Flashcards, Motherhood and Chasing Emus

It has begun.  You know those things that you never tell your parents until you’re older and safely free from the threat of any discipline over the things you did as a child?  Well, my children have started coming forward.  “Mom, you know how I always wanted you to sit in front of the window when I did flashcards?  It was so I could see through them and read the numbers.”  (Are you serious – was I really that dumb?)  I told her (since I have one daughter, you know who it is) that I am actually a little thankful for her wicked ways because I am sure we would still be sitting there had she not been so deceitful.

The source of much aggravation in me and now confessed deceitfulness in my daughter...
The source of much aggravation in me and now confessed deceitfulness in my daughter…

Flashcards with that one were enough to make me think that I wouldn’t mind if I only had a few years left to live.  They used to go something like this – Me: “Makayla, what is 2 + 2?”  Makayla: ”   ”  Me: “Makayla, what is 2 + 2?”  Makayla: ”   ”  Me: “MAKAYLA!  What is 2 + 2?!!!!”  Makayla: “You have a spot on your shirt.”  Me:  “I don’t care about the stinking spot and I don’t want you to care either. What. is. 2. +. 2.?!  Makayla: ”  ” while staring longingly out the window.  It didn’t help that our house overlooked farmland and the window was squarely in the middle of the room.  Me: “MAKAYLA!  IT IS SCHOOL TIME!!”  Makayla: “Look at that pretty bird.  Can I go see it?”  This was almost a daily occurance for us.  It was one of the most annoying things I have ever experienced.  I did math computer games too, but all good moms know that flashcards are a must for success in math.

This smile was not anywhere during flashcard time...
this picture was taken a little before her life was ruined by flashcards…

One day, I kid you not, as this was going on, an emu started running through the field.  She said, “EMU!!”  I said, “SCHOOL!” (thinking that her imagination was running wild).  I finally turned around and there was that crazy bird.  I was a little unhappy with that rogue Emu because I had almost convinced her that there was nothing worth looking at out the window during school time.  That Emu was very distracting.  I decided that maybe an Emu deserved some attention, so I let Makayla and Tyler go chase it.  That was great fun for them until Tyler remembered learning about the force of an Emu’s kick and about that time it turned around and looked at them.   Suddenly they came tearing back into the house.  Somehow, the emu had escaped his safe emu haven and wandered out into the big wide world to come and torture me by distracting my child and giving her all the more reason to stare out the window during school.  I recently asked her how she has liked school through the years and she said she’s liked everything – but not flashcards.  She is the reason I invested in Wrap-Ups.

Mostly better because they don't have to involve me...
Mostly better because they don’t have to involve me…

They are not flashcards and that is a good thing.  I can’t believe those days are over.

My little flashcard hater is growing up and I am seeing glimpses of the woman she will become and at the same time, watching her childhood slowly begin to fade.  Last year she decided to pack up all of her dolls and take them to the basement.  “Please little lady, please keep just one in your room?  This one is your favorite.”  “No mom, I NEVER play with them and they just take up room.”

Makayla with her favorite doll...
Makayla with her favorite doll…
Growing up too fast...
Growing up too fast…

She’s eleven now and I just bought her her first razor.  My threats that razors are sharp and make you BLEED no longer work.  She used to be obsessed with ladybugs.  She would collect them and keep them in her dollhouse and in her kitchen stove.  Did you know rotting ladybugs stink?  Now she won’t touch them.  She is growing and changing right before my eyes.

If I could go back and talk to my flashcard holding self – I would tell her to enjoy it a little more and not to worry because she wouldn’t have to do flashcards every day for the rest of her life.  I would have told her to do something different to learn math facts.   I would say that the little flashcard hating, emu, bird, ladybug, spider, blowing grass, wildflower, tractor, cloud, sun, butterfly, gnat spotting girl would grow to love math, know her math facts and I would tell her that the spunk that she sees is part of the beauty that God has created.  This little gift of a person is hilarious, stubborn, strong and full of life.  I would tell her not to worry so much and to quit hanging onto those flashcards like her life depended on it.  I would tell her to put them down and go check out the birds out back every once in a while. (Not the Emu, he was kind of scary)

Both so much happier without flashcards...
Both so much happier without flashcards…

You see, sometimes as moms I think that we are so afraid of messing things up that we forget to enjoy our kids.  There is a heaviness that so many moms are under because there is so much pressure to do ‘it’ right, whatever ‘it’ is.  The standard is always moving and depends what circles you are in.  If you’re in homeschooling circles – it’s homeschooling things like what curriculum you use, how connected you are, how many field trips you do or chickens you mummify.  In sports circles, it’s how many sports your kids play, which select teams they are on, how many games they’ve won and how loud you are at the games.  In academic circles, it’s which clubs your kids are in, how smart they are, what grades they get and what school they go to.   I could go on and on with the different circles and expectations of each.  I don’t have to list them because we all know what they are.  Every circle has a little bit different expectations.  Sometimes we are living in several circles at once.  No wonder we’re tired!  No wonder our kids are tired and our families are tired!  We are using standards and measures we were never meant to use.  Most of those things simply don’t matter in the long run.  We’re chasing things around that don’t really matter that much.

