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Writing in the Midst of Parenting

the gift of children

There is an element of writing about parenting, in the midst of parenting, that is extremely difficult. Impossible, sometimes. At least for me. You have to take a step back. In order to write something, you need perspective. But then, at the same time, writing (at least for me) is what often brings perspective. Out of the sludge of words and thoughts and conflicting emotions, something rises to the foreground of the mind and is, in itself, some sort of answer. Or at least it is the right question. Or a step in that direction.

I took a sabbatical from writing in this blog for about a year. In 2014. I couldn’t write about parenting. I felt engulfed in the very thing I was writing about. How can I give perspective if I feel I have none? What’s the purpose? But it always comes back. Not the obligation to write, but the desire to do so. My very own therapeutic process, for all the world to see. Okay, not exactly. There is more of a purpose for this blog, I would hope.

To connect with parents who, like me, are often in the thick of parenting and feel they can’t step back enough to get perspective. It happens to us all. We all need some outside help at times.

Like today, when I was teaching at my kids’ school in the morning. They were playing at recess and one of the younger girls came up to the table where I sat. She was near tears, saying that Aiden looked angry at her and didn’t want to play with her. Aiden is my son. He’s nearly seven. I wanted to get to the bottom of the issue, so waved him over.

He was upset. He said that he didn’t want to play with kindergarten students because they always want to play their game and even if they play what he wants to play, they change it to make it their game. I understood where he was coming from, the youngest in our family, often expected to join in what the older two are playing. He’s the “older” kid on the playground, at least compared to the kindergarten students; shouldn’t he be able to control the game? I understood, but I didn’t agree.

I explained to him that it wasn’t nice to make someone feel that you didn’t want to play with them. I didn’t delve into the deeper issues that might have been going on in his head. I simply asked him to let his friend know he wasn’t mad at her.

He didn’t. And his face grew angrier. I didn’t know what to do.

His main teacher was sitting at the table, and she called him over. She shared a story about having to choose anger or forgiveness in a personal situation she had faced. I think he got it. Whether he took it to heart or not, I appreciate her effort. Stepping in and trying to help my son understand, not only the effects of behavior, but the importance of choosing to have a happy heart.

It’s not that everything was solved that instant. Another issue rose later that day at school, and I heard about it when the kids got home. My husband and I talked with Aiden together. We prayed with him.

We don’t have the answers to every situation that arises. Sometimes we feel a little stuck in the middle of things, when all we can do is pray and trust God to work in the hearts and lives of our children.

But in all of it, we are blessed to have friends and teachers and family who care about our kids, who want to see them grow up to make a positive difference in the world, who tell them that God has a plan for their lives. Because it’s so true, and who knows? Maybe hearing that one story, or listening to that one song, or sermon, will be that thing they remember years later. The things that reminds them, and helps them believe they have a unique purpose. That they can change the world. That God loves them no matter where they go or what they choose in life.

Writing in the midst of parenting is something like parenting in the midst of parenting. You don’t really have much of a choice. You take it one day at a time. And you’re grateful that you’re not alone.

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The Way It Worked

It wasn’t a plan. It wasn’t actually even something I really wanted to do at first. More than anything, it was necessary at the time.

I enjoy being a mom. I enjoy teaching my kids. In fact, I had every intention of educating them at home. After all, my mom had done it, why couldn’t I? There are all kinds of pros for home education, such as being able to teach your children according to their particular learning style, recognizing their talents and proclivities in order to help them build stronger skills in those areas, being able to spend more time focusing on areas that need a bit more attention, and many more!

I never had much practice in early childhood education. I felt that those who teach younger children need a certain skill set that I personally lacked—an enthusiastic and playful nature. Once they reached a certain age, I was confident in my ability to teach. I was privileged to have friends and other experienced mothers who spent a lot of time with my daughter during that “early education” stage. They gave me flash cards, fact cards, math dots and storybooks; they referred me to some great educational websites; they taught my daughter songs and verses.

It was August of 2010 and my daughter, Jessica, had reached the stage that I was actually comfortable in teaching. She was in the middle of second grade, and was doing remarkably well. Then everything changed. We had been in the planning-to-move-across-the-world stage, planning to make the big step in November, when we were suddenly—and somewhat rudely—informed that my husband’s visa would not be granted, because I was not living and settled in my home country.

“Moving as a family sometime at the end of the year” rapidly changed to “moving with my kids as soon as possible”. Once we arrived in the States, it was necessary for me to gather as much “proof” as I could of the fact that I was here to stay.

The plan was, in fact, conceptualized on the way from the airport to my parent’s house, as my dad drove and I began to doze after a 28-hour journey without sleep. He mentioned that my sister was very happy with the school she sent her kids to, and that he would be happy to cover the tuition fees for that first year for my daughter to attend. My first reaction was, “No, Dad. We couldn’t ask that of you.”

A few days later, I met my sister and she told me also how great the school was. My dad repeated his offer and we met the teacher and principal of the school. Within two weeks of arriving in the States, my daughter was enrolled at Faith Baptist Academy, and we had our first “proof” towards my husband being able to join us. In the meantime, my father drove her to school on his way to work. My sister looked after her in the afternoons until my dad was able to pick her up in the evenings.

My husband was able to join us within two months, and Jessica’s education at FBA continued.

Yesterday evening was the school’s awards ceremony. My daughter had been sick pretty much the whole last week of school and barely finished her last test on the last day, a few hours before the ceremony. I wasn’t exactly expecting what took place, nor was my daughter.

Jessica, with her teacher, at the awards ceremony

Jessica, with her teacher, at the awards ceremony

She was actually quite embarrassed and reluctant to step forward time and again to receive certificates for the highest scores in nearly every subject, and the highest GPA in the school. I kept having to encourage her to go up, whispering to her to please smile, and assuring her that it was almost over.

At the end of the ceremony, a few friends and acquaintances came up to congratulate my husband and me, as parents, mentioning that we must be proud of our daughter and that we must be great parents. All I could think of was: it really wasn’t us.

It was my dad, who made it possible for her to attend.

It was my sister, who took care of her so many afternoons, on top of taking care of her own kids.

It was my friends and co-workers from India who spent so much time teaching her from the time she was just a baby.

It was the great and inspired teachers at the Academy who pour their time and effort into every child who attends, and has attended, that school.

And it was Jessica, who woke up early every school morning, overcame her timidity at meeting new people, learned the new study skills needed, and applied herself to keep plodding along until the year was done.

Most of all, it was God, Who gives gifts and talents to everyone, as unique and varied as each individual is. Some children might “walk away” with awards; some might not receive even a tiny bit of recognition, but each one is special and gifted in His sight, created for a unique and divine purpose. Our task, as parents, is to encourage our children, love them, pour into them as much as we can, and be open to new opportunities, even if it isn’t what we originally had in mind for them. Who knows? It could be something even better.

(Photo taken by Joel Rockey)