Abigail

The moment we dread. And after.

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My oldest daughter will be a senior in high-school next year. Look at her. Isn’t she just every mother’s joy!? I find myself in the middle of the day just rummaging through her things, trying to learn more about her. (I hope she doesn’t read this or that might kind of freak her out.) When she is zoned in on her phone, I sneak in more peeks just because I can. I think of her, and mentally check to see if I have her memorized. I think about the cans of Spaghetti O’s she forages. I mentally replay her body in motion racing around a track. I trace every line of her hairdos. At homecoming. That choir concert. That morning when she just got out of bed.

Favorite candy=hot tamales. Check. Most proud moment=hmmm. I’m not sure. I better ask her. Favorite color=green. Check. Biggest fear=birds. Bigger fear=being judged as less than. Talents=soccer, design, hair, fashion, math, anaylzing, singing. There are too many. I think about her voice and how it sounds when she sings next to me at church. I smile. I think about her voice when she was 10, 5, 2. Then I have to stop because it hurts too much.It makes me cry, knowing that she will never sound like a two-year-old ever again. She will never give me sloppy kisses again. She will never come crying because she just scraped a knee and she believes my kisses will make it all better. She will never navigate a new high-school or be at the wheel for a first time or learn to walk.

I don’t want her to leave. I don’t ever want her to go because part of me will go with her, and I am not sure how I will manage having part of me wherever she ends up. I know from observing others that I will figure it out. I just don’t want to. Not at all. I want to keep her all for myself. But, there is a world that needs her. A world I’ve prepared her for. A world that she needs. There are things she can’t learn from me. It has to be someone else to teach her physics and quantum life. I don’t know that stuff. There are jobs just for her. There are people waiting to know her and love her. There are people she is meant to love. There are little monkies of her own that she gets to recycle this  life experience with. All I can hope for is that she lets me visit once in awhile. Maybe she will even come home when she can,  and give me a hug. I will like that.

But honestly, every time we part ways, I will feel a little like Jane Goodall. Appreciated. Happy. Proud. And in excrutiating torment to see her go. She will take a part of my heart with her. And the day I die, after giving her one small piece at a time for decades, I will leave the last piece of it with her, so she will have more heart to give to her own monkies.  And I will wait in heaven to hug her on the other side when she comes stumbling through the veil with her own empty heart. And when we hug, in the touch, somehow, our hearts will miraculously ressurect. And the torment will be no longer. All that will remain will be the Pride. And the Joy.

For the athletes on the bench

abigail one

My dearest Benchwarmer,

I hope you know how truly proud you should be of yourself.
We are extremely proud of you.
You have given your team all of your effort this year.
It has required a lot out of you.
Even though you received very little in return (as far as playing time is concerned)
you never quit fighting, and practicing, and learning.
You have had an amazing attitude.
Much better than any of us, that’s for sure.
Your parents whined about everything.
The two games every game day about killed us, and we weren’t even dressed out.
You only got to play on junior varsity,
but still had to commit an enermous amount of time to varsity, too.
And you did it gladly.
You have stayed positive.
Every day. Every second. Every grueling minute of game day.
This year’s goal was that you could hopefully improve.
And improve you did.
And miraculously, you were also our teacher while doing it.
Because in athleticism and life the improvement is what matters most.
Not the score, or the other players, or any glory.
Your glory came every time you knew you were better than yesterday.
Your victory came in the form of perfected humility
while just being there to give the starters someone to play against.
Day after day.
Week after week.
You have been there to cheer on your teammates.
You have been genuinely happy for them and proud of them.
You have gone above and beyond to follow the directions of your coach.
And honestly, all of those things are what the test of life is really about.
I wish that as your parents we could have given you more.
I wish we could have afforded all the fancy gear and coaching
that all the other girls on your team have had.
But, the way in which you outshine them in your heart makes me almost
glad that we weren’t able to give you more.
Because you, with no advantages at all, with just pure love of the game
and committed effort over ten years, made your dream of making varsity come true.
It doesn’t matter that you may never get to play in a game.
It doesn’t matter to me if your team takes that state title tomorrow.
What matters to me is that you are the best that you can be.
What matters to me is that you are happy and healthy.
What matters to me is that you are my most amazing kid.
If we leave the game tomorrow with victorious smiles,
or we (your dad and I) leave with just small ones that the season is finally over,
what you need to know is that YOU always make us smile.
YOU are the best thing that has ever happened to us.
And you are also an amazing athlete with incredible character.
Stand tall and proud, my child.
You make us so proud.

