Over the course of our 11 year homeschooling journey, I have shown up as different moms.
I’ve been the mom I’m proud to be. The one who is fun, adventurous, creative and patient. I’ve been the one who does really cool things with her kids to foster learning. We’ve taped flashcards all over the house and yard to learn how to read, we’ve done school outside on the play centre, we’ve done project days with friends, and have gone on adventures. We’ve laid under a tree on a beautiful autumn day and watched the leaves fall.
Those are the things we see written on FB, right? Reading those fabulous posts gives us great ideas AND they give us fodder for comparison. Something to conjure up in our minds in those overwhelming, chaotic moments. It’s not always a conscious comparison – it’s just a feeling of not measuring up. Of “I’m failing at this” or “this just isn’t for us”.
I’ve also been the mom of which I’m not proud. The controlling, commanding, angry, exasperated, frustrated, and flat out tantruming mom. Slamming doors and crying all resulting in pain, pain, pain. Everyone retreating to their corners – me lying on my bed panting and recovering from totally losing my cool. I’ve been her. To some degree, we have all lost our cool and felt regret about how we’ve communicated with our children. You’re not alone!
And I know I’m not alone because I’ve read your posts. I’ve been with you at the playground and homeschool field trips and heard you ask, “How do I deal with a difficult learner?” “How do I deal with a child who lies, disrespects, or outright defies me?!” Or how do I deal with the child who simply isn’t interested and unmotivated? And I have the answer. You just might not like it – partly because it isn’t a quick fix.
YOU have to be different.
I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. The question actually isn’t “how do I deal with my child” but “how do I deal with ME”. I’m not saying this to make you feel badly about yourself. It’s why I started out with telling you that I’ve been there – last week in fact! Julie Bogart in this video says it well: “Ordinary parenting uses shame and blame to coerce kids to cooperate with a parental agenda.” And the results we get when we shame and blame are lying and defiance from our children. ”Coercion is the toxin of family life.”
Go back to beginning and get in touch with those beautiful innocent children when they were born and when they were so little. They need help just like we need help. We have support groups. They need one, too, and we can be a part of it for them.
Putting ourselves down or holding onto guilt doesn’t help. Forgiving ourselves and getting intimate with that part of us where we feel the need to have control leads to compassion and change. I can look inside and discover what happens when I believe that my child should do what I say no matter what. How do I treat my children when I operate from that space? And then, transversely, getting still so that I can reflect on how I might interact with them if I didn’t hold onto the edict of, “my children should always obey”. Could I let all of that go – those ordinary parenting lessons we’ve heard –in this moment with my child? Can I hear what my child is saying without the veil of “he is being disrespectful”? I notice when I drop all of that, I am curious rather than convicting. I’m able to be open rather than closed. And the more I’m able to do that, the more they demonstrate that they feel safe to talk to me and share what’s going on inside. All of that takes listening. Being quiet and listening…to YOU.
No math, reading, history, or household chore lesson is AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILD. I’m not saying that the other is not important – not at all. Just that your connection with your children must be primary over those things. So that looks like instead of doing our usual commanding thing that we pause and find another way to communicate what we need. And to be willing, within reason, to negotiate. To foster an environment where our children feel a part of the team.
Marriage and parenting brings up a lot of things for us to grow through, and when you homeschool it’s ten fold. Maybe even a hundred fold. The invitation, as I see it, is to take the opportunity to get close to you. Mother you through these confronting times. When you have that loving and nurturing presence for yourself, even when you’re feeling stressed, you’re more able to give that to your children.
Ultimately, my children will mother THEMselves. Just as I am mothering me. This is all we are all ever doing.
Love to you all.