Today, both of my boys were bouncing off the walls, excited for a new school year. My youngest is heading to preschool tomorrow, while my oldest will start his first day of homeschooling with this crazy Momma.
Truth be told, today was a hard one for me. I have been very excited to start our homeschool journey with Samuel, but today, it really hit me…I am HOMESCHOOLING! It was really hard to drown out the fears and questions that bombarded me. As the day went on, I felt more and more inadequate.
Tonight, as I sat in our classroom, going over my lesson plans, putting my teaching materials at the front in the order we will be tackling each subject, gathering the Legos for my science activity, writing the date on the white board, double checking to make sure the projector we got off Kijiji was not going to crap out on me tomorrow when I get started, sharpening his pencil and putting it in his desk, and the other countless last minute attention to detail so that our first day was well prepared, I found my palms started to sweat in anxiety. Like a sudden wave, catching me off guard, I sat down behind my desk staring forward at the little classroom I had set up for my son, and I started to panic and couldn’t quite catch my breath. WHAT AM I DOING? Tears welled up, as all the fears of any first time homeschool mother began cascading over every thought. In my chair, I closed my eyes, let the tears fall and did the only thing I knew would help. I cried out to God. I began to pray and ask the Lord to encourage me, to give me peace, and to speak any words of wisdom I would need to start the day well tomorrow. I pulled out my Bible and started searching the Word for wisdom. As I skimmed through some chapters, quickly glancing at highlighted verses I had marked in the past, my own voice started to quiet and I felt the Lord encourage me to look up and look around the room.
I did just that. And in the quiet of that moment, I felt Him ask me, “What do you see?”
When I glanced around the room, certain things popped out to me. I saw the family calendar of the boys at the first day of school last year, of them meeting their baby cousin Geoffrey for the first time, of me piggy backing them both at the same time. I was reminded that I value having fun in this family. The next thing that stood out to me were my university degrees framed on the wall. I never regret an education, but I will admit that there have been times in the last eight years where I wondered what it would have been like to have pursued my career more, instead of staying home to raise my boys; but, looking at them this time, the Lord reminded me that I chose my family and did my best to honor the role of “Mom” that God blessed me with. I wasn’t sad or regretful. I was thankful. The next thing that stood out to me was the container of glitter and stickers I had forgotten to put into the drawer. If anyone knows me, they know that I have a serious prejudice against glitter. It’s a terrible substance that should be reserved for criminals. Upon getting registered in prison, a guard should just blow a handful of glitter at the inmate. I am certain that at the end of their sentence, that same glitter would still be on them. Yet, looking at that container, God gently showed me that as a mother, I constantly choose to go beyond my comfort zone in many areas, do things I don’t like, and engage with my children, because being a parent, to me, means to lay down my own wants a lot of times and bless my kids. It wasn’t long before my prayers turned into praise and where fear and anxiety tried to barge in, peace and thankfulness took its place.
My “night before the first day of homeschool” jitters and concerns, I came to realize, are no different than what every mother goes through multiple times in their lives. When we embark on something unknown for the benefit of our children or family, we often wonder what we are getting ourselves into and if we have the capacity to do right by them. It would be so easy to rest in those fears and let ourselves sink into a little depression of “I’m not good enough” and “I’m a terrible mother”…but DON’T!
Just stop and look up. Look around. What do you see?
Do you see a kitchen counter piled with dirty dishes and an unwiped dinner table? Awesome. You made your family a meal and cared more about finishing the evening with them, then rushing to put everything in its place. Do you see Netflix on, while the kitchen is still a disaster? Great! You understand that you deserve some downtime because you’re probably exhausted and know this will start up again tomorrow. You’re taking a few minutes to decompress and take care of you, so you’ll be the best Mom possible tomorrow morning! Do you see toys everywhere? What a great reminder that your children are having fun at home and enjoy the space you have provided for them!
Perhaps, you see the opposite. Maybe you see a sparkling clean living and put away kitchen with the dish cloth neatly hanging over the edge of the sink. Perhaps you are glancing up with pride, that all the laundry is finished and put away, and the lunches are already packed for tomorrow’s first day of school. This is also amazing! Your children are blessed to have a mom that pushes that extra distance to get ‘er done and create an environment and atmosphere of calm and order. You definitely deserve that glass of wine and put your feet up!
