parenting

On letting them grow and letting them go

You birth these precious cherubs. Bring them into the world and for awhile, they are your world. And you are theirs.

You teach them to read,

homeschool learning to read

to create

homeschool art

and to explore.

exploring the creek

You’re with them in their valleys

homeschool field trip stream

and on their mountain tops.

homeschool field trip Pike's Peak

You nurse them when they are sick, serving them Sprite and bouillion and toast. You try to let them rest . . . as much as anyone can rest while having their temperature taken and their blankets adjusted hourly through the night.

homeschool sick day

You laugh with them in their silliness

silly face

and help them through their messes and mistakes.

homeschool messes

You watch them fall in love

kitten love

and know that one day, another will replace you.

wade and dakota-min-1

You hope you’ve taught them enough. That you haven’t made too many mistakes. That their faith and their character will make up the difference. They’re ready to embark on this adventure. You? Not so much.

loading the car for farrier school

But you take them as far as you can. Excited for the next step.

dropping off at school

Excited for the hopes and dreams of the future. Praying that they’re ready. Praying that their faith is strong enough to see them through.

forge

And then they don’t answer your calls. They don’t answer your texts. You know they are busy. You know they are being asked to work harder than you’ve ever asked them to. You know they are tired. But you want to know how they are. You want to hear it from them. But you go on, making plans for a field trip that won’t include them. Knowing their plans don’t include you.

sandhill crane

You know they are OK. There WOULD have been a call if they weren’t. And somehow, you know that this, too, is right. Because it’s their life now and you are no longer the center. Still, you don’t feel quite right until that first text comes in. “Sorry, mom. I was at the forge all day but I finally got my hoof pick made. It’s hard!” And then you finally find a bit of peace that they are where they belong and that they know where you are if they need you.

homeschool freedom

Because they’re growing up and you’re letting go.

Cherish the Uncertainty of Life’s Adventures

It was supposed to be a little trip to pick up some pumpkins for the pigs.

Cherish the uncertainty of life's adventures

Just a little trip.

What’s more, it’s through our version of Amish country and seeing the buggies out is always a treat.

But things didn’t go exactly as planned.

First off, I took a wrong turn. My son took this as a sign that we should not be doing this. A few pumpkins is not worth the time or the gas. Which I had precious little of.

So we stopped to refuel. We ran into a friend who told us about Santa and hot dogs and a raffle for our robotics club.

“Can we go? Can we go?”

Of course we could go. It was just a little trip to pick up the pumpkins. We’d be back in plenty of time. My son again attempted to talk me out of this fool’s errand. He does not like car trips. Even if they are little ones through Amish country. A life with no electricity holds no fascination whatsoever for him.

And perhaps there is a point when you cut your losses. When you realize you have already invested enough time and energy into a dozen or so pumpkins and it is time to move on. If so, that point is well beyond where my stubbornness kicks in.

And it would take less than an hour to get them, putting us where we wanted to be right on time. It would work out perfectly. Because who wants to sit around for an hour waiting for Santa? (Don’t answer that.)

At any rate, that’s how I ended up driving south for the second time (only this time on the right road), allowing me to make yet another wrong turn. This one, however, did not lead me in a convenient circle. This one led me down a gravel road that ended a little before I realized. As in I was suddenly on nothing but mud.

What’s a little mud? I have four wheel drive, right? Thing is, I didn’t. I pushed that little button and nothing happened. And I don’t know how many of you know this, but if your four wheel drive isn’t activated, you have rear wheel drive which is essentially useless in slippery conditions.

Then I began the long slow slide down the hill which ended with me facing east west on a north south road.

And I had given my daughter the cell phone. In fact, I had joked that if I wasn’t home when she got home to call the police and send an ambulance my way.

“This is why you don’t make these kinds of trips for pumpkins.”

My son was full of wisdom. So I sent him out of the car to push until we got the car out of the way as much we could.

All we had to do was get to a phone before my daughter left for Lincoln.

“Worst case, we go back to the car. Dad will be off by midnight at the latest. I think there’s a hotel in town, but if not, we’ll be fine in the car.”

And with that, we marched. A quarter mile through mud and another half mile through town. With my son pointing out each and every step would have been unnecessary had I only taken his sage advice. My goal was the gas station (and ignoring my son. Let’s not underestimate the value nor the self control behind saying nothing at all). But then I saw Subway.

Subway, precious Subway. What a sight to behold! Warmth and chairs and drinks and food and a phone.

And the worst case scenario became the best case scenario. Not only did I get hold of my daughter, but she AND her friend drove down to rescue us. We’d go home all in one fabulous trip.

But as we talked over soft drinks and cookies (can you believe that as I handed out cups, I told them they could get whatever they wanted?) you know what my children said the highlight of their week was?