Love,
Your biggest fans

Your Heavenly Father Feedeth Them

Gold Finch'sMatthew 6:26
Behold the fowls of the air:
for they sow not, neither do they reap,
nor gather into barns;
yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.
Are ye not much better than they?

I had the most sacred experience yesterday, and this morning I just want to record it somewhere so I will never forget. I’ve gotten out of the habit of keeping a journal. I kick myself over that all of the time. I wish I would have kept a journal every day of my life, but I didn’t. I guess the suitcase of journals I did keep in my younger years along with this here blog will have to do.

Yesterday Abigail received her patriarchal blessing. It was one of the most beautiful profound experiences of my life. We all laughed afterward when I lamented that I didn’t have any tissues. (Abigail was or was not grossed out by the fact that I was wiping my cry-snot on my dress.) I’m a ball baby. Especially when it comes to spiritual experiences. Live and learn. I woke up this morning still kind of weepy. My box of tissues is now in reach just so I can write this without wiping cry-snot all over the keyboard.

Anyhow, I can’t really go into the details of her private and sacred blessing but, I just wanted to record my feelings over it. I feel constrained to write about it. Rightly so. I will just share that it was a beautiful precious blessing to hear my daughter blessed with everything I could ever hope for her to have, in this life and the next. What a tender mercy for me. I often worry that I won’t be alive for my kids forever. Whether that is premonition or anxiety I don’t know…only time will tell…ha.  But, yesterday the veil was lifted and I was given the surety that no matter where I am (here or beyond) I will be with my kids in mind and spirit, and that no matter what, we will be together where it matters most…in the next life, which is eternal.

It doesn’t get better than that folks. It just doesn’t.

When searching for a picture to go with this post, the one above caught my attention. I took it years ago, in Tennessee, after picking up the kids from school. This man had a huge tree with low hanging branches that canopied his whole front yard. He would hang dozens of nylon bird-feeders. I liked to pull over and watch hundreds of gold finches feast.

This morning I thought of the comparison between those goldfinches and me and my little “Gold” finches. I know God has a tree where we He lays out our banquet. We just have to know where to find it and choose it. My body is filled to the brim this morning as I ponder how blessed I am to know the gospel of Jesus Christ, where there is endless bird feed and life eternal. God is so good to me. I love Him with all my heart. I’m so grateful that He has blessed me with faith. I cannot imagine trying to navigate my way through this tumultuous world without the sure knowledge that He is at the helm, I am His daughter, and that He has a plan. His plan includes, but is not limited to, me and all of my loved ones being saved through the atonement of Christ. I know that my faith will bless my family. As theirs will mine. Forever.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, God. You are so good to me.

It’s About Who’s Waiting For Us in the End.

Come with me back to a high school track meet. It happened two weeks ago. I sat in the stands watching my teenage daughter and hundreds of other high-schoolers, all vying for their own personal records, hoping to beat out all the other competitors. Unlike the athletes, I, however, had a completely opposing mantra for myself. “Let it go, Alice.” “Let it go.” The Sunday before, my track-star daughter, my husband, and I had a heart-to-heart. Come to find out, I have always put undue pressure on the poor girl in all areas of her life, but especially when it comes to sports and grades. Yeah, I’m not proud. What can I say? She’s my firstborn? That doesn’t really cut it. You’ll be relieved to know that I am working on it. I have specific goals, one of which is not being result-obsessed.

