Gently hold all that is given into your care, remembering that it is never yours to own. Manage it well, wisely and with compassion.
Posts tagged ‘parenting’
Since before Goldilocks was born, I’ve loved Calvin & Hobbes. Something about the twisted machinations of that brilliant little mind – not to mention the brilliance of his imagination – appealed to me. When I was pregnant with Goldilocks, as I began to interact with her, I nursed a suspicion that, just maybe, I was spawning a real life version of the comic boy genius.
It didn’t take long for our growing Goldilocks to prove us right. Papa Bear and I would laughingly refer to those comics as our User Guide: Goldilocks for Dummies. I recently stumbled across an article proving our view and using Calvin’s cartoon wisdom as a map into the mind of a gifted learner. Perhaps you’ll find it useful, too. Check it out:
Children are phenomenal
Alright, it’s time to ‘fess up. I love kids. If you only know me through this blog, then that’s probably already obvious to you. But if you know me in real life, not so much. In “real life” I always say that I don’t like kids generally; I like specific kids. Specifically mine. But I’m realising that that’s simply not true. (I’ve long-held that belief because at one time we thought we couldn’t have kids, and pretending not to want them was easier than facing the pain of that loss. More on that some other time).
Children are magnificent. They are bold and courageous. Vast and brilliant. Their potential is infinite, and they know no bounds. They have no idea what they can’t do, so they blithely do whatever takes their fancy.
A child’s view is fresh and untainted. Through their eyes, everything is new and sparkly. Each moment brings new wonder, and their joy and genius can be contagious – if we let it be.
They need to know
Do they know? When last did you tell your daughter that she astonishes you? That her strength and resolve will stand her in good stead all her life? That being independent and courageous is a good thing – a grand thing? How often has your son heard you admire his innovation? Does he know that those heart stopping moments when he disappears up a tree make you proud as much as they terrify you? Does he know that his gentle care of an injured butterfly breaks your heart and delights your soul?
Do they know how phenomenal they are?
You need to recognise it
Do you know how phenomenal they are? Do you get so caught up int he hustle and bustle of every day that you lose sight of the great and infinite truth that this precious moment is the only one of its kind that will ever exist – anywhere? Your daughter will never be nine years old and utterly uninhibited again. Never again will she be eleven years old and self-conscious for the very first time. Your son will never offer you that particular, tiger-striped snail as a grandchild ever again. He will never throw that particular stick in that wild, abandoned, utterly delighted way ever again. There may be other snails, other sticks. There may be other milestones, other daughters, even. But this one millisecond is the only one of its kind there will ever be. Ever. Do you see that? Do you feel the desperate need to bottle it, to ponder it, to guard it in your heart and bring it out in quiet, lonely moments, worthy as it is of endless admiration? Take notice now. Don’t let another frazzled second pas in which you fail to see the gift you have in front of you this very moment. Invest in the ultimate success of these precious gifts we call our children, almost as if they could ever belong to us. We know better, don’t we?
Amazing is not faultless
Just because our children are infinite in their capacity to delight and bless, they are not perfect. Recognising the pleasure we have in every moment with them is not the same as overlooking the areas that need work. Each and every one of us has room to grow. We must grow, learn, evolve all the time. We should take active steps to develop our intellect, our spirituality, our relationships, our skills, and our bodies. We’ll never reach the place where we can say, “Okay, I’ve arrived. I’ve done enough in this area. I can stop developing here.” Because the day we say that is the day we begin to die. Rather, we should learn to be adaptable to the change that attends every stage of life, and embrace it as tangible evidence of our personal development.
In the same way, we need to be cognizant of the fact that our kids aren’t done yet. They need us. Our job is to do whatever we can to help them be the best they can be, and that implies that they’re not already the best they can be. They’re not. They’re flawed human beings with failings and shortcomings. Be aware of that. Enjoy it, because those so-called “blemishes” on their perfect selves ground us, humble us, and often delight us with their innocence. These, too, will pas (if we do our jobs right!), and we need to nurture our children through the rough patches into the exquisite gardens they can be.
