 18 years or older to apply. Still, I threw a line about what a unique experience it would be for my young space enthusiasts to see the Atlas V up close into my application letter, figuring it couldn’t hurt. I pressed submit and hoped for the best.
The day notifications were scheduled to be announced came and went without me hearing anything and I assumed that meant I hadn't been selected. I was disappointed but still looking forward to traveling to view the launch. So you can imagine my surprise when I checked my email late the following day, and "Congratulations, you have been selected to attend the NASA Social" popped up in my inbox.
I was ECSTATIC! I jumped up and down and squealed like a little kid. I was so excited I was shaking! I read through the acceptance letter at least five times. Then I jumped up and down and squealed some more.
And then, I felt guilty.
You see, my boys would have LOVED this. My own love of astronomy (I wrote to NASA in the third grade asking them to send me a moon rock.) has rubbed off on the two little guys. Together, we've toured Space Center Houston, had lunch with an astronaut, viewed a total solar eclipse, met Scott Kelly and watched countless videos and documentaries about NASA and space. Max has attended space camp in Houston and Isaac is excited that this year, he'll be old enough to participate as well. They can hold pretty impressive conversations about the Saturn V rocket and the Apollo and Space Shuttle Missions. They know all about the International Space Station and can tell you all about the features of the planets in our solar system and the names many of their moons.
We've shared all things space... but they wouldn't be with me for this.
For a few days I considered not attending. I didn't want to leave them with while I went off rubbing elbows with scientists and touring research facilities and the launch pad. I knew they'd be angry with me for not taking them. They’d be sad that they couldn't participate. I could picture the look of disappointment on their faces when I told them what I was going to be doing without them. I considered not participating right up until the deadline to accept the invitation. Right up until I remembered a very small but very important word: We.
What We Learned Today
I’d forgotten that this entire process isn’t just about the boys. It’s about all of us and that us includes me. I didn't title this blog What They Learned Today. I'm learning too everyday too. I was being presented with the opportunity to further explore my own interests and expand my own knowledge. Of course I should take it. Participating in an event of this nature demonstrates perfectly one of the main reasons we've chosen to homeschool: to show our boys that learning isn't confined to a special building; it isn't limited to certain hours of the day or even certain years of your life.
I will be able to share my experiences with the boys through the pictures I take, the stories I tell, the knowledge I gain. While I’m busy, they’ll spend time exploring California with their dad who will offer them his own unique perspective and they'll take pride in knowing that their mom participated in something pretty dang cool. And besides, like Max said, “That’s okay. I’ll get to go on the launch pad when I go on my own mission to Mars.”
Touché, kid. Touché.
*If you want to know a little about an awesome homeschooling mom, read this article on Doctor Helen Jackson who turned NASA down when they asked her to be a part of the Space Shuttle program.