So, my daughter had just run her 100m. Unlike her past track experiences, she’s not typically in the Top 3 this year. She’s running at the middle of the pack. Thus the mantra. “Let it go, Alice.” I was pep-talking myself, “This is about your daughter, not about you. Abigail is having fun. Abigail is getting exercise. Just because you want her to be in first place, it doesn’t mean that is where she needs to be. Be happy. Love your girl. Let it go.”

Then an amazing thing happened.

the end

It was the boy’s mile. The mile takes forever. As my thoughts were repeating in circles, I haphazardly watched the male athletes going round and around. I watched while I wrestled with my only baby boy and started imagining his future. I wondered to myself if I could master being a better mother by the time he takes to the track. I hoped I would never put too much pressure on him, too. I questioned whether or not he will even be an athlete and silently wished I will be able to embrace whatever it is he decides to love, even if he only loves it with mediocrity.

The race was over….or so I thought. My mind moved on. Then, right in front of me, I saw some super energetic young man rally his whole school to their feet. He hooted, hollered, jumped, cajoled, begged, and demanded full participation. I silently hoped, “Oh, I don’t wish that for Max. Please let him be an athlete, instead of a cheerleader.” Stay with me. My mind was abruptly changed.

It so happened that there was one runner left. He was way behind the pack. He belonged to this crazy make-shift athlete turned cheerleader’s school. This runner was a runt. He was slow. He was in last place. Yet. Yet, as he slowly made his way to the finish line in front of the crowd, his school was cheering for him like he was an Olympic gold medalist. All because of the efforts of his crazy encouraging teammate (that he hadn’t even seen rally the crowd) his stride quickened. His chin lifted up in pride. There was a wide smile on his face. The finish of this race is one he will never forget. Neither will I.

I hid my face in shame for being such a proud person. And because I was bawling my eyes out. I whispered to Max, “You don’t have to be an athlete, but please be a make-shift cheerleader wherever you go.”

Then I ran over to tell Abigail that she did awesome in that 100m.

The following Sunday, while I was driving to church, this song came on the radio. It took me hours to find it but it was worth every search effort.

Enjoy.

It’s not about how fast we get there, it’s about who’s waiting for us in the end.

Who knew her homework would by my payday?

imageHours upon hours I’ve spent hovering over my children making sure they were getting their homework done. I never dreamed this duty of mine would eventually pay off in a big old payday of personal validation.

But it did.

Before Christmas break Abigail wrote her 49 page autobiography for her 10th grade Honors history class. She did a bang up job.

We won’t mention how her dad had to take her to work at 4:30 a.m. to print it the morning it was due. Two hours later he then took an emergency trip to FedEx Office to get it bound. – dang ADHD! I was the lucky one in bed recovering from surgery. When LG got home with the finished work in hand, I was actually awake enough to read it over before Abigail took it to school to turn it in.

Reading my little girl’s grown-up account of her life was one of the most beautiful moments. The thing was jam-packed full of many of her most cherished memories. Without intending to include me, I was personally interwoven into every page. Yes, I was there for most of it. I saw her playing in the yard in TN all the time. I put away the toys all over the driveway when they just HAD to play Boxcar Children for the 55th time. I was the one who introduced her to “The Boxcar Children” in the first place! Yes, I was. (What a super proud book-loving mom moment to read that her favorite game to play as a kid was boxcar children!) I know her favorite food is lasagna and her favorite movie is “She’s the Man.” I didn’t know that her friend Courtney gifting her a stuffed sheep when she was four-years-old had meant so much to her but I am so glad that she shared about it. And, yes, I take as much pride as she does that the staff of her elementary school referred to her as Harvard Girl…even at five, she was her own little Elle Woods in the making….beautiful and smart. And, she, by some miracle of heaven belonged to little old me then and still does today.

Her teacher enjoyed the part about The Boxcar Children game too.

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As shown above, her teacher, like me, also enjoyed the part of the paper Abigail wrote about me. Although I am positive she couldn’t have appreciated it as much as I did.

