So school starts for us on Monday. This past week, I turned my attention from home-making in our new house to lesson-planning for the new year. During the week, though, I felt reminded over and over that my ultimate “job” is not to plan for school. Yes, I need to do my part to be faithful, to prepare and set us all up for success as we begin another year of home school. But ultimately, my role involves blessing and building up my children. So when I needed to set aside the research about Classical era composers or which math lesson to do during the first week of school, I tried to be faithful to do that, too.
I came face to face with this need, this area where I needed to be faithful to the big-picture goal of my calling in life, when we first moved into our new house a few weeks ago, and I had unpack-all-the-things fever. Then, too, God showered me with the grace to recognize I needed to set aside the picture frames and books that I wanted to arrange in the perfect spot so that I could minister to my children.
Although it took many, many hours to “get things done,” I also got plenty more done–multiple games of Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, and Trouble; park visits and stories read and whacking a golf ball with a stick in the yard. I don’t want to miss being with my family in the midst of doing work for my family.
On Saturday, I arranged my whole day around spending large pieces of time with my two boys. I’d promised them each some one-on-one time with me before school began, and I put them in charge of deciding what we’d do with our special time. They wanted similar activities–all involving the outdoors and food and LEGOs, of course.
So that morning, I took my younger son to a park with a stupendous playground that offers an array of spinning equipment–this son calls any spinning playground ride a Spinjitzu. My boys also call Bugles potato chips Spinjitzu (due to their shape), and if you speak LEGO, you know exactly what I mean. Anyway, we played for a while at the park, with me doing most of the work to make all those rides spin (this time was my gift to him, after all). Then we traveled to Wendy’s, because he developed an affinity for their value-menu crispy chicken sandwiches during the summer when we lived in four different homes and ate abnormal amounts of fast food. We ate and talked there, then–per his request–headed over to Toys R Us, where we wandered the aisles browsing LEGOs and other toys.
My older son’s “mama time” mirrored his younger brother’s in every way except that he selected McDonald’s instead of Wendy’s, and after dropping off Little Brother, I took my older son out for his afternoon with me. If you know me, you understand that purposefully taking my children to eat fast food just for fun–not out of necessity or expedience–made me die a little death inside. But, after all, I put THEM in charge of deciding. I knew I was getting myself into this.
Another component of the individual time I spent with each of my growing boys was a contract that I wrote up for our new school year. I made it short, kept it simple, and focused on what I promised to do. I signed each one and had them sign their names, too.
I wrote these statements on the contracts: “This school year, I promise to start the day with a smile and end the day with a smile. I promise to love you through all your assignments. I promise to be patient when you struggle with learning something new. I promise to let God’s wisdom guide me, not my anxiety. I promise to learn alongside of you, to learn together.”
The younger boy asked me to add, “I promise to read this every night before bed.” The older one asked me to do the same once he found out Little Brother had requested this addition.
I hope I remember that, despite whatever lack of smiling I may do in the middle of a day, starting well and ending well go a long way. I’m expecting God to keep showering that grace on me so I CAN remember.