Not For Wimps

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… this week’s column

I pulled down an old reading book the other day, dusted off the cover and got ready to work. Isabel is in kindergarten and is learning to sound out letters and form them into words.

The book I got out is one I used for the older boys, back when Ethan was learning to read and Elliott after that. It’s one of those tried and true methods that helps students tackle what can be an overwhelming task — learning to read.

I had the book out because although Isabel is learning this at school, it’s not coming quickly. I’m not worried that she won’t ever read, but it isn’t the overnight victory it was with some of her brothers. We are doing a few extra lessons after school (don’t worry, she loves it!) to help reiterate what she is learning in kindergarten.

That afternoon, when I pulled out the book with just a tinge of concern in my heart, I noticed a piece of paper sticking out. The paper was actually a chart — something I made years ago, the last time I used this book.

“Elliott learns to read!” declared the chart, with a row of boxes below. And sure enough, a few were marked with stars. Once upon a time, I realized, Elliott was in the same boat as Isabel. We were doing a little extra work, hoping to help things gel.

Just yesterday, I signed the report card of now 17-year-old Elliott, he who made first honors and is tearing it up as a high school junior. And I got some perspective. This challenge, this struggle, this overwhelming motherhood bump in the road, well it’s just that — a bump. Isa needs a little extra help, this too shall pass. I’m not saying first honors is the ultimate sign of victory (but it is nice!) but that in the grand scheme of life, there’s no need to fret.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this motherhood gig is the real deal. It’s tough, and just when you think you’ve got it mastered, you realize what you’ve got mastered is one tiny smidgen of an aspect of being a mom. On to the next adventure.

The last few weeks in our home have been filled with particular challenges, not the end of the world but plenty of sweat and tears (no blood, only that broken arm). Issue One with Child A, Issue Four with Child C. There is never a dull moment, as much as I pray there could be. “Please Lord,” I find myself praying, “let there be a dull moment!”

But this is the deal. We can call it overwhelming or perhaps dizzying, but what life with children is all about is really growing, and expanding. Paul and I, as the parents of these children given to us from God, are learning how to guide them. We are learning as they learn, which means we don’t always know in advance what we are doing.

It feels like the last few weeks have been especially “generous” in the chance to grow and learn. Lots of new lessons. Every. minute. of the day. It’s wonderful! It’s terrible.

No, it’s not terrible. It’s just tricky. Nobody enjoys feeling like they’re failing. Nobody wants to feel like they aren’t tearing it up. And when it comes to parenting — one of the most important gigs you will ever have — well, you want to be a success.

But here’s the great thing: success, in parenting, doesn’t mean everything is perfect. Success is about getting up and brushing off and saying “Lord, keep sending that grace. A little more today, if you can spare.”

I’m coming to find, I’m surprised to say, that bumps in the road aren’t as scary as I thought they would be. Life isn’t always easy and our job is to deal with the issues of life, the issue of parenting, with as much humility and prayer as we are capable.

Thankfully, as I tell myself as often as I remember, Jesus loves these children more than Paul and I ever could. He’s here to give me perspective on what really matters, and to keep doing my best in the tasks set before me.