I am not trying to brag here. In fact, when I asked Abigail about why my part was just so sweet, she said, “Oh mom, that was so easy to write. I just wrote everything I felt about you and twisted any negative to positive. That’s why you sound so cool.” Ha ha.  I didn’t care. I had bawled my eyes out at every single word. It meant everything to me to know that my daughter “gets” me. She knows me intimately. And, most of all, she still loves me, no matter what.

Like Julie Andrews sings in Sound of Music, I felt, “I must have done something good.” When reading Abigail’s words, every single crappy parenting moment dissolved. The one time I found Sophia with poop smeared everywhere in her crib, on her body, in her mouth….gone. The time I force-fed Abigail oatmeal when she was 2. A distant memory. All the nights I cried myself to sleep wondering how I could ever face another day, only to still be crying when everyone woke up….totally worth every second that seemed like an eternity at the time. All the instances where my kids have told me what I suck at and how I need to improve…they didn’t matter. I was loved, gosh dangit. I mattered to my daughter.

I know you are all dying to read it now. It won’t mean to you what it means to me, but here it is for all eternity. I will try to remember to come back here from time to time. Maybe the next time one of my spawn hollers that they hate me.

“My mother is a very eccentric person. She has a wonderful colorful personality. She is a crazy, fun, human being with little to no tact. That is only the beginning of my mother. She grew up with six brothers and sisters who are all just as crazy and loud as her. I love my mom so much and don’t know what I would do without her. She works so hard in my family to keep our house clean and orderly. She is probably the coolest person ever. She is always cracking jokes and gets along with my friends so well. I know I can talk to her about anything and I can count on her to understand me. She has a giving heart and wants to give to everyone around her. She does so much for me and I don’t even ask her to. My favorite thing I do with my mom is when she knows I’m having a hard time, she sends me a card and a little treat. Like once I was stressed and we had just gotten in a fight about something. The next morning, she dropped off a card and a Kneaders breakfast and said we would go shopping later that day. My mom is such an inspiration to me. She always goes after what she wants and doesn’t let anyone tell her she can’t which can be difficult sometimes, but I love her just the same.”

Now, tell me I’m not the luckiest mom in the whole wide world!!

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Soccer is like the gospel.

Abigail is giving a talk in church today. I am at home with Maximus feeling a little sad that I am missing it. Mothers should be able to be in more than one place at a time, gosh dangit! I will be there in spirit. [Even though I have taken Max everywhere it seems….I vowed to take one month off church when he was born and I aim to keep it.] Abigail asked me to look over her talk just a few minutes ago and we hurried and made a few minor changes as she walked out the door. I am so proud of her and the woman she is becoming. I am so happy that she has a testimony in the gospel that LeGrand and I have tried to teach. I thought you all might enjoy reading her talk.

blessings

After preparing this talk, I realized that this is a talk on repentance, Repentance is usually something you don’t think about when you hear “what are some blessings you have received from living the gospel” – which was my assigned topic. But after thinking about it, I realized that repentance is one of the greatest blessings we have as members of the church. This past summer, i gained a testimony about the blessing of repentance.

I was given a challenge for soccer that would help me to make the team. It was focused around three things: mind, character, and body. We were given things that we had to accomplish in order to complete the challenge. We had to exercise the given workouts every day, eat absolutely no sugar, candy, or soda, and do an act of service everyday. We were also given bigger tasks, like doing 200 ball push ups in one day or do something physically hard for us. We were to do the challenge for 35 days. At first, I started out great, I did every workout, made my own healthy treats, helped more around the house. I felt fantastic.

