Friday, May 21, 2010

Aquaman and the Super Eye of Compassion

Oh, we parents. We're kind of ridiculous, aren't we? If you have spawn, you know what I am talking about. Ya know, with the competitiveness and the comparisons. At some point, I think we all can get a little crazy with the desire for our little Tommy to run faster than little Jimmy. Or score more baskets. Make more money. Read sooner. Walk sooner. Get better grades. Look prettier. Sing prettier. Eat more vegetables. When you think about it, we're kind of like toddlers, aren't we?

Well, I had slowly been feeding this little monster for the past couple of months until everything came to a halting end on Tuesday. Joshua and Noah have been taking swimming lessons, and as Noah was still two, I had to be in the pool with him for the "Tots" class. Within Noah's class were little tots ages two to probably as young as six months. Noah was probably the oldest and his teacher, Ms. Vala, would just rave about him. She would constantly use him as the example and said that he was definitely more advanced than the students even in the next class up.

Well, Tuesday was the beginning of a new session. Noah is now three years old and began the next class in which mommy is no longer in the pool with him. And thus disappeareth our little Aquaman. He has hardly been in the pool at all and firmly dislikes his teacher. In Noah's defense, his teacher is kind of creepy looking and is not the best with getting toddlers to warm up to him. Um, maybe a smile would help?!

What's funny is that I was so proud of Noah! Not just in a good, Christian way, but also in an immature, gloating kind of way: "Ha, ha, ha! Look at all of you stupid parents with your stupid babies who can't even back float! Stop wasting your time and get out of the way for my little (trumpet tooting: Bum-ba-da-da!) Aquaman!" Okay, it wasn't quite that bad.

As parents, I think that sometimes out of our own insecurities, we can judge other parents' decisions and approaches and even their children. Parenting is challenging, frustrating and confusing and in order to build our own confidence, we may occasionally observe other families with a critical eye. But this is exactly the opposite of what we need to do so that we can cope with the challenges, frustration and confusion of parenthood. Rather than burning bridges with judgment and criticism, we should be building them so that we may have the support that we need from our peer parents.

One area that this is challenging for me is when a group of parents begin discussing anything related to their children's school or education. I struggle because I feel that when I express my opinion at all, if the parent knows that we are homeschooling, they become defensive. I understand it. I really do. They feel that because we are homeschooling, we are saying that the public school system is not good enough for us. And of course, like all things, it is much more complicated that that.

But please, let me assure you of the following:

We are not sitting in judgment of every family in the world that doesn't homeschool. 


We do not believe that every family in the world should homeschool.

Yes, we believe in homeschooling. Of course we do! And we believe that any of the wonderful parents that we know could do it, if they wanted to. That's the clincher. You don't have to be trained in teaching. You already are the perfect teacher for your children - think of all the things you've already taught them. But you do have to want to do it. Without that desire, homeschooling is not the right option for your family. And you can't fake it. 

We have not been given any more patience or teaching ability than any other parent. But we have been given this desire to approach our children's education differently. We didn't go out and pursue or seek this desire. It just happened. Just like you may have the desire to read to your child at bed time, or be active in their school, or coach their soccer team, or wrestle with them in the living room, or teach them to ride their bike. God gave all parents the abilities, skills, inclinations and wisdom needed to raise their children. All of the parents we are blessed to know are the perfect parents for their children and make the best choices for their families.

My very best friend has recently been reluctant to share with me some of the struggles that she was having with her son. She was afraid that I would judge, that I would be listening to her hardship thinking, "Well, why don't you homeschool?" And her fear was real because we all judge. At times, we all do it. Whether it be about swimming lessons, discipline, breastfeeding or homeschooling, we all do it. And even though my best friend knows that I love her, that I think she's a fabulous mother and that I am always there for her, she was still scared to be kicked while she was down. I can understand that. Sometimes it's easier to put on a brave face than to admit the struggles we are currently facing as parents.

But in doing so, we are not creating the support we need to conquer this enormous task that God has given us. It takes a village to raise a child. And in this self-absorbed, fast-paced, lonely culture that we live in, it can be very difficult to find the village or community that we need.

I KNOW there will come a day when I am going to need a shoulder to cry on as we face the challenges of homeschooling. I will need the support of my family and friends. And I don't want to have to be afraid that they are thinking, "Well, why do you homeschool?"

As parents, we need to take off the gloves, to look not with an eye of criticism, but with an eye of compassion. To all of the amazing parents we know, thank you for being an inspiration to us, for helping us and supporting us on our journey. 

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