Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Freedom, Home Schooling, Fresh Starts, and.......Mustaches

It was the kind of day that started out perfectly.
I went to my 5:30 am work out, which helped me make breakfast for my family, pack my husband's lunch, and deal with all the typical early morning craziness in my home, with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.
I love the early morning workout.
The kids were full of just as much energy as I was, overflowing with it, actually.
So when the boys asked if we could go for a bike ride I said, "yes!  Let's do it!"
Normally I'd say, "we have to do it later because we have beds to make, and the kitchen to clean up, and school to do."
But the day before had been rainy and we'd been inside all day.
I wanted to be outside just as much as they did.
As they rode and I ran behind them pushing the double jogger, I thought how glad I was to be getting muddy with them.
They love the feeling of racing ahead of me, the rush of speed and freedom it brings.
I love seeing the smiles on their faces as they race down the hill at the end of the trail.
I love the way they were waiting for Lilly, Davy and I when we came around a corner, gesturing frantically for us to be quiet and pointing to these beauties--a white egret and a great blue heron.
We stood together and watched them hunt in the long, wet, grass.
It was the kind of moment that makes me so glad I am home with my kids, schooling them, living and loving life with them.
"I am so happy right now,"  I thought as I looked at the 4 of them.
We stopped again to rejoice over the colors on this tree.
And to take silly pictures together.
I reflected upon the hours I was spending doing these things rather than our regular morning routine.
It's really a perfect example of why I home school.
I love the freedom of home schooling.
I love the freedom to design and use my own curriculum.
I love the freedom to assign one day a week, every week, to field trips.
I love the freedom to spend time on art, poetry, music, art history, and literature almost every day.
I love the freedom of doing school outside if we want, or in our pajamas.
I love the freedom of learning science at the tide pools, in a piece of literature, or on a hike, and not just from a textbook.
I love the freedom of making school goals like, "this year we will learn to make a perfect loaf of bread."
I love the freedom to memorize scripture verses and hymns each month.
I love the freedom to say, "let's start our day with a bike ride instead of chores and school."
It's a pretty magical way of doing school with my kids.

The funny thing is, to some people that doesn't sound like freedom at all.
Being home all day, with all their kids, day after day sounds like prison to them, not freedom.
They think I'm trapped, and say things like, "I could never stay home with my kids," and "I'm so glad I get to go to work every day" and "I can't wait for school to start every September."
And you know what?
I understand why they say that.

Because I would be a liar if I didn't tell you that sometimes I don't feel free.
Sometimes I feel trapped, claustrophobic, and overwhelmed.
I wait half the day to take a shower until Davy is down for his nap, hoping by then I can get 5 minutes of time to myself.
It never seems to work though, because the moment I'm in the shower, naked and dripping, someone is pulling aside the shower curtain and asking for something.
Being a parent is the hardest thing I've ever done.
Being a parent who home schools has intensified that a hundred fold.
I'm not saying it isn't wonderful.
Because it is.
Really, truly, incredibly wonderful.
But also, really, truly, incredibly hard.

Parenting is hard because you never get to punch out, go off the clock, take a lunch break, or go home.
Your kids are always needing you, wanting you, sucking the life out of you.
Wait.  Did I just say that out loud?
One of my favorite sayings about having kids is this one:
"Having children is like being pecked to death by a chicken."
You know you love your children, but you also know that saying is so true!
But for me, the part of parenting that is much, much more difficult than the neverendingness of it all, is the way it highlights all my faults.
There has been nothing else in my life that has shown me more clearly how selfish I am.
Also how prideful, impatient, unkind, and unfair I can be.
Yes, parenting often brings me face to face with the very worst parts of myself.

And, like I said before, home schooling intensifies all that a hundred fold.
We're always together.
I love that.
But sometimes, well, it feels claustrophobic.
When it's been a full day of all 4 of them needing me simultaneously, over and over again, there comes a point when I sometimes think, "I can't do this.  I'm going to pull my hair out.  I just want to run away.
Davy is literally haggling from my pant leg, Lilly is asking me for a drink of milk, James is saying, "well, my first question is....", and William wants me to sit down and help him with his math, and it almost makes my skin crawl, "I can't meet all your needs all the time!"
Have you been there before?

This school year has been the hardest for me yet.
It's a combination of things, I'm sure.
More kids equals more wonderful, but it also equals more work.  
There is just no way around that.
That's why working out has been such a great thing for me.
It has done much to help me in the moments when I previously felt overwhelmed.
The days that I work out I find that things don't feel so overwhelming or insurmountable.
I have a more positive outlook.
I have more energy.
I'm more flexible--mentally and physically.
I have more joy.