But, about 2 weeks into the challenge, i started having pains in my hip. At first they weren’t that bad and I thought it would go away, but like most things where you think that, it didn’t. It got to the point where I couldn’t run without pain and I had to go to a physical therapist to work out the injury. I had slipped up. Being injured, I then obviously couldn’t do the workouts, but that didn’t mean i couldn’t do the rest of it. However, i didn’t think that but I allowed my discouragement to justify further slip up.. For the two or three weeks that I was out of the workouts because of my injury, I occasionally had the can of soda, and ate the piece of candy that was in front of me. But that was no big deal, right? Wrong. I still did the big challenges. I did my 200 push ups and at the end when my injury was mostly healed, I ran up to the Y, but, I didn’t fully complete the challenge because I struggled with doing 100% of the small things every day. I did the best I could, kinda. When tryouts came, I felt unsure. I’m pretty sure if I had fully completed the challenge, i would have been confident of making the team.

This story can apply to the gospel because like in the T-Wolf challenge, we are given a list of requirements to get to the Celestial kingdom.  We have to read our scriptures every day, say prayers, and keep the word of wisdom. We also have those big requirements like baptism and temple marriage. If we are unable to do one of those things, like for instance read the scriptures, we can still pray and keep the word of wisdom, but we won’t be fully confident when the time comes that we are ready for celestial glory. As a youth, it is hard to keep ALL the commandments. The big ones like no killing and stealing aren’t that hard. But the small ones we have to complete everyday are pretty difficult, like obeying my parents and daily personal prayer. In the T-Wolf challenge, I wasn’t really worthy to make the team, however with God’s help, I did. Just like in living the gospel, through the Atonement, we can still make the team.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “There are some who believe that because they have made mistakes, they can no longer fully partake of the blessings of the gospel. How little they understand the purposes of the Lord. One of the great blessings of living the gospel is that it refines us and helps us learn from our mistakes. We “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” yet the Atonement of Jesus Christ has the power to make us whole when we repent.”

I was supposed to talk about blessings you recieve from living the gospel, but it dawned on me. We have a lot of blessings from living it fully, duh. But most of the time, we don’t live it fully. We aren’t perfect. We physically can’t live the gospel perfectly. But because of the blessing of the Atonement we can achieve the ultimate goal of celestial glory and that is the greatest blessing of all.

D&C 76: 40-42

And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; That through him all might be saved.

Always Finish Fast

A few months back I briefly mentioned the stress I was feeling about my oldest’s desire to play high-school soccer. I stressed all summer for no reason as she made the team. Watching her play at the high-school level has been one of my greater privileges as a parent. Not only is she ecstatic to play as part of a great team which makes her so happy, she is also a great competitor that makes her mom and dad very proud.

Watching Abigail play has also been frustrating at times. Abigail is speedy fast – Speedy Gonzalez fast. She gets it from her dad or from her ADHD (so, her dad either way.) In the ten years she has been playing soccer there have only been a handful of girls that could beat her on the field. Her coaches have best used her speed at the forward position for the last two years and it’s been a hard transition for her from playing midfield. Being a forward means she is responsible for shooting the ball – more precisely, she is responsible for making the goals. The problem has been that her speed can’t make up for her lack of confidence. Even though she can beat almost everyone to the ball, she usually gets all worked up in her head and chokes on the shot. Her last coach said it best, “She has such raw talent, she has just been under-coached.” [Disclaimer: She’s had some great coaches, it’s just that they can only do so much in rec. leagues.] If we had put in all the extra time and money for a club team, it is more than likely that she would have been rid of butterflies a long time ago…I am so grateful that her high school coaches have had tremendous patience.

So, as a mother watching this all go down, this year, I made a conscious effort to not “coach” her but to tell her repeatedly that she can do it. Because nothing is more frustrating than knowing your kid can do something but seeing them screw up their own success with a negative self-dialogue. Well, after weeks of the “you-can-do-it” pep talks, she finally shot and scored!

Here’s the shot.

15300044831_f5c2eaf9f0_oThis guy gets it. It’s all in the attitude.

