I’ll be honest: one reason I’ve been thankful for homeschooling these past couple of years is that I don’t get daily behavior reports about my son anymore from school. When Gabe was in PreK and Kindergarten, I’d have frequent one-liner reports come home, like these gems:
“He shoved his friend in line after recess.”
“He wasn’t a good listener at his work stations today.”
“He chose not to be reverent at chapel.”
“He had to miss recess because he fought over a pencil with a friend.”
“We worry about his lack of empathy.”
“He blew his stinky breath into his friend’s face at lunchtime.” (A personal favorite)
As much as my husband and I tried to laugh off some of these typical little-boy behaviors, I really struggled with them after a while. Everything Gabe was doing at school was something he would certainly have done at home, probably ten times a day instead of once. I wanted to explain that I’d corrected him shoving his sisters in anger about 2,341 times. That we took our kids to mass every Sunday, and for a couple of years, to daily mass a few times a week. That he was pokey and usually grumpy about finishing any task we gave him at home.
For most of the two years Gabe was in school, I think we felt like we had to sit him down and talk about every little thing he did wrong at school. We even had him copy short apology notes to friends and teachers. Eventually, we stopped that. It was sometime after he told us during yet another sit-down conversation on the couch that “I don’t know why I do things. I guess I just can’t be good like ______.” It broke my heart a little to hear him have such a defeated outlook on himself at such a young age.
(Just a note: Gabe loved his sweet teachers when he was in school. They were all gifted and passionate about teaching, and I’m not questioning their classroom management skills or good intentions. I understood even then that Gabe’s behavior was disruptive to the group, and that’s why I received notes home about it, just like any other child in the class.)
But all those notes felt like a report card for my parenting, nevertheless. I also unfortunately had a piece of really bad advice I was trying to live up to in those tender new years of motherhood. It was this harmful wreck of a statement from the father of a large Christian family: “Your children’s behavior out in public is a direct reflection of the discipline inside your home.”
So yeah…enter pride and anxiety issues galore.:( No wonder I struggled with those little behavior notes.
There’s good news, though. (May I never forget that my story will always eventually have good news, because God’s writing it!)
Over the past two years, aside from a little boy (and two little girls) for whom homeschooling has been a wonderful choice, God has been working His healing, freeing truth into the way I think about my mothering. He has been teaching me how to be more gentle with myself as a mom and more trusting of Him as the Heavenly Father of my children.
Here’s some of what He wants me to remember, day in and day out:
My children’s behavior, accomplishments, personalities, and happiness are not a report card of my mothering. I am a beloved daughter of God who cannot make God love her any more or any less by my performance as a woman, wife and mother. And while there are many very, very good things I can do (and do!) as a parent, there is no perfect recipe for raising children. I can’t guarantee that a deep and abiding faith will blossom in them at a young age, that they’ll never leave the church, that they won’t act out badly in public, that they won’t grow up and forget to call, that they won’t struggle at every age with things I hoped they wouldn’t. I can’t hold myself accountable for things I cannot control. I can’t discipline my children well enough or even love them perfectly enough that they’ll turn out exactly how I want them to.
I recently finished reading Kate Wicker’s Getting Past Perfect. (Mommas young and old–get thee a copy. It’s phenomenal.)
Because as much as we parents tightly hold on to this idea that we are the primary shapers of our children–that they are puppets and we have the strings–parenting is merely an influence on our children. How you nurture and raise your children is just one factor of many…why not focus more on your own obedience to God? You’re only held accountable for your own obedience, not your children’s. Put God at the center of your life. Ponder His goodness more than your own and your children’s weaknesses. (p. 74)
We have to think less of our role in our children’s lives and more of God’s. We have to give this work of parenting our very best, never stop working on our own spiritual walk, give our kids to God at the end of the day, then let ourselves get a good night of sleep.
As Wicker writes at the end of a particularly helpful chapter on this topic in Getting Past Perfect:
Be kind to yourself. Accept your children as they are. And let God do His work. (p. 78)