Just don’t expect more than they can deliver. In fact, don’t expect anything. Swop your unreasonable and unfounded expectations for a sense of expectancy, renewed every morning by the imminent delight that your privilege,a s parent, allows you in seeing them mature and navigate the perils of growing up – all with you at their side, faithful ally and trusted navigator.
Amazing comes with a responsibility
So, what do we do about all this awesomeness? Here’s the thing: with great power comes great responsibility. Our children have a responsibility, and we should ensure that they know this. It’s not enough to reassure them that they’re great. Trust me, they know it. If we do our jobs right, our children will have a strong sense of self-worth and a well-established self-image. They’ll be confident and bold. They may also be entitled, a blight that afflicts more and more of the next generation. Business owners complain daily about the trouble they have finding dependable staff. School leavers have a sense of what they deserve that beggars belief. They feel that lazing around texting their friends or gossiping on Facebook is their inalienable right, and they actively defy any who disagree – from parents to employers to authorities. They certainly make no meaningful contribution to society. Whatever spark of greatness they may have been born with is utterly diluted by years and years of ego-stroking. Parents alone are not to blame here. Peers, the media and society at large have developed such a strong fear of raising insecure, withdrawn or shy youngsters that we’ve overbalanced entirely and tipped the scales in favour of morally bankrupt sociopaths.
We have a deep responsibility, and it’s one we should never dream of shaking off lightly. We must teach our children to take responsibility for themselves. We must teach them to be strong and independent of us (wholly dependent on God). We must teach them to recognise and value their strengths, wherever they lie. We must teach them to use these strengths to serve. We need to redefine the common, hollow definition of success from “the one with the most stuff at the end is the winner” to something far more valuable: the value of significant service. Nothing has more reach. There’s no greater way to impact this world or leave a legacy, then to devote your talents to the service of others – no matter how small or great that act of service may be.
What will you do about that?
Since the moment I found out I was pregnant, I’ve been telling my daughters they’re wonderful. They truly are divine gifts, and I am so very grateful. They know that. We work together to identify their strengths and talents, and workshop ways in which these can be used to enhance the lives of others. We honestly appraise areas for improvement and then work on those as a supportive team. We boldly identify things that may possibly never be “fixable”, because sometimes we’re just made that way. Honest appraisal leads to authentic acceptance and allows to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses in others like the multiple facets of a sparkly gem. It also leads to humility. Knowing we have areas of strength as well as areas of weakness makes us humble and grateful for what we have.
This is how I am working with my girls to develop both confidence and character. What’s working for you, in your family? I’d love to hear your comments.
Our unschooling experiment is picking up speed and gaining momentum. The more we think about how we’ve learnt everything that we care about, the more we realise that what matters in life we’ve learnt incidentally to formal structures. Actually, that’s not always true. There have been times when we’ve chosen to receive some form of formal education – either by attending courses or reading relevant material (books, websites and so forth). The point is, though, that what Papa Bear and I do for a living, we weren’t taught. We learnt by doing.
Now we’re encouraging the girls to do the same. Red Riding Hood is leaping into floristry (is that a word? Spell check thinks so!) and choreography as if to the manner born. Goldilocks id designing dolls and learning about plastic injection molding. Both girls are doing more maths and reading than before, and a lot more drawing. So far, I am satisfied, and so is Papa Bear. He is a million times more supportive than I’d ever supposed he would be, and happily spends his evenings auto-didactically acquiring guitar-playing skills (auto-didactic = unschool, just so ya know. I learnt that osmotically this week).
Here’s the thing that really struck me: always assume positive intent from your child.
What I understand by this is that I must always believe that my child intends good, whether it be in asking a thousand questions or leaving a messy trail behind her. Whether it’s demanding my attention at the worst possible moment, or breaking the handle of an otherwise unopenable car door when we’re already late (which happened today). Always assume they mean well.
Now, I know that “there is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10). And I know that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). But 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that “love … believes all things“. For me, that means that my almost-utterly-innocent ten year old doesn’t intend the inconvenience her growing intellect inadvertently causes. She intends a positive, edifying outcome for all of us – albeit unconsciously so.
This has been liberating for me. I’m not saying that I assume the worst of my children, but now I’m actively, intentionally assuming the very best. And so is Papa Bear, though I don’t know if he fully realises it yet.
