A Million Ways

Someone I know works with troubled kids in the school system. She and I were talking one day and I was fretting, as I tend to do, about the many ways I fear I’m failing my kids.

There’s no “team” assessing their progress, there is no annual product evaluation and pay raise in this teaching profession I have assumed. So I fret and worry and always try to figure out what can improve.

My friend listened to me for a little while and then she said, “You know, they say there is no ONE way to be a perfect mother… but there are a MILLION ways to be a good one.”

She went on to tell me that she worked with a case where one of her student’s baby sibling was taken from the family because when the state came into the house for a check up they discovered the baby’s diaper hadn’t been changed in so long it was full of maggots.

She paused for a moment and asked me: “Does your baby have maggots in its diaper?”

“NO!” my germ-a-phobic self replied vehemently.

“Then chill out a little, ok? You’re a good mom. Your kids are healthy and growing. Stop killing yourself with self-doubt.”

Sometimes, when I get caught up in the thoughts, thoughts, thoughts of options, options, options I have to stop and ask myself, “Are there maggots in the diaper?” When the answer is, “No,” I can breathe a sigh of relief and take a step back from the turmoil of indecision.

You may find yourself indecisive today. June and July are known for both wild uncertainty and unfettered promise in homeschool land! As much as you should make no major decisions about homeschooling in February or March… the homeschool slump months… and we should also give ourselves a break in June and July when we’re all full of dreams and ambitions and not sure what to do with them!

If you’re like me, you might be asking yourself, “Am I really homeschooling? Again?! Bring on the coffee.”

If you’re considering whether to homeschool at all, you could be asking yourself, “Am I going to lose my mind being with the kids all day, every day? Do I need to invest in a denim jumper?! Calgon take me away!”

You might be asking yourself, “Can I sign up for this program, knowing that the leader is putting her entire family into liability to serve my snot-nosed kiddos one day a week?! Where does my fear of isolation fall into congruence with my values of social justice?”

June and July are rough, friends. Rough with both indecision and possibility!

May I speak into that turmoil with a few principles I’ve had to learn the hard way?

You’re going to fail. There is no perfect curriculum, no perfect teacher, no perfect anything. So if you’re setting yourself up to be that perfect vision, you’re going to fall WAY short. But the good news is that science can offer you hope: study after study shows that just showing up and trying is the major indicator of successful parenting.

Bad Days are OK. I had a pastor who said he’s got a college savings account for his kids, and right alongside it he has a fund for their counseling sessions as they work through their childhood! Did you know that one of the items that sends the largest number of millennials into counseling is a lack of the character quality of resilience? Your children won’t develop resilience, the knowledge that they can overcome, unless they actually have some rough experiences!

I can remember, in the midst of a heated discussion, looking at my child who was crying over not getting the “correct” color of a popsicle and yelling, “This is not the worst day of your life!!” She looked at me with tear-filled eyes and I suddenly realized… it actually did feel like the worst day of her life… over a popsicle.

I’d done such a great job of protecting her that she didn’t have a good grasp on what issues were worth crying about.

That’s when we started using the phrase, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” I know that those people who espouse the Gentle Parenting techniques hate that phrase… but dear heavens! We must have bad days in order to understand the joy of a good day and develop a grateful attitude!

There’s No Proven Path. It’s possible you’re being called into a totally different direction right now. You know what? That’s ok. If there are a million ways to be a good mom, there are also a million ways to educate your children. Or plan your household chores. Or live in community.

I believe God loves diversity and creativity. How else can you explain a narwhal or the metamorphosis of a butterfly?! Outside of the areas that are specific, like, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, none come to the Father except through me,” we have a Creator who delights in the many ways we find our path in this world!

You know what else? While the Bible makes a case for home education, it’s not a straight up commandment. The Bible also makes a case for organic foods, but that’s not a commandment.

So be strong and firm where things are specific and give yourself freedom in areas where things are not specific. Give yourself some grace. And some silence to sit quietly with the Lord and pray.

Make sure there aren’t any maggots in the diaper. If there are, change it immediately – don’t delay. But if there aren’t, give yourself a break.

It’s going to be OK.

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