Here are some things that we forget to see sometimes that also speak to how much we love our family. We forget to look on the walls. On the walls are family memories – of times where we all smiled and enjoyed something together. We forget to look at the calendar by the fridge. They are filled with appointments to make sure the kids are taken care of, caught up on check ups and dental visits, getting together with friends for playdates, visiting aunts and uncles and grandparents, and reminders of field trips and picture day. We should be reminded that our lives have been purposefully reorganized and filled up by them because we love them and we have been given this beautiful honor to take care of them. We forget to look in our pantries and fridges to remind us we sold our left kidney on the black market because we’re feeding them Organic foods and Acai berries, replaced sugar with xylitol and erythritol or whatever plant-based sweetener that is organic and not actually sugar, and whatever new health food/product we read about on Facebook that is going to make them look like Popeye, but smart like Einstein. We forget to look at the bookshelves that are bursting with children’s books that we take the time to read to them, instead of telling them the whole, “When I was your age, I had to walk uphill both ways to school, in eight feet of snow, while reciting my times tables in me head and knitting my own socks for next season…” story over and over again. Well, my story wouldn’t be like that. I’m Chinese. We don’t knit.
I can certainly understand the feeling of wanting to do more for our kids, to make sure they are getting our best. We pray for them, we teach them, we correct them, we feed them, we snuggle them, and yet there are still days where they behave like little aliens and you just want to send them back to space. Lets also not forget all the times that in the moment, you don’t choose the best option, but settle for the…worst.
I remember one time, when Sam was about 4, we had just gotten off a 4 hour plane ride and made our way through the terminal towards customs. Jonathan had the stroller with Caleb in it who would have been about a year old. I had my hands full of carry-ons, back packs, snack bags and our passports. Sam was walking right behind me as I prepped him that an escalator was coming ahead. I told him that he just needs to put his hand on the moving rail and take a little step forward onto the moving step. I told him that I would be just ahead of him, so he didn’t need to worry about falling, because I would be right there. When we reached the escalator that would take us down to customs, I stepped on, and encouraged Sam to stay right behind me and take a step.
Well…he chickened out. Not only did he chicken out, but he started hollering and crying while the sea of people started to get backed up because my 4 year old was barricading the escalator, screaming at the top of his lungs.
Even though time seemed to stand still, the escalator did not. It kept going down with me on it with all my bags and carry-ons.
What would any good mother do? She would encourage her son in a calm and loving voice that everything would be okay and that she’ll be right back, of course! She would get to the bottom, and hastily take the stairs right back up to her child. Well, yes, that is what a good mother would do.
What did I do? I looked at the concerned couple walking down the stairs right next to my escalator, who kept glancing up at my son, and I said, “Wow…who’s son is THAT?…how embarrassing… His mother should do something about that!”…Then, when I reached the bottom, I just stood there and heckled him… “Come on, Sam! Don’t be a baby! Just step forward. You’re fine. Lets go! Come on! You don’t want me to leave without you, do you? Better hurry up!” It is safe to say that I did not win the “Mother of the Year” award that year…or any other year for that matter. But really, who hasn’t pretended not to know their child at least once? …Just me? …Really? …Okay then.
Long story short, a kind gentleman ended up picking up my son and helping him down to me and we survived the traumatic escalator experience. I can also confidently say that my son, who is now eight years old, has no issues with moving stairs now and was not permanently scarred by the whole ordeal.
Moms, no matter what your day looked like, whether or not you forgot to feed your child lunch and didn’t realize it until supper, or you forgot to put his blankie he NEEDS for bedtime into the dryer, just take a deep breath. Stop. Look up, and look around.
At the heart of it all, whatever it is you see when you look up, be reminded that what you see is your best for you kids. It is wonderful. Every single mother’s “best” will look so different than another’s; yet, one “best” is not better or worse than the other mother’s “best”. Why? Because you know what your family requires. You know your child’s heart, desires, interests and needs. Moms, you DO know what you’re doing. You ARE a wonderful mother. You’re not doing it perfect. But, guess what? No one is. Praise the Lord for mercy and grace. We are always learning from our mistakes, doing better the next day and not quitting on our kids.
You’re doing great.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
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