If I thought I was a failure of a mom before pandemic. Wow. Just Wow. I have “next leveled” this status, and 40 something days in, I’m starting to look back and laugh at and love my failures. If you’re feeling “next level” these days, buckle up and take a ride with me through the highlights and lowlights of my life these days, and at the end I hope you give me a social distance high five and hug because I have a feeling we both need it.
I won’t drive you down the entire road of failure before pandemic, but here’s where we transitioned from “regular” mom failing to “next level” mom failing. Weeks ago, when we were still in session for school, the boys and I started doing bible memory verses on the way to school. Sounds just lovely, right? Oh what a sweet and charming little family. That’s us. Totally. Uhhhh totally wrong. Wanna know why we started doing bible memory verses in the car? Well, because most days the entire ride to school was a minivan confessional where I would have to teach my kids (by example) what humility was and apologize for actions and words that were probably pretty close to scenes from the Exorcist, to put it mildly, that just transpired in the hour or so leading to our departure. I mean, if I’m going to shield them from PG 13 and R movies, then I better take the inappropriate content, obscenity (expanding their vocabulary), and anger out of my own daily performances, am I right? But, that felt harder than getting the guests of the Jerry Springer show to clean up their act, so I chose to give us all a little bit of Jesus instead.
We did about two weeks of bible verses in the van before we got the “safe at home” order. The first week home, we tried. I scratched and clawed for normalcy, routine, learning, Jesus. And then I stopped scratching and clawing. I read somewhere online (so of course it had to be valid) that it was ok to let kids build their own routine during this time, so that’s what I did. The freaking animals at the zoo were loose and running the show. And I couldn’t see Jesus anywhere.
Here we go. Time to level up.
My fifth grader came to me because he needed a picture of his homeschool teacher, and I said, “Take a selfie.” I’m serious. And he did. I had emailed his teacher the previous week to tell her that it’s been challenging at home with four kids—a baby being one of them—and a husband working overtime, so if she could just let me know if anything wasn’t coming in on time from my son, I’ll address it with him. My fifth grader can honestly handle his own work, but how’s that for taking an “active interest” in your kid’s education? He took a selfie for his time capsule!!! He’s going to look back at his time capsule and remember his mom “peaced out” on him. I can’t even type this without laughing that I had him submit a picture of himself! But, how was I, in good conscience, going to pose for a homeschooling mom photo when I just told the teacher that he’s been on his own from day one! I have to laugh. Because if it’s not laughter, it might be tears.
Oh but listen to this. I’m not done leveling up. Then I gave my kindergartener off an entire week –beyond spring break—because he struggles with focus, and I was tired. (You might be asking why I’m so tired if I’m not even homeschooling all the kids I have at home, and I don’t blame you. It’s a good question. And one I don’t have an answer for. Just like I don’t know how there is so much laundry when they aren’t even bathing daily? It just doesn’t add up, I know. I’m with you.)
I digress. Let’s talk more “next level” stuff. Ok, so I let the kindergartener play all day and watch too much TV. For days. I also got tired of trying to entertain him, so I left him alone to play even when he begged in the sweetest voice to come push him on the swing. I did do it once for about 10 minutes (which felt like 6 million years long because I was tired, distracted, and frustrated about other things).
So, day after day, he went outside to swing alone. And then he stopped asking me to come out altogether. Mom win? Or mom fail because of moments lost with my son? I felt wracked with guilt but grateful for reprieve. So maybe both? My logic these days is as stable as my emotions.
But then I figured it was time to get serious about schooling after a frustrating, tearful moment by my little guy during a futile, late-in-the-day attempt to throw an activity at him to check a box on the “I’m doing the good mom things today” check list. But it was bad. And he was struggling in his confidence and skills. We quit without completing the assignment. No learning takes place in the space of a crushed spirit. And now, there were two crushed spirits, mine and his. Three cheers for checking that box, mom. So freaking proud of you for letting it get to this.
The next day, I mustered up all the patience and smiles I could from the depth of my wretched soul. I went in strong for focused time to help him with his weak spot. Oh, it was grueling. We weren’t even ¼ of the way through with the exercise I had planned when I wanted to quit and re-evaluate how to approach this. But then I looked at him and said, “We are going to have to slow down and focus to get through this faster. Please, focus.” And with that, he completed his next problem with perfection. My jaw dropped and I said, “That’s awesome buddy! How were you able to do that one so well!?” He said, “I just told myself in my head, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13” My eyes stared in disbelief; it was the minivan bible verse from 800 years ago before school shut down. I think I even uttered aloud, “You’re making that up.” I couldn’t believe that this kid would make that connection. So like a “good mom,” I pressed him further to see if he was fabricating his deep spiritual moment and made him explain what he meant. He continued, “You know how I was asking for help to learn how to pump on the swing the other day?” (He could have actually said, Do you remember how you kicked me outside for a week and wouldn’t play with me? But for some reason, he offered me grace here. I still felt the dagger in the heart, took a gulp, and nodded in the affirmative.) … “Well, I just thought in my head, Philippians 4:13. I even made up a song to sing for it while I taught myself to pump on the swing. So, I just did it again now.”
This kid can write his letters, is starting to read, and can pump his own legs on the swing. Not because of I’m a successful mom, but because I’m a next level failing mom.
Success by failure. Success by trying something even when it was hard. Even though I didn’t have a chance to see it through, it came through when it mattered.
Success by repeated failures.
My 5th and 6th graders are thriving as well. The 5th grader earned the character of the month award, and the 6th grader was inducted into the National Honor Society! Not because of me but in spite of me.
I know it’s hard, mama. I know there are kids who need more attention than others. I know you have hard stuff beyond the homeschooling. We are not in the same boat. We are not even in the same storm. And It’s ok if you’re not “enough” to everyone all the time right now or any time.
I never feel like I’m enough. But in all truth. I am not enough. I cannot do enough. I cannot say enough. Even at my best when the world is not in a state of calamity. I will always fall short.
But, I will try when it’s hard. I will pray that my kids learn grit and tenacity in spite of me. I will pray that my kids push themselves to be the best that they can without me having to push from behind. I will pray that Jesus continues to show up when my kids call on Him. Because aren’t those the things that really matter anyway? And gosh darn it, I will laugh at my mess. I invite you to laugh at my mess, too. Why not?!. Laughter is the best medicine. I will invite you to acknowledge and cherish your next level parenting right now and look for the freaking awesomeness that is coming out of it. Laugh, cry, do whatever you need to. But I want you to know that I see you posting good stuff all day long, but don’t you for a second think I don’t know you’re next level failing, too. I know, mama, because I see the evidence of it. I see that your kids are freaking amazing and doing things with big smiles and dirty clothes. And with resilient character. And their hearts are full. Look for it, mama. Your mess is amazingly successful right now and always, pandemic or not.
Keep it up, next level friend. Social distance high five and hug. In case you haven’t heard it lately, you are loved. You are appreciated. And, I am so proud of you.