Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Hidden Fights of a Home-schooling Mother

Life is crazy. I suffered a massive anxiety attack about my upcoming fifth c-section all last week. Pity my husband and my children who took the brunt of my resulting stressful, angry outbursts. It was ugly time at the Benjamin house.

At 7 AM on Saturday, I woke up crying because "my life sucks." I made everyone in my house miserable at breakfast with my ugly mood. At 9:30 AM, I plunked myself down in my little blue canvas chair at a local school gym (because my overly pregnant body can't handle sitting down normally on a wood floor). I watched my 4 year old practice her soccer drills. I was totally multi-tasking. I helped my daughter figure out how to keep a soccer ball in bounds, while reading the long "to do list" inside my son's new Cub Scout Handbook. (My son and husband happily joined the Cub Scouts in March and there are many assignments for him to finish by the Tiger Cub graduation ceremony in May).

I was working hard when suddenly, this supernatural answer to the struggle I was experiencing over my upcoming hospital stay came to me. The peace I felt was sudden and dramatic. I felt like Mommy Mary actually released a tense knot in my heart.

I felt good for about seven hours.

Then the Devil changed tactics. I couldn't believe it! The same day I finally got straight about my over-the-top c-section fear, the Evil One leans into my other Achilles heel--homeschooling.

I went to Best Buy on Saturday Night because we are having on going issues with our old computer. (Which is probably God's way of telling me "Get the kids off the computer for Lent". But of course, I'm too thick headed to stop actively work on fixing this problem, because how am I supposed to survive the last 10 days of pregnancy without the free babysitting services of computer games and Netflix videos?)

In the Geek Squad line, I run into another Homeschooling Mom fighting a computer virus. I'm relaxed with this stranger. We're chatting. I'm asking questions because this is my first time doing the "status review" in the State of West Virginia. Before I know it, Home Schooling Mom has me locked in a eyeball to eyeball battle telling me one fearful fact after another about the home-school review process in my new home-town. If you were a bystander, you couldn't tell that our conversation had suddenly turned hostile. But trust me, I recognized it right away.

Have you ever found yourself suddenly plunged into a conversation so emotionally painful you think "an actual knife fight would be easier to deal with than this?"

I came out of Best Buy shaking in my tiny black flats.

Shoot. Prior to this scary conversation, I had calmly and rationally decided that this March we are taking  a break from major home-schooling work. I need to concentrate on having a new baby. We're going to trust that we have plenty of time to iron out any remaining knowledge gaps before my review process in late June. It seems pretty clear that when you are ten days away from child-birth it needs to be "baby first, home-schooling and all other daily family responsibility things a distant second."

But the Devil doesn't want me to be calm. He wants me to be scared and worried. He wants me to think that this sweet unborn baby is sucking necessary education experiences from my older children, leaving them in a permanently harmed by my lack of hyper-focus on their home-schooling experience.

So here is my attack plan for getting this fear-provoking home-schooling conversation out of my head tonight.

1. Trust Jesus

Home-schooling was NOT my idea. Having five children in less than 9 years was NOT my idea. This is all "His plan" for my life. So far, following His plan for my life, rather than my own vain ambitions have worked out pretty well. I might not know exactly how breast-feeding a newborn while teaching two kids how to read better is going to work out in practice--but there is no reason to doubt that things could be fine. Jesus has done too many wonderful things in my life to suddenly doubt that He'd drop me now over the more mundane parts of my motherhood vocation.

2. Seizing Control Doesn't Work

I have run into too many Moms that are way to "hyper" about home-schooling. I don't blame them, but I don't need to follow their example, either. For me personally, home-schooling is an important part of my vocation as a wife and mother--but it's not the "only thing" and it's not even the most important thing. Right now, my focus is on growing Baby Clare, getting a genuine smile on my lips to greet my husband when he comes home from work, keeping a toddler out of physical danger, and attempting to get some type of meal regularly in my young children's bodies.

Some days I get to teaching "formal" school activities. Some days I don't.

This process of "doing my best" each day, is unnerving. I wish I had a reassuring check-a-box plan. I wish I had reassurance from outside experts that my kids were all progressing "normally." I wish the day wasn't mostly about life-long discipline issues such as "in this house we do not hit our sisters whenever they become annoying" or "in this house we brush our teeth each and every day." I wish there was more uncluttered time to listen to my eight year old read the Box Car children without a crabby baby waking up from her nap early  from teething pain.

Yet spending hours coming up with a fake "I'm in charge home-schooling plan" for the next month is totally useless. Whatever plan I come up with is getting tossed out the window when a newborn enters into our house. I need to save my strength to do something important--like getting the new infant car seat installed in our minivan!

3. Practice Detachment

In the end, I don't have total control over the results of this home-schooling year. My kids might do outstanding on the reviews. Or the reviewer might decide that something I thought was a minor omission is critical and must be completely rectified by September.

I need to remember that the effort I put into home-schooling is for God alone. It's an act of charity. One of the beautiful hymns at my Carmelite Investiture Ceremony went "When I was little, you taught me to read."

Man, let me tell you it is hard work to teach some little kids how to read! Kissing lepers sometimes seems easy in comparison!

As long as I'm doing my daily work as a wife and mother "in Him, with Him, and through Him." I do not need to obsess over RESULTS!

Thanks for reading the rants of a pregnant lady!

Prayer: Jesus, I trust in you!




3 comments:

Little JoAnn said...

Oh my GOODNESS.

So much on your plate. I totally agree with your priorities.

And, to make you feel better...when I was a teacher in no less a Catholic school we wasted thousands of hours of time eating cupcakes, doing fire drills, breaking up arguments, playing "outside" and the horrible hour of the lunch room three ring circus.

Your school at home is a thousand times more efficient.

Believe in yourself.

I only wish more of us lived closer together so we could help one another in concrete day to day ways.

It saddens me.

I know spiritual support means alot but darn it, I wish we all could do more CONCRETELY.

There is so much we Catholics need to do to build up the domestic church.

We are all lonely missionaries in this arena.

If you need math tutoring when your kids get older, the hard high school college stuff...my husband excels in math...

Send them up to stay with us for a week or so for a math camp.

Hang in there.

Baby Clare FIRST!!!!

BRIDGET said...

You are an amazing mom, after your Perfect Mother Mary.

May your week be blessed.

stclement said...

That was just lovely - thanks for sharing. I'm so glad to have found your blob and look forward to reading more. Hang in there.