I thought you would all like to see what it looked like when she finally succeeded: definitely worth all the moments of defeat and frustration. This photo brought tears to her mother’s eyes. (I missed the real thing because I was at Sophia’s parent/teacher conferences) Just believe. You can do it. Or like he said – Always, always finish fast – even if you start out slow – especially when you start out slow.
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Ordinary is Extraordinary

Who else struggles with perfectionism, comparison, feeling insignificant? It’s bad when I feel it for myself, but it’s downright criminal when I project that onto my kids. And I do project. All of the time. I want the best for them, therefore I want the best of them. I get totally competitive. All of the time. Oh, how unfortunate of a mother I have been. My oldest, Abigail, has born the biggest brunt of it. In fact, the other day after a low-achieving track meet, I was concerned when Abigail wouldn’t tell her slower-than-usual-finish-times to her friends. When they asked, she  just acted like she hadn’t checked her time at all. I knew she had checked it. It’s just that my perfectionism has become a part of her, and she couldn’t let herself admit the obvious…she was having a bad running day. I tried to comfort her on the way home, “Abigail, sometimes we just have off days. It’s o.k.” This morning I read this poem (Make the Ordinary Come Alive by William Martin) on the facebook page of a family member. Even though the wisdom of it stems from Taoism, which I don’t really practice, I believe it is universal. (And, I also believe I am going to study up some more on the way of the Tao – is that how you say that?) The simplicity of the wisdom blew my mind. I’ve been pondering on it all day. It struck me to the core. I couldn’t wait to share it with you. IMG_5065Do you see all those boys back there watching my girl? Yeah, she’s actually extraordinarily beautiful…even though ordinary is beautiful enough. Or they could be looking directly at me…the crazy lady with the camera cheering louder than all the rest of the crowd. ha.
 
Do you, like me, see how the words of this poem, will change “Abigail sometimes we just have off days” to “Abigail it is so beautiful that you can run!?”  How blessed we are. How blessed we are indeed with this ordinary life. So, as my kids age and prepare to fly the coop, I have a few new guideline questions for myself:

  1. Am I teaching them that the ordinary is extraordinary?
  2. Will I be not just o.k. but proud to tell my friends who raised the next president of the United States that my child is a mailman and loves it?
  3. Am I spending my time really celebrating the little things like apples?
  4. Am I giving them all the experiences that I can? (Those poor kids whose parents won’t allow them to have a pet!)
  5. Am I preaching a sermon of following your heart by following my own?
  6. Do I believe that we are not all just equally important but equally blessed to just be on the journey?

I can’t wait to embrace the ordinary with my favorite people. I hope this new philosophy will give them the space to do the same. I know it will bring me much greater happiness and satisfaction that will replace a life-long dissatisfaction because of wrong feelings of inferiority stemming from my ordinary. My ordinary is extraordinary! And so is yours. What a perfect message on a night that we are having breakfast for dinner. Bacon deserves a party.

Flawed Pony Parenting Logic and Home-schooling

2012-05-02 19.50.16Ever since reading this story and that one about the kid with the My Little Pony backpack, my mind has been reeling.

To make a longer story short, here’s the news recap hailing from North Carolina.

This 10-year-old kid was being bullied at school because of his blue fuzzy My Little Pony backpack. His mom went to the school to complain. The school counselor mentioned that the easiest solution would be for the kid to get a new backpack. The principal later called the child’s mother and told her that the child was no longer allowed to bring the backpack to school. The mom flipped out. The mom now homeschools.

I have to say that last sentence, “The mom now homeschools,” does not surprise me in the least. It seems that nowadays the homeschooling road is the most popular for a lot of unsatisfied parents. I am not here to pass judgement on homeschooling parents. In fact, I might end up homeschooling one of mine next year if she doesn’t get her school transfer. I am here however to pass judgement on flawed logic and parents who can’t be honest with themselves.

First of all, let me make two things very clear. One – I am NOT o.k. with bullying. In this instance and in every instance the bully children should have been reprimanded and disciplined. (I don’t know if they were appropriately or at all from the news stories.) However, typically bully children come from bully homes, so there is only so much a school can do to change behavior.

Secondly, I believe children should be given space to be who they want to be. You want to wear a pink tutu and your 12 and a boy? Go for it. Are you a girl who wants to play football? More power to you.