Moreover, we’re assuming the best of our own motives, as well. For the first time that I can recall, I find myself feeling rested, rejuvenated and not guilty. I know I’m doing the best I can. I know that always work as hard as humanly possible and do all that I can to keep promises, meet deadlines, achieve goals and improve my clients’ business. I know that my family’s long-term and total well-being is my utmost motivation and the guiding light of every decision I make. I can relax now, knowing that I am reasonably doing all that I can, and not shirking anything.
The interesting thing is that our already happy household is now even more peaceful and relaxed than ever.
What a relief!
PS: I did not tidy my house before I left for work this morning. I did the dishes and put my stuff away, and then I left. I didn’t feel guilty about that. I didn’t feel grumpy about that. I chose, instead, to have an invigorating quiet time, and enjoy my children’s creations. Here’s to a happy weekend!
My kids are not like other kids. I know this is true of all children, as much as it is true of all people: we are not alike. But there do seem to be certain similarities between people. And we don’t seem to share those much in this family. For instance, my girls think deeply about everything. This week we had to address a slew of issues:
- Why did we leave Johannesburg? (Pollution and support systems).
- Why didn’t we start homeschooling sooner? (Financial and social pressures and plain old fear of the unknown).
- Why didn’t we teach the kids a second or even third language from birth? (We were busy and distracted and didn’t think it was important: they could learn that at school).
- Why didn’t we leave them in school to mix with their friends and learn stuff? (Because they hated it, learnt nothing, were bullied and the school wanted them to be medicated to “fit in”. And because we couldn’t afford it).
- Why can’t we have another sibling? (Money, time, hereditary illnesses, miscarriages and more).
And many more.
The questions are not unreasonable, of course. And in time I will answer them in detail (whereas now I pretty much said, “You’ll have to trust that Daddy and I always want what’s best for you”). What struck me, however, was the resentment. In each case, I am seen as a big, bad, feelingless ogre with no sense of what really matters or how much damage I have inflicted on these poor, defenceless lives. Even in the face of their tears, drama and utter lack of comprehension, I refused to bow to the pressure to give more information than I feel they’re ready to handle. I know that we’ve made mistakes, but I also know that we’ve done our very best with the resources to hand, and always had the best intentions.
It made me think of my walk with God. When he doesn’t do what I expect Him to do, when things don’t happen on my timetable, when things do happen that I know He could have prevented, I feel hurt, betrayed and abandoned. I feel scared and alone. And I ask “Why?”. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking why, but the attitude is what counts. God’s Word is full of passages showing how important our heart’s attitude is, and that’s where I fall down. I get angry and bitter, and I turn away from Him.
But if I, with my mistakes and foibles and “good intentions” can make decisions on behalf of my inexperienced, helpless children, and keep crucial pieces of information from them for their own good, how much more so an infinitely wise, infinitely GOOD God? He promises to have my best interest at heart, and I need to trust that that is true. I don’t want my children to know about our near-poverty experiences. I don’t want them to even think about miscarriages and childhood deaths. I don’t want them to know about the base evil perpetrated against children and why we go to such lengths to protect them from it. There’s time enough for them to find that out in their lives. Not now.
When we look at our lives we see only the path we’re on, the steps we take. We don’t know what could have been. We see our small home and see only that we don’t have a bigger house. We completely miss the single room we might have in our parents’ house. Or the tin shack we might have in the local township. We see our clapped out, ancient car and miss the fact that we might have no car at all. Or a very expensive car that costs a lot to fuel and service and insure. We see an unhappy marriage and miss the pain of loneliness some bear. We see an empty bed, no wedding band, and miss the abusive, painful marriage we may have had. We don’t know what God has saved us from. We don’t know what He has in store.
We only have two choices: rail against His perceived slights and oversights, or trust Him to be the faithful and generous provider He shows Himself to be, over and over again. I choose to cry “Abba, Father”. Daddy. And I choose to trust in Him.
I stumbled across this article after I’d written this post, and it sums up my thinking in a more edrudite way. Recommended.
