When we talk about Thanksgiving, many of us think about the day in November when we get more stuffed than the turkey. Our minds turn to all sorts of cute activities for reminding our families to “be thankful” during this time of year. But as good as this is, it falls far short. Thanksgiving is not just a holiday, but a necessary attitude for every moment of every day.
I think one of the hardest struggles for many home school moms is dealing with grumbling and whining. Wouldn’t it be quite something if we could just sit them down and give them a single lesson about contentment, and “voila!” — our homes would instantly enter a state of bliss where our children would always cheerfully and sweetly gush their gratitude for all our efforts? We work so hard at teaching them (way beyond the 3Rs), training them (to have upstanding moral character), feeding them (hopefully healthy food) and so much more. What a rude awakening when they start to complain that “all” their friends (“even the home schooling ones!”) get to eat potato chips and Pop Tarts everyday or are allowed to watch whatever they want on TV or have their own fabulously decorated bedroom or that their mother does their laundry (all new designer clothes) for them! Or they think their school work is boring because you haven’t planned thrill-a-minute (as in “expensive” and “time-consuming”) activities every day. Or you are trying to help one child with a complicated lesson, and another one gets frustrated because you can’t help him at the exact same time. Or you patiently try to explain some concept to them, and when they still don’t get it, they vent on you. Don’t think you are the only one who faces this problem! I hear it all the time for other home school moms, and I’ve seen it in my own home. (You didn’t think we were perfect, did you?) To tell you the truth, for all our efforts, we did expect a little more credit and respect. And they SHOULD be grateful. It’s no credit to their own character if they’re not.
Notwithstanding the way they should be, I’d like to address the moms here. As I tell my children, they have responsibilities to act rightly regardless of what others are doing. And the same goes for us. No matter how our children respond to us or what their attitudes are, we need to set some things firmly in our own minds if we want to keep going and still retain our sanity.
First is that we are not home schooling to win the daily applause of our children. We are doing it because we care about how they turn out in the long run and because we have felt called to take primary responsibility for their training and education. When you are challenging someone towards excellence, it’s a very stretching experience for everyone. It goes against our human nature, which wants to be coddled and entertained and free to indulge its own desires. Our children will not always appreciate what we do — at least not now. It’s tempting to give in to their demands and be over-permissive just to gain their approval, but that’s a trap! It’s our job as parents to set and enforce limits (see Hebrews 12:7-11). But while we should be seeking to influence their attitudes and behavior in the right direction, we must also grant them the dignity of forming their own opinions. (That’s hard for those of us who tend to be “control freaks.”) When your children approach the teen years, you know they will have to start dealing directly with God himself if they are going to go any further in the faith that we have attempted to hand down to them.
Second is that we cannot base our contentment — our own sense of gratitude and well-being — on either people or things, which will always disappoint us. That’s difficult to learn for those of us whose identities and images are so bound up in being home school moms. After we put all this time and energy into something, we want things to go just how we planned. In other words, “If I do this step and that and follow this character-building curriculum, my children are guaranteed to be smart, healthy, happy, hardworking, friendly reverent and perfectly obedient — and I’ll have the reputation as a Super Saint!” Don’t get me wrong — having great children is a very noble goal and we should try our best. But in the meantime, life goes on! As fervently as we desire to see our children mature, and as much as we rejoice when they do take a few steps in that direction, we just can’t look to them and their progress as our sole source of satisfaction and meaning in life.
The one thing that will satisfy our hungry souls is a deep and abiding relationship with our Gracious Creator. Despite our own sin, our grumbling and our shame, the Holy Father stooped to redeem us lowly ones through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, the only perfect child to ever walk the face of this earth. Our souls will find rest and strength in him alone. It is he who will give us the courage and endurance to keep pressing on. It is he who can open our hearts wide so we can truly be THANKFUL for his grace, no matter what is happening around us, all year long.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:4-5
(This post is from my archives! It was written in November 2000.)