This day was right in keeping with all that.
My cup was running over with joy!
But sometimes, it still isn't enough.
Some days there are moments when the ugly parts of me are stronger than anything else.
On that day, the moment we got home from our bike ride/run, all I felt was behind.
All I could see was the mess.
All I could think about was the work that lay ahead of me, and how we would never get it all done.
I'd be working until I fell asleep that night and would not have one moment to myself.
Remember how I told you parenting, and home schooling, shows me how selfish I am?
I was so selfish at that moment.
My thoughts were completely wrapped up in me.
So we got right to work cleaning up the house.
I helped them make up the bunk beds and had a conniption when I realized how dirty the wall was next to their bed. (remember, all I could see was the mess?)
"This is why I tell you not to put your feet on the walls!  Do you even see this?  Come on, you guys!"
And I set them to scrubbing off all that dirt.

Yes, I admit it.
Sometimes I am insane.
Thankfully, I am not deaf to the whispers of the Holy Spirit.
When I walked back into the kids' room and saw the three of them standing there scrubbing, bunk bed pushed away from the wall for better access, I repented.
It wasn't the fact that I was making them clean off the dirt that they put there.
It was the way I made them scrub the dirt off the wall.
I did it with anger, frustration, and impatience.
I did it with a selfish heart that asked, "why are they aways wrecking this house?"  
I did it with an attitude of poor me, rather than an attitude of, let's work together to get this clean because we're a family and we help each other.

I stopped them.
I knelt down to look them in the eyes and I said, "I'm sorry."
Like every other time I have treated them unfairly, they forgave me.
We prayed together.
And James said, "can we have a fresh start, Mommy?"
"Yes, my love, we can."

Fresh starts always begin with an honest apology, a seeking of forgiveness, and a prayer to ask God for the strength to change.
And then we spend purposeful time together, connecting with each other. Sometimes that means we just have a big, tight group hug.
Or we have a tickle fight.
We cuddle on the couch and read a favorite book.
Or we go to the nature center and hike the 2 mile trail.
We have hot tea and popcorn.
That day it involved some sticky mustaches, taking lots of pictures of each other, and laughing ourselves silly.

I am so grateful for fresh starts.
The big ones--there have been some of those.
And the little ones--there have been lots and lots of those.
Those fresh starts are the moment when I realize that I can't fix everything myself, no matter how hard I try.  (and I try hard.  remember, I like to be perfect)
Ultimately, as much as I don't like to see it, I am grateful for the way parenting and home schooling show me the truth about myself.
I am flawed, and I need help.
But no matter how flawed, no matter how many times I mess it all up, I am forgiven.
I have been given the greatest fresh start of all. "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone, the new has come!"  
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
I don't have to fix myself.
He's done the work.
And that, my friends, is the greatest freedom of all!
Love from,


Alicia said...

love your realness. and i relate with you in soooo many ways. i'm pregnant with my forth. i'm a little nervous. i find it hard to work out with three! do you go to a gym at 5:30? i like getting my workout done early too. i had a friend where i used to live that ran with me at 5:30 every was awesome. now i'm in a different city. boo.

anyway...i get you. it's such a great life, but then sometimes homeschooling and kids is so hard. but i would not change it for the world.

Joanne Hardesty said...

Good job, Mom! I was always fascinated by moms who could homeschool and find time to exercise AND keep the house organized, without losing total sanity PLUS keeping that sweet connection with their kids. It's wonderful to know the Sundberg progeny are being loved by a mom that loves Jesus - Grandpa Sundberg would be very happy and proud. One day when all the kids are gone, you get to graduate and figure out what God wants you to do with the rest of your life, which (fortunately) still involves a lot of time with the kids.

Alaina said...

I love your honesty! Parenting is so humbling.
Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I am about to embark on homeschooling and am scared to death but excited beyond belief. our life is nuts and we are always running everywhere and hurrying..getting up at 6 to be off to school, hurrying into bed so they have enough time to sleep...i am sick of my life rushing by. i know the grass is always greener, but I hear the holy spirit urging me to do this.. I appreciate your raw honesty. I teared up reading it, because I see this all in myself. Fresh starts...every day we are given a new 24. Thank God for that! thank you! ~Ashley

kimberly said...

Greta, you have just given me a gift this morning. As a mama of four boys, considering homeschooling the youngest next year, I am so grateful that your words not only resonated so strongly but also made me feel like someone completely understands both sides of the coin of parenting. So thank you. And happy holidays!

tracy said...

what a great post! i am planning on homeschooling my kiddos and while it seems so overwhelming some days, i also think it will be so rewarding. parenting has brought me closer to God than anything in my life ever has. talk about a way to shine a light on the areas i need to work on. i am so thankful for my kiddos even on the days where they are pecking me to death!

mandi said...

love it. all of it. love. it.

rebecca said...

thank you for this - so needed this today. i'm a momma to 3 boys and planning on starting homeschooling my oldest (who is 5)next year. makes me nervous when somedays i feel crazy just living a normal day with no schooling involved =)

Rachel Reeves said...

I'm obsessed with you.
Not in a weird stalker way.
In a "I totally think we are related and I love you" way.

lauren said...

this is beautiful. from a momma who so completely understands this. i always say they are my saving and my undoing. they save me form myself. my selfishness would run rampant left tot my own devices. but they unravel me from the inside out. that slippery slope will leave me a ca- razy person i think. but maybe that's okay. :) there is time enough for sanity... ;)