I spent the majority of my day yelling, “It’s an equal sign, for the love of all that’s holy, Theodore, AN EQUAL SIGN!”
He calls a plus sign an equal sign every single time. EVERY. SINGLE. DANG. TIME.
I’m trying, you guys. I’m trying to keep my cool. I’m trying to not have an anxiety attack 500 times before 11 am. I’m trying to claim the full range of peace and love and integrity that I know I have access to.
And still, I find myself banging the table and pulling out my hair because God help me, I swear he is messing with me (Theo, not God, but maybe him too).
While this homeschool train wreck is going down, Bea runs around pulling everything out of every drawer within reach. Oliver whines at me and screams at his brother. And Theo…oh Theo… Theo fidgets and spins and experiences more movement in five minutes than most adults experience in five days.
I don’t know you guys. What have I done?
Today, I did the things. We made math symbols with popsicle sticks and hand motions and m&ms. We practiced writing them and reading them. And still….
Me: Theo, what is this symbol? (Shows Theo a plus sign.)
Me: (Plants face in palms. Openly weeps. Pours self more coffee and contemplates running away.)
Theo and I have talked about the fact that homeschooling is a privilege. Not everyone who struggles at school gets to stay home. This is a good thing, but it’s a gift, not a given.
And therein lies the rub, I guess. Good things take work. Gifts take work. You don’t have to do anything to maintain the status quo, or go with the flow, or do what you know (hahah see what I did there?).
I think most of the times when we say “we can’t” do something what we really mean is we don’t want to put the work into maintaining that thing. There is a real difference between the elated emotions that surround making a decision and the very deflating experiences that surround implementing that decision.
Life takes work. But growth? Geesh. Growth takes SO MUCH FREAKING WORK.
I don’t have the expectation that this should be easy or fun 100% of the time. It’s just super humbling how exasperating some of our days/experiences can feel.
But I listened to a podcast recently where the host mentioned that those hard moments, those exasperating experience, that BAD BEHAVIOR (by you or the kids), are really just little revelations. They AREN’T signaling how awful the person exhibiting the behavior is. They AREN’T exhibiting what a failure you are. They AREN’T labeling the experience as doomed. They are just a little arrow, pointing our eyes to something that needs our attention.
Will we see it?
The hard things in life are rarely about the things that we think they are.
This week, the kids have been crazy and I’ve not had any qualms about saying so. But….
The hard things/bad behavior/etc are really just indicators. Indicators of something going on beneath the surface. I know I’m stressed about a million little things that have nothing to do with Theo or math. That’s MY DEAL. I can choose to put it on him, but that’s not fair. And conversely, I know that Theo is in a sensory tailspin this week. I don’t exactly know why, but I DO KNOW I can peel back the layers of his behavior and start to assess what is going on in his heart, his mind, and his body.
I guess it’s just about knowing that, really, all of this is work, because good things require hard work.
It’s my joy and my honor to get to be these kids mom and get to stay home and get to homeschool and get to make myself unlimited cups of coffee throughout the day. But those privileges take work to maintain and grow. And that work almost always always comes in the form of a difficult moment. I mean, think about it. We rarely sit around when things are going well and think, “Life is going SO GREAT. What should I do to change myself and possibly mess up this really great thing I have going?”
No. Change oftentimes comes on the heels of a difficult season, a difficult conversation, and difficult moment. Because those hard things have a way of revealing the work that needs to be done.
Not because we are bad. Not because we are failing. But because life is hard and we are human and there will never be any end to the work. But life is also good and we are human and there will never be any end to the enjoyment of what that work brings.
I heard this interesting fact about the brain. A portion of our brain operates almost entirely in survival mode. What this means is that if it’s between choosing to do something you could succeed at with little effort (say, vegging on the couch for hours), or say, doing the dishes or working on a project that you feel is beyond you or having a difficult conversation with your spouse, then your brain will absolutely choose the vegging over the effort. Your brain wants you to be safe and warm and successful so your brain wants you to stay on the couch with Netflix and a steaming bowl of queso. “Are you still watching?” Netflix will ask. “You bet I am!” your brain screams! “Look how successful we are,” your brain says. “We are knocking life out of the park.”
The thing is, sometimes our bodies and souls know things that our brains are reluctant to admit. Things like, exercise feels awful in the moment but great long term! And, connection with other human beings is hard but necessary for survival!
And I truly believe that our bodies and souls know the way to go. My heart told me to homeschool Theo. My heart leads me into all kinds of crazy situations that makes my brain freak out. And sure, we need to use our brains. I’m not saying be stupid about life. But I think you know what I’m saying.
I’m saying that the good things your heart leads you into will ultimately bring up hard situations, conversations, or emotions. Because growth is hard. And growth requires confronting the places in our lives that need a little attention. I mean, it wouldn’t be growth if you started from a place of perfection, right?
The hard part, in all of this, is to not deem ourselves as weak in the process. There are so many moments when I’m at home with the kids that I feel like a complete and utter failure and I don’t like them and I don’t like me and I don’t like my life. Those moments aren’t the norm, but they are normal. I know you feel that way about things even if you don’t tell me you do. Because, like I keep saying, if you are human, then you will face hard things, and more often than not, those hard things makes you feel bad about yourself.
But, it all comes down to perspective.
I know, I know. That sounds so simple. “Too simple!” you say. Well. I’m sorry I don’t have a more complicated solution for you. But I think you and I both know that though this is simple, it’s not easy.
Strength only exists on a spectrum of weakness. Meaning, if there was no weakness than strength wouldn’t be strength, it would just be what it was – the norm.
So in order for us to grown in life, to grow in mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational strength, then we have to start from a place of weakness. That is where we start, because that is the place from which strength grows.
And that leads us right back to good things. Good things will beget hard things. Because hard things lead to growth. And growth leads to more good things. Which – you guessed it – will cycle us right back to more hard things and growth.
Ah. It’s really just life.
But the thing is, if you take out the good things and the growth, then all you’re left with are the hard things.
And that’s where most of us want to spend all our time. That’s what gets all our attention and focus. We focus on the hard and fail to give one wiff of attention to the good that makes the hard worth growing through.
So tomorrow I’ll start fresh. Because the sun still rises, even in the rain. And the sun still rises, even through the pain, as a song I love reminds me. And we will learn and grow and become better. And even though my brain is telling me to stop and just go to bed and pull the covers over my head and cry (because you know I COULD ROCK THAT SO HARD), my heart is telling me something different. It’s telling me that today was hard, but that’s because there is something worth growing underneath.
It’s ironic, you know? Theo kept calling an equals sign a plus sign. And I think all day I failed to recognize what was really happening underneath it all. I should have taken a break. I should have given him some deep sensory therapy. I should have laughed with him and just read some books and talked about dinosaurs.
I misread the signs.