Getting stuck in the mud and hiking to Subway. For them, it was an adventure. They saw tracks of deer, raccoon, coyote and even fox. They got to slip around in the mud and tease their mom and, for a little while at least, everyone knew how to drive better than mom. They laughed and hiked and loved the whole misadventure of it. And when asked what he thought the best part of the week was, even my son answered,

“Mom seeing the error of her ways.”

Which I think is thirteen-year-old-speak for “I kinda had fun, too.”

Can you cheat at good parenting?

I’m wondering because someone at church thought I must train my children well because of something they did but I sort of set the whole thing up. But I guess I should back up a bit.

See, there’s this lady at church. I’ve always lliked her, though I never really knew her. She’s older. Well, OK, she’s elderly. But I used to sit in church and think things like, “I hope I have so much beauty and grace as she when I’m that age.” I don’t even know why. We hardly exchanged more than two words before the funeral. After the funeral, however, she told me she had lost a son many years ago.

So now the connection is rather strong. It’s like this sisterhood of grief I’d do almost anything to not know anything about, but the people in it are so breathtakingly amazing to get to know. And now I talk to her whenever she makes it to church.

But on Sunday she seemed rather lonely.

She complained of feeling like a stranger because it had been so long since she had been to church.

I thought about being dependent on others to get to church. Of living with Parkinson’s. Of needing help to walk. Of losing a child so many years ago. And of loneliness setting it.

I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to say something. I wanted to make her feel better. But everything that came to mind seemed so dismissive of her hurting. So I gave her a hug, told her I always missed her when she wasn’t there and was glad the other lady with us seemed to have more of an idea of what to say.

And then I went to collect my children. As we entered the sanctuary, I leaned over and whispered in their ear.

“Hey, you guys, Mrs. H. is feeling kind of lonely. I think it would mean a lot to her if you stopped and said hi.”

And they all did.

And she beamed.

She even told me twice how wonderful my children were and how I must train them well because most children don’t pay any attention to an old woman in church.

And I totally wanted to confess that I told them to do it. Except that seemed like it would take away from her joy and that didn’t seem quite right, either. So I just kept it to myself.

But I still feel like the praise was undeserved. So can you cheat at good parenting?

 

I want to be a better parent

Teeth brushed, pajamas on, prayers said, bedtime. Then it begins.

“Mo-om! LE hit me!”

“Mo-om! LE dumped her water on my blanket!”

“Mo-om! LE won’t stop screaming!”

“Mo-om! LE won’t stop talking!”

“MO-OM!!!”

Then little footsteps on the stair as LE comes up to the gate.

“Mommy, Bug hit me.”

I can’t count how many times I walked up and down those steps, each an interruption to feeding the baby, straightening the house, syringe feeding our dog suffering from sudden paralysis.

And now, as I sit down to the computer to do what I want to do I hear little footsteps on the stair.

“Mommy, Bug hit me.”

And in frustration, I answer.

“I guess she learned it from you.”

Silence. Then little footsteps going down the stair to quiet and in the silence I cannot think.

I want to be a better parent. To teach rather than manage, guide rather than direct, build up rather than tear down. But over and over I parent out of frustration and react out of my own troubled spirit. A moment of sarcasm and she turns and goes downstairs without a word.

At least for a time.

Then little footsteps climb the stair and stop next to me.

“Mommy, I want to kiss you.”

I wrap her in my arms for a hug and a kiss then take her back down to bed, to Tiggy’s playpen where she still wants to sleep every night. And as I lean over to adjust her blanket just so, her eyes shine and her smile glows. Tiggy’s playpen pricks my conscience as I realize how easy it is to forget that a little child is hurting.

Especially at bedtime.

And I just want to be a better parent.

Real Life Journal of a Mom of Six: How did I get here?

There are days I wonder just how I got here. With all the choices I could have made, with all the directions I could have gone, which one was it exactly that landed me here?

Take the other day, for example. I walk in the front room to find my 21 month old standing on the dining room table gleefully flinging oatmeal. It’s all over him. It’s all over the table. It’s on the ceiling. It’s on the walls. It’s on the homeschool folders. Somehow, there is more oatmeal stuck in places it does not belong than I ever would have put in his bowl.

To which my seven year old responds by falling off his chair in a fit of giggles as if . . . well . . . as if he had a front row seat to Gallagher himself.

From the couch comes the muffled noises of a five year old whose head has been swallowed by the couch, presumably in a failed attempt at a head stand.

And all the while my three year old dances about the room in nothing but the underwear on her head.

“Where is your mother?!”  I want to shout.

But that’s when it hits me. I know exactly how I got here. It’s all because I had to use the restroom.

And two minutes is all it takes.