Today, we began Summer School.
Well, kind of. In summers past, I have tried to incorporate a beautiful schedule for my children that will continue their brain activity and keep them occupied enough that they won't want to be in front of a screen all summer. I have had things scheduled so rigidly, that I threw it all away after a few weeks because... well, failure. One summer, we did a pretty good job for a few months. Most summers, because I've given up so soon, we just didn't do much of anything. The summer I was super depressed? Man, that was a sad summer...
Anyway, this summer will be different because I am focusing on:
*Outdoor, unsupervised playtime
Sure, we'll do some science experiments, math problems, world history, and arts/crafts. We'll also make sure we visit the zoo, the library, museums, the park, and go swimming. My kids will continue to do chores and work hard; they'll learn how to organize their time. But I won't panic when my ideas and schedule need constant modifications.
Today went rather well, too! There was fighting, of course, and whining and arguing and balking and all kinds of riff-raff --but we did it. I stuck to my decision to try this, and it worked! Kids read, wrote, practiced, memorized, learned, engaged, and explored. Beside the bug houses we made, #2 made a swing for a tree in the backyard! #1 used our leftover bug house supplies to make some whimsical pan-flutes. We explored our yard some more and spent less time on electronics then we usually would have.
I'm exhausted. But I'm grateful for a good start.
Kansas is stunning. Absolutely beautiful! I told Brandon this (more or less) as we were driving to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve last week: "The world is so diverse and every part of it is so beautiful in it's own way. The trees in PA, the mountains in UT, the deserts in AZ, the grass prairies of Kansas... it's all so amazing! And I think God did this on purpose because it's the same with the people. The people of this world are so diverse, different, and just beautiful! Everyone is beautiful in their own way, like nature. I don't think that was on accident."
Sometimes I'm overwhelmed that I'm an adult. An actual adult making hard choices and big decisions. Like buying houses and paying bills and renting musical instruments and taking daughters to DMVs to get driver's permits (okay, just one daughter and one permit. So far).
This is what my parents prepared me for --complete independence and responsibility. At the very least they tried to prepare me for this. And I think I was blessed with some good examples. I truly have good, good parents.
I have my vices and weaknesses. I have my sins and addictions. We all do, though, and I don't think that disqualifies me from being an responsible adult. It just makes me human. I'm an adult. A mom. Someday, a grandma...
The hardest part, however, is seeing the influence I have over these 7 souls. I feel like I'm failing them all the time. Every day. Sometimes, hourly.
Family dynamics can be really hard, and when I'm discussing difficult family situations with friends, it's easy to blame the parents for the emotional challenges in the children. And a lot of these challenges are real! Yes, the parents did screw up! They're nutso! Some are downright crazy and don't even realize what they've done and continue to do to their (now) adult children. They keep living dysfunctional lives, assuming the children are just being selfish and whiny. But they are not --the children are just trying to navigate between honoring parents and being emotionally healthy. It's hard to honor someone who treats you badly. It's even harder to honor parents who treat others badly.
Luckily, not all parents are like this, nor are they the cause of their children's problems.
But it makes me wonder: what are my dysfunctions doing to my children? What am I passing on? Will my daughters, one day, discuss me with friends? Will my daughter-in-laws get together and discuss their crazy mother-in-law? I wonder if I will be the brunt of psychological problems. I wonder if I will be the one who causes rifts in families and breakdowns in marriages...
It makes me want to be better for my kids, yes, but it also make me want to forgive a lot more. Parents --ones that care and try --are doing the best they can. Those who don't do their best and mess up a lot aren't as many as we'd like to think. Perhaps we need to focus more inward and work on fixing our problems from the inside-out and less on the people around us who are aids to our issues. (Granted, I'm not talking about an out-right domestic abuse issue. That's not something to put up with, nor is it an inward problem!) I've watched some friends do this --they set the boundaries, worked on their own minds/souls, cleaned up house, and then were able to offer more compassion to their family members who betray and belittle them. They didn't stay focused on blaming and circling the drain of their own pain --they dealt with it and moved on.
I've been trying to focus on my own healing and my own self-discovery, instead of blaming others outside of myself. It's really hard! Really hard. But I think sometimes it's easier to blame and scapegoat then to face our own demons, because if we face our demons, we tend to face enormous amounts of pain.
Sister Neill F. Marriott said something profound in general conference in October 2015. She said:
"...in order to have a healed and faithful heart, we must first allow it to break before the Lord."
When I first heard her say this, it blew my mind. I know she was talking about giving our will to God, but I think that's exactly what we do when we face our own demons and search for ways to heal our own pain. We break our hearts before the Lord and with His help, we are healed! And we can't be healed until we re-set the bone, clean out the infection, and experience the pain. And when we blame others for our problems (whether they are warranted or not), we are glossing over our pain. Every time we ignore the pain, we can't heal. It's like putting a band-aid over gangrene. It doesn't work!
Anyway, these are my rambling thoughts this evening.
I've been reading a lot of Brene Brown, lately (that woman is a God-send. Truly!), and it's making me think more deeply about shame, connection, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, boundaries, and letting go. Letting God help. Giving my heart to Him and not to the dysfunctional family members and unnamed readers of blogs and masses of social media followers... It's all been on my mind for a long time...
Didn't think you'd get all this when you started this post, eh? Ha!
Have a great week, dear reader.