I have a short temper. It's the darndest thing, because I always thought I was a patient person, and then I really started to get stretched. I got married after knowing my husband for "only" 8 months...not too difficult there. We became pregnant with our first child right around our first anniversary...fun and exciting. I had to go back to work after having my child...not so easy. We became pregnant with our second child when our first was "only" 6 months old...exciting and somewhat scary. I got out of the Navy to become a stay-at-home mommy...relief and anticipation of the new season. We had our third baby when the first turned 3 and the second was almost 2...still fun, doable, and not too stressful majority of the time. We had our fourth child (our first boy) when our others were 4 1/2, 3, and almost 2...stretching really beginning as oldest hit a very argumentative and strong-willed stage that required LOTS of discipline and direction from me; still lots of fun, a bit of juggling going on, and overall fun and enjoyable. We began homeschooling our oldest; this is when things definitely started to get interesting...oldest was a reluctant learner for anything that required effort, and my short temper really started to rear its ugly head when faced with opposition: EPIC FAIL. "The Lord provides...." Okay, picking self up, dusting off, back at it...decided to take a 6 month break from "learning to read" and allowed her to naturally grow in that area, which she readily did, and eventually was successful as I took unconventional methods to have her read her math directions (because she loved math) to get her confident in her abilities to read: SUCCESS! Okay, I can teach a child to read...awesome. Next...we had our fifth child when our others were 6, 5, 3, and almost 2...still lots of fun, moving along in life.
CRASH: Our son is diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder that affects his physical control, so our walking, running, talking little boy is reduced to a babbling, drooling, crawling, shaking little boy within 2 weeks time...took the wind right out of our sails. I cannot even imagine walking this one without the Lord and His ever-presence. We go through our trial by fire, tripping and stumbling all the way, allowing for "school" to slide along as needed, but nothing too rigorous or scheduled. I begin to feel a bit more secure in our situation, begin to desire a little more structure, and again try to get the kids back onto a "better" schedule for us to follow. This is where my downward spiral really began.
You see, as a middle child, I learned firsthand the value of "keeping the peace," but the ugly side of this role is learning to be a "people pleaser." There, I've said it...I am a people pleaser. I am addicted to it, and it is something that the Lord is working to chip away in me each passing day. I have these little voices in my head critiquing everything I say or do with my children, for my children, etc. no matter where my heart is in its intention. It is such a curse, but I know that I will overcome its hold on me, little by little. Today was another stone of remembrance on that chipping away of my flesh. But, I digress...I began to try to schedule our days a bit more, because, as a good homeschooler, we are supposed to have order, and routine, and a planned out day, and something to do at every point of the day, and it is all supposed to be constructive for learning in the conventional sense, and therefore whenever anyone finds out that we homeschool I can rest in the pride that our ship is running top-notch and we are a shining example of how to do this "right"...WOW, yeah right. I "know" this is a load of crap, even as I write it, but there is this little person inside of me, the perfectionist, the flesh, that really believes these lies. That if I have all these ducks in a row, with every child ahead academically, able to memorize poetry and musical instruments, play soccer like an Olympian, and sing beautiful music, that I will not be at risk for any negative criticism from someone else. Again, though, what a load of crap. As much as I want our family to fall into this little ideal picture I supposedly think we should look like, the reality is much more complex and beautiful and unique than that.
Today, this morning, blatantly defined in me the reason why this little idolatrous vision in my head could not be maintained. We are not perfect, we are not ideal, and we live in a fallen world. I have one child who is very strong in academics, but struggles with pride and worldly idolatry...wow, she has come such a long way since accepting the Lord into her life. I have another child who is considered ADD and sometimes gets lost in a sentence because her little brain cannot hold all the words together...she is the most graceful little dancer I have ever seen, and she has a beautiful voice too. Little child number 3 is a lightbulb, but is still young and silly...thankfully she has such a carefree spirit that I don't think much can hold her down, thank You Lord! Then, our son has his good days and bad...today was not so good (I failed in my planning and gave him gluten several times, which has apparently messed with his stomach and balance again, this on top of a likely little cold, and change in his homeopathic remedies), so he required far more personal attention from me. This is not easy when the little one year old thinks she has exclusive lap ownership. But, trudge along! The schedule demands it. School time, now!
Mostly things went well, until I attempted to help teach what I consider a simple concept to child number 2 who has focus issues, and about pulled out my hair in frustration. The deer in headlights look when trying to explain something simple can do that to me. How can I explain it better? What words can I use, or would a manipulative help? After speaking too harshly, and with too little patience, I simply threw in the towel. I gave up. I landed on my bottom in the kitchen crying out to the Lord. "Is this whole homeschool thing for me, Lord? I feel like I am just jacking these kids up one after the other! Is Zack's illness my fault? The house is a mess, so that must be my fault. What about Nadya's focus issues? Did I feed her the wrong foods, expose her to too much pesticide? I don't have the energy to workout all the dang time and keep the form I want to keep, but I am otherwise happy with my body...should I be "healthier"? I don't even have a plan for dinner yet! I feel like such a failure."
And, this is when the day began to take a turn. I heard my sweet little girl upstairs crying and knew that the only way I could really fail them is to ruin our relationship with my expectations...I had to let them go and seek the Lord for His. What did He expect from me? "A quiet, gentle spirit..." Yeah, haven't had much of that lately. I called my daughter down and we cried arm in arm for a few minutes, then I asked if she wanted to read me a book. She was overjoyed...though she only read a few pages before asking me to finish. Then she and our 4 year old played with Legos joyfully on the living room floor. The 7 year old followed quickly once she finished her written work. They played until bickering ended the specific interaction and soon were back together upstairs having a "party" in their room. I danced in the living room with my son and daughter. I forgot about expectations, or getting behind in some stupid math curriculum, and focused on enjoying my sweet blessings from God! I watched as the kids prepared to play outside and helped with folding laundry, a newly assigned chore for the 7 year old. I made butter with my wide-eyed 4 year old watching and laughed when she ran away with the spatula and licked it clean. I sang in the kitchen with my two oldest, teaching them a tune to try to work on a duet. The day was redeemed.
As I rebelled against the drama of my own making, the Lord reminded me that all of my kids are not the same. They each have their own special talents, purposes, strengths, and weaknesses, and that if I try to put them all into the same bubble with the same expectations, same routine, same academic goals, etc. I will miss the whole point of homeschooling. I am not looking to turn out little automatons who sit in a desk nicely, learn the same exact way, and regurgitate information, which is not even successful in the school room, but I am working to develop unique individuals with something God-ordained to contribute to the World, because God has chosen me to do so. My goal must always be to help nurture these little children, prod when necessary and with a force determined by their unique needs and personality that only my husband and I can really know, and work to develop their character with every passing moment that they may learn to bring glory to the Lord in this life. When I think about it in those terms, falling "behind" in math does not seem so important. But, dancing with my kids and enjoying our days does.