No, not THAT Talk. But still, a Talk with a capital T. Do all homeschooling families have this conversation, or is it just me and some of my more delinquent homeschooling friends? Let me back up a little and give some background. Here’s what happened:
Last week was Billing Week. It’s the most important week in my business month. It’s the week when I frantically finish as much as I can so that I can reconcile as much as possible and bill as many people as can reasonably be billed, with the faint hope that some of them will pay me in time to pay the rent. It’s an adrenaline-fuelled roller coaster ride that adds the pizzazz to my stay-at-home-work-from-home-home-educating lifestyle. Needless to say, for one coffee-driven, sleep-deficient week, very little formal education gets done (although unfortunately I think a lot of other education takes place. The kids have a front row seat in the theatre spectacle we fondly refer to as The School of Life).
It’s never great to have even a day or two without focused education. We all seem to lose the plot. The girls get fractious. They snap at each other and forget their manners. They get bored. Since Papa Bear and I are stressed, slightly panic-stricken and utterly exhausted, we don’t always handle this situation with the best grace (although we really, sincerely try with all our might). The final result is that the little bit of “school” we do have becomes a loose, relaxed affair, and kind of blurry around the edges.
This week we’re working on getting back on track. As you know, I’ve already explained that we’re doing a month-long unschool experiment. This means that “school” shouldn’t really take very long at all. Bible time is about 20 minutes, and so is Maths. Technically, copywork shouldn’t take more than about 15 – 20 minutes so, at most, we’re looking at an hour of the basics, followed by an entire morning of super-fun learning adventures.
Yesterday, that “hour” took nearly three hours to complete. It was punctuated by wild hilarity and chaos, and the half hour of copywork yielded scarcely six deformed words a piece.
I lost my cool.
Using that quiet, sinister tone that only very angry mothers use, I explained in graphic detail every aspect of my day. I explained how I start the housework at 6AM, breakfast straight after that, then school. After school I work, make lunch, carry on with school, work some more, make supper, read stories to them, work some more, and do my best to get into bed by 1AM. The next day it starts all over again.
After that, I explained slowly and quietly how, when they took three hours to do one hour’s work, they were stealing: stealing my sleep from me. Stealing their experience of a happy mother from themselves. Stealing food from their own plates because I simply can’t achieve deadlines and will lose clients as a result.
The poor babies watched with pale faces and wide eyes, and I was astonished to find that I felt no guilt at all. I really felt that they should realise that if they don’t take at least some of the responsibility for their education and success, they may as well not even have the benefits of a home education. Their potential would hardly exceed becoming poorly paid waitresses in a local coffee house, and frankly they can acquire the skills they need for that in any government school. I explained that they have phenomenal potential, and they’re allowing it to atrophy with their sloppy attitudes and distracted focus on what really matters in life.
All the time I was talking, I could hear my dad pouring out of my mouth. I remember him saying these words to me. I remember feeling overwhelmed at the weight of responsibility and utterly not understood. I also remember pulling up my socks, working hard, being at the top of my class and achieving most of my goals in my life so far.
Perhaps I was hard on them, perhaps even cruel. I don’t think so. I realised that I am actually a Tiger Mom, after all, and that I do believe in giving my children the very best life has to offer: character, self-discipline, high expectations of themselves, and the ability to achieve no matter the odds.
Have any of you ever had to have The Talk with your home educated children?
I just stumbled across this site: http://listuniverse.wordpress.com/
I LOVE it! As a fanatical list-maker and avid reader-of-bullet-points I thought this was a great way to keep track of – well, everything. So I am going to start making lists today.
Here is my list of things I’m starting this week:
- I’m starting making lists on my blog.
- I’m starting to balance education better. (More on that later).
- I’m going to start to manage my time better. Right after this post.
- I’m starting to drink less coffee. As soon as I finish the bag of Starbucks Dark Roast Verona I just received as a gift and have nearly flattened.
- I’m starting an exercise regime. Seriously. Any day now.
- I’m starting the next unit in Konos.
- I’m starting to use my electric blanket.
- I’m starting to be more honest – with everybody, including myself.
- I’m starting to finish the things I start.
- I’m starting to get to bed early and get more rest.
That’s all I got. I’m starting all of these things. Any day now. I’m sure of it 🙂
Actually, today I’m starting to be the mother of a seven year old, since my six year old went and got BIG! *Sigh*. Firsts always come right after tear-jerking lasts.