The second day of school, it began.
I laid my daughter down for her nap and as I descended back down the stairs, I was met with….silence. Utter silence.
I’ll be perfectly straight forward – it was actually kind of blissful. At nine months pregnant, finding silence in the middle of the day where there used to be NONE? It was almost like, “me? So, I can, like, make my lunch AND sit down?? Are you sure??”
If I didn’t have a bulging belly and if my legs weren’t as stiff as logs then maybe I would have danced around or who knows what. What ended up happening was a sort of “I’ll just take my tuna sandwich and go sit over there, thanks” scenario. I felt kind of like the new kid on the block, anyway. It was all so foreign to me.
I’ll take it.
It wasn’t long before unwelcome thoughts creeped up surreptitiously. Doubt. Discouragement. Accusations. Lies. Guilt began to wash over me like summer rain. I had been struggling with the idea of sending our son to school before the year began. So, naturally, at the slightest hint of a reprieve, I began to furiously doubt my decision.
We know so many parents who home school and do it wonderfully. Some who have schooled even while nurturing newborns. Why couldn’t I do the same?
Was this the best education possible for him? Was I shelling him off to others? Am I tainting him by sending him to school?
And the years before? Did we do enough together? I’ll never get those toddler years back with him. Did I make enough time for him? Does he know that he is loved?
It was like an unexpected storm on a summer evening. It actually hurt in my heart to think that I was short-changing my child. To think that I might be taking the “lazy” way out. How terrible I felt for enjoying that silence, even if only a little bit. Good moms don’t enjoy space and time without their children anyway, right?
Though I combatted those thoughts with truth as best I could, though I did my best to remind myself that Christ doesn’t speak to us with the use of accusations but instead with conviction that riles the soul, and though for a time those thoughts dissipated, I still struggle with them from time to time.
Part of me really doesn’t like sending my little one to school. I truly DO miss him when he is gone. I miss getting to see what he is doing throughout his day. And I certainly hope that I can continue to be as close to him as I feel I am now. I hope to never be a mother who wishes those summer months or snow days away because she can’t bear the thought of being “trapped” with her children for even a minute more than she needs to be. That isn’t why I want to send him to school. That isn’t why my husband and I decided together to send him.
Over the past two weeks I have foraged through my newsfeed on Facebook and have seen so many children starting school, both at home and not. And I found myself subconsciously stacking myself against those other moms. “They’re doing it one way, so I don’t need to feel bad, right? But…they’re doing it differently, so perhaps there is something I’m missing, something that I haven’t considered?”
I’m living my life as a mom comparing myself to other parents. And it feels so empty.
But then I wonder….does any parent, when making any big decision for their children, ever COMPLETELY feel down to their bones like they’re getting it right? We may make what we think is the best decision for them, yes. But sometimes those decisions are only the beginning of what is a path of extended labor for us. And somewhere along the way, when the going gets rough, we probably stop and question ourselves and if we made the right call at all. If we even know what we are doing. Maybe we even wonder what business we have being a parent.
I have thought those exact sentiments before – what business do I have raising children? What business does this sinful, selfish heart have even trying to make beautiful children? And sometimes, it’s just too hard. There are too many choices to make, too many factors to consider. Sometimes, I don’t even feel like making lunch or reading the same book again, how am I supposed to get them to adulthood without damaging them beyond repair?
I have to think that for every assured decision that we make as parents, that there will be plenty where we doubt the next step. Where we are walking blindly, through faith and by grace alone. We hear about the devastating things that are happening in the world on the news, and we wonder what kind of world our children will inherit, and we hold them that much tighter and realize that we don’t always have the answers and we realize that we won’t always be there to protect them. We realize that our love isn’t ever going to completely be enough.
So where do you even start, and what chance to you have at parenting confidently? You can’t even select the right bottles or diapers or wipes at the beginning of their life without being inundated with choices. A million ways to do things, will you get lucky and choose the “right” one? There is an entire judgmental world out there, ready and willing to tell us that we are getting it wrong.
Something comforts me, though. Well, actually, two things.
The reminder that peace doesn’t explicitly come from our decisions as parents. Peace comes from solely Christ. And knowing Christ, leaning on Him, knowing that we are truthfully, honestly and genuinely trying to seek and follow Him is our only reassurance in this world where there are millions of tidbits of parenting advice. He always gives good counsel, He always reassures us that we are not alone in our journey, any part of it.
Our parenting issues are neither too small, nor too great for Him to be concerned with. Our parenting story is another part of our story; it is refining and sanctifying. There is nothing that He can’t use. And we can always take solace in Him, even when nothing else is working out right.
The second is this: nobody really 110% knows what they are talking about. There is wisdom to be gained from others, yes. But, no matter what, I can almost guarantee you that there will be NO other parent in the entire world whose advice you would want to put into practice 100% of the time. That’s something that the parenting books don’t tell you!
You may read a million blog posts that sound great, you may click-through your newsfeed and wonder, you may research a ton of articles, but ultimately, every single one of those need to come with a precursor paragraph that reminds the reader that, “There is no such things as a parenting expert. No parent has it all together. No parent gets it all right. And no parent ever feels with 100% certainty that they have it all together. So, as always, take what follows with a grain of salt.”
That’s right. You can actually take some solace in the fact that everybody screws up. Everybody doubts. Everybody has their moments. When you remember that, it takes the pressure off of wondering what everybody else is doing. And that is really the idea, taking your eyes off of others, putting them on the Lord.
For now, my house is quiet, but probably for just a bit more. I’m going to go and make myself a cup of tea. Don’t worry, I’m sure the moment it’s done and I go to sit down, my daughter will wake up.