When Parenting Sucks

I’m going to regret this post. I’ve avoided rants on this blog for a number of reasons, among them my great dislike for the word rant. It rubs me the wrong way, especially in its overuse. If the word is a big part of your blog, please don’t take offense. You shouldn’t care what I think. ‘S only me. Well, I never imagined my first tirade would be about my sweet, amazing seven-year-old. But if it must, it’s really about myself. Days like this, I’m mystified – in fact, undone – by this beast called parenting. Because I come up short.

Finding myself relegated to being a parrot in my home, I’d just like to stay human. I tell my boy eight times to do his math. Six times to come here. Seven, to clean up. By the third repeat, he should hear the aggravation rising. On the fifth, the mercurial red transmutes into its auditory counterpart commonly known as yelling. Dear Christian reader, kindly pause before you start composing your advice. Spare yourself the trouble. We don’t have to force our relationship. I know I’m not doing it right. I know I should pray with and for my son more. I know it’s his parents’ job to train him to obey promptly, cheerfully. It’s a gulf between knowing and practice. I’ve sat in on the best parenting Bible studies as early as my college days. I was geared up for this, signed up ready to lay it all down.

All, that is, except myself.

I need to get out of my own way so that it’s not so personal when I’m ignored. It’s not about my demands that must be satisfied. I want my child to submit to authority higher than his mother’s. To Playroomdevelop a sense of honor and a work ethic that lasts beyond twenty golden minutes of fresh resolve after the tears, brokenness, I’m so sorrys and I’ll work harders. On his third plea for forgiveness and promise to take lessons seriously, all noble intentions in the parenting evaporate in the indignation that this kid is not listening to me, is wasting my time. I explained to him today why I’m always driving him to work when it’s time to work. Time is one thing you can’t get back like the toy you lent a friend. You let it go and it’s gone for good. “Why can’t you listen when I’m nice?!” It’s a rational appeal my wide-eyed boy can’t answer in word or deed. Why is something so simple so illusive? I’m all angst because the question bears implications for his character. You said you want to grow up and have seven kids, Tennyson. How are you going to take care of them – make money like Daddy – if you don’t build good work habits, build your mind? I worry that you are so comfortable. Daddy and I didn’t have a giant playroom like you do. I never even had my own room. You have more toys than we counted in our dreams. But it’s not his fault he has a spacious house, has all his needs met. How to keep him thankful for all the blessings? All I know is somebody‘s working in a soup kitchen when he’s a teenager. And here I am talking about gratitude when there are women who’d give their left arm to be a mother. We’ll always find something to be unhappy about.

P1070961So we’re out almost everyday for his mixed martial arts classes. Then there are the art, drum, swimming lessons. Between my time outside and the cooking inside, this is my kitchen. Everyday. If I attempted an offense against the dishes beyond the minimal defense of trying to eke out the bowls we needed for the day, I couldn’t touch this blog. I packed Tennyson’s swim things and snack this morning and rushed to boil his eggs, steam his sweet potatoes for lunch so they’d be ready the minute the “I’m hungry” came out of his mouth fresh out of the pool. Fatigue tattooed in my bones, I served up lunch and after, told him to come read to me. I said it three times. After a month, a year of this, I was fed up. Am I asking too much? I’m surrounded by moms who talk like they’re broken record players. Many employ my favorite of parenting tricks: “I’m going to count to three…” Nice, teach the little ones to delay obedience. I refuse to be one of these women. At the same time, I can’t help feeling pathetic while blaming a child for my failings. Unless kids have some disability of sorts, they do or don’t do what they have learned is allowable. And I have a pretty easy kid. He’s wonderful on the whole, isn’t ornery, doesn’t throw tantrums.

On the way home from his art class this afternoon, I told him I called the local school. As of tomorrow he no longer homeschools. Yes, I lied. (This is where you unfollow if you were on the fence. I agree. It’s a sham I want to teach my boy integrity.) He will learn to learn and we can be happy as mother and son. Tennyson flipped out. In helpless fear, he retorted, “I’m just going to run away!” Right. Leave your palace, your stash of 1001 toys, and the mother whose life revolves around that sumo wrestler’s appetite of yours. I pulled over, pushed the button to slide open the door of the minivan. “Get out. Go.” He stayed put, then burst into tears looking older than his years. He unbuckled from the back and stumbled over to me, “Umma, I’m so sorry. I’ll do my work. Pleeease.” And half-contorted himself to be able to wet my head with kisses – generously spilling the canteen of water in his hand. I told you to place it by the window!

P1070654Tennyson, you can’t know how desperately I want to crawl out of this body, disappear and place a wiser, more easy-going woman in front of you. Someone not hung up about how things should be. You’re growing and I’m just not sure how to teach you life is not a playground. I know that by the time you read this you’ll remember how I made you feel more than the facts I taught you. I just hope you’ll still be my famously happy boy.

We Underestimate The Human Brain

I couldn’t resist this post. Five-year-olds memorized facts in seven subject areas along with 1) the names of all the U.S. presidents 2) 24 verses of a chapter from the book of Ephesians and 3) enjoyed hands-on explorations in science, art, and music. Middle and high schoolers also wrote papers, redrew the map of the world from memory, analyzed text, and debated. These activities have kept the kids in our local homeschool community busy since the fall. I had to give you a glimpse of what some of this work looked like. My first grader loved every minute with our weekly small group. I have played the audios of songs and recitations almost every day the last eight months to drive them in nice and deep, and never has he tired of them.

Classical Conversations is a Christian version of the approach to education that draws its roots from the ancient Classical world. The Classical model takes its cue from the developing mind. We take advantage of the tremendous capacity for information the early years offer. We then encourage kids to draw relationships among the facts they’ve retained. Older teens integrate principles and articulate their reasoning. The students work hard. They even get a bit overwhelmed in transitioning between the levels as public schoolers moving on to high school do. But our students rise to the challenge and don’t see the memorization as such. It is doable, palatably apportioned week to week. As you can see, it’s fun.

The clips are from the cumulative memory work of 24 weeks that the students presented before family and friends two weeks ago. Turn up the volume for the indefinite pronouns rap:

The kids closed the event with the 204-point timeline of human history; here are the first 40 seconds. The hand motions include American Sign Language for tactile learners. Yes, the kids recited every word of the timeline you see listed. I think the best part is their enthusiasm in the learning.

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