Now, to the point I really want to make that seems to be widely ignored in modern bully stories. Parents, pull your heads out….Every day, you are sending your kids off to war…..and you are not equipping them with the skills that they need.

What skills? The skills of socialization, survival, problem-solving, and leadership to name a few.

Here is some flawed logic that I have seen people use to support their choice to homeschool.

Sweeping generalizations (bad stereotyping)
All the kids at that school are mean. They are all bad kids. I’m pretty sure this is never the case.

Hasty conclusions with inadequete support (more than one personal example for validity for your argument)
In homeschooling this can look like: Well, wow, this kid was homeschooled and went to Harvard, therefore my kid can also.

Non sequitor (It does not follow)
I graduated from high school therefore I can teach my kids til they graduate. Yes, you can, but this logic is really bad.

Casual fallacy (one event merely follows the first and isn’t necessarily because of cause/effect)
My child got in trouble at school today because his teacher was in a bad mood. Is that the real reason? Or is your child honestly having behavior problems that need to be addressed? Maybe your child is causing the teacher’s foul mood and not the other way around.

Ad hominem attack (an argument that is not balanced but based solely on personal opinion)
Common core is awful therefore my kids should not be schooled with it.

Circular reasoning (the evidence and conclusion restate each other)
Schools are failing because teachers are failing.

False dichotomy or false dilemma (Either/or arguments that oversimplify complex answers to two solutions)
I can either keep my kids in a public school I am not happy with or I can homeschool. These are not the only two solutions to a complex problem.

I know of many parents who have used very bad logic as their sole foundation for homeschooling. I also know many parents who are really harming their kids by homeschooling ineffectively.

So what does this have to do with the pony kid who was bullied? I believe at the root of both homeschooling and bullying lies a much bigger problem: parents who are not honest with themselves. Parents who are failing and laying the blame on someone else.

In the case of the boy with the pony backpack, I believe the parents failed to teach their child how to be confident in his pony-touting ways. I would never send my kid off to war without the weapons he would need to fight it, and you can be sure that I also would not let my child walk into a cafeteria of potential bullies without first discussing how to defend himself in his unconventional backpack/lunchbox choices.

Likewise, I would not just believe homeschooling to be the best thing for my kids if they were having trouble in public schools. As adults, we have troubles coming at us from every direction. We can’t just hide away at home to avoid our problems. We have to face them head on. The really scary part about a larger percentage of the population homeschooling is the fact that all of the home-schooled kids first learned behaviors at home that may be the biggest culprit in them not having success at school. The solution of pulling them out of school to address the problems that are only perpetuated at home is totally counterproductive. Unless, of course, we gain awareness collectively as a family and put change in motion.

Before you feel all judged, let me give you several examples from my life as a concerned mother.

First, we had a terrible experience with public schooling at an inner-city school in Knoxville, TN where we used to live. The principal was bad. Most of the teachers were heroic. The majority of the student population was grossly neglected. The school was neglected. The playgrounds were falling apart. The school didn’t participate in field trips. EVER. Abigail’s second grade teacher was in her first year and totally ill-equipped. Frustrations were high every day. Abigail would come home crying because the teacher made the whole class miss recess again even though she never personally had bad behavior. She no longer could drink chocolate milk at lunch because the principal pulled it off the shelf with the logic that it was causing misbehaved kids to misbehave even more. Violence was taking place in the second grade. One boy threw a desk at another and broke his nose.  Forget the fact that no learning was taking place. How could it with all the other distractions? Yes, I had every right to pull Abigail out and home-school her especially after addressing our concerns with the administration to not have anything change. We didn’t pull Abigail. She survived the second grade and the next year we humbly and gratefully accepted a “No Child Left Behind” school transfer. Abigail’s new school was a haven and we all loved it. When Abigail went on her first field trip in third grade she was in seventh heaven. Abigail is now fourteen. She often talks about her experiences at her first school. They shaped her into what she is: one resilient, tough, and adaptable kid.

