Tuesday, August 25, 2015

DEAR YOUNG MOTHER...

My youngest attended her first dual-enrollment class at UT Martin yesterday. Yes, she is definitely excited about taking a "real" college class, on an actual college campus, with a "real" college professor. This is my baby I'm talking about. When did she become so grown up?!

I have been occupied with the business of homeschooling my children for over twenty years now. When I pause to think about the women who have encouraged me during this journey, one in particular stands out. Not because she tipped me off to the perfect math or science curriculum. Not because all her children grew up to be rocket scientists and neurosurgeons. No, she stands out because she was honest with me about the tremendous labor of being a mom and homeschool teacher.

She admitted that there would be days of tears and attitude battles and physical exhaustion, days when I would be forced to admit that I was not equal to the task. Yes, there is a lot about homeschooling that is fun and wonderful, and I wouldn't trade this life for any other. But there are also days in this 24/7/365 job that can only be described as tastes of hell.

NEWSFLASH:  Homeschool Mother of Seven Ends Week-long Drinking Binge, Joins Mystic Guru's Ocean-side Meditation Compound After Overdosing on French Fries and Chocolate.

It could happen folks. Seriously.

Anyway, the friend I mentioned above - who has always been honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly of homeschooling - she has also always, consistently reminded me:  This is a good work. Persevere.

And, when I was able to sit regularly at her feet and glean from her wisdom, she also consistently pointed me to Jesus. "No, you are not adequate for the job. You need Jesus. Let's go to Him together..."

All of this to say, with my youngest now perched on the edge of the nest, fluttering her little wings, what advice would I offer the young mom coming along behind me?

First, I would reiterate Linda's counsel:  This is hard work, but it is good work. Persevere.

Second, give up the idea of perfection. God uses the weak and foolish things of this world to make known his power and glory. If you have it all together - if your house is clean and your family eats fresh-baked bread and eggs you gathered this morning for breakfast, if your kids have perfect handwriting and their clothes actually match, if you have an entire school year's worth of math lessons organized into Zip-loc baggies with appropriate manipulatives and worksheets before the first day of August, if all of next month's nutritious, organic meals are already tucked away in your freezer, if you organize the church nursery and lead the women's Bible study and teach Zumba three nights a week and do it all with a lilt in your voice and a spring in your step - well, you probably don't need Jesus. And if you don't need Jesus, how on earth are your kids going to learn by watching you just how very faithful and good He is to broken, messed up people?

If you insist on maintaining the delusion of perfection, you are going to end up teaching your kids a lie ["I am adequate"] - OR - you are going to crack and end up in an ocean-side commune with Mr. Mystic. Which is also a lie. Either way, if you insist on perfection, you are living a lie.

Let.

It.

Go.

Trust God with your children's souls. This seems obvious, but can be tricky in practice. Satan's lies are so subtle! Compromise is so natural! It is easy to slip into wrong thinking, easy to begin to believe the lie that homeschooling will save your children. Or dressing a certain way. Or not reading certain books. Or not listening to that music. Or whatever. And then you slip into the lie of believing that YOU must save your children's souls - did you choose the right curriculum? the right youth program? the right homeschool group?

But the truth is:  You cannot save your children's souls. Trust me. The good news is:  God can. Trust Him. Rest in the Gospel. Breathe it in deeply (more deeply, deeper, keep inhaling...), and then sneeze it and drool it and splatter it out all over your kids.

Pray.

Believe the Gospel.

Trust God with your children's souls.

Celebrate differences. Celebrate the unusual, and, yes, even the annoying.

Personal confession:  I am a Type-A person. Straight A's all the way through high school and college. I like organized closets and vacuum-cleaner strokes on carpet. Ketchup is for French fries, not for fried chicken, and ranch dressing is for salad, not pizza.

I am not a big fan of clutter, raw fish, loud rock music, hippies, pink hair, ghost peppers, un-ironed dress shirts, or tattoos.

Well, I didn't use to be a fan, not back in the days before Reuben started painting, and Martha came back from Japan and made home-made sushi, and Tom introduced me to "Back in Black," and Emily went all raspberry, and I had to admit that, yes, the Sharpie-marker sleeve tattoos were actually pretty cool, and I learned that car dancing with Helen to American Authors was a great mood booster, and...

Wouldn't this world be a dreary, boring, terrible place if everyone in it was preoccupied with wearing matching socks and making tidy vacuum cleaner stokes in carpet?!!!

What is it about your kids that annoys you? I'm not talking sin - I'm talking personality differences, personal preferences, personal expression. Instead of getting annoyed, take a deep breath and endeavor to listen, taste, see, engage, dance.

Personal confession:  This will probably involve some embarrassment on your part. It did for me. Your kids will embarrass you. And, as you enter their worlds, you will embarrass yourself. But the embarrassment only stings for a little bit, sort of like when you peel off a crusty, hardened scab to reveal the healthy new pink skin underneath.

Don't be afraid of the different, the unusual, the eccentric, the annoying. I've learned that there is a great big beautiful world outside of my little white picket fence, and God is doing great big beautiful things out there in it.

* * * * *

Okay, there is actually lots more advice I could offer a young mom, but I've been thinking and typing and rewriting for over an hour and my brain is beginning to turn into goo. It just happens.

I need to go make lunch, check Helen's math, and reply to some emails.

Life awaits!

(READER:  What advice would YOU like to share?)

2 comments:

Michelle Straub said...

Thank you for this!!! I needed this so much this morning. It has already been one of those stressful days so I needed encouragement. I'm just really starting this walk and I needed it. Oh and the lines "Rest in the Gospel. Breathe it in deeply (more deeply, deeper, keep inhaling...), and then sneeze it and drool it and splatter it out all over your kids." Mad me laugh out loud and lightened my spirit. Thank you.

Michelle Straub said...
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