Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Living with Beige Walls and Mistakes of our Youth

Yesterday my friend M came over at my request to help me figure out a way to soften the blow of the unrelenting blah, and to give me an estimate on how much she would charge to make some curtains for the living room.  I bought some fabric Saturday to cover an old rocker cushion, and decided while I was at it, I may as well figure out how to tie the room together instead of feeling like I was living in a flea market.

We quickly dispensed with the purpose of her visit, and moved into a very comfortable conversation, something I don't do a lot of with anyone other that Ornery and Elizabeth. 

M and I met during the years we homeschooled, but it wasn't until a couple of years ago we realized how much we had in common.  We both agreed that while we homeschooled because we felt like it was the right thing to do, neither of us really enjoyed the task and didn't believe we were disciplined enough to really provide a good education for our kids. Yet in the end, all our children (seven between us) turned out to be fully functioning adults and contributing members of society.  We didn't create millionaires but none are on welfare, all have managed to find a unique niche in the world, and seem to be at the very least average, but mostly above average in their fields. Considering that we have 100% success in teaching the basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic, I'd say we did better than our counterpart--state funded schools.

We discussed how very fervent we were with following through with our beliefs.  We were diligent in making sure our kids had every opportunity we could afford and we parented them in ways we believed to be "right." If we made choices that most Americans didn't understand, it wasn't out of rebellion on our parts, but because we truly believed they were beneficial: we even had scriptures to back up our philosophy.

Sadly, as we were discussing the current state of all our own children and many of those who homeschooled with us, we realized that what we thought were such wise choices didn't really end up being all that wise, and while our kids are all successful to an extent, very few of them are walking with the Lord or in close relationship with their parents. 

My goal was to develop skills in my children that would enable them to stand on their own without me having to prop them up, not to drive them away from a relationship with me. We taught them precepts from the Bible, but we also used much more control than was wise. This is my opinion from the back side of the experience--since hind sight is 20/20.

While I was so preoccupied with meeting standard learning practices, keeping records in case the Dept. of Human Services showed up at my door and making sure they were properly socialized, I wish I had taught them that failure wasn't fatal, and that mistakes are a part of the process not something to hide or deny. I wish I had allowed them more freedom to express opinions that differed from mine, and offered them opportunities to prove to themselves why their choices were better or worse than my ideas. I wish I had allowed the circumstances of their choices to be their teacher (when they wouldn't harm them) instead of stepping in and making decisions for them. Most of all, I wish that I had somehow communicated to them that no matter what they did or who they became, I would not ever stop loving them and would always be here for them. 

In a conversation with Elizabeth the other day we talked about what she gained from homeschooling, and whether it was a good thing to have done.  She said there were two things she absolutely would not have gained in public school that she is grateful to have gotten from our homeschooling experience:  an ingrained conviction to always tell the truth, and a strong sense of self.  I can't say that was what I set out to teach, but at least she got that much!

You may wonder what my beige walls have to do with child rearing, but there is a definite parallel.  You see, when we painted those walls it was with a specific goal in mind--to make our house appealing to the masses so we could sell our house. Once we had them all painted and we had to figure out a way to make them work for us, we realized the thing we thought was right at the time created an undesirable side effect.  Now we are having to figure out a way to be content with a choice and actions we wish we hadn't made. 

In the same way, we are having to figure out how to walk in love with children who no longer want our involvement in their lives.  My friend asked me how we could show love to children who pushed us away, wouldn't have contact with us and interpreted everything we did as criticism or interference. I have thought about that and have come to the conclusion that the only way to do it is in our hearts. 

When thoughts come up in our minds that have us doubting our parenting abilities, we should remind ourselves that we did the best we could with what we knew. When we find ourselves feeling sad that they go to others for advice instead of the ones who know and love them most, we should bless them and remember the the Holy Spirit is their guide, whether they choose to listen to Him or not! We need to love them in our hearts, always believe the best and speak into existence that which God has promised and provided. It's a tall order, to love those who don't seem to return your affection, but it's what our Father does every day.

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