A couple of years ago, we felt a little worn out and spread thin and we decided that maybe we were chasing way too many things.  It happens so quickly in our society.  It wasn’t that we were chasing bad things – in fact, a lot of things we were busy with were church things, but if we’re not asking God what it is that He has for us in the seasons we’re in, we can say ‘yes’ to way too much and that can translate to a ‘no’ to the things we should be saying yes to.  If we’re chasing the wrong things, it means we can’t be chasing the right thing.  Sometimes, something that we do in one season needs to be let go for the next season.  When we don’t have time to hear from God, we lose our focus.

For us, we sat down and talked about where God is taking our family.  What are the things He’s put in our heart to do both internally in our family and outwardly in our community?  That gave us the filter to run opportunities through so that we can decide if they are truly opportunities or if they are a distraction from the main direction God has us walking.  It gave us a little perspective.

The true measure of success is not how academic, athletic, musical or even ‘good’ our kids are.  Success is being intimate with the Lord and being able to hear Him speak to our heart and doing what He says.  Sometimes it just means stopping so we can hear.  Can I suggest that if our life is always on fast forward, we will never hear the important things?  We will have ourselves in a frenzy trying to measure up to those we’re around.  We will carry the weight of trying to be a good mom and do ‘it’ right.  The standard is not those around us.

We want so desperately to do a good job, but what if part of it is being still?  What if God wants to give us His perspective and loosen the grip of what society says is success?  We do this because we want what’s best for our kids (and sometimes what’s best for our egos) but what if this weight that we carry wasn’t meant to be ours alone.  What if He really does care about our kids more than we do and has a plan bigger than ours for our family?  What if we can invite Him into our parenting – not just the big things, but the things that happen daily?

He is our wisdom when we don’t know what to do.  He is our strength when we’re tired.  He is our hope when we’re in hopeless situations.  He is love when we don’t have enough.  He is the grace we need for our graceless moments.  He is the One who gives us the grace to walk in victory.  These types of heavy weights are never from Him.  Of course, there are burdens that He gives us – ones that come from His heart and His love for people around us, but these aren’t the ones I am referring to. I am referring to the hopelessness, fear, feelings of not measuring up and the perfection that so many are under.  He says in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  This does not mean that life is always amazing or easy, but this crushing weight that so many live under is not from Him.  It steals our joy, our hope and our life.  People who have walked intimately with Him have been in horrible situations, but not been burdened internally and others have had the easiest situations and walk with an almost unbearable weight.  He is enough.  He is our burden lifter no matter what situations we find ourselves in.  We can rest in Him.  He is forgiveness when we need it and need to give it.  We don’t have to be afraid of the future for our kids.  We don’t have to be afraid that we will mess them up.  We do have a big responsibility and what we do as parents matter, but if we can lean into Him – He really will and wants to provide all that we need.  What if we could really trust that He will lead us and give us wisdom?  What if we could parent in freedom instead of under a heavy burden?

Psalm 68:19 says, “Praise be to God Who DAILY bear our burdens.”  Do you see that?  He daily bears our burdens – that means big burdens and small ones.  If your child is in jail or your child hates flashcards.  If your child is dying of a disease or sick with a cold.  If your spouse is gone forever or your spouse is gone overnight.  If your life is falling apart or your day is falling apart.  If you’re alone or if you’re just feeling lonely.  If you’re overwhelmed, confused, depressed, at your wit’s end, or tired of wearing spit up and sweats.  Daily means both the big and the small.

I wish I would have learned earlier what it looked like to let God shoulder the weight I was carrying.  I wish I would have even known how because it makes all of the difference between giving up and walking in hope.  It makes the difference between walking in joy and spiraling into depression.   It makes all the difference on days when things are not looking up.  When we parent in freedom instead of fear or hopelessness, it gives us the ability to love our kids unconditionally because our worth is no longer tied to their actions.  This can only happen through intimacy with God.

God, please show us Your heart for us.  Help us to see that You are intimately involved in our lives.  Give us wisdom to see things as You do and to call important what You call important.  Give us eyes to see our kids as You do and help us to walk in freedom.  

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