Our children’s foray into formal education began in the public school system. We believed the lies that said the “experts” could do a better job of educating and preparing our kids for life. And we bought into the whole “what will they do for socialization?” mess. Hence, public school seemed like our only option.
But in my mommy heart, I hated our decision.
The summer Matthew was approaching kindergarten, I remember feeling very sad, scared, and helpless as the first days of school drew near. I knew I would miss him greatly, but that was only part of the problem. I was haunted by a phrase that kept going through my mind, striking fear into my heart. The phrase was “My mom always said . . .” I had always heard those words followed by some sage bit of advice given for guidance or direction, advice that had stayed with the speaker for decades.
Knowing that my children would be going to public school, I was keenly aware that they would be away from me for many hours every day. I knew they would be facing the world, decisions, problems, and life itself in a whole new and different way. On their own. I felt that my mothering years were basically over. And I knew I had failed as a mother, because I couldn’t think of anything of value I had said often enough that our boys could say, “My mom always said . . .” I was well aware that my mothering had not been enough to help get them through whatever they would face in life.
I wondered what they would think or do when they encountered the world and everything it would throw at them. What experience would they draw on? I knew I hadn’t coined many high and lofty tidbits of wisdom (if any—and I was afraid they probably hadn’t been listening well anyway. Would they even recognize the momentous occasion if I had said something of vast importance?). Nor could I think of practical knowledge that I’d passed on to help them in school, let alone in later life. I was filled with misgivings, regret, and insecurity about my mothering abilities. What kind of mother has so little impact on her children that they don’t even have anything of value to put at the end of “My mom always said”?
When I shared my fears with my husband, he admitted he was also sad that our kids would be gone so much, but he was amused that I thought my mothering years were over. (He also tried to reassure me that I wasn’t a failure as a mother, but he’s prejudiced so I didn’t let that stop my worries!) He reminded me that only one season of parenthood was actually ending—that time of having our young children home with us 24/7. He reminded me that, even though they would be out of the house for part of the day, we would still have opportunity to parent them. In fact, we had many more years ahead.
I admit, I was a little slow on the uptake. After all, Matthew was only five years old—our job was not over by any means. Changed, but not over. Intellectually, I understood what my husband was saying, but my heart was still not at all settled. I kept wondering: What would they ever be able to put at the end of that troublesome phrase? Would my mothering attempts be enough to help them through life?
I’m thankful beyond all words that after a couple years of public schooling, my husband and I realized that God was calling us to homeschool. What joy to have our kids home again all day! It was such a blessing to teach, train, and educate them 24/7! At last, I had another chance to really try that “Mom Thing” full-time. Maybe now things would turn out better. Maybe I would get it right this time!
But what should I tell them? How often should I say it? How could I pass on those important pieces of wisdom they would need to retain? Once again, I was a little slow on the uptake. I finally realized that the things “Mom always said” did not necessarily come when Mom intentionally sat down to impart the wisdom of the ages. A mother’s influence is a compilation of a million little things said and done as we go about the process of living and learning in front of and with our children. Our influence is built by the way we act and react. The things we do and don’t do. The things we say and don’t say. The attitudes we have.
That realization brought up other questions. I had always been very serious about being a mommy, and I tried to be a good one, but was I doing enough? Was my training of our children thorough enough? Was I smart enough? Was I godly enough? Was I enough? I vowed to finish out my mothering days with even more purpose and diligence than before. I desperately wanted our kids to have valuable thoughts to fill in at the end of that niggling phrase. I wanted to be good enough to bless and enrich our kids’ lives through their years with me.
But I blew it as a mom more often than you may guess. Sometimes after we put the kids to bed at night, I would just watch them sleep for a bit. Looking at their sweet faces and slow, even breathing, my heart would break over not being as patient as I should have been, or not slowing down to listen as much as I should have done, or not understanding their childishness like I should have, or being too busy to take advantage of a teachable moment, or any of a thousand other shortcomings.
My husband and I were not perfect parents. Thankfully, God saw our hearts. He saw that, though we were definitely human and failed often, our desire was to be godly parents and raise our children for Him. I’m so very grateful that He is so patient and loving toward us. If we allow Him to work in our lives, though we fail, He does not leave us in the muck and mire of our own making—He changes us and blesses our obedience more than we deserve!
We need to face it. We’re just moms. We’re human. We’re going to fail sometimes. We’re even going to blow it sometimes. Possibly even Big Time.
But—and this is a huge but—if we’re Christians, as we follow God and allow Him to change us and work in and through us, we’re also going to succeed sometimes! By His grace, there will be times when we’re going to say the right thing. We’re going to see important cues that will show us how to respond rightly to our children or situations. We’re going to do the right thing in front of our children. We’re going to have kind, loving reactions. We’re going to see and take advantage of teachable moments.
God is all about refining us and working miraculous things through us for His glory. Through the grace and strength of God, we can be shining examples of what Christ can do through a willing vessel, and that will be enough.
Kari Lewis is the "mom" here at Home School Enrichment. She and Frank have been married since 1977 and homeschooled their two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, from their early elementary years through their high school graduations. Together, the four of them started Home School Enrichment Magazine in late 2002. More recently, she's been enjoying her new role of mother-in-law and grandma! You can reach her at kari@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.