Thursday, October 2, 2008

Parenting - The Hardest Job on Earth

Parenting is in my opinion, the hardest work I will ever be a part of.

I've heard it said that when you have a child it is like forever walking around with your heart on the outside of your body. The point is, that our children are so intertwined with our hearts and who we are, we want the best for them, we don't want them to suffer or do without.

With that said, I write with great trepidation when it comes to writing about parenting. You see, I haven't completed that role in my life, and often don't feel very successful at it. So, I dare not try to share much in the way of ideology. I am often amazed at the number of parenting books written by those who have no grown children, or no children at all. Where is the fruit of their labor? They don't have any idea what they are talking about.

I have often said that I was a great parent, before I had children. Funny how when you're childless, you know just how you'd do it if you had kids. "I'd never let my children do that." "I wouldn't let my kids talk to me like that!" "They need to straighten that kid out." Have you ever said those things, even if only in your mind? Okay, so maybe it wasn't that, but I'm sure you've said or thought something similar. Then comes along your first child and you think, "What the heck am I doing?"

Truth be told, we must take it one day, one moment even, at a time, and the amount of grace that we need from the Lord grows with each passing day and with every child added to the family. I love my children in a way I cannot express, or measure. Most days I feel totally inadequate.

When my oldest went to "regular school" it was fairly easy to think I had things figured out. Each morning we got up, ate, got dressed, brushed our teeth and out the door we went. Some days were admittedly very hectic, but there was a basic routine to what we did. Then, I dropped her off for someone else to deal with. I could then do as I pleased, accomplish what I wanted or needed to do without interruption, and jump into carpool line just in time to pick her up with a smile on my face, a finished "to-do" list, and ready to start my evening routine.

S*C*R*EE*C*H!!! Bring that dream to a halt! Then, the Lord gave me a burden to bring her home and homeschool. I admit, I stuck my fingers in my ears for a long time and said, "La, La, La, La, La. I can't hear you!" I did not want my routine disrupted! I didn't want to teach MATH! YUCK! I could list two dozen things I didn't want to do, things I would have to give up to homeschool. Was I ready to do that? No. Was the Lord's grace going to be needed even more? Yes!

The biggest obstacle for me was having to face the truth of who I was, and who my children really were. You see homeschooling is like putting a magnifying glass over the top of your house and magnifying your sins, and those of your children EVERY day. When you have to spend all day with a child, your own child, the sins in your children and in yourself come out! It's much easier to drop them off at school, and pick them up to only spend a few hours with them in the evening, put them to bed and call it a night. It's much easier to bake a couple of batches of cupcakes a year, and deliver them to their class. It's easier to not know who they come in contact with on a daily basis, and what they are really exposed to; you don't have to be with them and see that they can't handle conflict, that they don't deal well with peer pressure, that they will back talk their teacher, that sometimes they are the child who's mean to others, or that they shut down when they are not finding learning easy in certain areas.

Once you begin homeschooling, all of that changes. Many days when my husband has returned home from work he's found me exhausted - physically, spiritually and emotionally. I have often said to him, "my sin is ever before me." You see, I find myself continually failing in the same areas over and over again, and I see similar weaknesses in my children. That's the reality of homeschooling.

With all of that said, I would not change a thing! I love having my children home. I love that we can proclaim "Pajama Day" and not get dressed all day if we have nowhere to be for the day. (My Anna loves that too!) I love that I can meet the needs of my children, individually, and authentically. I love that we can snuggle up on the couch or the bed (when I'm not feeling well) and work on her lessons together, or read a good book. I love that we can watch I Love Lucy while we eat lunch together if we want. I love to see her caring for her baby sister, and the amazing bond that is growing between the two of them, because of time spent together. I love that we can travel whenever we want to, and take school with us if need be. If Anna were still in "traditional school" none of this would be happening, there wouldn't be time.

Anna attends fine arts classes all day on Monday. Taught from a historical perspective, she studies history, art, music, theatre arts there, and is involved in Drama club. This gives me a day alone with the little one to have some Mommy time together, and Anna time to be with some friends. She is involved in dance classes and rides horses on another day. We enjoy spending time with friends of all walks of life, with children of all ages. This allows her to spend time with other children, under the watchful care of her mother most days. It gives us the chance to talk openly and honestly about what to do when someone hurts your feelings, mistreats you - or someone you care about, or behaves in a manner that is not in line with our Biblical worldview. We can discuss at length the principles of Matthew 18, and how to resolve conflict in a way that pleases and glorifies God. I am amazed at how easily, even at the tender age of 11, Anna is able to discern the actions of others from a Biblical point of view. It is because we spend much time together scrutinizing popular television shows, characters in the books we read, and real people and real life situations, including our own behavior.

If she were in school, coming home with a pile of homework to complete, and involved in extra curricular activities, when would we have time for these discussions? If we were lucky, we might be able to fit one in every now and then, but they would not be with the frequency we are commanded in scripture, or lengthy enough to come to God honoring conclusions. Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 says, "And
these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. " This implies that we will be teaching them, throughout the day, as we are together. That is simply not possible when they are in school all day.

As a Christian mom who homeschools, school is really just the have to's that we work on. The goal is the discipleship of my children. My greatest desire is that my children know God when they are grown and ready to go out on their own, not the God the world has created (in their own image), but the God of the Bible, just as He has revealed Himself. If she can read, do math and write well when she comes out of her schooling (which she most certainly will), that's great, but it is not the goal. If she participates in extracurricular activities and does well at them, that's great, but it is not the goal. Discipleship, is the goal.

The summer before Anna started second grade I found myself frantically trying to come up with things to fill her summer. I planned for her to participate in dozens of different activities and try out all sorts of things to see if we could land on something she really liked. I wanted her to be "well rounded" and for her to have participated in a variety of things to find her niche. While working on this task, I found myself one morning reading Galatians 6:7-8 "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." I tore up that list and withdrew her from all of those activities. I spent that summer sowing to her Spirit, and not to her flesh. A few months later she started second grade, while I planted my fingers more firmly in my ears to keep from hearing God's clear direction for me to bring her home. Six weeks into 2nd grade I was in total disobedience to what I knew the Lord had shown me in His word, and I was miserable. We pulled her out of school to bring her home, and now I work frantically to sow to her Spirit everyday.

Discipleship is hard work, but then so is parenting, remember. So, I guess they go hand in hand, and that was God's idea all along.

Parenting by His grace,


John Edwards said...

It is even almost as hard as being a pastor! (:

Lori McGuire said...

Yes John, you've certainly had your share of hardship in that "profession".

Hope you all are doing well. If I'm up to it, I plan to work on your pictures over the weekend.


John Edwards said...

Oh, that would be great!!!!!!!!! Thanks