Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Because Long Division is Life

There is a word that strikes fear among the hearts of students and parents alike. It is the source of great emotion in homes across this nation each evening. It interrupts our notions of 'family time,' ruins many dreams of Rockwellian dinner scenes and leads to breakdowns in both adults and children.  It is homework.

I believe in letting my children do their own work. I try not to nag or hover. I seek instead to create an environment and a schedule that allows for adequate time and space for work to be completed independently and be on hand for clarification or feedback.

And yet, there are vocabulary pages, technological hiccups and most recently...long division. 

Last night as K was struggling with 'not getting' her Math, I looked into her face and saw my own. I could completely remember the frustration Math assignments often brought to my academic life. I wanted to curse Math with her until I considered the beauty of learning to do hard things early on...and, seriously, can we just pause to praise the Lord that her 'hard things' are Math assignments not the litany of other things some children her age around the world have already had to face.

It's not cancer or molestation or divorce or terror or hunger or ebola or the loss of a parent. It's long division. And I get the chance to cheer her on and encourage her as she tackles this hard thing at 10 years old, hoping and praying this will be a relatively painless building block God uses as she works her way up to countless other hard things in life.

We can dismiss homework as a stupid interruption or we can see it as a tremendous opportunity to work together on perseverence and problem solving. (Some days I'm better about this than others.) This is part of real life. Frustrating, inconvenient, challenging.  

Tonight she had second thoughts about a commitment she made to run in an elementary cross country meet Friday. The timing means she will miss all the Halloween festivities at school, which have historically been very enjoyable to her. But weeks ago she committed and now she wants to drop out. This isn't a major life decision--and yet, it is a wonderful, safe opportunity for her to learn about keeping her word, being honest, and thoughtfully choosing 'best yeses.'

Her Dad & I listened to her. We offered our opinions. Then we let her email the coach & prayed God would give her strength to honor whatever they decided.

As a parent, I have a choice. I can try to remove all the 'hard' things in her life--which again, mercifully at this point are pretty small in the grand scheme of things--or I can listen, counsel, pray and let her work through some age-appropriate life lessons at 10 that God will use to strengthen her and embolden her for what is to come.

Frankly, the desire to remove all the obstacles in our loved ones' lives is a false hope. We cannot protect our children from every danger, threat or bad choice. Attempts to do so make us feel courageous, but can communicate that we believe our children are weak, untrustworthy or unable to make solid decisions. 

God is leading us through a changing parental season. I feel him urging us to guide, direct and encourage a deepening faith that truly trusts God and His voice in their gut. 

It is so tempting to keep the reigns. Letting go means risking embarrassment, relinquishing control. Honestly, I like to rescue. It feels good for her to still need me...but increasingly, this is not the best long term parental strategy.

It will be hard for my children to recognize their need for Savior when I am busy trying to fill that role.

I feel peace tonight that these are places where God is telling me to back off and give Him some space to show Himself as real and relevant in K's life..

So I pray, exhale and loosen my grip a bit more, trusting that He has got her (and me.)

**Before the comments turn into a debate about the merits of homework, I acknowledge some types of assignments are more beneficial than others. My point really was about the temptation to remove all 'struggle' from our kids lives. 


Meggie said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences and your wisdom! As a fellow mama whose babies are a little younger than yours, I so appreciate it!!

Aja said...

Love this post! So much of parenting is so hard (even when the hard is mercifully "not" in the scheme of things). I gain so much from reading about your parenting journey as my husband and I navigate our own with children younger than yours. Thank you!

The Amazing Trips said...

i love your heart, JMom. :)

Jennifer said...

You are such a breath of fresh air in the blog world! I love seeing your posts pop up and they always bring a smile to my face. Plus they get me thinking!

Julie said...

I have to LOL. I homeschool my daughter, who is just a bit younger than your 3, and I was still struck by fear when we encountered long division. She too struggled with it, but thankfully she has an older brother (18) that decided to walk her through it the other day while I was at an appointment. It seemed to help!! As a Mom of 4 that range from 10-23, I have to say that finding the balance between guiding and interfering has been one of the biggest parenting challenges.

Denise Ross said...

I love the point you've made here on meeting life challenges and life lessons. I totally agree here and I also enforce doing homework because it teaches responsibility and commitment to others besides myself. There is reward in doing the right thing whether it is hard or not.