Yesterday was one of those rare homeschooling days when the whole day worked well. We started our lessons on time without a big rush to do so (and the breakfast dishes actually cleaned up). The children were attentive, obedient, and engaged in the lessons. We moved seamlessly from one subject to another one.. Once our morning lessons wrapped up the children helped make their lunches and ate them in peace. The afternoon was spent completing a few extra lessons with a compliant child, teaching a paper sloyd lesson, successfully supervising piano practicing, enjoying a family read-aloud book during our “tea” time, and playing, reading, and snuggling with the youngest children. Throughout the day I observed moments of voluntary cooperation between the children as they taught each other new skills, complimented each other on their art in progress, read books to each other and joyfully played with the younger children.
As I sat in awe of yesterday’s unusually “peaceful and easy” day I arrogantly thought that our good day was, in part, a result of my “brilliant” parenting. I thought that my efforts to improve in my consistency with discipline and habit training and to spend extra time with the children each day had earned me a “reward” day for my efforts. I was all prepared to write a post about the virtue of staying the course with parenting and patiently waiting for the pay-offs. I went to bed thankful for the day, full of joy about my life and our family, and ready to tackle the next day.
Though, I kept telling myself to enjoy the day and to not expect a repeat experience, today at day’s end today I felt defeated. Today was not at all like yesterday. Today contained more fighting, complaining, arguing, disobedience, and rambunctiousness than yesterday. The joy that was in my heart last night had, at some point, turned into despair by 5:00PM today.
As I reflect back on the difference between the two days, I realize that the object of my joy had been misplaced.
- My joy cannot be based on my children’s behavior. Some days they will choose what is right, some days they will choose what is wrong, and most days will be a mixed bag of choices.
- My joy cannot be based on my evaluation of my response to my children’s choices. I will always fall short of my goal to remain sinless while parenting. (That sounds ridiculous, but honestly, I think that is my arrogant heart’s desire.) Therefore, if that is my goal, I will always feel like a failure, and thus am constantly being humbled.
Instead, my joy MUST be rooted in Christ’s love for me that He demonstrated in His sacrifice for my sins and continues to work out in His sovereign plan for my day. Some days His plan for my day will be smooth sailing and other days will be much more turbulent. Furthermore, instead of feelings of despair during a hard day, I can clothe my heart with joy “whenever [I] face trails of many kinds, because [I] know that the testing of [my] faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that [I] may become mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” (James 1:2-3) In our hard days and in my failings I can “ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault” knowing that He will provide me with an answer to the problems of the day (hour or minute).
Finally, I need to remember to whom my children truly belong.
Charlotte Mason said: “And first, let us consider where and what the little being is who is entrusted to the care of human parents. A tablet to me written upon? A twig to be bent? Wax to be moulded? Very likely; but he is much more—a being belong to an altogether higher estate than ours; as it were, a prince committed to the fostering care of peasants.” Vol. 1 pg. 11
My children do not belong to me. They belong to Him. Neither their failures nor successes, righteous nor sinful acts, can be attributed to me. They are children, born persons, divinely crafted and placed into my family for God’s sovereign purposes, including my own sanctification. Who am I to think that I am the one at work in their hearts? No! Heart shaping is the work of the indefatigable Holy Spirit who tirelessly prunes my heart and theirs with such tenderness, grace, and love giving hope of new growth and good fruit.
So, here’s to a fresh start tomorrow, where His mercies can always be found. Whether tomorrow brings a day or peace or a day of storms, I will purpose to fix my eyes on Him, the author and perfecter of my faith, so I will not grow weary and lose heart. I will purpose to delight in my children, to trust in God’s work in our hearts, and find my joy not their performance or my own, but in Christ alone.