Do I judge any parent who pulled their kid out? No. Not at all. In fact I would applaud their courage. However, I do think that if a parent makes a choice to home-school, they better look around and have a very honest assessment of what their child is going to learn at home. When one home-schools they have to recognize that their child is now being influenced almost solely by their family. Are you going to give them all the experience they need to thrive in the real world? Are you going to be perpetuating in them bad behaviors that you just don’t want to fix: sleeping til noon, having bad hygeine, learning as little as possible, not teaching discipline, etc. If you are going to home-school, I think you should ask yourself WHY your kids are (or would) struggling in public school in the first place….the source of their trouble is more than likely YOU, not the school. The kid at Abigail’s school that was throwing desks was more than likely frustrated with his bad teacher, but the reason he threw a desk while Abigail came home crying every day was the difference of what was taught in their home. It is hard to change. Possible, but hard. You better have a really fine-tuned game plan of how you are going to change yourself and teach your children at the same time.

My other experience in still playing out. Sophia is twelve and does not want to have to attend the school in the boundary of where we just moved. She has not a single friend at this new school. We are working with the school district to get her a school transfer next year back to the junior high where her friends will be attending based on the extreme anxiety she is having over the situation. The district asked for a letter from a health-care professional. We went to the doctor last week. I explained Sophia’s anxiety and her shyness and tendency to isolate. I then said, “If we can’t get this transfer, I will probably just home-school her for a year until we move back to our old school boundary.” The doctor didn’t shy away with her response, “If you are worried about her isolating, wouldn’t home-schooling be the worst possible scenario?” She was right! Anyone who knows me, knows that I in no way am modeling shy behavior for my daughter. She came that way. I, however, as her parent, have to make decisions that will help her overcome her weaknesses instead of feed into them.

Wow, this post got long quick. I think the very hardest part of parenting is being able to get outside ourselves and our flawed personal-protecting logic to honestly assess how our weaknesses are promoting the same in our children. And even harder than the honest assessment is changing. The change has to start with us as.  Yes, this can be done, whether or  not we send our kids to public school or if we home-school, if we are teaching our kids to be bullies or our children are being bullied, but by all means, let’s make sure we are doing the hard work. We owe that to our kids.

 

Funniest Fish Funeral Ever

We had pet fish once.
They were named Dorothy and Goldie.
One for our last name and the color of the fish
and one for my grandma and Elmo’s fish.

I think they lasted in their bowl in my kitchen window for three days.
Abigail still recalls with great emotion the day she found them both laying belly-up.
“Their eyes, mom. They were just staring at me.”

Daddy was gone, so Papa took care of the situation.
Fortunately, somewhere in the book of life law is the rule
“Dads take care of  pet burial.”

With papa’s love and care the fish took the next huge step in their circle of life:
they became garden fertilizer.
Our girls know how much papa loves their garden,
therefore they knew that the fish got a royal ending.

fishing with papa

To this day, they beg me for more fish.
I always tell them no.
“You begged me for a cat.
You promised me you would take care of it.
I’ll sleep with it, feed it.
And you don’t.
Then you begged me for a dog.
Mom, we’ll walk it, we’ll feed it, we’ll play with it, we’ll give it a bath.
And I do it way more than you ever do.”

The first fish experience combined with the dog and cat makes three strikes.
I will never be guilt-ed into another fish experience.
Not unless it’s the fish that will end up on my plate to eat.
And we all know that salmon or tilapia aren’t going to fit in a tank.

We now settle for fish window shopping at Walmart every time we visit.
I think that makes me a “good enough” mom and that’s as high as I aim nowadays.

The other day on facebook, a friend asked a serious question.
Should she replace her son’s fish for the 5th time without telling him,
or just go ahead and tell him that it’s dead?

All I could think about was the master himself Bill Cosby.
How I love Bill Cosby.
I wish I could find other masterful and clean comedians to follow.

Better yet, if you have Netflix, go and watch the whole second episode so you can have all the laughs.

I love you Bill Cosby. I really do.