The greatest compliment I think I have ever received was in December of 1983. Kathleen Lunde signed my autograph book and wrote, “The thing I like about you is that you are always the same.”
At first, I confess, I was a bit disappointed. It’s not exactly what every thirteen-year-old girl wants to hear. “Always the same”= “boring” at that age. I said as much to my mother who promptly squelshed that erroneous idea. I’ll never forget her expression. It clearly said, “You just got a compliment, TAKE IT.” Then mom explained that what Kathleen as trying to say was that it was nice to have a friend that was even keeled. I didn’t have emotional ups and downs that made it hard to know what to expect from me. I got it.
What I got most from it though, was that constancy was something to value. I learned to appreciate stability. Over the years I’ve seen what inconsistency does in children and I find it a bit ironic that it is the one bit of parenting advice that my mother gave me before Challice was born. “Be consistent. ALWAYS consistent. Even if you’re consistently wrong. Just don’t be consistently inconsistent. Children can handle anything as long as they can depend on you.”
I’m seeing a lot of inconsistency, instability, and inconstancy in the lives of homemakers and home educators. In our quest to be the best wife, mother, housekeeper, teacher, et all that we can be, we tend to come up with newer and greater ways of doing our jobs. Today it is a rigid schedule with every minute of our day carefully packed for maximum efficiency. Tomorrow it is going with the flow and trying to just get everythign in without the stress of watching the clock. We’ll ignore the other stresses it causes. We try for moderation. We try this curriculum and that. Ever organizing, never coming to the realization of organization. We’re always learning, growing, becoming, stretching, and reaching. We want the best, we want it now, and we’ll change minute by minute to get it.
Our kids are the casualties of our ever advancing war on mediocrity. While we battle acceptability in our pursuit of excellence, our children are blasted with the shrapnel of our frenzied attempts to construct the perfect life.
Remember the supermom myth of the nineties? Many homemakers and full-time mothers ridiculed the notion and grieved for the children who were the victims of that mentality. Moms could have it all. Career, personal fulfillment, and be a wife and mother. No sacrifices. We don’t need quantity time. Anyone can just “be there”; we need quality time! Ten minutes a day solely focused on your child is soooooo much more meaninful than an hour in the same room. Take that child to lessons, museums, on dates, to the amusement parks, and join those little leagues! We’ll bond over Gymboree and Baby Aquatics!
The idea has come full circle. We who ridiculed the over-extended notion of a career, home, personal social life, and children’s social lives, have now become the joke. We rush from homeschool co-op to music lessons, to play dates, and MOPS. We attend ladies Bible Study on Tuesday morning and teach basket weaving on Thursday afternoons. While our family eats six meals a week out of fast-food bags, we teach nutrition and frugal cooking on Saturday mornings to new mothers. While we can’t find our car keys or the insurance card for our prescriptions (that we NEED because we’re so run down from our busy lives) we create elaborate systems in how to organize ours and everyone else’s lives.
It’s TOO MUCH. We need to remember scripture. “To whomever is faithful in LITTLE, MUCH will be given.”
Why does the seamstress sew for everyone and their brother but not have time to make clothing for her own family?
Why does the decorator have time to help everyone else decorate their homes to beautifully reflect their personalities but not have time to invest in her own home?
Why does the gourmet cook have time to prepare mouth watering dishes for the weary or recently blessed but her family gets boxed mac and cheese or McDonald’s?
Why are the shoemaker’s children barefoot?
When will we learn to be faithful with OUR little before we try to do much for others? When will we learn that our children are paying the price for our hectic lives? When will we learn that those kazoo lessons that we are SURE our children need because they are the one stable thing in the one or two children who plays lives are actually harming all of our children? Including the players! When will we learn that the same hour or two that we spend on those activities would be more productive and produce longer lasting fruit if we kept that same appointment with the family at home. At least until our lives do not resemble that of lab rats in a maze!
Has it never occurred to us that the drama that so consistently surrounds our day-to-day lives is detrimental to our childen, our marriages, and our spiritual well-being? Tell me how the constant swings from high to crashing low is healthy. Living in an adrenaline induced state of euphoria is a sure-fire way to ensure a crash of epic proportions. Today the schedule works, the children mind, everything is fine, we can keep this tightly wound fiddle singing merrily. Tomorrow, however, the string sounds off key so in our haste to keep it going we tighten just a smidge too much and we snap the delicate strings of our lives. The whole melody is choppy and sounds horrible. We compensate by changng the tune frantically trying to keep our music beautiful and soothing but eventually another string goes, then another. We’re finally left, hanging by a string, and wondering what went wrong.
I see it every week on my board. Some people have occasional crises. These people are the ones who wake up one morning and their life is out of control. They post for help, weigh it against reality, and find a way to crawl back out of the hole they’re in. They may have dug it for themselves, they may have tripped and fallen. Sometimes they even were shoved kicking and screaming into the pit. But these people usually climb out, dust themselves off, remember how they got there, and they’re rarely in the same pit again.
Others have chronic crises. Nothing we say or do can help because the frazzled mother cannot see the wisdom. She’s so deeply buried in her habits that there seems no end in sight. They never seem to crawl completely out of the pit. They sit on the edge trying to have one foot on solid ground while trying to see if there is anything in that pit that might be of value. There is a slippery slope that slides down to the pit but they don’t avoid it. There are good things along that slope and they want the good things knowing full well that the end will be in the pit.
I’d say most of us are guilty of some of this at some time or another. I challenge all of us, especially myself since I’m the only one I can do anything about anyway, to take stock right now and see if we’re headed toward another pit. See if we’re trying to live like we’re in Autumn when it is spring time. We’ll smother! But that’s another blog. For now, a few questions.
Is there any thing in your life that contributes to the stress of your life that isn’t 100% necessary? Home school co-ops, Bible studies, lectures and workshops that you give or take? Classes in cake decorating, sewing, knitting, scrapbooking, writing, or pottery?
Do you serve others before your family? When it is time to bring a friend a meal, does your family get the same or a better meal? Do you make beautiful wardrobes for others while your children are living in threadbare clothing?
Are your children’s activities a BLESSING to your family or contibute to the stress that is anything but a blessing? Music lessons are excellent things. Dancing is a beautiful expression of art and excellent exercise. Sports can be a great way to learn coordination, cooperation, and discipline. All can be learned at home and should be if your life is in such an uproar that you cannot maintain some semblance of stability.
Do you constantly revamp your life hoping to solve all of your problems? All of that revamping is HARD on you, your spouse, your children, your marriage, and all of your relationships. A system is only as good as the ability to maintain it. People are more important than activity, accomplishments, and recognition.